"We need a receptionist at Elektra. Call Sue Helms after 10 tomorrow morning. I'll call her and let her know. You've got the job."
The skies opened, the angels sang, the light at the end of the tunnel was no longer an oncoming train, but the light of the rising sun. I had a job in the music business! Oh happy day!
Paul modestly waved off my burbling thanks as being nothing more than what one would do for a friend and wandered into the crowd, to take care of whatever business had drawn him down there that night. I called Sue Helms in the morning and started the following day.
At that time, Elektra was undergoing a major transition from what Jac referred to as a "Tiffany label" featuring wonderful folk singer/songwriters. But now, largely based on the success of rock acts like the Doors and Love, they were entering a relationship with Warner Bros. and Atlantic and all their subsidiaries, in a distribution deal funded by the Kinney Parking Corporation, to be known as Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, or more commonly WEA.
Jac was nearly at the end of the process of completing the building of a corporate headquarters more fitting to the status of the label at this point in its history. My job would be to man the big switchboard in the grand Spanish-influenced front hall, and to help Sue Helms out with any tasks she might assign me,
At first, however, I sat in the crowded front hall of the little studio building. One of the first advisories I received was regarding the Doors, who had their offices handily positioned right across the street on the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega.
Briefly, I was told that the Doors, particularly Jim, attracted a small amount of odd people, who were likely to call and request to either speak with Jim, or claim they were one of Jim's long-lost relatives, and so on. All such calls were to be immediately referred to their offices across the street or, depending on how bizarre the call was, to be hung up on. Duly noted. I waited for the crazies to call, but it remained quiet.
I was the first to move to the new offices, where contractors were still finishing up. Here I am in a trench slightly south of the building!
I spent three days being trained on a switchboard like the one at which Lily Tomlin's famous character "Ernestine" sat. I loved the job. Everyone who worked at Elektra felt like family to me.
Bit by bit, the rest of the staff moved into their new offices, and by October we got down to the brass tacks of the implications of the deal with WEA. The studio still continued to roll - with the assist of a brilliant engineering staff. That part of Elektra was very important to the continued success of the label. Jac occupied himself with developing quadraphonic, as well as overseeing daily operations and signing acts. All in all, it was a very exciting time to be in the music business.
After my initial caveat about the Doors telephone calls, the only other information I had was that they were recording their new album across the street at their offices. I saw engineers lugging baffles and outboard gear across La Cienega from Studio B. I understood that Paul was now working exclusively with Janis Joplin on her album for Columbia at Sunset Sound. Bruce Botnick, one of Elektra's staff engineers, and constant first engineer on the Doors' albums (as well as Fritz Richmond), had taken over the project at Paul's suggestion and was co-producing with the band.
Then, an interesting thing happened. The Elektra main number was 655-8280 with nine incoming lines. 8289 was the studio night line, which was always forwarded before I closed the board at night, so people who wanted to reach the studio after hours dialed that direct number, otherwise I would patch the call to the studio during the day.
I noticed that 8289 was ringing out of sequence, and I wondered if anyone was working in the studio and if they were going to pick it up. Apparently not. One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingys. So, "Good afternoon, Elektra Records." "Hi, could I speak to Sally Stevens?" Odd. "This is Sally. Who's this?" "It's Jim Morrison."
Oh, crikey, here we go, a Doors-weirdo, as I had been warned. "Right, and I'm Mary Queen of Scots. I don't have time for this, so I'm going to hang up now." Just as I was about to literally pull the plug, "No, no, this really IS Jim Morrison!" "Okay, tell me something about me that only Jim Morrison would know about me." Pause, then, "I got you fired from Thee Experience. I've been looking for you for the last six months, to apologize."
Apologies accepted, we settled into a long conversation. I had to put him on hold more than several times. I was very surprised to find out how intelligent Jim was - almost professorial. Well-read, well-spoken and respectful Dr. Jekyll. No sign of Mr. Hyde from Thee Experience. A perfect gentleman.
He talked enthusiastically about his plans to move to Paris, how he had to finish up the L.A. Woman album first, how he would be free to go pursue his interest in film, poetry, possibly a book.
He talked about Pamela Courson, his old lady, who was running Themis, an upscale boutique across the road from Elektra. Scarlett to his Rhett. He talked about trying to re-connect with old friends from UCLA to continue to work on film scripts that had been back-burnered by his involvement with the Doors. He talked about his uneasy relationship with his father, Rear Admiral George "Steve" Morrison. He talked about anything but Miami.
This was the first of several conversations.
(To be continued.)
Photos: Me outside 962 N. La Cienega, August 1970. Jim and Pam at Themis.
NEXT TUESDAY, REPORT FROM THE TROUBADOUR FAMILY REUNION.