High Times Greats: Jim Morrison

Setting the record straight with some hot Lizard King sex stories and assorted gossipy tidbits, Tom Baker remembers his friend Jim Morrison in the June, 1981 edition of High Times.
High Times Greats: Jim Morrison
High Times/ Frank Lisciando

Jim Morrison’s birthday is December 8. To pay tribute, we’re republishing an article from the June, 1981 issue of High Times, in which Tom Baker responded to the depiction of himself and his late friend in the bestselling Morrison bio No One Here Gets Out Alive.

…they shambled down the street like dingledoodies, and I shambled after them, as I’ve been doing all my life, after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. The ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop, and everybody goes ‘Awwwwwwwwwww………………!”
—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

When I first read those words I was a freshman in high school, living in San Francisco, just a long boccie-ball toss from North Beach. For a long time afterward, I was convinced I might be one of Uncle Jack’s “mad ones” who would explode across the stars like a “blue center light.” When I reached my 30th birthday I settled for being another Kerouac. But by then I had met two people who, beyond a doubt, fit that classic description of cosmic brilliance: James Douglas Morrison and his wife, Pamela Courson. In their tragically brief and mercurial lives, they would make up one of the most volatile and intensely dramatic romances of modern times.

I had been living in New York City for three years, tending bar in Greenwich Village, studying acting with Lee Strasberg and working steadily in off-off-Broadway and regional theater, when I impulsively and unwisely it turns out, signed a seven-year contract with Universal Studios. So, ten days before Thanksgiving, 1966, I was whisked from New York’s wind-chilled winter streets to the balmy subtropical climate of Hollywood.

Upon arriving, I went to the Laurel Canyon home of a friend. Not five minutes later, a young girl came knocking on the door, asking to use the phone. She lived across the street and hers had been cut off. For days now she had been trying, in vain, to reach her boyfriend. He was working in New York and would neither answer her calls nor leave a message.

She was dressed in old jeans and a man’s work shirt with her hair piled in curlers, but her beauty was still apparent to me. Her relationship with the guy in New York was an unraveling one, so in his absence and her insecurity we became immediate friends and lovers and I moved in with her that night. Her name was Pamela.

It was clear to me she was more than just a pretty face. Although she was only 18 years old and did not have a high-school diploma, she was bright and quick with a sophisticated knowledge of literature. She told me all about her boyfriend and how he had exposed her to many “serious” writers, among them Norman Mailer, who, coincidentally, was a friend of mine from New York. Her boyfriend’s name was Jim, Jim Morrison, and he was the singer in a new rock group called the Doors.

Along with our mutual appreciation of Mailer, Jim and I had much else in common, according to Pam. We both came from military families, and we had a passion for poetry and theater and were possessed of “wild Indian” personalities. She told me we even had a strong physical resemblance. Hearing all this created a bit of a resentment in me toward Jim, because for sure, I had fallen deeply in love with Pam. Just prior to Jim’s return to Los Angeles, I rented a house nearby. Pam was all set to move in with me until I stipulated she could no longer see Jim. How naive of me. I realized I had underestimated her. And as a result, I lost some of her love.

On a cold and star-filled December night, missing New York and my friends there, feeling suffocated by my contract to the studio, and most of all, missing Pam, I hopped in my newly purchased sports car and drove by the house where we had met, hoping to see her. Instead, once inside, I was confronted by two male strangers. It was obvious who one of them was. He sat slouching in an easy chair, loosely gripping a half-empty bottle of tequila. His dark curly hair exploded from his head and fell down, nearly past his shoulders. He had a half smile, half sneer on his face. His eyes were intensely penetrating, with just enough of a hint of madness to keep you off balance. He knew my name and much more about me. His knowledge was so thorough, I’d have sworn he’d had access to my womb-to-tomb dossier.

So, this was Jim, and he’d gotten his information from Pam, which surprised me. Had she also told him of our affair? I half expected him to come at me in a rage, but this did not happen. We spent the next 30 or 40 minutes talking around each other, smoking powerful Mexican grass and passing the tequila bottle. He and his friend did much theorizing about Mailer, all too obviously for my benefit, and he impressed me with his ideas and intelligence. The two of them were quite drunk and the other guy whose name I never did learn, passed out on the couch. Jim drained the last of the booze and lurched out the door. I hung around for a few minutes, waiting for Pam, begrudgingly admitting to myself that Jim was extremely bright and quite fascinating. She never did show so I walked out to my car. On the lawn near the driveway I found Jim sprawled, thoroughly unconscious, looking neither bright nor fascinating.

In the first six months of the new year, I saw little of either Pam or Jim, although they had taken a house just down the street from mine. Occasionally we would drive past each other on the narrow canyon road, and I’d feel Jim’s “mad-eyes” burning into me as they sped by. They would be in Pam’s VW another reminder of our time together.

A few months later I had a chance to see Jim play Gazzari’s, a funky and popular club on the Sunset Strip. He was high on LSD and staggeringly drunk to boot.

Overall, his performance was sadly unspectacular, except for one moment. While stumbling through a song early in the set, he suddenly let out a deep-throated roar, a bloodcurdling scream, really, and it startled me, as though someone had snapped a wet towel against my bare skin. Pam was furious with him because of his condition and kept telling me I was seeing him far from his best. I replied that he was a good guy but he should keep his day job.

But soon, evidence of the Doors’ success was everywhere. An album, a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, their songs played on AM radio and on jukeboxes. Still I was not yet as impressed with their talent as with their PR. And I peevishly figured they couldn’t be doing so hot if Pam still drove the old VW. In any event, it hardly seemed Jim and I were destined to become bosom buddies.

Unexpectedly free of my Universal contract, I returned to New York City in July and met with Andy Warhol. After the constraining situation with the studio, the concept of doing an experimental, underground film greatly appealed to me, so when Andy asked me to star in one with him directing, I quickly accepted. I had noticed in the paper that the Doors were appearing in town at the Scene, on West 46th Street, and suggested to Andy we go to see them.

I sat with Andy and his entourage at a long table near the stage. Pam sat alongside me and she was very excited. She told me, “Jim’s really up for tonight’s show. Forget that shit at Gazzari’s; now you’re going to see the real Jim Morrison.” She was right. His performance was a classic one, giving off glimpses of all our beautiful tragic/comic American Heroes of the previous 15 years. One moment I saw Brando’s “wild one’,’ the next James Dean’s “rebel,” then Chet Baker playing his Golden Horned Blues/Love Songs, and finally he went straight on through to Elvis, the definitive rocker. Throughout the set, he boldly projected the seductively sinister quality of a street “punk” right out of the pages of John Rechy’s City of Night, plying his “trade” between the lions of the public library.

When he finished, I sat stunned for a moment, then I joined the furious applause. I felt Pam smiling at me, and as I looked at her, she leaned into me and said, “I told you so” Indeed, she had.

Much later, Jim and I stood talking at the bottom of the stairs that led up to 46th Street. It was late, and the area was dangerous, with various creeps and cops lurking about. Suddenly, Morrison started throwing empty glasses up the stairs and into the street. I grabbed his arm and yelled, “What the fuck you doing, for Christ’s sake!’ He ignored me and threw another glass up the stairs, simultaneously letting out with his bloodcurdling scream. I expected hordes of stoned and angry street freaks or a small army of cops to come charging down. After one final glass and scream, Jim turned and was gone. I felt frustrated when I realized he had left, for I wanted to tell him that, finally, I had met someone who was truly possessed.

I did the film with Warhol. It took only three days and we decided to call it I, A Man. I returned to Los Angeles and more or less forgot about it until I learned Andy had opened it in a Broadway theater only weeks after we had finished it. Local and national press gave it much coverage, some even favorable, so I immediately flew back to New York, hoping to capitalize on my sudden, if limited, fame.

But my career took a complete nosedive after the Warhol film. It figured that Hollywood, with its traditional approach to moviemaking, would be threatened by Warhol’s unconventionality, but I had hoped my background in legitimate stage would hold up in New York. I was dead wrong. People who only months earlier had been eagerly offering me jobs now would not take a phone call from me. To them, Warhol’s people were “speed freaks” and “sex perverts,” nonprofessional pretenders to the art of acting. Except for the nonpro bit, a fairly accurate opinion.

One cold, gray November day I was on 57th Street, near Carnegie Hall, walking with my head down and cursing the hypocrites who kept me from my deserved fame and fortune. I heard someone call “Heyyyy, Tom!” and looked up to see Jim emerging from a movie house. He had just seen a film version of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and he was feeling Irish and poetic. We went to the bar in his hotel, the old Great Northern, and ordered beer and Irish whiskey. I had seen the film myself and we both agreed it was an excellent one. In the story the two sons are named Shem and Shaun and represent the opposite sides of their father’s personality. Shem is the quiet, reclusive visionary poet, and Shaun is the roguish and gregarious extrovert. Jim and I decided we were like brothers and he was Shem and I, Shaun. The notion was something of a schoolboy’s conceit, but sincere nonetheless. He asked me about Mailer, wanting to know what it was like to go out drinking with him and his friends. Also, he was slyly curious about whether or not Mailer was aware of him and his music. I told him I only knew that there was a copy of The Doors album in his office, but it was part of Norman’s genius to be aware of current personalities and the events surrounding them.

The drinking became almost competitive and we toasted everyone—Brando, Elvis, Mailer, even the bartender—as well as our military backgrounds and our mutual detestation of authority. We were toilet-hugging drunk, and remaining upright seemed to defy the law of gravity when Ray Manzarek appeared along with one of their managers. They had come to collect Jim for a concert that evening in a dull little town called Danbury, Connecticut. I was amazed he was going to do a show. After all that booze, I didn’t see how he possibly could perform. He urged me to come along, suggesting I introduce the group and recite some poetry. My drunkenness clouded my better judgment and I piled into a long black limo with Jim and the band. After going a few blocks Morrison had the driver pull over and he dashed into a novelty store, returning with six Brechtian masks, every one a different color. Back in the limo he handed them out to each of us and we were off. I passed out before we were halfway through the Midtown Tunnel, only to awaken an hour later with an excruciatingly painful need to urinate.

I looked around and quickly realized we were a long way from 46th Street. The band took up their places behind the curtain, and I peeked out from the wings, trying to get a fix on the audience. I nearly choked when I saw all of these prepubescent runts with their mas and pas, clutching Doors albums to their heavily beating breasts. The atmosphere made me apprehensive about the introduction. Jim seemed to sense this and chided me about losing nerve.

I took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight. I was wearing a deceptively expensive-looking black fur coat and, with the mask, felt very much out of place. I raced through the shortest poem I knew, then muttered something about having known “the boys” since the L.A. days and, after quickly checking behind the curtain, got the hell off the stage.

I watched from the wings, flanked by local honchos and some of their lovely daughters, who must have pulled their parents by the short hairs to gain access. Technically Jim went through the same motions that I saw at the Scene, but something was missing. He began wearing his mask, only to discard it after the first song. He could have come onstage with a flaming arrow in his head and this collection of clods would not have noticed. Their reactions were Pavlovian, leaping to their feet and cheering every time they recognized a chord or lyric from the album, begging him to sing “Light My Fire” until he obliged.

The ride back was exhausting. I hadn’t eaten all day and my head was pounding. It was well after one in the morning when I got out on the corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue and headed down the subway stairs. Jim was going on to piles of money and great adulation. I was faced with door pounding and job searching. I pondered the ironic reversal of our fates in the past year as I rode down to Greenwich Village on the BMT. God, how I envied the bastard. As I approached my apartment, I remembered my girl friend had been waiting for me since early in the day. “Christ,” I thought, “what am I going to tell her? She’ll never believe I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing. Shit! Another problem! Fuck Pam! Fuck Jim! Fuck the Doors!”

Work was still scarce to me, and when I, A Man opened to genuine raves in L. A., I rushed back, hoping to change my luck. Perhaps some farseeing young filmmaker would take a chance on me.

Jim and Pam were living in Westwood and I called and went out to visit. Jim was in the studio finishing their third album so Pamela and I had a chance to talk privately for the first time in over a year. Our fling was far in the past and no longer interfered with our friendship. Jim was a bona fide star now. The Doors’ second album sold as well as the first, and the group would be headlining the Hollywood Bowl in early July. Pam was very much a part of Jim’s success. Riding over to the studio, I commented on the shiny new Porsche she was driving, and she laughed and assured me she still had the VW.

Inside the studio, Jim greeted me loudly. I never knew what to expect from this guy and it would take a little time before I could accurately comprehend his mood when I saw him. But there was no mistaking now that he was happy to see me and renew our Shem and Shaun relationship. He played me the master track of “Five to One” and he was like a new father, puffing on a cigar and beaming proudly as we listened. While it was not my favorite Doors song, millions of kids would make it their revolutionary anthem.

The I, A Man backlash was as strong as ever, so I found myself with far too much time on my hands and most of it would be spent with Jim. I was introduced to Jim’s “circle of friends”; many of them, such as Paul Ferrera and Frank Lisciandro, he had met with Manzarek at the UCLA film school. Another one, Babe Hill, was a friend of Ferrera’s from childhood. Hill was a stout, beer-bellied character with long hair, a beard, an earring and the strength and stamina of an ox. He would come to play Sancho Panza to Jim’s Don Quixote, and the times he bodily carried Jim out of a bar and poured him into his motel room are beyond the count of the most advanced computer.

Whenever we went to rock clubs like the Whiskey or the Experience, Jim would cause a stir as we walked in and the kids gathered around him. Morrison was usually in a stupor and seemed oblivious to the fans. As soon as we sat down, the resident “groupies” would pounce on him. Sometimes I would share in the spoils; other times I would be ignored as though I were invisible; and still other times Jim would be so comatose I would get them all to myself.

One night we went to the grim little Hollywood flat of two of these “creatures” and sat up till dawn drinking and talking. One girl soon revealed herself to be a practicing junkie and she brought out a plastic vial of pills, blue tablets called New Morthone, a strong synthetic morphine. We crushed them with a tablespoon and sniffed the powder. The high was speedy and euphoric and Jim became loose and talkative, telling us endless tales about himself, including the story of his body being inhabited by the spirit of an old Indian dying by the side of a New Mexico highway. The junkie offered to let us use her “outfit,” but we declined. Jim was not inclined to use downers and hated the thought of using a needle on himself, and, aside from this night, I only saw him use cocaine or a hallucinogenic.

After a while, I went to bed in the front room with the junkie and the other girl began to wrestle Jim into her bedroom. He had become somewhat inert and sat with his head on the kitchen table. After a great effort, she got him into her bed and shut the door. About ten minutes later, she joined the junkie and me, complaining about Jim’s lack of interest. Soon, the three of us were engaged in a robust bout of interchanging sexual positions and then I passed out, exhausted and content. I awoke at the crack of noon, alone. I sat in the kitchen drinking instant coffee and smoking cigarettes for about 15 minutes. Then curiosity got the best of me and I slowly opened the bedroom door and looked in. The little beggars had abandoned me for Jim, and he and the junkie were asleep alongside one another. The other girl was feverishly giving Jim head, trying to pump some life into his pathetically limp dick. She looked not unlike a young lioness feeding on her fallen prey. She glanced over at me for a moment, then went right back to work. I returned to the kitchen and crushed up another pill.

By now, Pam had her own friends and I saw little of her. Apparently she resented Jim’s drinking buddies, who monopolized his time and helped get him falling-down drunk every night. I wasn’t sure where I fit in this situation, but I felt a discreet attitude was in all of our best interests and I made no attempts to talk to her or see her when Jim was not around. I couldn’t help but feel she was a bit jealous of my friendship with Jim.

I called him one night at their apartment in Westwood and I could hear Pam in the background making a scene, trying to grab the phone from him, then telling him to get out, threatening to call the police. He asked me to come and pick him up, and I found him standing on the street holding a small overnight bag, looking rather forlorn. Driving back to West Hollywood, I asked him what caused the argument.

“I don’t know, but whenever you call, Pam starts wigging out.”

“What do you mean?” I asked him. “What does she say?”

He looked at me. “Did you ever make it with Pam?” he asked point-blank.

He had caught me off guard and I told him, “Well, yeah, sure, but it was a long time ago, Jim, before I had even met you. Anyway, I figured she had told you. Christ, she told you everything else.”

“No,” he said, “she never told me that.” He looked confused and betrayed and I realized I had made a mistake in admitting anything, but it was too late to retract it now. We stopped at a liquor store for beer and cigarettes. When he got back in the car, I tried to explain once again, but he said to forget about it and never mentioned it again for as long as I knew him.

My carousing with him did not make me number one in the hearts and minds of the people who worked for the Doors. Bill Siddons, his manager, would bite down hard on his bridgework whenever I came around. Jim’s personality demanded a form of indulgence and protectiveness from those who knew him, and often I would get fed up with the boorish rages he would get into when he was past a certain point in his drunkenness. It was difficult to stay mad at him for long.

Late one night, in the Elektra recording studios, after listening to the just completed mix of the Soft Parade album, we were typically drunk. Jim was more than a little apprehensive about the album. For the first time the Doors had recorded with strings and horns and only a few of the songs were his own. I began to bust his chops about the sleek and expensive look of the studio and offices, which had been financed almost entirely by the profits from the first two Doors albums. “Jesus, look at this place, Morrison, it’s fucking disgusting. You did this Jim, you financed this whole round-haircut establishment. Why’n fuck don’t you just move your whole corporate operation up to Sacramento with the rest of the bureaucrats? I mean, look at this, man, your songs, your words paid for this.” I indicated the brand-new latest model IBM typewriters and shiny file cabinets. Jim had a slight smile and was silent, but I could see I was starting to get to him. He was looking at the equipment as the others with us tried to suppress nervous laughter. Next thing we knew, Jim hopped up on top of a desk and began to heel-stomp the costly IBM, kicking it to the floor and jumping down on it, then pouring beer over papers and files. I thought for sure there would be hell to pay but the next day the mess was cleaned up and nothing was ever mentioned about it.

In the late ’60s, the Living Theatre returned from a long period in exile, when they had wandered over Europe performing their radical and revolutionary brand of theater. The U.S. government had them up on charges of tax evasion and the group’s message was one of the leading voices of the antiwar movement. They came to the campus of the University of Southern California in the middle of a predictably controversial tour, and Jim was looking forward to their arrival for weeks. He purchased a block of tickets for all of the week’s shows and I went down to meet him there for the final night, a performance of Paradise Now.

In the final part of the show, members of the cast confronted the audience, shouting slogans of protest; then they encouraged everyone to join them onstage and take off their clothes and reject “uptight society.” About three-fourths of the people joined in, and things were getting very chaotic, when the school authorities called in the dogs and pissed on the fire. At one point, Jim turned to me and said, “Let’s start a fire in the balcony or something. Get a riot going.” He had a madder than usual look in his eyes, though I knew he was sober. He left his seat and walked to the edge of the stage for a few minutes, then left, telling me he was leaving town for Miami early in the morning.

It is too bad he didn’t get some of the crazies out of his head before he left, because the next night his concert in Dade County resulted in a riot, and he would later be charged with indecent exposure and other outrageous behavior.

It’s possible no one knows what really happened that ridiculous night. Later, Jim was guarded and stoic, saying only he felt confident his lawyers could take care of it. I’m convinced he was influenced by the antics of the Living Theatre from the night before. But, more significantly, I believe he was, simply, tired of it all. I have never met anyone whose sensibilities were more unsuited to the rigorous demands of being a rock star and sex symbol. No doubt he had enjoyed the music and the explosive reaction of the young people he so strongly identified with; he’d savored the rush of success and the sense of power and manipulation. But Jim was a scholar, and all his life his academic achievements were outstanding. His success as a rock ‘n’ roller was so sudden and tremendous that he never really understood it and soon felt trapped by the image, longing to be thought of as a poet.

One day I dropped by Jim’s office and found him on the phone, apparently trying to call me. “Hey where the fuck you been, man? C’mon, we’re going to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones.” He handed me a bottle of whiskey and waved a fistful of choice front-row tickets around. His manager, Bill Siddons, was a copromoter of the concert and had given them to Jim. He planned to stand outside the auditorium and randomly hand them out to young fans unable to afford a ticket, saying, “This is courtesy of your old pal Jim Morrison. Enjoy the show.” He felt this would be a good-natured and harmless way to slightly upstage Jagger and Company.

We finished off the bottle and then he and I along with Frank Lisciandro and a sometime publicist for the Doors, Leon Barnard, made a mad run for the airport. On the way we managed to stop and buy some beer and a pint of brandy. We were escorted onto our flight and took seats in the first-class compartment. Jim and I were seated on the aisle across from each other; he was one row ahead of me. We had concealed the bottle, rather ineptly in a comic book, and we passed it back and forth and openly drank from it, expecting any moment to have it confiscated; that never happened. The wait for takeoff was longer and even more interminable than usual. Finally we were airborne and the grim-faced stewardesses began their rounds. The head stew, a tight-lipped young crone whose name tag read “Reva Mills,” leaned over me to serve Leon his drink. I asked her, “If your name is Reva, don’t that make your father old man Reva?” We broke into a brief chorus of the song “Ol’ Man River,” but she did not see the humor and icily informed me her father was not her old man. During the face-mask demonstration I loudly announced that “my girl friend has one of those—only she calls it a diaphragm.” Again, the girls did not see the humor.

I went to the bathroom and took a handful of small soap bars back to my seat with me, dropping a few into Jim’s drink on the way. He imitated a small child and “told” on me to the stewardess, who quickly gave him a refill to keep him quiet.

About halfway to Phoenix, the captain appeared in front of us and, without using our names, told us to shape up or he would turn the plane around and hand us over to authorities in L.A. And sure enough, when the plane rolled to a halt in Phoenix, we were greeted by four of that city’s finest, who informed us it was not an arrest, they just wanted to talk to us. But the captain reappeared and demanded we be taken into custody. The cops were only too happy to oblige, and we were handcuffed and led off to the airport holding station, then transferred to the downtown lockup.

Frank and Leon did the only thing possible—they went to the show. Any hopes we had of an early release and dashing off to see the concert soon faded. We made the best of a bad situation by talking to other prisoners and leading a sing-along of oldie goldies. Sorry Mick, see ya next time.

At midnight we were each taken separately into another room and an agent of the FBI tried to question us. I could not understand what the FBI wanted with two drunks, and he politely told me that charges pertaining to the 1964 Sky Piracy Act were being considered. This nightmare would have been funny with different actors.

In the morning we were fined $65 each for drunk and disorderly conduct and returned to our cells. Then at midday we were transferred by U.S. marshals to the federal courthouse to be booked on the hijacking charge. Siddons arrived with an attaché case full of cash, receipts from the concert, and posted bail, $2,500 each. Finally a taste of freedom after 18 hours’ confinement.

When we returned to L.A. it was everyone’s foregone conclusion that I was the instigator and the whole thing would never have happened if I had not been there to provoke Jim. Even Babe Hill lectured me on my behavior’s having placed Jim in jeopardy. We curtailed our get-togethers for the most part, except for two trips to Phoenix to make obligatory court appearances. Evidently the idiotic authorities were going ahead with this farce.

The day before the trial Jim, Frank, Leon and I flew to Phoenix, where we met to discuss our legal strategy with our lawyers. We bought some blazers, ties and slacks to smooth out our appearance, but kept our hair shoulder length. Early the next day, the condemned ate a hearty meal and went to the courthouse, where a crowd of young longhairs shouted words of encouragement to us. On the advice of our lawyer, we waived the right to trial by jury leaving ourselves at the sole mercy of the judge, who was of the hanging variety a dead ringer for the mad bomber of the air force, Gen. Curtis LeMay.

We sat rigidly at the defense table, flanked by our lawyers, and got a glimpse of our accusers. The first to testify was Sherry Ann Mason, one of the stewardesses. She was 22 years old, the median age of all three, yet, amazingly none of them had heard of the Doors or Jim. The prosecutor expertly led Sherry Ann through her testimony and she told how, although they all could see our drunkenness when we boarded, they served us additional drinks. Then we began “using foul and obscene language.” But you have to hear her tell it:

Q: Sherry… give the court an example of the type of language you were subjected to….

A: I don’t use this kind of language… but I think….they were cussing about the plane…. “This god-damned, son-of-bitchin’, fucking airplane” would have been the….common language that was used….

For someone who doesn’t use that kind of language, she did all right. She went on to say we also made obscene gestures, tried to trip her and hit her and the other stews, threw plastic glasses at them and generally made their jobs difficult if not impossible and endangered the lives of our fellow passengers. One of her more outrageous accusations was that when I left the bathroom just prior to the now infamous “soap in the drink” incident, I deliberately tried to strike her with the door, all the while admitting it was impossible for me to see out while the door was shut. And what would prove to be the most damaging, she claimed that just before landing, Jim grabbed at and tried to kiss her knee or thigh, saying, “Pussy, pussy, pussy.”

She was followed on the stand by my old friend, Reva Mills, whose testimony echoed Sherry’s almost verbatim. When the “old man Reva” joke was repeated, she blushed and grimaced, but I swear the judge had a hint of a smile. But most perplexing was the fact that the girls had Jim and me confused. Everyone else who testified, including the other government witnesses, contradicted them, but the judge accepted their word along with the claim that Jim had made an obscene gesture toward Sherry and uttered the “pussy” phrase. So, based on the cockamamy testimony of these two airheads, Jim was convicted of a misdemeanor, and I was totally acquitted. Jim was confused, because if anyone made a move, it was done by whoever was sitting in my seat. Understandably he was rankled by the outcome, but the lawyer assured him it would be thrown out on appeal, and it was, some two months later. But before that, it would disrupt our friendship for many months.

We returned to the bar at the hotel along with our lawyers to celebrate our tainted victory. Temporarily satisfied that it would be worked out in his favor, Jim loosened up and we toasted the end of the ordeal. To our surprise, the stewardesses and the captain joined our table. What gall! Reva was unwavering in her tight-bunned animosity toward us, but the other two cozied right up, telling us they had been coerced into pressing charges. They were brazenly flirtatious and gave us their room number, saying they would love to hear from us later in the evening.

We were followed back to the room by the Phoenix-based lawyer, a greedy legal-beagle schmuck, who had long begun to wear on our nerves. Drinking and laughing it up, Jim and I started talking about calling Sherry Ann and her friend. The lawyer could not believe we would have anything to do with them after they had tried to put us in jail. I told him we were really going to get back at them by taking them out to the desert and fucking them and leaving them there. Jim and I exchanged broad winks, then he said not only would we strip them and fuck them, but we would urinate on their bare bodies before deserting them. The lawyer was cockeyed drunk and crawling around on his hands and knees, pleading with us not to do it. He looked pathetic and we laughed at him and tormented him until he passed out.

Jim called my room first thing in the morning and woke me up. He was in high spirits and anxious to get an early start. Back in L.A. we were greeted by the gang from the office when we walked into the Palms in West Hollywood to continue celebrating. We drank and played pool for about an hour. Then we all left together.

A friend of mine had come to pick me up and he walked with us to the office parking lot. I had left some belongings in the office before going to Phoenix and went upstairs to collect them. Suddenly Jim came charging into the room and began loudly ordering me out. He kept saying that I shouldn’t be there, it was a place of business. When I laughed, remembering all the times I had seen him destroy the place in a drunken rage, he jumped on me and we rolled around on the carpet for a few minutes. He was too drunk to do anyone harm and I laughed and pretended to wrestle with him for a few seconds, then pulled myself away and started to leave. Babe came bursting through the door and grabbed me, thinking I might be pummeling Jim. He was closely followed by Tony Funches, a large bodyguard, formerly employed by the Stones and now working for the Doors. When my friend came in he thought all three were ganging up on me and he jumped into the fray. A real donny-brook broke out and the four of us tumbled down the wrought-iron steps to the parking lot. Jim stayed out of it and called the police. They wasted no time getting there, and along with me, were flabbergasted to learn it was Jim who had called them.

Now I was really mad. Morrison stood at the top of the stairs, in the shadows, but I could see him looking down at me. I yelled, “You called the cops, Morrison, you actually called the fucking cops on me, you son of a bitch.” The cops laughed their asses off and threatened to arrest Jim and Babe; then they broke us up and I left with my friend. He’d been hit hard a few times and who wanted some revenge. He drove around the block and picked up a rock the size of a softball. “Here, Baker, take this.”

“What for? I don’t want the fucking thing.”

“Throw it,” he said. He pointed to a large picture window on the second floor.

“Ah, hey I can’t do that, no shit man.”

“Baker, throw the goddamn rock. After what just happened, we ought to burn the place to the ground.” I knew he wouldn’t rest until we took some action, so I threw it. We drove away to the sound of breaking glass. I did not see Jim or Babe or anyone associated with the Doors for the next eight months.

I was on a roll of good fortune. To the astonishment of everyone, I raised the money to finish my film, Bongo Wolf, and traveled to London and Paris in November, 1970, where I succeeded in selling it for distribution. I returned from Europe late in January 1971, and moved into a small house in Laurel Canyon. It was not more than 50 yards from where I had met Jim and Pam some years earlier. I soon received a message via friends that Jim wanted to hear from me. I rang him up and he invited me to come join him for lunch and drinks.

Everybody was actually glad to see me when I walked into the office. Jim and I went to sit at an outdoor restaurant and reaffirm our friendship. Shem and Shaun, back together again. He told about a fall he had taken from the window of his room at the Château Marmont Hotel. Walking the edge of a high-rise roof or dangling by his fingers from open windows and balconies was one of his favorite “provocative” jokes, but this time it had caught up to him. Fortunately the window was not a high one, and his fall was broken by a porch roof, but he still felt much pain in the vicinity of his kidney. He told me he’d had the opportunity to patch things up with our old drinking buddy Janis Joplin, who had spent a few nights on the town with us some years earlier. She and Jim had a legendary battle when he attacked her in an unprovoked drunken rage and dragged her around the room by her hair. Janis responded by chasing him out to his car and beating him on the head with a full bottle of Jack Daniels as he laughed maniacally. She stayed angry with him for a long time afterward and often asked me why he had done it, but I could offer no explanation for his behavior. Apparently he made amends with her just weeks before she passed away, and he was genuinely grateful for it.

I was abstaining from booze—after my travels, I was feeling a bit rundown—but Jim was drinking (he told me he couldn’t imagine not drinking), although he was restricting himself to white wine. I looked at him and remembered the first time I had seen him. The comparison did not hold up well at all. His once sharply defined face was now bloated by alcohol; his features were soft and pale. His eyes lacked that fierce sparkle and he moved with what appeared to be great effort.

He told me he and Pam were getting on reasonably well, living together in an apartment nearby. My stories of living and loving it up in London and Paris and Malta the previous eight weeks appealed to him and he confided to me his intention to move to Paris with Pam once he was finished with the L.A. Woman album. “Yeah,” he told me, “my rock ‘n’ roll days are over, I guess.”

Along with Babe Hill, we would meet quite regularly for the rest of his time in L. A., and I could tell he had lost much of his fascination for that town.

His last day in L.A. he and Babe and I spent wandering around the Santa Monica pier. Late in the afternoon, we returned to his office and he tossed notebooks, manuscripts and other belongings into cardboard boxes. Various friends stopped in to wish him bon voyage. In the morning he boarded his flight, never to return to L.A. I had seen the last of James Douglas Morrison.

I would get intermittent reports on Jim and Pam. For a while it looked like I might have to return to London to work on a film, and I tried to call Jim, but he was not in Paris at the time and I never reached him. Often I told myself I would write to them, but I never got around to it. Then one morning, almost four years to the day after his performance at the Scene, I received a phone call from someone on the scene telling me Jim had died in Paris two days earlier. I refused to believe it at first, but Babe confirmed it for me. I was devastated and it would be some time before I could be rational about the subject. It was very tempting to believe the rumors that he had faked his death.

More than a year later, I saw Pam at a party. She was drunk and excited. We left together in her rented sedan and she drank from a bottle as she careened down Santa Monica Boulevard, talking nonstop in a semicoherent monologue and shouting out every few minutes, “Oh, Tom, let’s go, let’s go see Jimmy.” She swallowed a long slug of tequila and narrowly missed a parked car. I kept looking for the old familiar red light to come flashing up behind us, and was tremendously relieved when she screeched to a stop in the driveway of the Beverly Terrace Motel, across the street from the Troubadour. Inside her room, she continued her rap. I went in the bathroom and came out to find her asleep on the bed. I took the car and left, returning in the morning to give her the keys. She was sitting by the minuscule pool with a grimy-looking Morrison clone. Saying goodbye was awkward for both of us and I did not expect to see her again.

I would hear many stories about Pam for the next few years, none of them very pleasant. She was involved in a bitter legal battle with Jim’s family, who contested the validity of their marriage and the eventual rights to Jim’s estate. Most disturbing was the story that Pam was living with a loathsome parasite and that she had a daily and expensive drug habit. I dismissed the tales whenever they were repeated to me, but the idea of it nagged at me.

Late one night, more than a year after I had last seen her, I was driving down a nearly deserted but well-lit Sunset Boulevard. The only other car was a familiar-looking VW, being driven by a girl with a male passenger. We pulled alongside one another at a red light, and I looked to my right. Pam was staring back at me, quite defiantly and her passenger was stretching around her, trying to get a look at me. From the looks of him, it was obvious the stories I’d heard were true. When the light changed, I just took off.

A year passed before I next saw her. I was standing in front of my apartment house in Hollywood when she drove by in a new foreign economy car. She recognized me and stopped to talk, inviting me to come with her to lunch. She didn’t touch a bite of her meal but she managed to swallow three codeines, washing them down with red wine. She had gotten rid of the creep and won her court battle. Overall, she was much improved, though she was still strung out on dope.

We made arrangements to go out that night and she dropped me off, promising to call later on. Later, when she phoned, she was even more stoned than she had been at lunch, sounding euphoric and slurring her words badly. I finally got her to hang up but as I was going out the door, the phone rang again. It was Pam and she was even more stoned than she had been just 20 minutes earlier, if that was possible. She had changed her mind about going out but made me promise to call her in the morning to ride out to Malibu with her.

I awoke about 11 a.m. and reached for the phone. A woman answered. It was Pam’s mom, and I could detect anxiety in her voice. She asked who was calling. After I identified myself she told me Pam was dead. She had died in her sleep, peacefully, thank God, at the age of 27 and it’s fairly certain I was the last to speak to her.

A memorial service was held a week later at Forest Lawn. Babe Hill went with me and many old and good friends were there. Ray Manzarek played organ. Pam was cremated and her ashes flown to Paris to be with Jim.

I was in Paris in May of 1979 for the first time in more than eight years. I had been meaning to visit Père La Chaise, the historic old cemetery in a run-down section of the city where Jim and Pam were buried. I took the metro out there and walked around the neighborhood until I found it. Before going in, I stopped in a small bistro across the street to have a beer and think about the both of them. There were some Doors songs on the jukebox and I played them and sipped my beer, recalling the time nine years earlier when I had come across an interview with Groucho Marx. He was a big favorite of both Morrison’s and mine. Toward the end of the article, Groucho told of a pact he made with Harpo and Chico: They agreed that whoever died first would attempt to spiritually contact the survivors. The closing line was “Well, I haven’t heard anything yet.” I had showed it to Jim and we both got a big kick out of that line.

I finished my beer and went over to the cemetery. A map of the grounds cost a franc and the gendarme who sold it to me pointed me in the direction of “Meester Jaame Morrrisonnn.” The place is set on the side of a steep hill and I walked slowly up, checking occasionally on the map. The tombstones were old and it was difficult to read them. On my left, I saw scrawled on the side of a large headstone, “King Lizard this Way” with an arrow pointing further up the hill. Then another clue, “This way to Jim” and a few more before I finally located it. The front of the headstone faced away from the path and the ground below it was covered with burned-out incense sticks and flowers long faded and wilted. The face of the headstone was so covered with graffiti it resembled the dressing-room wall of the Fillmore.

I stood there, somewhat numbly staring at the headstone. An ardent admirer had silk-screened a well-known picture of Jim onto the stone and his madeyes peered out. The whole effect was very eerie. I started calling, quietly at first, then louder and louder, “Hey, Jim.” Again. “Hey, Jim, it’s me, Baker.” Again, “Hey Jim, it’s Baker. Are you there?” I kept this up for maybe a minute, then turned and walked down the hill toward the metro. I still haven’t heard anything.

  1. Nor have I heard anything yet, still I like the way Rider’s on the Storm, the song and the lyric, just miss fitting ever so precisely to a worldwide pandemic, if only something remembered could resurrect sweet memory.

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