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Morrison 40th Anniv. Tour
July 3, 2011
Feast of Friends
Los Angeles Tour
A Sojourn in Paris
By Tarn C. Stephanos
In any doctrine, be it religious, philosophical or historic, a devotee must make a physical pilgrimage at least once during his or her lifetime to the place where the events or individuals involved in the subject of interest repose for perpetuity. Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome are localities where millions visit to validate their religious beliefs. Those touched by history, who long for a tangible connection with the past, visit Alexandria, Gettysburg, Athens or the Titanic wreck. In the case of individuals like John F. Kennedy, Benjamin Franklin, Elvis Presley or Jim Morrison, a visit to their graves affords close physical proximity to their earthly bodies which can have an effect that touches one on the spiritual level. Normally the teaching of The Doors involves an inner spiritual journey in which the outer bodily husk is not a necessary participant, but a physical visit to Jim's grave is very much conducive to a spiritual connection to the Word Man.
Earlier this year, through the DCM web pages, some 30-plus individuals signed up to travel to Paris for the week of the 30th anniversary of Jim's passing. We stayed at the same hotel for five days; the common bond being a shared interest in Jim Morrison. When our group was not exploring the Morrison-related sites of Paris we split up and explored the City of Lights on our own. The experience was a week of intrigue, sorrow, fascination and titillation. Paris is a city in which the roots of even the most unsightly trees drip with history. Being a history buff and when not involved with retracing Jim Morrison's steps in Paris, I was retracing the steps of the French Revolution or viewing the stunning art at the Louvre. The breathtaking architecture at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, as well as virtually every other church and public building in the city left my jaw agape. I wondered if Jim viewed these same sights and what inspiration he may have drawn for his poetry. Whether visiting the Eiffel Tower, or the small, tender Nomadic moored nearby on the river Seine (the Nomadic transported passengers to the ill-fated Titanic when she stopped in Cherbourg France) I was given a true appreciation for the endless variety of history in Paris. And with each step, I wondered if some 30 years before, Jim Morrison had walked the same path.
This was my first visit to Paris therefore my first visit to Jim's grave. I will never forget my feelings of nervous anticipation as I wound through the endless labyrinth of tombs in Pere-Lachaise cemetery searching for Jim's grave. Once I found it I said to myself, "Oh wow, there he is!" And there he was, in tangible form, though resting eight feet beneath the loam. It was a very emotional experience indeed. There was a constant number of individuals hovering near Jim's grave, many with notebooks, moved to write their own poetry. One can find the true meaning of Doordom scrawled in the margins of their poetry journals. Doordom is a spiritual voyage, elevating the mind and soul to greater levels, yet the irony is that the truth is not some elusive thing out of reach, but something that has always been nestled within ourselves. The door to inner freedom is within us all; it's just that most people choose to keep it tightly closed.
With the theme being Jim Morrison, our group was given a simply spectacular tour of Paris by a transplanted American named Summer, a Florida native, and, like Jim, a Florida State University alumnus. Summer came to Paris some four years before, not knowing the language, and has since mastered not only the language but also the rich history of the city. Having been a historic narrator myself at five Titanic Artifact Exhibitions, and of historic Boston harbor, I took particular interest in her narrative style and the amount of detail contained within her descriptions. Summer gave a historic tour so informative, so comprehensive and with such detail that I was left humbled. The tour involved visiting the various haunts, cafes and lodgings Jim frequented during his tenure in Paris. But Summer didn't focus only on Jim Morrison; there was much Parisian history she shared with us, and it was fascinating for all involved. On our Jim Morrison explorations we even made it into the building that housed the Rock and Roll Circus where one theory has it Jim OD'd and was carried home.
Most impressively we made it into the inner courtyard of the apartment building at 17 Rue Beautreillis where Jim lived and died. Above us were the windows of Jim's own apartment, the bathroom and bedroom windows covered by shutters, thus keeping out leering eyes. Overall, it was a stunning tour. A++
The Renaissance is a very groovy Doors-themed bar outside Pere-Lachaise. Festooned with Doors photos, its smoke and sweat-filled air resonated with Doors music. The variety of individuals that drank and supped at this pub ranged from the enlightened to the grotesque; an interesting cross section of the human condition. Danny Sugerman made an appearance and kindly spoke with fans and answered Doors-related questions. Despite some aggressive and simply insane autograph seekers he obliged and put pen to paper, album and book.
On July 3rd scores of people converged around Jim Morrison's grave. Some spoke amongst themselves of the wisdom drawn from his lyrics, others, the brilliance of The Doors as a rock 'n' roll entity. I knew of the chaos that had ensued 10 years prior, when East German anarchists set a car ablaze and crashed the gates of the cemetery. Now in 2001 the numbers of people grew with each passing minute but I didn't see violence of any kind. Even upon my return to Boston, family and friends told me they heard news reports of riots. What riots? I didn't see anything of the sort.
But there was definitely excitement and cheers when Ray Manzarek and his entourage worked their way through the crowd to Jim's grave. At graveside Ray knelt with clasped hands, no doubt lost in prayer and reflecting on Morrison and the amazing memories they both created. It struck me as a very private moment for Ray. Despite the solemnity rude individuals insisted on begging for autographs. They reminded me of buzzing mosquitoes swarming overhead with mucus dripping from their proboscises. One might imagine my disgust when persons started throwing bits of clothing at Ray for him to autograph. Always the trooper, Ray was very friendly as he spoke with his fans then eventually departed. Yet the numbers of people increased creating a friendly bond amongst strangers who greeted each other as if they were part of the same tribe. Then there were some individuals off in distant corners; for them Jim Morrison was a private phenomenon, their own personal shaman not to be shared with anyone.
On the evening of July 3, our Doors Feast of Friends made its way to Les Bouffes du Nord, a seemingly ancient theatre, for a magical Warner-Elektra sponsored press event. Ray and Danny answered questions from the audience then screened the films Feast of Friends and HWY as well as the PBS television program Critique. There were plans to show the Danish TV special but time ran out. HWY was rather artsy and quite long, though it did feature nice Jim Morrison footage. The audience reaction to HWY was mixed, although everyone seemed to love the performance on Critique. Who wouldn't love an energetic, live version of the Soft Parade?
The audio of the upcoming Live at the Aquarius Theatre CD was aired between the films to the delight of the crowd. The songs played were proof enough that the Aquarius performance was indeed top notch. Ray signed autographs and amazed the crowd by jamming on keyboard, hammering out both haunting and funky renditions of "Riders on the Storm" and "Light My Fire."
Now close to midnight Doors fans in Paris had the choice of seeing three different Doors cover bands: the LA Doors, The Lizard Kings, and the Bootleg Doors. Most of our group and scores of Doors fans that emerged from the very vapor of the night chose to see the LA Doors who were performing at the Locomotive Club located in a curiously whore-free, red light district directly next to the famous Moulin Rouge. The concert turned out to be fantastic with both the band and the audience totally turned onto the music of The Doors. A sea of Doors fans converged in what could best be described as a mosh pit area. The fact every crowd member sang along to each Doors song was proof enough that this was a true Doors crowd. A heavy cloud of the burning herb filled the air while scores of people rushed the stage. Once on stage, at least six women exposed their ample breasts and I recall at least three couples engaged in sexual frivolity. A most enjoyable concert for all! The band was fantastic, giving a powerful performance with spot-on vocals and fine instrumentation. The inclusion of non-top 40 Doors songs such as "My Wild Love" and "Love Street" met with tremendous approval and applause from the audience. During "Not to Touch the Earth," the singer, in true Morrison fashion, proceeded to climb higher and higher up the scaffolding into the rafters. In my opinion this was a top-notch cover band and they gave a stunning performance.
Before I knew it the week in Paris was over and it was time to return home. I said no good-byes at Jim's grave, as I know I'll be back again someday. What an amazing time! It was great to meet so many Doors fans, and after eight years of writing for the DCM, to FINALLY meet fellow DCM staffers Kerry, Victoria, and Jan. On returning to my Boston hovel, I assumed the lotus position and meditated, hoping my spirit had absorbed some wisdom at Jim's grave. After a lengthy attempt to recall details of my past and future lives, I opted to light my newly-bought Cuban stogie and play the Soft Parade….
"There will never be another one like you there will never be another one, who can do the things you do..."
Rest in Peace Jimbo