People Are Strange
Jim Morrison and the Queer State of Florida


Excuse me.   Forgive me.  Pardon me for saying so, but sometimes the accused does not want your mercy. 

Sometimes the accused is innocent and sees a pardon as an admission of guilt.  Sometimes the accused is dead and a pardon is too late.  Sometimes a pardon is payback for another unrelated debt. Sometimes a pardon is an acknowledgment of false accusation. Sometimes a pardon is political opportunism.

Recently, Charlie Crist the outgoing Governor of Florida along with his 3-member state clemency board, unanimously voted to pardon Florida native son James Douglas Morrison.  Jim Morrison, as you may know him, was a navy brat — a traveled adolescent.  At the age of 22, Morrison moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA’s film school and its theater arts program. Soon thereafter, Morrison employed his surrealistically cinematic dark poetic theatricality in the music of The Doors.

"In the realm of art and theater,” said Morrison, “I do think that there should be complete freedom for the artist and the performer."

It was while performing drunk and irreverently at a Door’s concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in the Coconut Grove section of Miami on March 1, 1969 that Morrison achieved complete freedom while his penis made headlines.  Jim was accused of taking little Jimmy out onstage.

Lascivious penis exposure in a public place, as many of you know, is illegal. I suppose that’s because it shocks its viewers into a vindictive mood.   Men, of course, manage to take theirs out in private all the time with rare instances involving shock.  But somehow in public the penis is electric.

At any rate, Morrison was arrested and tried.  Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek claimed that Morrison’s penis never actually made a public appearance at the event.  Everyone in court who didn’t have an interest in showing moral indignation agreed with Manzarak.  The evidence offered in support of the penis’s appearance was entirely heresay, but that didn’t stop the state of Florida from going all Anita Bryant on the Lizard King. 

Morrison was sentenced to six months in jail for a conviction on misdemeanor charges of profanity and indecent exposure. He was appealing his conviction, when, less than 2 years later, he died (perhaps) either of a heroin overdose or natural causes in either a Paris nightclub or hotel room bathtub.

Thirty-six years later, Charlie Crist, a Florida Republican-turned-independent, began considering a pardon for Morrison.  This November, after Crist lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, he dedicated a chunk of his lame duck time to make the pardon a reality.

Crist said he was surprised at how sneaky and underhanded the prosecution and courts had been at the time of Morrison’s conviction.  Why, they were almost as sneaky and underhanded as the US Supreme Court had been way back in the year 2000 in Bush v Gore.  But that’s another story.  Pardon me.

In spite of the underhandedness of the courts, the Morrison pardon faced some opposition.  Retired Miami police sergeant Angel Lago, said that Morrison “is not worthy of this. I don't care if he was a poet,” Lago said, “I don't care if he walked on water." Jesus Christ, those are dense words.

Crist, not Christ, said that he thought the conviction was an attempt at censoring a high profile figure of the 1960s counter culture.  That position should play well with baby boomers who make up a solid voting block in Crist’s demographic.  In other words, the pardon makes the Lizard King a bullet point on Charlie Crist’s resume.

"In this case the guilt or innocence is in God's hands, not ours," Crist said.

I beg your pardon, Charlie, while on paper the pardon is for the accused, we all know that the real pardon here is for the accuser — the guilt resides with the state of Florida.

Morrison, on the other hand, was a drunken cabaret carnival barker backdoor man looking for a whiskey bar. Half Kurt Weill, half Chet Baker with a pinch of Aleister Crowley, he had a swagger that now resides in Johnny Depp and Nick Cave.

"He wouldn't give a fuck" about the pardon, Robbie Krieger, The Doors guitarist said.

Krieger is right.  I’m trying to imagine Morrison, who would be 67 today, reacting to this act of faux forgiveness.   I can’t imagine that he would give even a partial fuck.  Morrison could never walk on water, but he would know when to say “Physician heal thyself.”

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast December 17, 2010

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


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