Chapter 4
Bad Boys and Really Big Shews

Chicks dig bad boys, and the baddest boy in New York City in August 1967 was Jim Morrison—the chicks at the Delmonico Hotel on Park Avenue were really digging him.

Elektra Records was throwing a party in celebration of The Doors’ success and Danny Fields, Elektra’s publicist, had invited me to go. I finished up a few things that I had to do at my desk and got ready to walk over to Park Avenue. I copped a nickel bag of weed from Sammy, our office boy, and went to the restroom to perform what had become for me a common ritual—I rolled a joint, stood on the hopper, lit it, and blew the smoke out the ceiling exhaust fan. In a few minutes, I was good to go and out the door. As I walked, I began to reflect on recent events in my life. Less than year ago I was in Baltimore fresh out of college, naïve, working with Liberace and now—here I was in New York getting high, traveling and working with rock stars.

I remembered having read or heard that in August 1964, three years earlier, Bob Dylan had come down from Woodstock to the very same Delmonico Hotel where I was headed, to turn the Beatles on to marijuana for the first time. The times they were a-changin’ indeed.

Dylan had taken LSD in the spring of 1964 and it was an experience that transformed his music. He was not the only one experimenting and the fusion of rock and psychedelics was impacting our culture dramatically and transforming the way we all looked at the world. In just three years we had gone from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to John Lennon’s Timothy Leary inspired “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

I arrived at the Delmonico, higher than I wanted to be. I was the business guy, after all, and should have been maintaining a modicum of sobriety. I was directed to the wine cellar, where all the action was. The Doors’ New York friends along with the usual crowd of industry functionaries, hangers-on, reporters, the beautiful people, and the pseudo-beautiful people who suck up to the stars—were all on hand to guzzle free booze. Jim was at the center of it all, his handsome face framed by cascading ringlets of dark hair, dressed in a black leather suit, white shirt, and skinny black tie posing for publicity shots. “Light My Fire” was the number-one single in the country for the third week in a row and this was truly Jim’s moment in time. Andy Warhol and his campy Factory crew were fawning over him, and both men and women with various sexual preferences ogled him as they sipped their favorite alcoholic concoctions. The scene looked like a Renaissance painting of some lost angel surrounded by nymphs and satyrs—an ode to the elegance of corruption.

Sitting at a nearby table, I watched, more than a little starstruck, as Andy presented Jim with an ornate antique French plastic phone with a rotary dial. Jim laughed out loud—it was a preposterous gift. “Thanks, Andy. That’s just what I wanted!” he said, without intending to insult him because the phone was obviously a campy gift. I could see that Andy was really taken with Jim. No surprise as Jim was happening, handsome, unabashedly sexy and extremely charismatic. Andy was a gay artist, a powerful player in the New York scene, who usually got whatever his whims desired. I could overhear Andy’s overtures to Jim insisting that he visit The Factory.

“I’d love to film you, Jim!” Andy entreated while his choir of minions cooed in assent but Jim was having none of it. The drunker he got, the more he began to toy with Warhol and put him on. All attention was riveted on the two stars but Jim tired of it quickly and shifted his focus to the feast before him. At this point the gathering was becoming more of a Doors celebration, with local friends and insiders and fewer industry people. Everybody was loosening up and Jim was pulling out vintage bottles of wine from the racks and passing them around. As he emptied his glass of fine French wine, he called out—“We’re hungry, more food!” Groupies abounded and Jim was throwing ice cubes at them, Doors music was playing loudly and there was boisterous laughter at his antics. People were lighting up joints and the smell of weed pervaded the room.

All the publicity shots had been taken, the music executives, the press, and those not committed to continuing the Dionysian ritual of overindulgence departed, leaving the hardcore partyers and the curious bystanders like myself. The affair finally concluded when the Delmonico’s banquet manager arrived to find Jim lurching precariously on top of a table, knocking over wine glasses and smashing canapés. His indignant shouts signaled that the real world was about to intrude on the Bacchanalian fantasy. Within minutes, the police were on the scene and emptying the room. The band and friends—giddy and booze and dope-infused—stumbled onto Park Avenue and into their awaiting limousines, as I looked on incredulously. I chuckled to myself, remembering that just a couple of hours ago I was thinking perhaps I might be too high for the event. The evening was young for the departed revelers, but I threaded my way home through the streets of New York, amused by the recollections of the evening and unaware that I would play a greater role in the Morrison drama.

Ed, We Couldn’t Get Much Higher or Care Less
A month or so after the Delmonico party The Doors were still atop the charts with their number-one single “Light My Fire” and they were scheduled to make a live appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was September 1967 and it is hard to overstate the power that this singular television show exerted upon the national taste. The show itself was like a throwback to vaudeville, with a mix of circus acts, musical talents, and skits. Its host—Ed Sullivan—wa vs neither an entertainer nor a vivacious personality. In fact, he was a bland, nondescript little man—parodied by Americans across the country for his signature phrase—“really, big shew”. Ed though had introduced Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to America and an appearance on his show represented the pinnacle of success and exposure. The deeply conservative Ed and the CBS brass had only shown Elvis from the waist up, not allowing his pelvic gyrations to be seen and had gotten The Stones to change their lyrics from “let’s spend the night together” to “let’s spend some time together.” I knew the meeting of the brash, and unapologetic Doors and the uber-straight Ed would make for an interesting encounter so I used my agency connection to be on hand backstage.

There was a considerable amount of pre-performance tension between The Doors and the show’s staff. Ed tried to cozy up to the boys after the sound check, saying, “You boys look great when you smile! Do that tonight—you’re too serious.” It was an odd comment coming from the guy who was known for never smiling. The band goofed about that for a while joking amongst themselves about how awkward Ed was approaching them and, worse yet, patronizing them. While the band was making pre-show preparations Ed’s son-in-law producer, Bob Precht, appeared and informed Jim that he had to find an alternative to the lyric, “higher”. Jim gave him the ole “fuck you” response. Ray Manzarek, the band’s keyboardist and resident diplomat, interceded between the defiant Jim and the tight-jawed producer and assured Precht that there was nothing to worry about. After Precht left the room, I reminded them that back in 1963, CBS network censors had forbidden Dylan to perform “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” and with uncompromising integrity Dylan walked out on the show. Jim said he would have nothing to do with censorship and was not about to change the lyrics for anyone. The group quietly conspired to keep the lyrics intact. As the agency rep, I could have perhaps dissuaded them but I was on the side of the artists and free speech and shrugged, “What can they do?”

True to his rebellious nature, Morrison sang the word “higher” not once, but twice, touching off wild cheers and applause from the audience. After the show, Precht stormed into the dressing room, furious at the group for breaking their promise. He shouted at Jim, “You’ll never do the Sullivan Show again!” For once, Jim was perfectly calm as he concisely summed up the band’s response.

“Who cares? We just did it.”
As the fall of 1967 turned to winter it became more and more my professional and personal duty to care for, and about Jim Morrison.


High Notes is scheduled to be released November 2014
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A limited number of hardcover books, autographed by the author, will be available on this website November 2014.

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