The Miami Incident: The Beginning of the End for The Doors - Jim Morrison Pardon
There was a time, believe it or not, when Miami was part of the Bible Belt. Before the topless beaches, before the all-night dance clubs, and before the Cocaine Cowboys, Dade County was actually a part of the South. The deepest of the Deep South. And while occasional trips to the horse farms of South Dade or Davie may remind you that you are still a three hour plane flight from the Mason-Dixon line, 38 years ago you didn’t need to travel much further than Coconut Grove. 38 years ago was when Miami got its place in the annals of Rock and Roll history, as our sleepy southern Beach town played host to one of the most infamous performances ever witnessed.
For those unfamiliar, The Doors concert at the Dinner Key auditorium in Coconut Grove is generally considered the beginning of the end of the life and career of Jim Morrison. While Miami was certainly a much different place in those days, some things were still painstakingly similar. The auditorium, a converted airplane hangar with about 7000 seats, was rented out by promoter Ken Collier to hold exactly than many. Of course, after he paid The Doors their $25,000 performance fee, he realized that if he took the seats out he could gross a lot more than the $40,000 The Doors had understood that he would. So what did this pioneer of shady Dade County business dealings do? He took out the seats and sold as many tickets as he possibly could. What this of course resulted in was a mob of people standing around on a hot night, some literally hanging from the rafters and nearly all in some form of inebriation. Little security, excessive crowds and oppressive humidity. All the ingredients for a drunken Rock icon to incite a riot.
APPARENTLY DEPOSED DICTATORS LIKE THE BEACH
Morrison and The Doors knew the situation immediately and their manager attempted to pull them from the show. Of course, after seeing the hot, drunken mob awaiting the performance, the band knew it would do more harm than good to leave. Or so they thought. Morrison apparently did what all people who come to Miami do and got excessively drunk as soon as he stepped off the plane. Now you might say “That’s nothing special, Jim Morrison was drunk every minute of his life he was not high on hallucinogenics,” it takes a special level of intoxication to begin a show by saying “Adolf Hitler is Alive and Well and Living in Miami.” He then proceeded to forget the lyrics to “Break on Through” and instead invited the entire crowd to LA to rub their toes in the ocean. Because that’s obviously something you cannot do in Miami
Morrison then launched into rant after drunken rant about people being “f-ing slaves” and “doing what they tell you,” until he finally had a moment of clarity. He asked if there was anyone in the crowd from Tallahassee and when he got a varied response he responded, “Well, I lived there until I got smart and went to California.” This would be his only lucid statement for the entire evening. The heat and the alcohol and the crowd continued to get to Morrison until he finally started encouraging the crowd to strip. “Love one another. Love your brother, hug him. Man, I’d like to see a little nakedness around here….grab your friend and love him. Take your clothes off and love each other” he told the crowd. Aside from the vaguely homo-erotic elements of his screams, there wasn’t much offensive about this unorthodox performance.
I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS THE ACID TALKING, BUT I SWEAR HE JUST PULLED OUT HIS…
This of course was until he began to tell the crowd he knew what they had come for. Interestingly enough, he seemed to know this without any members of the actual crowd knowing it, so their confusion was well understood. Morrison then told them that, apparently, they had all come there to “see my cock.” It seems he was a little tired of being an international sex symbol and was trying to make some sort of ironic gesture when he allegedly whipped it out for the crowd. Now there is not any photographic evidence to support this, only the testimony of people in attendance. And really, how credible is eyewitness testimony of someone in an auditorium at double capacity who was, most likely, on some sort of hallucinogenic?
Well, according the City of Miami police, pretty darned credible. After stories of Morrison’s sexual antics onstage spread throughout the country (this took more than the five minutes it does today as there was no CNN or Internet) protest began around the city for a response to The Doors blatant “Indecency.” A group of local High Schoolers held a protest at the Orange Bowl they called a “Rally For Decency,” prompting a letter of commendation from President Nixon. The Miami incident soon became an icon for those against Rock and Roll and free love and all the hedonistic pleasures that the era was known for. And, of course, Jim Morrison became the fall guy.
The media, at least locally, had already convicted Morrison before the trial began. The jury was made up of six people all over 40 in what was then highly-conservative Dade County. After a trial where the vast majority of media coverage was given to the Prosecution, Morrison was convicted of two misdemeanors; open profanity and indecent exposure. The convictions, which were under appeal when Morrison moved to France and died in 1971, were really the least of his problems.
F- THIS, I’M GOING TO FRANCE
After the Miami incident, many dates on their subsequent US tour were canceled and radio airplay dropped off considerably. Rolling Stone published a cover featuring Morrison on an Old West-style Wanted poster stating “Wanted: In the County of Dade.” It is surprising every street rapper in Miami hasn’t used it as an album cover already. The once massively-popular Doors were now pariahs of indecency and as such their iconic frontman left the country and died shortly afterwards.
Fans of The Doors point to this incident as the end of the band as it was known in its heyday. Because of the questionable circumstances under which Morrison was convicted, the lack of evidence, and the media crucifixion, fans have been petitioning the Florida legislature for a pardon for years. Previous governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush hadn’t shown much interest, but keeping true to his populist themes Charlie Crist has said he is open to the idea. “I feel for the Morrison family,” he says. Who exactly in the family he feels for is not exactly clear, but it seems the movement is gaining some steam. Citing the posthumous pardon of Enron Chief Kenneth Lay, Crist has opened the doors, no pun intended, for a full exoneration of the Rock and Roll legend.
I HEAR CHARLIE CRIST IS A FAN OF “BACK DOOR MAN”
If you or any of your friends have any interest in clearing the kinda-good name of James Douglas Morrison, there is an online petition you can sign at: http://www.doors.com/cgi-bin/miami.cgi.
Or contact Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist through this page: http://www.flgov.com/contact_form
Whether you are a Doors fan or just a fan of Rock and Roll, the connection between South Florida and the history of the band is a story a lot of younger residents do not know. While clearing Morrison’s name may not be the most pressing issue our state faces, it is still perhaps a step showing that our state has matured and developed since 1969. And while many have forgotten or maybe do not know about that fateful night in Coconut Grove, true fans of the band always invoke the name of our city when discussing the downfall of a Rock and Roll Icon. The beginning of the end for Jim Morrison will always be linked with South Florida as any biography of The Doors is incomplete without The Miami Incident.
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