Penthouse Retrospective

by John Densmore Originally Published: September, 1990

The Doors: Abre Las Puertas | 30 Years Ago This Month

“What do we have here?” I exclaimed, trying to defuse the situation.

“Quite an unusual way of seducing someone, Jim.”

Jim looked at me with surprise and let Rosanna go. “Just having a little fun.”

Rosanna’s expression changed from fear and rage to relief. Jim put the knife down.

I’m in a band with a psychotic. I’m in a band with a psychotic!

I’m in a room with a psychotic.

“Well, I’ve gotta go… Do you wanna ride?”

“Naw.”

I made a hasty exit. I was worried about Rosanna, but I was more worried about myself. There was definitely sexual tension in the room as well as violent tension. That’s how I rationalized leaving. I drove to my parents’ house in a daze. Why was I in a band with a crazy person? I wanted to tell someone, my parents, anyone… but I knew I couldn’t. The Doors was my only ticket out of my family and a possible career in something I loved, and if whoever I related the incident to reacted by saying I should quit, I would have no options. School offered me no options; there was nothing else I was interested in. I tried to forget the knife incident. But problems come back one way or another when not dealt with. A rash that itched constantly developed on my legs.

By the beginning of 1966, the marquee of the London Fog read “The Doors.” We had made it to the Sunset Strip. After hitting the clubs along the Strip, we talked the owner of the Fog into booking us for a month, after we packed the house with friends. Our first real gig. Underneath our name we had them add “The Band From Venice.” The place was a dump and a hangout for misfits, but it was on the same block as the Whiskey A Go-Go, so we were game.

Jim’s stage presence had a ways to go; he rarely faced the audience. We had a discussion one night after a lame set and confronted Jim with his shyness. We suggested to him that he try to turn around and face the people more often, which he accepted with no comment. We were used to facing each other in rehearsals, and Jim wasn’t secure enough yet to break that circle of energy. He also didn’t take nonmusical suggestions well.

Ray tells a story about when Jim was still living at his and Dorothy’s apartment and he suggested that Jim might look better if he got a haircut. Jim’s reaction was to scream at Ray never ever again to tell him what to do.

“I just told him to get a simple haircut,” Ray relayed to me later. “I’m never going .to try that again.” Usually Ray came on as Mr. Confidence, flamboyant and articulate, but something in that confrontation took the wind out of his sails. It was a shock for Ray to be rebuked after bringing Jim so far. On the other hand, Jim wasn’t going to take any advice from “Dad,” and Ray was six or seven years older than the rest of us and hung out with Dorothy all the time. With a navy admiral for a father, Jim was sensitive to receiving criticism and interpreted any suggestions as orders from an archetypal father figure.

A few weeks after the haircut comment, Jim moved into an apartment in Venice with his U.C.L.A. film school buddy Phil Oleno and struck up with a new group of friends.

Ray had managed to get himself a beach house at the band’s expense. Meanwhile, Robby, Jim, and I walked the streets, looking for more gigs to pay the rent. Ray refused to join us, saying it was a waste of time. He was right. It was a waste of time inquiring at sleazy bars on Hollywood Boulevard that had never ever had live music, but the three of us were frustrated, and by going out it felt like we were doing something. Inevitably the resentment surfaced. Jim began grumbling about the “old fucker, all warm and cozy with his ‘wife’ at the beach.” We began cruising over to use the beach house at odd hours, like six in the morning. After all, Ray had said we should treat it as our own, so…

One morning after our gig at the Fog, Jim and Robby paid Ray and Dorothy a visit at dawn — on acid. They brought a couple of hookers we knew from the club. (None of us had partaken.) As the story goes, when they walked in they heard the familiar sound of Ray and Dorothy getting it on. (I say familiar because Jim, having lived with them, would often imitate the sound of Ray groaning and Dorothy saying, “Oh, Ray, oh, God, oh, Ray, oh, God.”)

Peaking on a double dose of pure sunshine acid, Jim began laughing and poking at Robby while gesturing to the noisy bedroom. He stumbled over to Ray‘s prized record collection and started taking records out of their jackets and throwing them across the massive room. Ray came out as Jim was walking on the records and said — carefully — “Okay, you guys, the party’s over.”

People who have never heard of the The Doors could well be familiar with their music. An insider now opens The Doors for Penthouse.

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