Penthouse Retrospective

by John Densmore Originally Published: September, 1990

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

As we descended the stairs, it felt like entering a sauna. Dante’s inferno. Later I was to find out that there were over 13,000 people stuffed into the place, meant to hold 7,000. Vince had hired some locals to stand at the door with metal customer-counters. As we stepped onto the stage, Vince warned us that it was poorly constructed. Ray sets the scene: John, Robby, and I didn’t know what Jim would do. We’d follow him into the jaws of the hellhound itself, if we had to, ‘cause this is Jim, this is our man, this is our main man — the poet.”

We started “Back Door Man,” and Jim sang a few lines and suddenly stopped. We vamped for a while but soon petered out. Then Jim went into a drunken rap:

“You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots. You let people tell you what you’re gonna do. Let people push you around. You love it, don’t ya? Maybe you love gettin’ your face shoved in shit. You’re all a bunch of slaves. What are you going to do about it? What are you gonna do?”

I wanted to turn into liquid and dissolve into the spaces between my drums. I had never heard such rage directed at an audience.

He continued. “Hey, I’m not talkin’ about revolution. I’m not talkin’ about no demonstration. I’m talkin’ about havin’ some fun. I’m talkin’ about dancin’. I’m talkin’ about love your neighbor till it hurts. I’m talkin’ about grab your friend. I’m talkin’ about some love. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love. Grab yer friend and love him. Come oooaaann. Yeaaahhh!”

If only I could have melted down and hid behind my bass drum. I was small enough to fit down there. If I crouched. I didn’t move. Jim’s inspiration came from seeing Julian and Judith (Malina) Beck’s Living Theater a few nights previously at the University of Southern California. They were a confrontational performance group that got Jim’s creative juices flowing again and scared the shit out of me. Jim had gotten tickets for everybody around our office. He really wanted us to see what they were up to. At the Living Theater performance, actors wore a minimal amount of clothing, G-strings and the like, and climbed up the aisles and over the audience shouting “No passports! No borders! Paradise now!” I was intimidated. Jim was elated.

“Hey, what are you all doing here? You want music. No, that’s not what you really want. Alright, I want to see some action up here, I wanna see some people up here havin’ some fun. I wanna see some dancin’. There are no rules, no limits, no laws, come on! Won’t somebody come up here and love my ass? Come on. I’m lonely up here, I need some love.

He bowed his head and I thought of Pam. Now I felt sad and embarrassed for Jim. He shouldn’t show that much vulnerability.

Miami was one of Jim’s last attempts to get a new creative spark going and to quell the demons that had had him off-center from birth.

Of course, neither the band nor the audience knew what Jim was up to. He hadn’t told us about taking acid right before the Hollywood Bowl, and he hadn’t mentioned how this night he was going to try to inject confrontational theater into our performance.

Musically, the concert was the worst ever. After several attempts at playing our songs, during which someone from the audience threw a gallon of orange fluorescent Day-Glo paint on us, Robby and I got up from our instruments and started to leave. The left side of the stage made a cracking noise and dropped several inches.

Vince Treanor relives the next few moments: “Somebody jumped up and poured champagne on Jim, so he took his shirt off. He was soaking wet. ‘Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked,’ said he, and the clothes started to come off. I’m referring to the audience.”

At this point Jim lured many fans up onto the stage, forming a circle, locking arms and dancing. A policeman had exchanged his hat for Jim’s skull-and cross bones hat onstage. Then they each threw them into the audience.

Then Jim hinted that he was going to strip all the way. “You didn’t come here for music. You came for something else. Something greater than you’ve ever seen.” Ray yelled at Vince to stop him. Vince continues: “I went out past the high hat and John’s snare, up behind Jim, and I put my fingers into his belt loops, twisting them, so he couldn’t unbuckle or unsnap them.”

I decided to bail. As I jumped off the stage and accidentally landed on the light board, which fell to the ground, a security guard flipped Jim like a blackbelt karate expert, head over heels into the audience, thinking he was a fan.

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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