Penthouse Retrospective

by John Densmore Originally Published: September, 1990

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

Scared shitless, Robby and I ran up the stairs to get out of the chaos. Jim was now in the middle of the auditorium, leading a snake dance with 10,000 people following him. I looked down from the balcony, and the audience looked like a giant whirlpool with Jim at the center. As I went into the dressing room, Bill came racing out.

“Get him out of there!” I warned. “He could get hurt!”

“That’s what I’m going to do!” Bill screamed.

Ten minutes later the Lizard King strolled in with a group of people laughing and talking. He was sober now, a concert being better for a hangover than drinking several cups of coffee I

My anger over the performance was subsiding as Ray and I looked out the window at the crowd driving away. “Do you feel the energy out there?” Ray remarked. I noticed that there was a higher sort of buzzing of conversation as the people drove away.

“The hookers slunk out of the room. Jim stood there with a glazed look on his face. Around his feet lay broken records with his sandy footprints on them.”

“They’re pretty charged up out there, as if we gave them an energy jolt and they’re going to take it out into the streets,” Ray continued.

“Yeah, I feel it,” I replied, thinking that even though we’d played poorly, it had been theatrical. I looked over at Robby, who was pecking at the spread of food laid out for us. He seemed to have accepted what just went down onstage. There was one thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind, though. How long were we going to get away with this? The ledge at the top of our pedestal was getting narrower.

On the plane from Miami to our Jamaican vacation, Jim told us that he had gotten out of New Orleans late because of a fight with Pam. Making a stab at a romantic vacation, he had rented an old Jamaican plantation house, but now he went there alone instead. It rested high atop a tropical hill, complete with slavery vibes. A few days later Jim showed up at our place. Robby and I and our respective mates, Lynn and Julia, had rented a big house on the water. Jim said his short stay up on the hill had been “spooky.” He described sitting in the dining room at the end of a long table, eating, while the help sat in chairs along the walls, waiting to be called on. The bedrooms had lace curtains over the beds to keep the bugs out.

I felt sorry for Jim, alone up there, but I was bugged that he crashed our hideaway. He was drunk on rum, and his presence unnerved me. He knew that my bad vibes were directed toward his self-destruction, but it was clear to both of us that nothing was going to stop him. After a few days, Jim left for the States, but not before Bill called and said warrants had been issued for Jim’s arrest. He’d been charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, simulating oral copulation, and indecent exposure. I couldn’t believe the charges! Yes, Jim had been drunk. But simulating oral copulation? They must have been alluding to Jim getting down on his knees to get a closer look at Robby’s fingers as he played guitar. Since he didn’t play an instrument, he was enamored of musicians. Later a photograph was used as evidence of this obscene act of fellatio on Robby, which was actually Jim honoring Robby’s talent. No absence of malice in Miami. They insisted that Jim was giving Robby head.

When the warrant was issued, Jim left Jamaica and returned to L.A. Our entire 20-city tour was canceled. Paul Rothchild describes the scene at our office: “They couldn’t get a job. Promoters all over the country were canceling the shows as fast as the Doors could answer the telephone. There was a horrible two weeks where the bottom fell out.”

Why did the world want to believe — so badly — that Jim had exposed himself? If one finds someone else to blame heavily, then one doesn’t have to look closely at one’s own neuroses. My theory is that some parents got curious about their kids coming home half clothed, called the local politicians, and they decided to use Jim as an example of moral decay. Or it was some righting bullshit plot. Fucking politics.

I must have known all along it was going to end like this. I reacted schizophrenically Half of me hated him, like Ishmael hating Ahab, for taking us down; the other half said, “It could be for the better, all for the better.” I was glad that he was tearing it all down, because I knew it was defective. As Billy James said under his breath while writing out our first bias for Elektra, “Too much power in Jim’s hands could be dangerous.” He must have sensed the chaos early.

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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