The Calm Calculus of Reason (Pt. 4 of 9)

The Calm Calculus of Reason (Pt. 4 of 9)

A Conversation with Frank Lisciandro
By Steven P. Wheeler

In Part 4, the wide-ranging topics include Jim’s stage persona, his lack of interest in money, and his love life.

Frank Lisciandro and yours truly discussing Jim Morrison in the proper setting.

SHEDDING THE SKIN OF THE LIZARD KING

Let’s talk a little bit about Jim Morrison the performer. Jim himself said in one of his later interviews in regards to his Lizard King persona or his stage act that “just because you play a villain in a western doesn’t mean that you’re that person.” But you don’t hear about quotes like that, because it would shatter the myth. Do you think that the Jim Morrison onstage was the real Jim Morrison?
Ya know, it’s funny, we don’t have this kind of problem if we talk about someone like Huey Lewis. There’s nothing wrong with Huey Lewis, but we don’t try to psycho-analyze his stage behavior [laughs].
But in answer to your question, I think Jim assumed a stage character and embraced this character that he had in his mind. His stage persona was the character he played. And when it worked he really did hold the audience in the palm of his hand. He could not only entertain them, but also scare the bejeezus out of them and get them on a whole other consciousness trip.
I can say that Jim actually grew in stature onstage. His motions were different, his demeanor was different and his voice was different. He was acting a part. There was something about being onstage that forced him to assume a persona that wasn’t his own. Maybe there was a fear or insecurity that forced him to become someone else. Maybe it was simple stage fright, maybe it was his role in the script he had written for his stage act. Maybe it was in the tradition of shamanism. Who really knows why?

Did Jim ever talk to you about being disgruntled or tired of performing with the Doors?
We know that Jim didn’t like playing in the larger arenas. He told me that countless times and he’s also on the record saying that he wasn’t interested in being a jukebox and pushing out the same twelve songs every show.
He was a creative person, so, of course, he wanted to do different things. He tried to do the songs differently in little ways during that last tour [in 1970], but there were still limits on what he could do.
Two instances where I saw him perform that were extraordinarily different were the 1969 PBS/Critique performance and when he and I were in New Orleans and he got up onstage at a little club and did some blues songs without being introduced or anything.
At the Critique performance, Jim demanded a lot of himself and he delivered. He was very expressive and it was really powerful. At the club performance in New Orleans, he didn’t play Jim Morrison the Rock Star or Jim Morrison the Lizard King or Jim Morrison the Shaman. He was just Jim Morrison the Blues Singer and he really enjoyed being able to just get up and sing with the great voice he had developed by then.
So who was the guy onstage? It depended on the stage and the night. There was a different Jim Morrison on the stage in Miami in 1969 than on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968. We have the film and can see what kind of performer he was at the Hollywood Bowl, and he was a pretty damn good performer that night. And while the Hollywood Bowl is a fairly big place—when compared to a club like the Whisky—he was still able to create his magic; like he did with his performance of “The End” that night. But a year later, they were playing bigger and bigger places like they did in Miami.

Jim and Robby share a laugh between songs during the taping for the PBS/Critique public television program in 1969.

MONEY BEATS SOUL

You mentioned the “restrictions” Jim felt in regards to his music career and a lot of recording artists find that professional ritual of write, record and tour to be the antithesis of being on a creative merry-go-round. For someone like Jim, who seemed to have a need to create, this had to be unbearable at times…
And the fact is that this ritual, as you call it, is about selling albums, selling out concerts, and, bottomline, making money. I can tell you without hesitation that Jim really didn’t have a lust for material possessions, because it was not his goal to make money with his art. The money he did make with the Doors, he would spend on a shop for Pamela or making a movie like he did with HWY or buying drinks and dinner for friends.
I would have loved to be in on some of those meetings where the guys in the band would have discussions with their financial advisors about where to invest their money, I mean it must have been hilarious. The other three guys were apt students about money and finance; and wanting to learn how to do it and be wise about it. And I’m sure that Jim went along with the group decision most of the time, although all the time thinking: this is not my trip.
I remember at one point he said to me, “We now own a walnut orchard in some place in central California,” and the way he said it, it was like a total mystery to him. It seemed like he just went along with whatever the other guys wanted to do about investing their money, because he just didn’t seem interested enough to spend time thinking about it.

There are numerous stories about Jim’s financial irresponsibility, and yet Jim talked of wanting to be a filmmaker where he would need to put together a budget and be fiscally responsible…
Well, the truth of the matter is that there are plenty of filmmakers who are blatant about spending the producer’s money [laughs]. But we were not extravagant with HWY, no matter what kind of figures have been tossed around. There was nothing we did or talked about that was extravagant. Probably the biggest amount of money was for Fred Myrow to write the score and for the film lab fees.
When you make an hour-long 35mm film, the lab will get a big chunk of the budget. We weren’t really getting paid anything to work on HWY. I think I was making maybe a couple hundred a week. Paul was making a little more than me because he was on a day-salary shooting the stuff, but being the editor I was on a weekly salary.
We took a station wagon out to the desert, and we had Jim’s car—the Blue Lady—with us. So we had two cars with the gear and that was it. Pam’s shop, Themis, cost a lot more than that film cost, that’s for sure.

LOVE STREET

What about Pam? Did you and Kathy spend any time with Jim and Pam?
Yeah, we spent time with Jim and Pamela; but it was infrequently. I can remember only two occasions when it was just the four of us together. There were probably other times, but I remember these two instances off the top of my head where we went out to dinner together.
I’d really rather not talk about Pam, because, in all honesty, I didn’t know her enough to form any sort of opinion about what she was like or who she was. She was either jealous of the time that Jim chose to spend with Babe and Paul and I, or she was totally indifferent toward us; take your pick.
She was friendly enough with me, and I had some short conversations with her over the years. I even stayed at their house one time and she was perfectly friendly to me when we were together, but I can’t say that I knew her.

Pamela Courson

Would you say that Pam was truly the only real relationship that Jim had during the last five years or so of his life?
The only constant and enduring relationship, definitely, but it was a long and stormy one. There was a certain part of Jim that he dedicated solely to her; and he dedicated his books to her.
But, again, I just didn’t know Pam well enough. I don’t think I even ever took a photo of her. I have photos of John Densmore’s first wife and of Robby’s wife and of Ray’s wife; but I never ever shot a photo of Pam. I took pictures of her shop, Themis, but not of her; she just seemed to disappear from my view-finder, and, for me, that speaks volumes about how much someone is trying to avoid being photographed or not.
I can say that when Jim talked about her, it was always in praise of her or about what a great job she was doing with the shop and what a great concept she had and what great clothes she was bringing in. Jim was very supportive of her. I think she was about three years younger than Jim, so, at her age, there could have been a bit of shyness. I’m sure that Ray and Dorothy knew Pam a lot better than I did. In retrospect, I would have liked to have tried to get to know her better.
Some folks might think that I would have photos and memories of Pam, and that I’m hiding something. But it’s not like that. Sure, I’ve heard stories about Pam from other people, but I dismiss them. I try to talk about only what I personally experienced, and not repeat gossip.

Looking out the window of Jim and Pam’s Love Street house in Laurel Canyon in 2015. One can imagine Jim sitting here and looking out this window as he penned the lyrics to “Love Street” and the memorable line “there’s the store where the creatures meet.”

Did you get in touch with her after Jim’s death?
I only saw her once or twice after she returned to the States and we barely said hello to each other. I found her to be tremendously sad after Jim’s death, and I just didn’t feel that I should intrude on her grieving. So that is the extent of my recollections of Pam, let’s move on to another subject.

Outside of Jim’s relationship with Pam, there are of course hundreds of stories of Jim’s womanizing. Is that part of the myth?
No, that’s not a myth. Look, yes, Pam was the main woman in Jim’s life; no doubt about that. There was a consistency to their relationship that far, far transcended any other relationship that Jim had with any other woman.
And while Jim was also extremely discreet about the women he was with, when he and I were out somewhere I saw how he attracted women. Sometimes he left with a woman, and sometimes he didn’t. But the fact is that Jim and Pam had an “open” relationship, and Pam would go out with other guys.
Throughout it all, however, their relationship endured. They were together when I came on the scene in late ’67, and stayed together until Jim died. She was a fixture in Jim’s life and there’s something to be said for that. Through all the ups and downs and other companions they both had, they stayed together. No other woman had anything close to the relationship with Jim that Pam had. Now can we move on to something else?

Just one more somewhat related question. What about Patricia Kennealy? What do you know about Jim’s relationship with her?
She contacted me at some point to tell me that she was going to establish herself as this, that, and the other thing, and she wanted me to know because she was sure that I knew who she was. But I never met her in my life and I never once heard Jim talk about her, but like I’ve said, Jim was pretty discreet about the women in his life. It was only when I was going through his poetry notebooks that I found a few vague references to her.
I did know who she was back then, because she was the editor of Jazz & Pop magazine and she used a photo of mine on the cover at one time. But as far as I know I never actually met her.
So, anyway, she came out of the woodwork some years back and started saying, “I’m Jim’s wife,” and ll that stuff about the witch wedding, blah blah blah. So I listened to her for a little while, but when I asked her some questions she got a bit hostile. And she would get hostile with everyone, and it reached a point where if she thought you were aligned with someone who was on the wrong side of her fence, then you were all condemned. No matter who you were [laughs]. So I just gave up after a while and stopped all communications with her.

The Calm Calculus of Reason – Pt. 5

 

Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together
Print Edition Available Now on Amazon, as well as all ebook platforms


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