|FILE - James Morrison of The Doors in an undated file photo. Outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist wants to posthumously pardon Morrison of indecent exposure and profanity convictions, and the governor's last chance is coming up at a Clemency Board meeting next Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010. Crist leaves office in January. (AP Photo, File)|
Doors' Morrison gets votes needed for Fla. pardon
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—The Doors' Jim Morrison will get a posthumous pardon Thursday for an indecent exposure conviction in Florida that resulted when the late singer pulled what a bandmate called "a mind trip on the audience, and they totally fell for it."
Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday got a commitment for the second of two votes needed from other members of the state's Board of Executive Clemency to approve the pardon.
Morrison was appealing the conviction when he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971. The meeting Thursday comes a day after the singer would have turned 67.
Crist can't issue a pardon on his own. He and the three-member Cabinet serve as the Clemency Board. Approval is required by the governor and at least two other members.
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who was previously undecided, said Wednesday that she would vote for the pardon, said Sink spokesman Kevin Cate. She joined Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson who previously declared his support for the idea. Only Attorney General Bill McCollum remains uncommitted. All are leaving office Jan. 4.
The did-he-or-didn't-he debate has been revived by Crist's interest in the case. The surviving band members say a drunken Morrison teased the Miami crowd, but never exposed himself.
"It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis," said Ray Manzarek, The Doors' keyboard player.
Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger said Morrison's behavior was influenced by an acting troupe that disrobed during plays.
"He was just doing a mind trip -- as they would say -- a mind trip on the audience and they totally fell for it," Manzarek said.
Manzarek said Morrison was far drunker than usual, to the point where they questioned whether he should go on stage.
"It was like, 'Oh my goodness, Jim, are you sure you can perform?' 'No, no, we're going on, we're going on,'"' Manzarek recalled.
Crist began considering a pardon for Morrison in 2007 at the at the urging of a fan. He says he has doubts about whether Morrison actually exposed his penis during the rowdy Miami concert March 1, 1969. Morrison was convicted of public profanity and indecent exposure and sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
The case has become murkier with the passage of years. Morrison's defense attorney said recently that the singer received a fair trial with credible witnesses on both sides, and fans who were at the show have differing recollections.
Here's what most people agree on: The Doors went on stage late, the Dinner Key Auditorium was oversold and wasn't air conditioned. Morrison was drunk and stopped in the middle of songs with an anti-authority, profanity-riddled rant.
A live lamb was brought on stage at one point, and Morrison also grabbed a police officer's hat and threw it in the crowd. The singer took off his shirt and fiddled with his belt, and fans poured onto the stage.
"There were 100 photos offered in evidence at the trial, photos of everything -- Jim with the lamb, Jim with the hat, on the stage collapsing, riot in the audience. Not one photo of Jim's magnificent member," said Manzarek.
By teasing the audience that night in 1969, Morrison was trying to make a social statement, much like comedian Lenny Bruce, Krieger said.
"To Jim it was kind of a case of testing the morals of the time," Krieger said. "Lenny Bruce, he was the first guy who really put himself on the line as far as the law and how far they would go. Jim was kind of following in his footsteps. Not on purpose, but it kind of ended up that way."
New York's governor pardoned the late comedian on obscenity charges in 2002, 39 years after his conviction.
A pardon won't change Morrison's image, but it will right a wrong, Manzarek and Krieger said.
"Jim's legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic American poet. I don't think that the Miami episode has altered his image one iota," Manzarek said.
Krieger added: "Nobody would like to have that charge hanging over their head even if they are dead. I'm sure his family would be happy to see that go, especially since it never happened."
There are fans who still swear that Morrison exposed himself.
"He actually unzipped and pulled his pants down a little bit, enough where you can see everything. I do remember being shocked when that happened, and definitely it happened," said Lee Winer, 56, who now lives north of San Francisco. "I can still picture it like it was yesterday."
Others disagree. Helene Davis of Miami said she was an 18-year-old in the front row of the concert with a friend. She said Morrison teased the crowd by pretending he was going to unzip his pants, but never actually exposed himself.
"We were watching and waiting because it was obvious that's where he was going with it," Davis said. "I just remembered thinking, 'Yes, it's going to happen! It's going happen! It's going to happen!' And it never did."