Jim Morrison at Florida State

Most Doors fans know that Jim Morrison studied film at UCLA where he met a graduate student named Ray Manzarek. But before enrolling at UCLA, Morrison attended Florida State University in Tallahassee. At FSU, in 1962, Jim studied art and psychology and fell in with a bohemian crowd. He also appeared in a student production of Harold Pinter's play, The Dumbwaiter. Here, in an exclusive interview with American Legends, the late Gerry McClain remembers his fellow FSU student, Jim Morrison.

A college prank earned Jim this mug shot.



How did you meet Jim Morrison?


I was a film student at FSU. At that time, the department consisted of two people: myself and Werner Vagt who ran the operation. There were no formal classes. Werner made short films for the university and some outside clients. He had been a director in Germany. Jim Morrison appeared in a short we did for United Way. As I recall, he walked to a mailbox and mailed a letter.

AL: Was Jim interested in film then?
GM: His whole interest was film. He did some editing work under Werner and would go to the FSU library to read film reviews in back issues of The Village Voice. Jim also made an 8 mm film on campus--guys peeking around bushes, that kind of thing.
AL: What was Jim Morrison like back then?
GM: He hung around with a bohemian crowd: people who liked to wear pants with holes in them. Jim posed as a model for the art department, and they would all sell blood to the Red Cross to get a few bucks. Once, I saw Jim go around the college coffee shop eating scraps off tables. I felt he--and the others--were living an image--the starving young artist.
AL: Was Morrison interested in music?
GM: The only time I heard Jim mention music at FSU was at a party. He said, "I want you to hear this guy. He's really great." Jim put on this record by a singer nobody had ever heard of. It was Bob Dylan.
AL: A recent biography by Patricia Butler suggests that Jim Morrison may have had a gay experience in St. Petersburg before enrolling at FSU.
GM: At FSU, he had a girlfriend, Mary Werbelow. Jim brought her to a party. Some guy was bending over to talk to her and Jim got jealous. He grabbed the guy by the belt and threw him across the room. Jim got very drunk when he drank. I realized drinking made him crazy. Another time, Morrison grabbed the wheel of my car and wanted to drive to Georgia to this carnival where girls danced nude. Jim Morrison wasn't gay.
AL: Did Morrison talk about leaving FSU?
GM: No. One time I hadn't seen him for a couple of days and over semester break I dropped by Werner's office and asked if he'd seen Jim. Werner said: "Morrison's gone. He's going out to California to film school at UCLA."

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