Glimpses of Jim

Interview with Al Aronowitz


Morrison thought of himself as a poet.
(Photo courtesy of Patricia Kennealy Morrison.)


     In the late 1950s and 1960s there were a number of journalists who wrote about the rock scene, the protest movement, and the literary underground--that maelstrom of social unrest that later became known as "the counterculture." Some of these journalists became pop (or semi-pop) idols themselves: Tom Wolfe (of New York magazine), Esquire's Gay Talese, and Jann Wenner, cofounder and editor of Rolling Stone. Far lesser known (as well as under appreciated) was a working reporter for the New York Post named Al Aronowitz. 
     Back in the 1950s Aronowitz tracked down and interviewed Jack Kerouac in a small Long Island town called Northport where the author had gone to live with his mother, Memere, to escape the hullabaloo following the publication of On the Road; the interview has been quoted by legions of Kerouac biographers. In 1960 Aronowitz did another seminal interview with Neal Cassady when the latter was in San Quentin for marijuana smuggling. 
     Until the 1960s faded into the Age of Reagan, Aronowitz followed them all--Dylan, Mailer, the Stones--through the ups and downs of their careers. One legendary figure the reporter knew--but never formally interviewed--was Jim Morrison. Here, in an exclusive interview with American Legends--conducted over a period of several months via e-mail--Al Aronowitz recalls glimpses of Jim.

     This interview was posted shortly after AL went on-line in 1996. Al Aronowitz later became a strong friend and supporter. He died in 2005, leaving behind many friends and admirers.





Tell us about the first time you saw Jim Morrison.



I first saw his act when Brian Jones (of the Rolling Stones) and I went to catch the Doors at Steve Paul's The Scene--a club in midtown Manhattan. Brian hated Jim's performance. I didn't like it either. He kept opening his mouth to the mike without singing. It seemed like Jim was acting too much like a rock star poseur. This was when Light My Fire was catching ablaze. Brian and I left early without bothering to meet and talk to Jim.


AL: You finally got to know Morrison.



I met him at Michael McClure's house in San Francisco. I forget the year,  probably late 1960s. Jim acted like a distant relative whom I had never met before but with whom I had just been united. We got along fine.



McClure was a member of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance. Later, he and Jim talked about adapting McClure's play about Billy the Kid (The Beard) for the screen--with Jim in the starring role.



Jim considered himself a poet. That's why he engaged in a relationship with McClure--a well-known Beat poet. Jim admired the Beats and wanted his poetry recognized along with that of McClure and even Allen Ginsberg.


AL: What was your impression of Jim after you got to know him?



I was delighted he was such a nice, funny, and accessible guy--compared to usual rock star aloofness. Although I am not much of a drinker, I got drunk with him a few times. He always had a bottle handy.


AL: You chronicled the careers of them all:  Dylan, the Stones...


AA: I've seen money change every one of them I knew except maybe George Harrison.



Did Morrison even mention disliking any rock critics?


AA: The Voice's Robert Christgau. No musician I knew liked him. He was very arrogant.


AL: Did Jim like Rolling Stone?



Don't think so. I came to consider the staff very clubby, like a college Greek fraternity. I never trusted Rolling Stone very much.



Did Jim ever talk about Bill Graham, the late rock promoter? Some books claim that they didn't get along.



Graham was a big bully. He bullied all the other promoters, and he bullied acts and their managers. He used to boast about taking guns away from kids at concerts.



Oliver Stone's movie, The Doors, introduced Morrison to a new generation of fans--and revived the legend. Did Stone contact you?


AA: No. The movie just about put me to sleep. It was trying too hard to emulate an acid trip.



Albert Goldman was working on a Morrison biography. The book was unfinished when Goldman died. One person Goldman interviewed thought he had some strange theory that Jim was an incest victim.



Goldman was a horrible hustler. I didn't like his Republican-like moral tone--the way he presumed to judge Elvis in his Presley biography.



You saw the Doors at one of their last appearances--the Isle of Wight festival in 1971. It was during the Miami trial. Did Jim talk about the trial?


AA: He didn't say much about it. We got drunk together.


AL: Some biographies claim that Jim's taste in women ran to chubby teenage girls.


AA: I never saw him with one--only foxes.


(In preparing for this interview, AL consulted Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman's No One Here Gets Out Alive, New York, Warner Books Edition, 1980, and James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky's Break on Through, New York, Quill ed., 1991)




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