Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dead Doors

Ray Manzarek is dead.

A long, long time ago, way back before I was born, he played keyboards in a rock and roll band called the Doors. “The Doors”  was short for “The Doors of Perception,”  which was short for “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

I never met Ray Manzarek. I was not a fan of the songs that Ray Manzarek used to play with his rock and roll band. On those exceedingly rare occasions when I thought about Ray Manzarek at all, I invariably pictured him, in my head, as the actor Kyle MacLachlan.

But Ray Manzarek is dead now and I am writing about him, and I am writing about him because he is on my mind. He is not on my mind for his art – for his keyboard playing – which sounded the way cracked carnival lights look.

He is on my mind because a movie about the Doors, called “The Doors,” was the first R-rated movie I ever saw.

I am going to talk about that for a little while now. I hope that’s okay.

It was my dad who took me and my brother, Antony, to see “The Doors.”  The movie, not the band. It was 1991, which means Antony and I were five and a half years old. As best as Antony and I can reconstruct the events of our primeval history, Dad walked us to the dollar theater because he was tripping on acid and could not drive. It was night and the three of us stumbled along in the dark, walking in the ditch that ran beside Veterans Memorial Drive. Suburban high school kids zoomed by us in their parents’ BMWs.

The boy at the ticket counter of the dingy dollar theater, himself not much older than five and a half, kind of looked us up and down and then he looked at Dad and he said, “This movie has a lot of nudity and cursing and drugs in it.”

And Dad might have said, “Don’t try to hold my kids down to your square cultural values, man! You’re all a bunch of slaves!”

Later on, he might have said, “Katy, will you hold my keys so I don’t lose them?”

But he definitely said, “If I start acting weird, tell me, will ya? And then don’t tell your mom.”

I’ll bet we bought popcorn.

Hardly anybody else was in the theater. I remember there was one man sitting several rows in front of us, but he started snoring before the opening credits were even over. It was all us.

I did not get much out of that movie. Not much stuck in my five and a half year old brain. In case you have not seen “The Doors,” and there’s no real reason why you should have, it is an Oliver Stone film from back when he was on his Sixties kick. The movie has a lot of nudity and cursing and drugs in it. It’s mostly about the adventures of Doors singer Jim Morrison, who in this case is played by an actor named Val Kilmer.

Val Kilmer does an excellent job of playing Jim Morrison as a sort of drunken lounge singer with a Carlos Castaneda jones. There are also some Indians and there’s Crispin Glover as Andy Warhol, and there’s even a fake Nico giving a fake Jim Morrison a fake blowjob in an elevator.  

To this day, when I think of why a movie might have received an R rating, I always assume it features a fake Nico giving a fake Jim Morrison a fake blowjob in an elevator. My kids’ entertainment choices have probably suffered because of this.

So I didn’t get much out of the movie. Antony tells me he got even less out of it. But Dad, on the other hand… Dad left that theater with the firm belief that the three of us had shared some sort of communal cosmic experience.

This was the only movie I remember ever seeing with my dad.

Years went by and he still peppered our conversations with things like, “As we learned when we saw ‘The Doors’…” This was generally followed with references to “societal norms” and “the One-ness of creation,” neither of which I can recall being mentioned in the movie at all.

Dad was probably seeing a different film than we were that night, though.

In 1998, after Dad finally Mr.-Mojo-Risin’ed himself in a rundown apartment a few blocks away from the dollar theater, “they”  told Antony and me that we could keep a few of his personal items to remember him by. I retrieved his VHS copy of “The Doors”  I found lying on top of his VCR. It had a picture of me and Antony from 1991 stapled to its cardboard cover .

Either Manzarek or else
MacLachlan playing Manzarek. 
I still have it in the backpack I carry with me everywhere, even though it’s all worn out and I don’t own a VCR anymore and anyway, they say those old tapes just disintegrate after a few years.

And this is what I always think about when I think about Ray Manzarek, which happens rarely.

But Ray Manzarek is dead this week and I kind of wrote a blog about him.

I wonder what I’ll think about – and what I’ll write – when Robby Krieger dies. 


  1. Wonder what you'll write when...um...let me think...Paul Anka? OK, Paul Anka dies.

    Or the Easter Bunny.

    1. Hey now. The Easter Bunny is eternal and goes on forever, like the Tooth Fairy or the live version of "Stairway to Heaven."

      That Paul Anka guy did it HIS way.

  2. I went to college with a guy who had a high school English teach who claims to have dated Jim Morrison for a while. So, I'm totally almost famous, right? I was trying to decide if I saw the movie "The Doors" but I guess I didn't because I would have remembered a fake blow job in an elevator.


    1. I lived in a town for a while where the SPCA raided this crazy cat lady's house. She had like 300 ill-kept cats.

      When the news cameras got there, she said that her treatment at the hands of the SPCA had been unfair because she used to be Elvis' girlfriend."

      She had a picture to prove it.

      It makes sense that there are people wandering around out there who slept with famous people. Groupies with hearts of gold.

      I'm 28 and I haven't even managed to bang Miranda F'in Cosgrove.

  3. feeling old


    1. Cool!

      I love almost all of those pre-1983 keyboards: Organs, analog synths, mellotrons. They all just work for me so far as setting up a mood goes.

      I'm a pretty big nerd, though.

  4. Oh, I am old. I will always love The Doors. The mmovie, and the band. Great post with great feeling. Hugs to you, and when you get to bang iCarly, can you please get a photo or two?

    1. Not only will I get a photo or two, I'll have Oliver Stone film it.

      So there will probably be a couple digressions into Sixties' conspiracies, but you'll be able to get the point.

  5. Replies
    1. Hey there! Some people end up happier with the life they get than others. I can only do so much to help that.

      But I can tell stories about them if they go away.

  6. Wow, that totally beats the story of my first R-rated movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme's Kickboxer that I snuck into when I was 10. This post went in a different direction that ended up being a beautiful tribute. You'll have to excuse me as I feel I need to take a sojourn with my spirit Indian (forgive me, "spirit Native American" doesn't have the same ring to it).

    1. Jean-Claude Van Damme? Nice. That guy was ROBBED when he never got a Rocky-class franchise.

      I write how I think, I guess. Which is to say that I don't see a headline and think, "What is the significance of this headline?" I see a headline and think, "How does this story affect ME?"

      Plus, this way I got to go back into the Nineties. It was a heady time, when pumpkins were smashed, interns gave head, and women had to have their own music festivals.

  7. I was very fortunate the night (sometime in November 1991) when and friend and I decided to go see The Doors. It was sold out, so we saw Terminator II instead.

    1. Haha. Unfortunately, my dad was WAY too pretentious to ever sit through an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

  8. That is the best story I've read all day! I just don't know if I was supposed to laugh, so sorry. I love the way you write. I had a connection similar to your father's with, "The Song Remains The Same," but I didn't bring any kids to it. I saw that Doors movie, but only remember a bathtub and an overdose. And I completely agree with your keyboarding description, but I have a soft spot for, "Love Her Madly," and especially, "People Are Strange." Go figure.

    1. I'm not sure that rock is as relevant now as it was in that classic period.

      I mean, would anybody have a life-changing experience getting high before a music movie today? What's the equivalent? Doing bath alts and watching "Mumford & Sons: The Road to Red Rocks"?

      Born in the wrong time...

  9. I saw The Doors when I was 15, and I was extremely uncomfortable when my mom walked in my room and I couldn't find the the remote in time to pause the VCR.

    I would've felt more uncomfortable if my dad had walked in. Probably because, like Manzarek, my dad is dead.

    On a side note, I have the original Rolling Stone from when Morrison died. I'm hanging on to it to pay for my daughter's college. And I hope she never watches The Doors with me.

    However, it was a good story if you watch The Doors with your dad.


    1. Nice. My brother has a big stack of my dad's old Rolling Stone magazines, but they're from the Eighties. By that time, they had cool covers, good record reviews, some half-naked models, and that's about it.

      We can save that third cover U2 had in 1987 as long as we like, but it's not going to be worth what that Morrison one will be worth. Plus yours might have a Hunter Thompson article in it, which would be well worth the price of admission.

  10. Replies
    1. Thank you, Rupert.

      I was posting a lot of stuff that was pretty similar, and it's time for me to shake things up a little. The next few might be a little outside my ordinary zone...

  11. That was a good a tribute to Ray as any. The relevence of the Doors even for someone my age is pretty limited. Never saw the movie. I find Olly Stone to be tedious on a good day. Maybe the lesson here is to do acid THEN go to the theater. Honestly it wouldn't make tje movie any less bearable

    1. Hi, Brent. Yeah, I don't think the Doors have held up as well as a lot of the Sixties bands have.

      When I was a kid, they were mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles and the Stones. No more, though.

  12. I never really listened to the Doors. I also didn't watch that movie. However, I did see the Batman movie with Val Kilmer--the one where the Batsuit has nipples--and that was pretty terrible. Also, Val Kilmer looks like Rosie O'Donnell these days. So, take this comment as you will.

    1. Val Kilmer was good in "Tombstone." You know, "I'm yer Huckleberry..."?

      But I sort of resent the homophobia inherent in your equating latter-day Val Kilmer with the BEAUTIFUL and wise Rosie O'Donnell. She is the loveliest organized crime lord on Tatooine, and I can understand why Bib Fortuna and Salacious Crumb are so loyal to her.

    2. The death of a member of a rock band is hardly worth commemorating, it's like sighing about the passing of 99 cents Big Mac. Sure they both left a mark on me and fueled me to do certain things. But the only thing that matters is what we are doing better today than our flawed past.

    3. I don't agree. For those of us who are into music, I'd say the death of a (formerly) prominent musician is sort of worth commemorating. That's the beauty of this life thing: We all get to set our own priorities.

      But the blog post was only sorta-kinda about Ray Manzarek.

    4. When the music's over - turn out the lights....

    5. The best stuff survives its creator.

      I don't know with rock. A few years back, John Mellencamp said that, a hundred years from now, rock is only going to be remembered as "There was this guy named Elvis and this band called the Beatles."

      I hope that's not how it goes down. There's been some fantastic art made!


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