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.