It took 40 years, but Jim Morrison can now rest in peace. Earlier today the Florida board of clemency voted unanimously to grant the Lizard King a pardon for his 1970 convictions on misdemeanor indecent exposure and open profanity charges following the infamous “Miami Incident” at The Doors’ 1969 Dinner Key concert in Coconut Grove. There is a long backstory — we wrote about it at length HERE — but suffice it to say that Jim found himself in the middle of a sensationalist media frenzy (starring the Miami Herald) and at the mercy of a suspect judicial system for allegedly whipping out his you-know-what on stage in front of 13,000 Miami youth.
Now, nearly four decades after he died in Paris with an appeal of the ruling pending, the record has been set straight. Over at the Miami Herald — whose article makes no mention of the paper’s own ignominious role in the “incident” — plenty of commenters are griping about the pardon being a waste of taxpayer dollars and taking potshots at Governor Charlie Crist for having nothing better to do. Yes, rectifying an injustice is usually expensive, and of course the pardon would never have happened were not all of the members of the clemency board (Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson) on their way out of public office. But that doesn’t make it any less right, and I’m not for sweeping historical embarrassments under the rug.
So I’m happy about the pardon, which, by the way, is little credit to Crist but a triumph for the handful of people who never gave up the fight to clear Jim’s name and petitioned multiple Florida governors on Mr. Mojo Risin’s behalf. Call ‘em Riders on the Storm.
Forty years ago today, a Miami jury convicted one James Douglas Morrison — better known as the Lizard King, Mr. Mojo Risin, or simply Jim — on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and open profanity. The verdict came more than a year after The Doors infamous concert at a converted seaplane hangar in Coconut Grove called the Dinner Key Auditorium, where Jim allegedly whipped out his [insert colloquialism for ‘penis’ here] in front of a crowd of about 12,000 Miami fans.
Whether he actually did any such thing, the “Miami Incident” may never have garnered national headlines if not for the attention of a Miami Herald reporter named Larry Mahoney. An FSU student at the same time as Jim, Mahoney has gone down in “Justice for Jim” circles as the opportunistic muckraker whose exaggerated accounts of the concert goaded goadable Miami politicians into proving their law-enforcement bona fides at Jim’s expense.
Here’s an excerpt of Mahoney’s “Rock Group Fails to Stir A Riot,” from March 3, 1969:
Many of the nearly twelve thousand youths said they found the bearded singer’s exhibition disgusting. Included in the audience were hundreds of unescorted junior and senior high school girls…. Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of the audience, screamed obscenities, and exposed himself. He also got violent, slugged several [concert promoters], and threw one of them off the stage before he himself was hurled into the crowd.
Many people who were at the concert dispute Mahoney’s rendition (including Bill Campbell, interviewed below, who thought Jim had stuck his finger through his zipper for a lark). What no one disputes is that Jim was damn drunk and screaming damn-drunkenly at the crowd and his band (in this audio recording from the concert, he interrupts “Touch Me” with screams of “It’s all fucked up. You blew it!”). Having missed his flight to Miami from L.A., he had loaded up at several airport lounges and arrived late for the concert. To add to the tension, the concert promoters pulled a fast one on The Doors by booking them at a flat $25,000 fee and then ripping out the auditorium seats so as to double its capacity. If Jim did tussle with “several” concert promoters, that’s probably why.
In a belated urge to learn the first thing about my home state’s glorious past, I recently ordered a bunch of books on Florida history. My favorite of the lot so far, Miami Beach: Blueprint of an Eden, tells the story of Miami’s transformation from swamp to swank through the correspondence of two prominent families, the Wolfsons and the Okas. Along with a unique collection of photos, blueprints, and recipes, it included the handwritten sheet music of a traditional Florida folk tune called “The Orange Blossom Song,” which was “sung … by school children all over the state of Florida until the 1960s,” according to the caption. “A true folk song, it was passed along by music teachers on hand written sheet music or by the human voice. When standardized sheet music was introduced in Florida schools in the sixties, the song disappeared from the classroom.”