February 23, 2019

In the News

Did the rock star unzip it on stage in Miami? Fifty years later, let’s take a look
 
 
FROM MIAMI HERALD ARCHIVES
 

Did Jim Morrison expose himself in Miami?

In the days well before cellphone cameras, some people remembered seeing it. Some people didn’t.

A member of the band said it was a “mass hallucination.”

But after the Doors played Dinner key on March 1, 1969, the criminal justice system went to work.

The Lizard King was arrested and put on trial for indecent exposure. 

He was convicted. 

Morrison died two years later in Paris at age 27 while appealing the verdict.

In 2010, the case was back in the Florida spotlight.

Here is a look back through the Miami Herald archives at the concert and the fallout.

THE PARDON

Published Feb. 10, 2010

TALLAHASSEE — Forty-one years ago, the state sent a message about community standards, charging rock icon Jim Morrison of the Doors with exposing himself during a 1969 Miami concert. On Thursday, the state reconsidered, and offered Morrison a pardon. 

The posthumous pardon isnt going to settle the boundaries of artistic freedom, or alter the Morrison myth in the annals of rock history. Nor is it likely to settle the ongoing debate about whether Morrison ever actually did pull his zipper down at the concert that night. But it does send a message about forgiveness, said outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist. 

“In this case, guilt or innocence is in Gods hands, not ours,” Crist said, arguing for the pardon, which was granted unanimously by the four-member panel that also included Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. 

The Morrison case was tucked awkwardly in the clemency agenda between a parade of heart-rending cases involving people seeking pardons or commuted prison terms. Sink wiped away tears as a Florida State University student talked about visiting his mother in prison on weekends for the last 11 years.

The daughter, in high school, pleaded to have her mother — convicted of vehicular manslaughter, released in time to see her go to her prom. Others talked about youthful mistakes, or crimes committed in the throes of addiction, that were now keeping them from steady work. 

Those winning pardons or commuted sentences for relatives sobbed and hugged. One woman danced. Those whose pleas for mercy were rejected, and there were many, walked out red-eyed and stone-faced. And then came the Morrison case. 

No one from the public came to speak on Morrisons behalf. Crist took the lead. 

“Much controversy surrounds this conviction, and not only because many witnesses testified they did not see Mr. Morrison expose himself,” Crist said, reading from a statement. 

“Controversy also exists because Mr. Morrison was not arrested until four days after the concert,” Crist said. 

A case was brought against him only after newspaper articles recounted the alleged events at the concert, based on a complaint filed by an employee of the state attorneys office who attended the concert. Crist also noted that Morrisons attorneys were prevented from presenting evidence of “community standards” of other rock performances of the era. 

“Such testimony would have offered cultural context for the allegations against him,” Crist said. 

The jury convicted Morrison of indecent exposure and open profanity, though he was cleared of a felony count of lewd and lascivious behavior and public drunkenness. 

He was sentenced to six months in jail, but died two years later at age 27 in Paris while the case was under appeal. 

Crist said the pardon was an acknowledgment of Morrison’s enduring “body of work” as an artist, and an effort to remove a “blot on his record for something he may or may not have done when he was essentially a kid.” 

Whether Morrison actually exposed himself has long been a matter of speculation and debate. Although more than a hundred photos were placed into evidence at the trial, none showed Morrison exposed. 

One of the Miami police officers who testified at the trial that Morrison did, in fact, expose himself sent Crist an e-mail arguing that a pardon would lend credibility “to the destructive drug culture that is reeking havoc with our society and Mr. Morrisons misspent life.” 

The lone member of the public to speak at the clemency hearing was a former Miami police officer who said speculating that Morrison may not have exposed himself implied that police officer lied. 

Angel Lago called Morrison an unrepentant “drug addict” and said the pardon sends the wrong message to our youth. “What example are we giving our children? Party hardy and die young?” 

After the hearing, ardent Doors fans who had pressed for a pardon for more than a decade hailed the decision. “All this time and effort has finally paid off,” said Kerry Humpherys, who helped lead a petition drive for a pardon.

The decision was also praised by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who has maintained for years that Morrison never actually exposed himself, that it was simply a “mass hallucination.”

“Its about time that these trumped-up allegations were expunged from Jim Morrisons record,” Manzarek said when reached by phone at his home in California. 

“The message is art, first; censorship second,” he said. “The lovers and artists and poets win one more time.”

REVIVING THE CASE

Published November 2010 from columnist Fred Grimm

The Lizard King’s pardon would be the emblematic achievement of an insipid career. No one still cares whether a drunken Jim Morrison dropped his pants on stage at Dinner Key Auditorium on March 1, 1969. 

The subsequent fit of civic outrage, long faded from popular memory, has aged into the perfect non-issue issue for Lame Duck Charlie. After 41 years, the public has become utterly inured to the antics of raunch and roll. 

An old, quaint controversy over the deportment of The Doors’ long-dead front man has become politically safe for the likes of Charlie Crist. Crist has mulled this weighty issue since 2007. Finally, as he approaches his last weeks as governor, he’s finally amenable to revisiting Morrison’s arrest for indecent exposure.

When Crist and the Board of Executive Clemency (an all-lame-duck gang with out-going Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, out-going Attorney General Bill McCollum and out-going Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson) meet next month, they could rescue a famous Floridian from eternal ignominy without risking popular backlash. 

A pardon would represent yet another meaningless gesture for the politician who burst out of obscurity in 1995 as Chain Gang Charlie, the state senator behind the legislation to reprise old-fashioned prison work gangs. Chain Gang Charlie passed his chain gang bill. Except he failed to calculate the expense of providing armed guards to shepherd the strung-together felons around public settings. 

The Department of Corrections kept the chain gangs working inside the prison walls. Which denied the unhappy Crist his photo-op. In 1997, he tried again, introducing a bill that would require chain gangs along major highways, where passing tourists could gawk at a modern variation of Cool Hand Luke. Charlie called chain gangs the “will of the people.” The Department of Corrections called them costly and counterproductive. 

His 1997 bill never made it into law and Chain Gang Charlie’s chain gangs never amounted to more than political abstraction. The illusion was enough, however, to get him elected attorney general, then governor. Hey, this is Florida. 

But by 2010, when Crist made his ill-considered run as an independent for the U.S. Senate, all voters really knew about Chain Gang Charlie was that he didn’t fit his nickname. Rather, Crist was seen as pleasant, affable, eager to please, and — as far as the voters could tell — not much more. 

Defeated, with no political party affiliation, with no discernible political philosophy other than wanting to make folks like him, Chain Gang Charlie is now plainly ready to tackle a forgotten transgression committed four decades ago by a moldering rock ‘n roller. 

Jim Morrison died in his bathtub in Paris in 1971 without ever resolving the indecency charges back in Miami. 

Let me clarify that statement about no one caring about a pardon. Kerry Humphreys, an online Doors memorabilia dealer from Orem, Utah, who has been campaigning for a posthumous pardon for more than a dozen years, told me Wednesday that he has indeed run into opposition — from Doors purists.

“They think of the arrest as part of Jim’s persona. They don’t want a pardon.” 

Maybe they don’t want it, but Crist needs it. Chain Gang Charlie needs a legacy.

THE CONCERT AND THE CASE

Published March 1, 2006 from Luisa Yanez

The year: 1969. The place: Coconut Grove’s old Dinner Key Auditorium. 

The headliner: the legendary rock band The Doors and their outlandish lead singer Jim Morrison. 

By all accounts, the performance 37 years ago today was forgettable — a lousy concert, some called it. Except for Morrison’s stage antics. 

The long-haired and bearded Morrison, then 25, exposed himself, briefly rolling down his beltless leather pants and simulating masturbation before a raucous crowd of fans — or so the authorities alleged. 

Morrison followers, along with fans at the infamous Miami concert, say the rock star did nothing illegal.

“Nowadays, we would call it a wardrobe malfunction,” said Donald Bierman, 65, one of Morrison’s two Miami attorneys, who assisted the singer’s Beverly Hills lawyer, Max Fink. 

Bierman’s theory: “I think he feigned exposing himself.” 

Miami Police charged Morrison with indecent exposure and other related offenses, setting in motion a legal battle that pitted prosecutors from a then conservative Southern city with a hard-partying rock icon at the peak of his success. Neither Morrison nor Miami would ever be the same. 

The Doors concert on March 1, 1969, had been highly anticipated by local teens, but the Miami Herald mentioned it only in passing.

Tickets were $6 in advance, $7 at the door. 

The band expected to play for 6,000 people for a $25,000 fee. But promoter Kenneth Collier, who ran Thee Image concert hall in Miami Beach, oversold the event, Morrison’s camp claimed. Collier, who has since died, publicly blamed Morrison.

At showtime, 10,600 kids jammed the hall; thousands more milled about outside. Morrison was late after missing a Los Angeles-to-Miami flight. 

He began drinking, recalled the band’s then-manager William Siddons in a telephone interview from California. 

“Jim was always drunk; that was nothing unusual,” said Siddons, who accompanied Morrison to Miami. It was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts for Morrison.

Born in Melbourne, Florida, the son of an admiral, he attended St. Petersburg Junior College and Florida State University before heading west to launch his poet-as-rock-star career. 

Things unraveled quickly on stage. Morrison started and stopped in mid song. He peppered the crowd with questions, obscene requests and four-letter words. 

He called for a revolution among the spectators. The audience grew angry, hurling insults. 

Morrison finally asked: “Do you want to see my c--?” M

Miami Beach teen David LeVine, now 56, was at the foot of the stage with his camera. 

“I had come expecting to shoot a baby-faced Morrison and was disappointed to find he had a bushy beard and you could hardly tell it was him,” he said. 

One of LeVine’s pictures, later presented in court, showed Morrison with his hand near the crotch of his pants.

“Never saw him expose himself, though,” LeVine said. 

Not true, said Theodore Jendry, 59, one of 30 off-duty Miami officers at the concert. 

“He pulled out his business and started whirling it,” said the retired Jendry, of Deerfield Beach. “He should have been arrested right there.” 

Siddons, the band’s manager, said Morrison knew he had gone too far. On the limo ride back to a Miami Beach hotel, Siddons remembered Morrison telling him: “’Uh, oh, I might have exposed myself out there.” 

“He didn’t do it for prurient reasons. It was theater,” Siddons said. “But it happened in Florida, a real black and white state, and it was the South.” 

Following the concert, Morrison and his band went on vacation to Jamaica. 

Meanwhile, the backlash against him in Miami picked up steam. Radio stations briefly stopped playing, “Light My Fire,” “Hello, I Love You” and “Touch Me.” 

Then came the decency rally at the Orange Bowl. Backed by the Archdiocese of Miami, local teens organized the event and drew 30,000 people. Among them: singer and Florida native Anita Bryant. Even President Richard Nixon called to congratulate the organizers. 

Four days after the concert, six warrants on obscenity charges were issued for Morrison, who eventually surrendered to the FBI in Los Angeles. 

Morrison’s trial ran from mid-August to late September. 

The year: 1970. 

The place: the Metro Justice Building. 

Fans packed the courtroom. Morrison was defended by Fink, who has since died, and local attorneys Robert Josefsberg and Bierman. 

The prosecution team, led by Assistant State Attorney Terry McWilliams, had three future judges: Ellen Morphonios, Alfonso Sepe and Leonard Rivkind. 

Now retired, Rivkind, 79, recalled the state had a solid case. 

“We had a number of witnesses who testified they saw him do it,” he said. 

But at least one concertgoer, a prosecution witness, has changed his story. 

Karl Huffstutlear, 56, then 19, was among a handful of witnesses who testified that Morrison exposed himself. Reached by the Miami Herald at his Lake Placid, Fla., home, Huffstutlear said: “I didn’t see anything come out of his drawers. To me, it’s still a mystery what happened.” 

Huffstutlear, a retired Fort Lauderdale electrician, went to the concert with his then fiancée, now ex-wife, Colleen Clary, whose brother-in-law was one of the off-duty officers. 

Clary tearfully testified that Morrison exposed himself. She could not be reached for comment. 

Morrison took the stand, but didn’t help his defense with his sassy attitude. 

Witness the exchange between Morrison and prosecutor McWilliams. 

McWilliams asked if the singer wore skintight, tailor-made “cowhide” pants to “give maximum exposure of your genital area? . . . Yes or no?” 

Morrison: “No.” 

McWilliams: “Isn’t it a fact you were bumping into your instruments [because you were drunk on stage]?” 

Morrison: “I don’t play an instrument. I don’t even get near them.” 

McWilliams: “Your singing that night, wasn’t it off?” 

Morrison: “I’m sure that you are aware that that is just a matter of opinion.” 

The jury convicted Morrison of only two misdemeanors: indecent exposure and open profanity, and acquitted him of a more serious felony charge and other misdemeanors. 

“He wouldn’t be convicted today or even charged,” said attorney Josefsberg, now 67. “You hear worse language today in rap songs.” 

At a sentencing hearing Oct. 30, 1970, Circuit Judge Murray Goodman told the singer his acts amounted to “utter contempt for our institutions and heritage.” 

The punishment: six months in jail and a $500 fine. “

Jail — that’s a bad place,” Morrison told reporters outside the courtroom. 

Morrison appealed and was released on $50,000 bond.

But the conviction proved a fatal blow to Morrison and his band. Promoters shunned them, fearing more X-rated stage antics. 

The band stayed in the studio, performing just one last concert in New Orleans. 

Morrison moved to Europe — to reinvent himself as a poet. 

On July 3, 1971 — less than a year after the Miami trial — he was found dead in a bathtub in a Paris apartment, the victim of an apparent heart attack. 

His Miami conviction was still under appeal. 

For Siddons, who still manages rock bands, the Doors appearance in Miami represented a sad chapter in its storied rise to the top of the music industry.

“The Miami concert was pretty much the end of the Doors as we knew them,” he said.