On March 1st, 1969, while playing at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, The Doors put together their most controversial performance of their career and one that spelled the end of the band.
It was a performance that has since been said to have “derailed the band” and it resulted in The Doors’ enigmatic frontman Jim Morrison being found guilty of indecent exposure.
Morrison, who had been drinking all day and had missed a connection flight to Miami, arrived to the gig over an hour late as the crows began to grow increasingly more impatient. Rumours circulated that the venue, which was old and without air conditioning, was oversold as promoters attempted to boost ticket sales. With a capacity of 7,000, attendees claimed at the time that Dinner Key Auditorium packed in excess of 12,000 people into the show that night.
Morrison, already well known for making wild and outrageous remarks during shows, began to lose interest during a performance of ‘Break On Through’ and, at one point, diverted from the song to address the crowd: “You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots!” he slurred into the microphone before shouting “what are you gonna do about it?”. Becoming increasingly manic, Morrison ordered the crowd to join him on stage before the police intervened.
With the room reaching worryingly high temperatures and Morrison’s behaviour becoming more erratic, the band’s manager Bill Siddons once recalled “the gig was a bizarre, circus-like thing, there was this guy carrying a sheep and the wildest people that I’d ever seen.”
The speculation as to why Morrison led to getting undressed and, at one point, allegedly exposing his penis to the crowd are constantly debated. Equipment chief Vince Treanor, who once attempted to shed some light on the situation, once recalled that “somebody jumped up and poured champagne on Jim so he took his shirt off, he was soaking wet.” It is as this point that Morrison told the crowd “Let’s see a little skin, let’s get naked” as people in the crowd began taking their clothes off. Having removed his shirt, people claimed that Morrison held it in front of his groin and started to make hand movements behind it.
As Morrison continued to unravel on stage, it has been debated by many as to what he said specifically. Some claim he said: “You didn’t come here for music did you? You came for something more, didn’t you? You didn’t come to rock ‘n’ roll, you came for something else didn’t you? You came for something else – what is it?”. He is rumoured to have added: “You want to see my cock, don’t you? That’s what you came for isn’t it? Yeah!”
Morrison was later quoted in ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’ as once telling Circus magazine the following:
“I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously, most of the time unconsciously, cooperated with. It was just too much for me to really stomach and so I just put an end to it in one glorious evening. I guess what it boiled down to was that I told the audience that they were a bunch of fucking idiots to be members of an audience. What were they doing there anyway? The basic message was to realise that you’re not really here to listen to a bunch of songs by some good musicians. You’re here for something else. Why not admit it and do something about it?”
Despite the claims of thousands in attendance, Morrison and his band members always refuted the claims that he exposed his penis. At one point, band member Ray Manzarek actually described the incident as a mass “religious hallucination” due to the soaring heat temperatures and the emotionally intense situation. “They hallucinated. I swear, the guy never did it. He never whipped it out. It was one of those mass hallucinations. I don’t want to say the vision of Lourdes, because only Bernadette saw that, but it was one of those religious hallucinations, except it was Dionysus bringing forth, calling forth snakes… And they started coming down on a rickety little stage, and the entire stage collapsed.”
Despite the denial, on March 5, the County Sheriff’s office issued a warrant for Morrison’s arrest under the claims that the singer ‘deliberately exposed his penis’ while on stage, simulated oral sex on guitarist Robby Krieger and was drunk and abusive at the time of his performance.
When asked if he exposed his penis, manager Siddons also refused the claims:
“I mean, no one in the group saw him do it. Morrison said he did it, but not onstage. Like he had been tucking in his shirt or something and he might have slipped a little. But offstage.”Bill Siddons
However, an extensive trial found Morrison guilty and, despite being offered a plea bargain that would have required The Doors to perform a free show in Miami, Morrison rejected the proposal. Instead, he was later convicted and ordered to serve six months in prison. Released on a $50,000 bond, Morrison began the appeal process and left with The Doors to finish their acclaimed album L.A. Woman.
Upon completion of the record, Morrison left the America destined for Paris in March of 1970. Tragically, on July 3, 1971, Morrison was found dead in Paris bathtub. His pending legal problems would never be resolved.
However, in 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Crist suggested the possibility of a posthumous pardon for Morrison, three years later, on December 9, 2010, that pardon was officially accepted.