When our son Dylan was two years old, we drove up to visit Uncle Jim. He and Pamela lived in a Spanish- style house on Verbena Drive in the Hollywood Hills. A wall-length plate glass window in the living room overlooked the hills. It was a spectacular light show. The city blazed all night long. The Grahams gazed at the awesome contrast to their tiny, quiet, fairy tale town on the beach.
When we arrived at the house, Pamela was in an agitated state. She and Jim had another knock-down-dragged-out fight and he had left again.
“Well, I don’t know where he is…I haven’t seen him for days…He hasn’t even called…He was arrested last week.” Pamela spoke in nervous bursts. “I’m really worried about him and the rent is due on the boutique…My Porsche needs a new transmission…I’ve been really sick myself…I was on a diet of brown rice and orange juice for ten days…I had to go to the hospital and I freaked out on the way…”
I said to myself, “Gotta get the fuck out of here. No wonder he’s gone missing.” Then, I announced, “I’ll go look for him.”
Jim would disappear for weeks on end. Pamela searched in vain each time. She tried to instruct me where to find him, “He may be at Barney’s Beanery…You could try the studio…but they won’t tell me anything… they’re Jewish and you know what Jews are like…” I was cared for and half-raised by Jews after the Second World War in war torn Liverpool. Pamela’s narrow viewpoint were upsetting to me. It was the Jews that clothed and fed me through the bitter winters which blanketed what remained of the city after the Nazi blitz. I was one of the lucky ones. My face was chubby compared to the boney, emaciated children I stood in line with, holding their ration book s and waiting for the sweet shop to open. The chocolate-covered loquat loaves tasted bitter. The other kids didn’t notice like I did. I know what Jews are like. I wished to say, “They’re just like family, you stupid, ignorant bitch!” but refrained.
Anne and Dylan stayed behind with Pamela while I went down to find Jim.
I shook my head as I wound down through the hills. I drove down Santa Monica Boulevard to the Rat’s Maze – the office, the studio, the boutique, the bar, and the motel – the five major points of the Rat’s Maze. The Lizard moved from point to point.
The first point of the maze was The Doors’ office which was a hop, skip, and a jump from the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega Boulevards. Half a block down La Cienega stood Pamela’s boutique, Themis. Across the street was the then fledgling Elektra Records Studio. Next door was Jim’s favorite or more likely most convenient watering hole, Barney’s Beanery. It was a famous hangout for the mob among other unsavory characters. The last point was the infamous Alta Cienega Motel.
Morrison moved between these points like a rat in a maze – the office to the boutique to the studio to the watering hole and ultimately ended up at the motel.
I found the Lizard at Elektra. He was sitting on the floor in the barely- finished and ill-equipped Elektra Records Studio. I smiled through the glass. Morrison waved me in. Robbie Krieger sat next to Jim on some pure-hippie cushions. He played chords for Jim’s approval. The Lizard King provided wizard lyrics. That’s how they made music in the olden days!!
“I’ll be finished in a couple of hours”, Jim said.
I tousled Morrison’s long, curly hair. He smiled. We sparred back and forth. Krieger was aghast! Someone actually touched the Lizard King! I went back to the control booth. Paul Rothschild stood at the mixer smoking a needle-thin joint. It smelled like very low-grade Mexican grass, rancid and nauseating. He sucked in the toxic, green smoke. They both ignored me as I entered.
The grass really didn’t even work back in the olden days. One suffered lack of oxygen, a fried throat, and we just thought we were getting high. Rothschild, the Silenus*, was irritated by my presence. “This is the guy from the streets of Liverpool who married the King’s sister. This is the guy who can kill people with a single head butt, a street fighter…as mad as Morrison, a dangerous combination.” The not-so-jolly Silenus fumed under the amber light.
Jim was becoming increasingly irritated by Rothschild as he demanded take after take for something that never seemed to get any better. The engineer, Bruce Botnick, lost it when he was ordered to place a dressing screen around Jim in a futile effort to capture a better sound. The bald, pedantic, producer was bumming everyone out with his suffocating demands. Botnick yelled,“What good will that do?” Silenus shot back, “Just do as I say!”
As the oriental screen was brought in, Jim shook his head. Looking into the control booth, he yelled out, “This is not working. I’m gonna take a break.” The next one to lose it would be the Silenus himself. As Jim was leaving the room he blurted out, “If he’s not back in fifteen minutes, I’m leaving. The Silenus had done some prison time for selling pot and now had a serious focus on something he called, the time thing. “I did two years in the joint. My time is precious. I don’t wait around for anyone, man. It’s all about the time thing, man.” Two hours later, the Silenus sat in his car smoking some more rancid grass, not waiting around some more, for anyone, and doing some more time.
Jim and I walked back to the studio. Morrison knocked at the door. Morrison knocked again. He realized all have left. He picked up a potted fern and hurled it through the glass front door. An alarm blared. The Silenus hopped out of his car and ran up to see what had happened.
“What’s going on, Jim?”
Jim fumed, “Hey, man. I was coming back to work.”
“Everyone left, man. They could not wait any longer.” Rothschild was powerlessly angry.
Morrison said, “I can’t work like that, man. Why did you put that dressing screen around me when I was singing?”
The Silenus used redundant phrases in an attempt to be cool. “It produces a very groovy sound, man.”
“Well, I can’t work like that, man.”
Rothschild looked at the shattered glass inside the building. I laughed infecting Morrison. The Silenus whirled. He half opened his mouth in a benign effort to gain authority with us. This only produced schoolboy like smirks which soon erupted into belly laughter. Rothschild was disgusted and he walked hurriedly to his car.
Still laughing about the flying fickle fern, Morrison drove to the Whiskey A-Go-Go. The doorman gave Jim an affectionate hug and let us in ahead of everyone else in line. The band was dull, the drinks were watered, and the patrons were drunk, bored, and glassy eyed. After a while, I said, “It’s time to go see your sister and your nephew. They’re waiting at the house with Pamela.”
*In Greek mythology, a silenus is a part bestial and part human creature of the forests and mountains. Part of Dionysus’ entourage, the sileni are usually represented as aged satyrs—drunken, jolly, bald, fat, bearded, and possessing horse ears. According to some myths, they were prophets; but according to others they were so perpetually stupefied with drink that they were unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. In some legends, only one such creature appears, Silenus, described as the oldest of the satyrs, the son of Hermes or Pan. He was the companion, adviser, or tutor of Dionysus.