By David LeVine
True Story of Infamous Miami Concert: Jim Morrison Miami Concert and Trial 1969-70
It was 1969, and I was a twenty-year-old photographer interested in doing special effects; the market of choice for the times was rock. Doing rock photography meant you could be as expressive and creative as the musicians themselves. There was only one problem – all of the “action” was in L.A. and New York; and I was stuck in Miami.
At the Doors’ concert I was ushered right in. I remember I was at the foot of the stage, the lighting was terrible (another thing that has changed). Being a lover of available lighting, I almost never use a flash; I feel the shots are always more real that way. The Doors started to play and boy were they bad, off-tune and all. The band started to get rowdy and the crowd soon followed, charging the stage, and almost crushing me. Mayhem ensued and that concert went down in rock history. I remember thinking that if I had paid $7.50 for a ticket I would have been really pissed off.
In an effort to perfect my craft, I attended every rock concert that I could con my way into. If you showed up at the stage door with several cameras around your neck it was a given that you were a professional and the door was opened, no questions asked. Of course, this was before they banned the audience from photographing the concert.
When I developed the film — I always souped my own stuff — it was extremely underexposed. The light had been very low and I had only used an ASA 400 film. I had to use chemical intensifier on the negatives to bring out the detail; I hadn’t yet perfected my push-processing technique of attaining ASA 16,000. The shots looked great – I had one of Morrison with his hand in his pants, but my favorite was the one of him with the lamb.
Later, when I learned that Morrison had been arrested and was charged with “indecent exposure” and “lewd and lascivious conduct”, I decided to call the Miami Herald newspaper in hopes of selling some of the photos. They weren’t interested.
Several months later, I received a phone call from Jim Morrison’s lawyer in L.A. By way of the Herald, he had learned of my photos and was interested in them. He bought six in all. I can still remember the excitement I felt at selling those photos. They brought in a whopping $65, not much even then, but I bought my first LunaPro lightmeter with the money. And as any hardcore photographer knows, that is a big deal. Business being completed, he then asked me what I had seen that night at the concert and if I would be interested in testifying in court. I readily agreed. In my eyes, the only thing he was guilty of was a “bad” concert.
As the trial date approached, I formed a plan of action. I would show Jim Morrison my portfolio, and of course, he would hire me, I hoped. Remember, I was desperate to get some “rock photography” work and even more desperate to get out of Miami. So, a little fantasy went a long way. I showed up at the courthouse, portfolio-in-hand, marched into the courtroom, and sat down. The trial was already in progress and the last prosecution witness was on the stand.
He was saying that he saw everything, i.e., how Morrison had exposed himself. He had been up in the lighting/projection booth at the Coconut Grove Auditorium about 300 feet from the stage with a 35mm SLR camera and a l35mm lens. I remember thinking that he couldn’t have seen much at that distance and with such a short telephoto lens. He was then asked if he had a picture of Morrison exposing himself and he didn’t. His excuse was that he didn’t want to get in to trouble for taking an “obscene” photo. Just about then, Morrison’s attorney turned around and saw me sitting in the gallery. He started waving his arms and saying, “No, no, no.” Apparently, I was not supposed to be in the courtroom until I was called to testify (thus my testimony would not be swayed by having heard others). The lawyer informed the judge of my mistake and I was asked to wait outside the courtroom. Shortly after this, the proceedings recessed for lunch.
I went to lunch with thirteen people including Morrison and his entourage. We discussed my reaction to the last witness. I recounted how he couldn’t have seen much from his vantage point and with the camera and lens he claimed to have. He had also presented his proof sheets from the concert at the trial and I remarked that the size Morrison appeared on the proof sheet was the way the witness saw him through his viewfinder. I was asked if I would testify to these facts in court. I agreed and it was settled that I would be the first defense witness when court resumed.
Before we went back into the court room, I got the opportunity to show Morrison my portfolio and he signed two prints I had made of him at the concert. I placed them back in my portfolio’s side pocket. The trial then resumed.
When I was called to the stand, I took my portfolio with me. The defense attorney went first. I was asked if I was shooting pictures at the concert and if I had any of the pictures with me. They wanted to see the pictures I had with me. These were my personal prints which had been signed earlier by Jim Morrison. I had to answer, “Yes,” but I broke out in a sweat as they took them from me. The prints were then entered as “Exhibits E and F”. They were then tagged by the clerk with the tags stapled to the prints. Morrison’s attorney then produced the six prints I had sold him earlier. I saw my opening and took it. I told the attorney that the photos I had just given him were also in the set he had just produced and that the photos now in the court’s possession were my personal photos and could I have them back. They returned my photos signed and tagged by the court. I hasten to think what those prints would be worth today to a collector but unfortunately they were stolen along with other of my personal effects sometime later. Getting back to the trial, I was being asked about the testimony of the last photographer and I repeated what I had related during lunch. My testimony was completed with the statement that though Morrison had been out of control, he had not exposed himself.
It was now time for the cross-examination. My expertise was questioned regarding the other photographer’s equipment and subject-view ability. I was asked if I considered myself an expert on the subject. I paused, and said, “I was.” “Did I hear him say ‘Fuck’?” I was asked. “I don’t remember,” I said, “He might have.” Picture this. I’m sitting on the witness stand with the judge above me on my left, the jury on my right, and Morrison straight ahead. “Did you see him make any masturbatory-t ype motions?” I was asked. “That depends.” I said. “To YOU,” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “Well, what exactly did he do?” “He sort of went like this.” I said while motioning my hand as “subtly” as possible. “I OBJECT!” said Morrison’s attorney. “A hand motion cannot be shown in the record.” I was asked again and repeated the motion. The objection was repeated. “Enough of this,” the judge said, “young man, stand up.” “Now, repeat the motion and stop your hand at the lowest point.”
Do you believe this? A poor 20-year-old kid standing in front of all these people, looking right at Morrison, and having to repeat the same motion he was arrested for. At the same time, they are using the same language he “might have”. Well, I guess it’s okay as long as it is not in front of the “children”; anyway, I regress. I repeated the motion stopping my hand at the lowest point (holding my hand loosely open). The judge said, “Let it be shown in the record that his hand is opposite his belt buckle. Now, stop your hand at the highest point.” Way up opposite my face looking right at Morrison… “Good show,” Morrison told me later.
The next day I returned just to follow the action. Since I had testified already, it was okay to sit in. Recess came. This time, I had my camera with me for some shots. You weren’t allowed to shoot pictures in a courtroom, I knew that. “What about taking pictures in the courtroom, during recess?” I asked. Morrison’s attorney said, as I saw the artist doing the sketches talking to Morrison, “Go ahead.” After the attorney responded, I started to shoot. A moment later, I was tapped on the shoulder. “What do you think you’re doing?” asked the bailiff. “He said it was okay,” I responded. “Well, it’s not. You’re going to see the judge!” The bailiff sat me in the jury booth. I said, “Don’t embarrass me in front of all these people. I don’t want to be sitting here in the jury box when court begins. I WANT TO SEE THE JUDGE, NOW!” “I’ll be right back!” he said as he disappeared towards the judge’s chambers. I could have left then, but decided against “escaping”. After all, I had done nothing wrong — I asked first. The bailiff returned and brought me before the judge in his chambers. “What are you going to do with these pictures?” he asked. “They are for personal purposes,” I said. “I had better not see them anyplace!” he stated, being very judgelike. “Yes, sir,” I said.
So, that’s how I got these shots. It’s been 26 years since the “blessed event” and this is my first exhibit of the photographs. I stopped showing them years ago. Well, pretty exciting stuff, huh? I eventually got away from Miami to L.A. in 1972, when I ran away with a movie star. Now that was exciting. But that’s another story.
“My Daily Photograph” is David LeVine’s expression and showcase of his favorite, unique, and continuing photographs. He features events of the particular day in history as well as noted birthdays of the day alongside a wonderful pick pic for the day. You can subscribe to this quality service at: www.mydailyphotograph.com
David LeVine is the “official rock/art/life photographer” for the Coronado Clarion. He brings to us the most awesome skills of photographic genius as well as supreme computer web engineering. We are thrilled to have him on board and will be featuring an article/interview on his career and life in the next Clarion.
To order I Remember by Alan Graham: www.irememberjimmorrison.com
Cover art by stupendous rock photographer, David LeVine.