Excerpts from: “I Remember” By A.R. Graham

COMING TO AMERICA

Beginnings: I met Anne Robin Morrison in London in the summer of 1966. Her father, Captain George Stephen Morrison, was recently promoted to rear admiral and was stationed at the Navy building next to the American Embassy. At that time, Anne did not know her brother was famous. He had disappeared in 1964 after attending UCLA.

Soon after we met, the Admiral was called back to Washington D.C to begin his new assignment at the Pentagon. Anne stayed behind in London and a few months later, we married. When Anne gave birth to our first child, Dylan, we left England to live in America: the Land of Opportunity.

THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW GOES UP IN FLAMES

When we arrived in America in the summer of 1968, we lived in the plush suburb of Arlington, Virginia. The Admiral was stationed at the Pentagon as the Vietnam War raged on. We were introduced to the top ranks of military society. We attended the formal naval functions and sat in V.I.P. boxes at military ceremonies.

One of Clara Morrison’s nephews was about to be married and was set for deployment to Vietnam. We attended a giant celebration at the family home in Silver Springs, Maryland on the day of the wedding. On this auspicious occasion, another dramatic and most incongruous event would intersect creating profound consternation amongst the guests. The event in question was that family institution, The Ed Sullivan Show.

The wedding and the reception were formal ceremonies. Top rank and highly decorated military officials in full dress uniform accompanied by impeccably coiffed and bejeweled wives consumed copious amounts of delicious hors d’oeuvres and pink champagne.

At the end of the day, everyone gathered around television sets to watch The Ed Sullivan Show, which only presented clean-cut, all American entertainment. Not long before, Ed had presented the world-famous Singing Nun, and her number-one-in-the-nation hit, “Dominique”.

What followed was nothing less than jaw dropping. As the show commenced this very special evening, the stone-faced Sullivan stepped forward and made his proud introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the wonderful Topo Gigio!” Topo Gigio was the lead character of a children’s puppet show on Italian television in the 1960’s and a very popular visitor to the program. Next came a violently patriotic men’s college quartet. They were followed by acrobats, jugglers, and all sorts of generic entertainment for the extremely traditional audience.

The show, or so we thought, culminated with Kate Smith, a mountain of a woman, who belted out “God Bless America” with such force it blew people’s hair back. She ended with a bang, but there was an even bigger bang, locked, loaded, and waiting in the wings.

Someone said, “Hey, this is a rerun.” Very soon after that, a cabal of women surrounded Clara Morrison and rushed her into the kitchen. The Admiral followed. He inquired, “What the Sam Hell is going on in here?” Clara’s sister was hissing and looking out at the most prestigious guests. Clara gave the Admiral the news and his jaw locked like a bear trap.

Before anyone had a chance to take action, Ed Sullivan announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, from Los Angeles, California – THE DOORS!” OH, MY GOD!! — the guests sat frozen like a paused movie. Glasses were in midair and the only thing moving was cigarette smoke. A woman emptied a bottle of champagne into her goblet, which spilled out onto the counter and down onto the floor tiles. She stood there like a statue in an overflowing fountain of pink bubbles.

Jim Morrison stepped onto the stage at the world famous Ed Sullivan Theater dressed head-to-foot in black leather (pants, jacket, and boots) with a pure silver Concho belt and a white Mexican peasant shirt. He had the long, dark hair of an outlaw. He started singing “Light My Fire”, which was still on the top of the play list of the nation’s charts.

Ed Sullivan had warned Jim that he was forbidden to use suggestive words such as higher on a live show. Jim Morrison sang the song with cool precision. When he got to the forbidden words, he didn’t yell them. Instead, he spat them out as loud and as hard as he could.

The military guests had all known Jim since he was a boy. So, to see him transformed from a well-mannered, well-dressed bookworm to a long-haired, commie, pinko, traitor, draft dodger, Rasputin monster in black leather was impossible for them to process.

Uncle Howard, Clara’s brother-in-law, was the first to react. He wiped the condensation from his steamed-up, golden horn-rimmed glasses and blurted out, “Look at those filthy cuffs on his shirt!”

Morrison ended the song with: “TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON F-I-R-E!!!”

Everyone looked at each other again. It was as if they had all experienced a UFO incident and the frightening alien in black leather had disappeared.

A vice-admiral, who strongly resembled the great actor, Lee J. Cobb, and wore enough medals and citations to fill a trophy shop, slowly closed his eyes and started a silent belly laugh. It got louder and louder until everyone joined in. The whole crowd was laughing and laughing and laughing. Admiral Morrison laughed too. The crowd was doubled up not knowing quite why we were doing so. It was almost like a collective sigh of relief.

The marriage celebration and festivities that day were utterly usurped by another celebration. To this group, it was a polar opposite, and an altogether disturbing celebration. For it was: the Celebration of the Lizard King.

MEETING JIM

Admiral Morrison accompanied by his wife, Clara, drove to Dulles Airport to pick up their daughter, Anne, her husband, Alan Graham, and their new grandchild, Dylan.

For six weeks, the newlyweds lived with the family in the posh suburb just a few miles across from the Potomac River. A retired secretary of defense, a retired admiral, and a Pentagon intelligence official were among their neighbors – a veritable who’s who of Washington’s elite.

On the sixth day of the sixth week, the Admiral received orders to immediately fly to Coronado, California, in order to assume command of Carrier Division Nine Battle Group. He left the next day. Clara was left behind to pack up all of their belongings and have them shipped along with the rest of the family to their new home, wherever that might be. For military families, this is commonplace. These families are similar to a nomadic tribe who can pack up their tents in the night. By next morning, they have left no trace of their presence.

Anne, Alan, and Dylan flew on ahead to stay in San Diego, California with the Morrison’s lifelong friend, Commander Andy Richards. Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood were all just a two-hour ride away. So, the Graham tribe set off to find Anne’s once-disappeared and now-rediscovered older brother, Jim Morrison of the Doors. They rented a car and headed off for the megalopolis — Los Angeles.

On the way, Alan stopped to call information for the listing of Elektra Records in West Hollywood. He got the number, called the recording company telling them who he was in relation to their hottest artist, and that he wanted to contact Jim. They gave him The Doors’ office number. He called and repeated the request. The receptionist, after a shell shocked, ten-second silence, said, “Could you repeat that, please?”

She informed Alan that Jim was returning from a big concert in Texas and that he would be on the eleven a.m. flight from Houston to LAX. The Graham tribe arrived at 10:50. The following is a true life account of that meeting.

When Jim Morrison stepped off a jet at LAX in the summer of 1968, he was wearing an original World War II bomber jacket. Followed by Manzarek, Krieger, then Densmore, he sauntered through the terminal carrying an antique but cool-looking leather briefcase filled with his notebooks and pages of poetry and songs.

The Lizard King was wearing naval aviator glasses and black leather cowboy boots which rendered him utterly ridiculous and ultra cool in the same instant. He was ultra cool to any teenager back then, but equally repulsive to people like Art Linkletter, the famous television pitchman. As he strode along, Linkletter had crossed directly in front of Jim causing him to stop abruptly so as not to be bowled over by the obvious disdain the pitchman harbored for all things hippie.

Morrison watched as the rude, angry personality elbowed his way through the crowd. Jim adjusted his military/hippie outfit and said out loud but to no one in particular, “That was Art Linkletter. What an asshole. Ahh, never mind. I never liked him anyway.”

Linkletter had a colossal hatred for all druggies or radicals and was estranged from his eldest daughter, Dianne. Like so many millions of young people of that time, they were considered by their parents to be morally bankrupt.

His daughter had joined the ranks of acid dropping teens and was out of her father’s control just like Jim Morrison was. The very next year, Dianne Linkletter jumped to her death from her sixth floor apartment. Linkletter immediately blamed The Beatles for turning her onto LSD through their evil music.

Morrison grabbed his bag from the luggage carousel. As he turned to leave the terminal, a young woman with a babe in arms approached him saying, “Hi, Jim.” Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore kept on walking for they had witnessed this same ritual a thousand times before. A young fan would spot the group and would come over to meet Jim.

Often the others would be ignored or thought of as secondary because Jim loomed larger than the mere Doors. He was a Rock-God-Idol and the others were his assistants. At least it was that way to millions of star struck teenage girls all over the world who would, and often did, throw their knickers at him and would have made love to him on the spot in front of God and all.

Morrison slowly put down his briefcase and was poised to sign another autograph, right? Not so. Not this time. Even though this beautiful young woman with long flowing hair and an adoring smile had presented herself before Jim, she was not offering him her autograph book. Instead, she was offering her baby for him to hold.

Jim Morrison had never autographed a baby before and he certainly had not held one recently, if ever. So, he was utterly flummoxed.

Morrison took off his sunglasses and blinked twice still wondering why there was no pen or request for the usual autograph. He looked again at the baby, and then, at the woman. He blinked again and again and again.

The Doors were now looking back to see if this woman was showing Jim Morrison the result of yet another romantic liaison from a one-night stand she and he had engaged in. Was she now demanding child support? In fact, this very same thought was starting to seep into Jim’s mind. The Doors decided that they would keep on ahead after all. As they left, they saw Jim holding the baby in his arms looking very confused. Jim looked at them helplessly as Ray, Robby, and John, disappeared like snow in August.

Jim’s eyes slowly returned to the woman, studying her face closely, and then, gingerly offering, “You wouldn’t happen to be my sister, would you?” Anne smiled from ear to ear. Speaking in an excited gush, she blurted out, “Yes, I am and say hello to your nephew. His name is Dylan Stephen and this is my husband, Alan.” Jim looked at the three of them for a long time before he spoke. This Rock-God-Idol was speechless. He could only stand there looking at Anne, whom he had not seen since he disappeared three years earlier.

Jim Morrison, Rock-God-Idol, was actually returning to a reality that he had abruptly abandoned when he decided to erase all connections with his family.

Now that very same reality, in the form of his sister as a married woman with a child (whom she had just physically thrust into her brother’s arms) was standing before him.

We all stood looking at each other. After what seemed an eternity, Jim shifted the baby to his hip and it was as if he had never been away from his sister at all. As he marched proudly through the terminal, he said, “Come on. I want you to meet everyone.”

We were in L’America: Los Angeles — Hollywood, California –standing with Jim Morrison in the summer of 1968 just before all hell broke loose and the whole shit house went up in flames.

We drove from the airport on a glorious summer day. Jim sat up front talking excitedly to Anne as if she was the one who had disappeared and he was trying to catch up on the news of her life. He never once mentioned his father or mother during the conversation, but focused instead on his sister and his little brother, Andy, and their lives. It was as if he needed several missing pieces to complete some sort of visceral jigsaw puzzle.

We took the San Diego Freeway north for a few miles, then west on the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway (Santa Monica Freeway) to the City of Santa Monica.

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One Response to Excerpts from: “I Remember” By A.R. Graham

  1. Douglas Wright says:

    I just stumbled upon this delightful piece while trying to “google” up something not even related. Always nice for an old codger to take a trip down memory lane. During the late 1960’s I resided in Coronado between deployments. One of those deployments was aboard the USS Hancock, Admiral Morrison’s flagship.

    I can’t say he was a personal acquaintance. Young Lieutenants don’t usually get that way with Admirals. However I did speak to him a few times in the wardroom. My memory is that he was the sort of person who earns respect; one who you just knew was tough, but always fair.

    It was a whole ship load of guys who were mostly under twenty five years old. The politics of the day didn’t weigh heavily on our young minds, but the music and the culture did. “Light my fire” could be heard throughout the ship. Having raised a couple of mischievous boys of my own, I can only imagine what must have gone through his mind. But he had the wisdom to let boys become men in their own good time.

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