Three years before his death in 1994, Miami Herald movie critic Bill Cosford wrote about being at Dinner Key Auditorium the night Jim Morrison and the Doors played on March 1, 1969.
Twenty-two years ago this weekend, on March 1, 1969, a warm Saturday night, Jim Morrison and The Doors played Dinner Key Auditorium. Afterward, the band never would be the same.
We showed up a little before 10, knowing The Doors would be very late, and thinking we knew why: The rumor was that Jim Morrison's contract required a case of Bud in the dressing room, and that until he had pretty much killed it, he didn't go on.
My date was Linda Scheiderman, a classmate from the University of Miami. We took the motorcycle, figuring it would be easier to park, because this thing was going to be very crowded. The helmets came in handy.
The Doors didn't come on until after 11. The auditorium was jammed with celebrants, but the crowd was largely well behaved. We had excellent "seats" -- there were no seats where we were, but if there had been, we would have been in about the fifth row.
We were up for this one, because, drunk or not, Morrison and The Doors were about the most interesting thing going in rock. We knew they were mean. We had no sense of trouble, however.
Out they came. From the start, Morrison seemed more interested in rousing the crowd than in singing songs. Behind him, The Doors started Break on Through, and kept at it for a while, but Morrison wandered around the stage and didn't sing.
Then he started yelling at the crowd way behind us, at the extreme rear of the hall. His point seemed to be some bizarre twist on the egalitarianism of the times: You folks should come down front. Why should you have such a lousy view?
"I'm not talking about a revolution, " Morrison yelled. Not a revolution, maybe. A riot, yes.
They tried Back Door Man, and nearly got it sung, but Morrison had to stop and harangue the crowd again. They did Five to One, kind of. But they never finished. By this time, the people in the back had taken the message to heart, and were pushing hard to get to the front.
We could feel the crush. I shouted to Linda. "I think there are going to be fights, " I said. We put on the helmets.
Then, these events in quick order:
Morrison took the uniform cap from a Miami cop and tossed it into the crowd. The cop, who may have been the wisest man in the hall that night, grabbed the floppy hat from Morrison's head and threw that to the crowd, causing much merriment (and defusing, for the moment, a tense situation).
A man who had been wandering Coconut Grove for weeks carrying a lamb in his arms appeared on stage and offered Morrison the lamb. He took it, held it. The lamb, which we in the Grove had assumed was some sort of Jesus deal, appeared uncomfortable, presumably for very good reason.
Morrison gave it back. We were relieved -- I guess, in part, because he didn't sacrifice it on the spot.
Then, a young woman jumped onto the stage and grabbed Morrison by the crotch of his leather pants.
"You want it?" Morrison yelled, not at the woman but at the crowd.
The crowd yelled back, not anything in particular, just the usual rock-audience roar.
Morrison unzipped the leather pants, exposed himself for a few seconds, then leaped -- or was pushed -- into the crowd a few feet from where we stood.
Linda missed the exposure. She was fooling with her purse, trying to make sure it was safe from the surge of the crowd.
"Did you see that?" I yelled.
"Jim Morrison exposed himself."
"Really? What was it like?"
It was while I was shouting my description into Linda's ear that Morrison pitched into the crowd, which is why I still don't know if he jumped (as those around us said) or was pushed (as later published accounts, including Jerry Hopkins', in the book No One Here Gets Out Alive, contended).
Morrison never made it back on stage. That was the end of the concert, after fewer than four songs and none of them completed.
We booed. Then we left. Morrison was somewhere in the crowd, leading a snake dance of singers and hooters. But we no longer could hear him, or The Doors.
Within days, Morrison would be charged with several counts of indecent exposure and giving a lewd performance. And within days after that, the campaign by Morrison's attorneys and supporters would begin, insisting that there was no exposure. The denials didn't matter: Promoters all over the country canceled Doors concerts, and the band began its slide.
Oliver Stone's The Doors shows that moment in the concert from behind the Morrison character, because he believes Morrison did not expose himself. Stone says that according to his research, there was but a single eyewitness.
I know of at least one other.