Doors Fest, 10 Years After








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Doors Fest: Ray Manzarek and Darryl Read

Ray Manzarek and Darryl Read, courtesy Judy Sacco

Doors Fest was a gathering of Doors fans in Los Angeles on April 6, 2002, hosted by The Doors Collector Magazine (DCM) and Kerry Humphreys. The convention consisted of artists, writers, collectibles, and included guests Ray Manzarek and Danny Sugerman. I was there and here are my impressionistic recollections of Doors Fest 2002!

dfestposter2 Doors Fest Poster, courtesy Judy Sacco

For me Doors Fest began in January 2002, Doors fest had been advertised on DCM but I didn’t have any plans to attend, then I ran into some unexpected good luck and fortune by getting money from an unexpected source, although the source has to remain a mystery it almost literally was I found money laying around my apartment! So, I called Kerry, made my reservation and the following Monday morning ordered copies of my book, I was on my way!

At the time I was working a job that ran from 3PM until 1AM. I had made plans to go to L.A. with my sister, and she was going to pick me up at 6AM the morning of our flight. I got home from work and packed, I was going to sleep on the plane, as time went on, sleep became a more and more of a fleeting concept. When I was done packing I started taking my luggage out to the car, when I got back to my apartment I discovered I had locked myself out! I didn’t have the door key in my pocket and my sister was on her way, to go to the airport! I had to get in before being busted by my sister and not living it down, as well as all the tickets and everything were still inside the apartment. Luckily, I had a window open, and the screen looked kind of flimsy, I went back down to my car and found a screwdriver, and then went about figuring out how to break into my own apartment. I looked around and hoped none of my neighbors would think I was actually breaking in. Since the screen was flimsy and easily pried it out, I climbed into the apartment with five minutes to spare before my sister showed up and I would’ve had to cop to being locked out.

My sister and I got to the airport without too much trouble and got checked in with the airline and were relaxing in the lounge. This was my first flight since 9/11 seven months before. All of a sudden I saw a guy walking around talking to himself, all I could think of was who do I find to report this guy, I hoped he wasn’t going to be on my flight, and all these 9/11 scenarios were running through my head when he suddenly turned and I saw a wire running down from his ear to a cell phone! Whew! Disaster averted.

thewhiskysm The Whisky a go-go, courtesy Judy Sacco

We rented a car in L.A. and headed for the highway and West Hollywood, where all the fun and festivities of Doors Fest were to be held, the actual Doors Fest which was at the famous (or infamous) Hyatt (riot) House (see the movie “Almost Famous”) on Saturday and seeing the band Wild Child at The Whisky a go-go Saturday night. We checked in to our hotel on Santa Monica and I slept for 1 hour. I had been up since about 11 the previous morning and it was about 2 O’\clock L.A. time so I was headed for about 30 hours without sleep, I slept for only a hour because we had to get to the Hyatt to meet Kerry Humphreys.

benvenuto1 Bienvenuto, formerly The Doors Workshop, courtesy Judy Sacco

We got to the Hyatt House (which had been remodeled since the 60’s.) and went to the lounge (where else do you meet for a convention?) We looked around, what little people were there and they all looked like business types and not there for a Doors convention. Although Kerry had published a couple of my stories in The Doors Collector Magazine I had never met him nor did I even know what he looked like. The waitress came and took our order and I asked if she knew who Kerry Humphreys was and did she know when he would be there? She didn’t have any information and probably thought I was a little weird or maybe drunk already, but she brought a beer, it was still early so we waited, watching people seeing if we could tell if they were there for Doors Fest or not, maybe a secret sign would be visible.

This may be stereotypical of L.A. but we couldn’t park in the Hyatt’s parking lot because it was reserved for guests so we had to drive around before we found a parking space in front of the hotel, and it was a cool parking space right behind a 1966 baby blue Thunderbird. I’m not much into cars but there is a small part of me that is stereotypical male and that’s a cool car, I wanted that car! Parking on the street meant having to feed a parking meter, and while we waited in the bar for Kerry and The Doors Fest people I kept running out to feed that parking meter and look over the Thunderbird.

barneysbeanery1 Barney’s Beanery, courtesy Judy Sacco

As evening started to reach into the bar, more people started coming in, and I had a couple more beers and things started to move fast, the bar was filling up fast, and I kept introducing myself to people I thought looked like they were there for Doors Fest, and I did find a few but none were Kerry or knew what Kerry looked like, and I was starting to get worried because I had set up an appointment to meet other Doors fans at Barney’s Beanery and the time was drawing near. Suddenly, a tall bald guy showed up and everyone seemed to know him and it looked like he was holding court so I figured it was Kerry. I introduced myself, but it was too late, it was time to move on, I got the information on where to be in the morning and it was time to head to Barney’s.

“Going to the roadhouse…” A roadhouse is a good description of Barney’s Beanery, I later learned (from the history on the back of the menu) that the restaurant had been there since the 20’s and was the favorite haunt of stars. Barney’s has a porch that runs about a quarter of the length of the building, there were college students sitting on the couple of tables on the balcony and on the railing, the place was jammed. We walked inside and the décor was a mélange of found items such as old Coca-Cola signs, road signs, or just about anything that can be found on the walls of any chain restaurant trying for that faux roadhouse friendly feeling. We got a table and read the menu and found a variety of chili and hamburgers on it, and it included the aforementioned history, and a listing of some of the famous people who hung out there. We were there to meet Michael White, whom I’d met on a Doors message board. Again, I discovered I didn’t know what he looked like or any other real information that would help identify him in a crowd! I ordered a chili avocado burger and we waited to see if someone would pick me out of the crowd. After the hamburger I remembered that Michael was staying at the Alta-Cienega Motel which was a haunt of Jim Morrison’s and just up the street from Barney’s.

004_006_5_sm Danny Sugerman and Henry Diltz, courtesy Michael White

As we walked up the driveway and into the parking lot courtyard of the Alta-Cienega we saw a two story motel with a rickety wooden staircase and balcony. I saw a small shack on the opposite side of the parking lot and a sign over the door said ‘office’ we went in. Inside the little shack an elderly Chinese man was watching the front counter, and for a moment I wondered if he had owned the motel in the 60’s. I asked what room Michael was in, and he told me, we walked across the parking lot, and as we went up the rickety staircase I saw the Chinese man watching us, me. We knocked on the appropriate door, and it was opened by Michael wearing a bowling shirt and jeans, the room lit by only by the light of a nightstand light. The room was small the size of a bed with a nightstand and a chair, and behind that a bathroom, I looked at the ceiling and was surprised to see there were exposed wooden slats, the ceiling wasn’t plastered. We sat and talked to Michael, and soon the talk turned to room 32, the room Morrison preferred.

“You want to see Morrison’s room?” He asked.

“Is there anyone in it?”

“Yeah, but if I can get us in you want to see it?”

My sister and I looked at each other, “Sure,” I said with a shrug of my shoulders.

“C’mon.” He said. We followed Michael out on to the balcony, as we were walking across to the room I looked down into the parking lot and noticed the owner was watching me as we made this excursion.

“I don’t think he likes me.” I said.

“Why?”

“He’s been watching me ever since we got here.” We walked to the end of the balcony there was the number 32 on the door, Michael knocked, and there was an answer.

“Who is it?” said a woman’s voice.

“It’s the author, Jim Cherry!” Michael said loudly, and I got a sinking feeling, technically he was right, I was an author with one book under my belt, but it wasn’t like I was well known like John Grisham or Stephen King, I imagined the owner of the motel right now calling the police, but as I was about to look into the parking lot to verify this the door opened and two women stood there, I didn‘t notice any bats or anything.

“You guys better not be kidding.”

016_018_17_sm Jim Cherry and Connie Cherry, courtesy Michael White

“No, no,” Michael said, “this is Jim Cherry,” he said, pointing to me, “the author, and he just wants to see the room.” The women looked around, saw me and Michael and my sister, when they saw her they looked relieved or at least less fearful that we were rapists or murderers or some marauding band.

“Ok, come on in.” We walked inside the room, and I could see why Morrison liked the room, it was the master suite of the motel, but that’s not saying much, it was a little larger than the other room with some space between the bed and the bathroom, and I looked at the ceiling, it was plastered. The first thing we noticed when we entered the room was that Doors fans had written poems and messages on the walls, the walls literally screamed poetry, every inch of reachable and unreachable wall space had a message to Morrison from floor to ceiling, with every conceivable message from “hi Jim” to poems, we scattered about the room to see all the messages but there were too many greetings from around the world and the years. As Michael talked to the women I looked around the room trying to see if I could see Jim Morrison’s ghost strolling down the short hallway to the bathroom, or his shadow across the wall, but I didn’t see Jim’s ghost.

We went back to Barney’s for a couple more drinks and the night drew to a close fading like the pinpoint blue light fading on a television shutting off.

Part II

Doors Fest was a gathering of Doors fans in Los Angeles on April 6, 2002, hosted by The Doors Collector Magazine (DCM) and Kerry Humphreys. The convention consisted of artists, writers, collectibles, and included guests Ray Manzarek and Danny Sugerman. I was there and here are my impressionistic recollections of Doors Fest 2002!

The next morning my sister and I were up early, I was running on a lot of nervous energy I was still really tired but I didn’t want to be late for anything! We got back over to the Hyatt and we went upstairs to find the convention room and Kerry, we found the room easily, there was a placard that said “Doors Fest” and open ballroom doors, we went inside, no one else was there, but there were about a 15 tables set up but no one was around and there wasn’t any designation on the tables on which vendors were supposed to sit where. We went back out into the hallway and there was Kerry, another crisis averted! He told which table was ours and we set up the display for my books and discovered my sister had a real flair for making an interesting display! We looked at each other, no one else was there yet, and we had about an hour and half until the 9 AM opening of the doors to paying guests so we went downstairs to breakfast.

paulwilliamssm
Paul Williams, courtesy Judy Sacco

We sat in the hotel restaurant ordering and eating as slowly as we could to kill the time until the start of the gathering, about a half hour before the doors were supposed to open we went back up to the ballroom and took a quick look around the room at other vendors who had set up, Kerry had set up his table for DCM with his collectibles, Henry Diltz, who had taken the Morrison Hotel album cover pictures (plus many other famous rock ‘n’ roll pictures) had set up, he seemed like an unreconstructed hippy, pony tail and a soft brown shirt, jeans and sandals, he looked cool. The local Borders (book store recently deceased) was bringing up racks of Ray Manzarek’s books, “The Poet in Exile” and “Light My Fire”, the bookstore employees set up Ray’s table, he wasn’t expected until later in the day. As counterpoint, the booth next to mine had Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy! magazine which had done articles on The Doors and his book, “Outlaw Blues” was for sale. A couple tables away was Ineke Verhuel a writer with a novel, “The Tenth Life of Jim Morrison”, the table between hers and mine was still empty. When two women came rushing in with paintings, they were the women from the Alta Cienega the night before! One of them was Jessie Buddell and she had some really cool paintings of Jim Morrison, some of which I would own by the end of the day.

As the doors to Doors Fest opened and a soft parade of people began to trickle in and all of us with booths attempted to look more interesting to attract people to our booths. I was able to watch the swirling crowd as they ebbed and flowed around the room. There were guys wearing leather pants and concha shell belts (or replica’s), there was the girl in a tightly beaded skirt that was SO tight when she dropped something she had to make her boyfriend pick it up, Doors ringtones on cellphones were new and there wasn’t that much of a variety of choice so “Light My Fire” was the primary ring tone of choice for Doors fans, and when you heard the iconic tones everybody in the room who had a cell phone reached for it. Then there was the picture, a group had been out exploring The Doors/Jim Morrison’s Los Angeles taking a tour from Venice Beach to Barney’s Beanery. They took a picture of the Alta Cienega motel and on the print was what looked like a bolt of lightning coming from room 32, and for a minute’s excitement and talk swept through the room, was that Jim’s energy?

Then things got weird, at least for me. A woman came into the ballroom carrying a screwdriver, the drink, not the tool, she was dressed in a low (too low) tiger print blouse, black skirt and black nylons that looked like they didn’t fit right. After watching her caper around the room it was pretty obvious that she was drunk, and that’s when my charisma for attracting the wrong kind of attention kicked in, she saw me and came over and wanted to talk.

“I knew Jim and Ray at UCLA”, she slurred, “whats your book about?”

“Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”

“I used to talk to Jim about Arrtraud,” She slurred.

“That must’ve been cool”. My eyes darting around looking for help, I hoped someone else would come to my table and have at least a momentary interest in my book so this woman would lose interest. As she was looking through my book she fell, and stumbled off out the front door, and a few minutes later she came back with another screwdriver and was touring the room when two security guys came into the room following her and after a few brief words escorted her out.

ray_playing_sm Ray Manzarek, courtesy Michael White

Soon afterwards murmurs started going around the room that Ray was in the building, downstairs in the bar, and some of the guys in the room headed down to the bar.  I didn’t believe it, rumors always manage to float around events like this. But then I noticed not far from my table someone brought in a keyboard and was setting it up near the table of Ray’s books, and a few minutes later Ray did enter the room. He played a couple songs on the keyboard and took a few questions between songs, “Is Jim really dead?” and all Ray said was, “I haven’t heard from the guy in 30 years”. I later heard that a couple of guys did go down to the bar to talk to Ray, and when he finished his beer he said “Ok, guys you can finish it if you want”. One of them did.

ray_sm Ray Manzarek and Michael White, courtesy Michael White

When Ray had finished signing books for everybody, he left and it was getting kind of late in the afternoon, and Danny Sugerman was still expected to attend. Since it was so late in the afternoon I wanted to look around at the other tables, I took a few of my books and I was going to give them to some of the other vendors so I started strolling around the room. The first person I bumped into and I didn’t really know who he was at the time, was Darryl Read, one of the original punks from England, dressed in a leather jacket, I gave him a copy of my book, I visited Jessie Buddell’s table and looked at her pictures of Jim Morrison and they were pretty cool, I ended up buying a couple and cutting a deal for a trade for my book on another. That’s when Danny Sugerman wandered in through the front door, he was instantly surrounded by people asking him questions. I’d heard Danny had cancer and had beat it so I wanted to see how he looked, and he looked really healthy. He was surrounded, but Kerry was able to get Danny to the front of the room to answer questions and talk to everyone.

All that was left was that evening was seeing Wild Child at The Whisky a go-go. My sister and I took a cab to The Whisky, as the car drove up, the red building was surrounded by people, a line wound around the block. As we got out of the cab I heard people calling “Jim! Jim!” for a split second I felt like a celebrity, although the cab was no where near a limo, and for a split second I imagined how Jim Morrison felt getting out of a limousine in front of The Whisky. We got our ticket at the will call office and we joined the line, you don’t feel like a celebrity at the back of the line. The interior of The Whisky was cool, dark, and small! It was only about fifty feet deep. There’s a bar directly across the room from the door, the ceiling was low, and the stage jutted out into the room. I walked out onto the concrete floor, the room opened up, or would have, the club was jammed with people, there was barely enough room to move. There were stairs running up to a second floor. I’d seen pictures of The Whisky from the sixties, there had been booths and go-go dancers in cages. There had been tapestries on the wall and it had been light, now it was stripped down and dark, able to cram in as many paying customers as you could. Behind the stage hung black curtains used to close off what must have been the rest of the club. They had changed it since the sixties, but it’s the history of the place that counts. The band came on and I thought that there might be more room when people surged to the front but it seemed more people surged in, I thought if we went upstairs we could find a table, we navigated through the crowd but upstairs all the tables were taken. We listened to a few more songs before navigating out into the night.

I’m happy to report that the return trip home was uneventful.

Postscript: Danny Sugerman died 3 years after Doors Fest in January 2005. Paul Williams suffered a brain injury and he and his family are struggling to pay bills, if you would like to contribute go to Paul Williams website.

I wish to thank Kerry Humphreys, Judy Sacco and Michael White.

Originally published in two parts on April 6 & 7, 2012

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