Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Danny Sugerman. Sugerman has been described as the ultimate Doors fan, and he is credited with being the co-author of the Jim Morrison biography “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” Starting in the late ’70s he was The Doors’ manager, helping to keep the word of The Doors alive and shepherding projects to keep the band visible and viable in the public eye. It all started with him becoming enamored of The Doors.
Sugerman’s career and obsession with The Doors began inadvertently with a promise at a little baseball game. In 1967 Sugerman was a precocious twelve year old Los Angeles wild child (Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek claims Jim Morrison wrote the song “Wild Child” about Sugerman) who was having problems with his step-father and needed to escape the house. A friend, Evan Parker, was Sugerman’s Little League umpire and a friend of The Doors’ roadie Bill Siddons (Siddons would later become The Doors’ manager). One day, Sugerman was at bat and in his best Babe Ruth bravado decided to call his shot and said he was going to hit a home run. Parker said if he did that he’d take him to see The Doors that night. Sugerman hit a home run.
True to his word, Parker took Danny to The Doors’ October 6, 1967 concert at the Cal-State Gymnasium. Parker, who on occasion helped Siddons as a roadie, enlisted Sugerman to help with the equipment. Siddons and Parker started taking equipment into the gymnasium leaving Sugerman to unload the van. It was then that Sugerman encountered a lean shadowy figure with long brown hair who accused him of stealing the equipment. It was of course Jim Morrison. Parker later told Sugerman, “That was Jim Morrison, you two oughta really get along. He’s crazier than you are.”
Sugerman found a seat in the front row close to the stage. When the band started to play Sugerman didn’t see the shadowy figure from the parking lot. Then there was a scream and Morrison lurched onto the stage screaming with the sound of a “thousand curtains torn” and he crumpled to the stage while the band played on. Then he jumped straight up, approached the microphone and opened his mouth as if he were about to sing then backed away from the microphone. As the music continued to build Morrison started singing “When the Music’s Over.” Sugerman later said in his autobiography, “Wonderland Avenue,” “It was the end. It was the end of the world as I had known it. Nothing would ever again be the same for me.”
Soon Sugerman was hanging out at The Doors’ office in the hopes of seeing and hanging out with the band. One afternoon, Bill Siddons banished Sugerman from The Doors’ office. Upset and waiting for a bus back home, Sugerman again ran into Morrison. Upon hearing Sugerman’s story, Morrison went back into the office and after about ten minutes came out and told him he was no longer banned and had a job answering fan mail. The course for Sugerman’s life was seemingly set: The Doors. Morrison was very generous towards Danny, giving him his first writing credential by giving Sugerman an interview that Morrison himself got published in a rock magazine under Sugerman’s byline.
After Morrison’s death, Sugerman later reconnected with Manzarek and Ray appointed him The Doors’ manager. When Sugerman discovered Jerry Hopkins had written a biography of Jim Morrison that he had never been able to sell, Sugerman shopped it around until he found a publisher. The publication of “No One Here..” is one of the factors that sparked The Doors’ resurrection of the early ’80s. In his capacity as The Doors’ advocate, Sugerman wrote many books about the band, including “The Doors: The Illustrated History” and “The Doors: The Complete Illustrated Lyrics.”
He also wrote about his life and his adventures with The Doors in “Wonderland Avenue” in which he was brutally honest about his heroin addiction. Sugerman later met Fawn Hall who was rather famously Oliver North’s secretary during the Iran-Contra affair in the ’80s. They married in 1991, but their path was a rocky one. Their honeymoon to Hong Kong was an excuse for an extended drug bender for the both of them. Sugerman and Hall later beat their addiction to drugs and Sugerman found solace in Buddhism.
The years of emulating Jim Morrison caught up with Sugerman and he died of lung cancer on January 5, 2005 at age 50. Sugerman had made The Doors his life work and reaped many benefits from it, but he also found the darker elements of it too. Shortly before his death, in an e-mail to a friend, Sugerman reminisced about the last time he saw Jim Morrison and Sugerman asked Morrison if he would ever see him again. Morrison replied, “Count on it Danny.” Sugerman then told the friend “I’ve been counting on it my whole fucking life.”
Originally published January 5, 2015.