October 6, 1967: The Doors Enthrall Danny Sugerman

The Doors at Cal State LA

The summer of ‘67 had been life-changing for The Doors. “Light My Fire” hit number 1 on the Billboard Magazine charts, they had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, they had shot publicity photos with Joel Brodsky (which included Morrison’s iconic “young lion” photographs), they had played Steve Paul’s The Scene to rave reviews, they’d appeared on the “Murray the K” TV show, and their second album “Strange Days” had been released to big sales and acclaim.

As the Summer of Love passed into fall, The Doors stayed busy, and on October 6, 1967, they played the Eagles’ Nest Gymnasium at Cal State Los Angeles. It was another strong performance, but more importantly, this was the concert where their future manager and biographer Danny Sugerman encountered Jim Morrison and became enthralled with the band.

The Doors onstage at Cal State LA
Onstage at Cal State LA, October 6, 1967

In 1967, Sugerman was a 12 year-old Los Angeles wild child (indeed, Ray Manzarek claimed Jim Morrison wrote the famous song about him) who was fighting with his stepfather and needed to escape the house. A friend, Evan Parker, was Sugerman’s Little League umpire and a friend of Doors roadie Bill Siddons, who in 1968 would become The Doors’ manager. Sugerman was at bat, and in his best Babe Ruth impression, decided to call his shot, promising 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 him to the concert. Parker also assisted Siddons as a roadie and they enlisted Sugerman to help with carrying the band’s equipment. As Siddons and Parker were hauling amps and microphones into the gymnasium, Sugerman was left alone to unload the van, and it was then that Sugerman encountered a lean shadowy figure, with long brown hair, who accused him of stealing. Parker later told Sugerman, “That was Jim Morrison. You two oughta really get along. He’s crazier than you are.”

By the time Parker, Siddons, and Sugerman had finished, it was past time for the show to begin, and Danny was enlisted to run downstairs to the dressing room and tell The Doors to get onstage or else default on their contract. Sugerman delivered the message to the waiting band. The Doors sent back the response that waiting is good for the audience. Sugerman ran this circuit three more times until The Doors consented to start the show.

After the band took the stage, Sugerman found a seat in a front row. The band started to play but Sugerman didn’t see the shadowy figure from the parking lot, and then there was a howl and Morrison lurched onto the stage screaming with the sound of a “thousand curtains torn” and crumpled to the stage while the band played on. Then Morrison jumped straight up, approached the microphone and opened his mouth as if he were about to sing (some members of Andy Warhol’s Factory saw him do this in New York and thought it a cheap way to draw in an audience). Then Jim backed away from the microphone, and as the music crescendoed, he began “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 again.”

Danny Sugerman, Iggy Pop, and Ray, early 1970s
Danny Sugerman, Iggy Pop, and Ray, early 1970s

Sugerman started hanging around The Doors’ office so much that Morrison gave him a job answering fan mail. He also gave Sugerman an interview that Morrison later got published in a rock magazine under Sugerman’s byline.

After Morrison’s death, Sugerman helped to keep The Doors alive through their fallow years, managing Ray Manzarek and encouraging other musicians in the LA scene to cover Doors material. When Sugerman learned that Jerry Hopkins had written a biography of Jim Morrison, Danny shopped it around until he found a publisher. The Jim Morrison depicted in “No One Here Gets Out Alive” seemed to match the figure from the old songs and videos, and the book sparked a major Doors revival in the early ’80s. Sugerman also published additional Doors books, like “The Illustrated History” and “The Complete Illustrated Lyrics,” and — with Siddons having bowed out after Morrison’s demise — he acted as their manager until shortly before his death at age 50 in 2005.

Originally published April 16, 2015.

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