We present a remembrance of Danny Sugerman, written by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
Danny Sugerman, Seven Years Gone
By a friend of Danny’s
When paying tribute to the legacy of The Doors, there’s probably one name that stands out above all others. That name is Danny Sugerman. Danny was, unarguably, the number one Doors fan, turning his teenage love for the band into a life-long loyalty and devotion both personally and professionally. It is in no small part because of Danny that the Doors music has enjoyed such amazing longevity, still endearing itself to long-time fans, and continuously reaching new generations of fans every day.
Danny Sugerman always considered himself, first and foremost, a fan. One of the gang. Not above or better than – but equal to. He never forgot where he came from, and was always grateful and slightly in awe of where his love for The Doors ultimately took him. Even after becoming a successful businessman – a manager and best selling author – he always valued his true connection with Doors fans. He always said he was proud to be counted among them.
Danny was only a young teenager when he first saw The Doors in concert, and even at that young age, he knew it was a life-altering experience. He never looked back. The product of a broken home and constant hassles from a step-father whom he often referred to in his later years as “Hitler”, Danny was on a constant quest for a place to belong. The Doors gave him that place. He started spending a lot of his time at their office, running amok, talking a blue-streak, and making a general nuisance of himself, sometimes even sneaking out of school just to share his special brand of sunshine with them. He once said that as long as he was present and accounted for when attendance was called, he was covered. It wasn’t his fault if the school misplaced him after that. Being with The Doors, and especially with Jim Morrison, whom he found a real connection with, gave him the sense of acceptance that he had been searching for. Danny once said that Jim Morrison was the first grown-up who didn’t tell him who he had to be – but insisted that he had to be who he was. And that validation of his own worth by a man he really looked up to meant everything to him.
Because Danny was a fan, it was more than fitting that he was eventually given the job of answering the band’s fan mail. He knew the job was more or less designated to him to give him something constructive to do while he was hanging around the office, but he jumped in with both feet and took it real seriously. There was a genuine sense of pride and importance that came with doing something official for The Doors, and Danny really liked reading what other fans had to say. He understood better than anyone their love of the band and liked the idea that he was a real source of information for them. He began collecting press clippings and news items in his spare time, compiling them into a scrapbook which would be published years later as “The Doors: The Illustrated History”. He was always amazed and proud that his labor of love as a young fan was ultimately embraced by Doors fans all over the world for decades to come.
Danny’s entire young life at this time revolved around his idolization of The Doors. When he wasn’t working in their office he was finding ways to get to their concerts. Hitchhiking was the easiest way, and sometimes he used his thumb to get him hundreds of miles away just to be a part of it all. Nothing else was as important, and nothing else mattered as much. It wasn’t a passing fancy or something to do until something better came along. There was nothing better. The Doors were, to Danny, an all-consuming entity like nothing he’d ever encountered before, and as he said many times, like nothing he had ever encountered since.
While Danny loved The Doors for their music and the impact it made on his life, he also loved them as friends and “teachers”. He learned from all of them on different levels and began to understand their individual personalities as he interacted with each of them throughout the sometimes daily routine. He was especially drawn to Jim Morrison, whom he referred to constantly throughout his life as his teacher, his protector, his mentor, and his friend. He looked up to him as a father figure, and felt him to be more of a father to him than his own was, despite the fact that there was only about a ten year age difference between them. Danny said he never quite understood when he was younger why this rock star that he idolized showed almost unlimited kindness and patience in both befriending him and helping to guide him, he only knew he was real grateful that he did. Thinking back on it years later, Danny once said he thought he and Jim connected because they both lived in a chronic state of anxiety, fueled by their mutual need to be who they were, while internally raging against a society which expected them to simply conform.
Danny believed they were both, as Jim Morrison so eloquently put it, “Riders on the Storm”.
Jim Morrison died suddenly when Danny was just 16 years old. He took Jim’s death hard, grieved him deeply, and in an effort to keep him close, started to emulate the wild, excessive, self-destructive side of his hero. Danny knew better than most that Jim also had another side – he once said that Jim was always a better teacher than a role model – but in the haze of not knowing which direction to take at this sudden fork in the road, he chose the path he thought would hurt the least. Being numb to reality sure seemed less painful than having to stare it in the eye and deal with it. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, William Blake once wrote, and Danny had watched Jim Morrison go down that road. If it was good enough for Jim, he figured, it was good enough for him. Except, of course, that Jim Morrison never reached that palace of wisdom. Jim Morrison simply died.
Interestingly enough, Danny Sugerman’s passion for The Doors didn’t lessen with Jim’s death. It intensified. With unending energy and persistence, he spent the better part of the next 30 years keeping the music of The Doors and the memory of Jim Morrison alive. He subsequently became The Doors manager, a title he wore with pride, second only to the first title he had worn and would always wear: that of their number one fan.
Throughout the years, Danny had a lot of funny stories about other Doors fans he met. Fans approached him and talked to him wherever they happened to find him. He found it funny that he was so recognizable, and he’d laugh about some of the amusing predicaments which that recognition got him into. He once had a fan sidle up to him in a public restroom, elbow to elbow at a neighboring urinal, just to ask him a question. He was sure there was some sort of breach of urinal etiquette happening there, but he mustered whatever graciousness he could find and answered the question, which was : What was the best advice that Jim Morrison ever gave him? He zipped up, threw his too-close-for-comfort neighbor a smile, and simply said: “Always keep one urinal between you and the guy pissing next to you”. And although it’s very doubtful that Jim Morrison ever really gave Danny that piece of advice, it was that kind of easy, accessible rapport with the fans that always made Danny so approachable. And he liked it that way. Besides, he once laughingly said that he had to be nice since all the other fans outnumbered him and most of them knew where he lived.
Danny certainly left his mark on not only the legacy of The Doors, but in the hearts of Doors fans all over the world. Even today, fans still remember how he took the time to answer an e-mail, return a phone call, or engage in conversation with them. He shared stories with them, was genuinely interested in what they had to say, and was mostly gracious and patient when responding to the endless barrage of questions he’d inevitably be asked. He was always a fan first, and he never forgot that.
As an author, Danny also left his mark on Doors fans everywhere. He had a hand in the best-selling book “No One Here Gets Out Alive“, written not by Danny himself, but by journalist Jerry Hopkins. When Jerry couldn’t find a publisher for the book, Danny tried and succeeded. He wrote the forward and got poet Michael McClure to write the afterward, all of which earned him the title of co-author. The book itself was researched and the interviews done by Jerry Hopkins. Danny had very little input as to its content.
Danny himself authored 2 books about The Doors, “The Illustrated History” and “The Complete Lyrics“, as well as his own stunning, often funny and often chilling autobiography, “Wonderland Avenue“. It told the story of his childhood – his time with The Doors before and after Jim Morrison’s death – and his battle with drug addiction and subsequent recovery – and has been credited by fans all over the world for helping them beat their own drug addictions. Danny was especially proud that his own story was able to keep others from making the same mistakes that he made. He received hundreds of ‘thank you’ e-mails and letters, and he not only replied to every one of them, but in some instances, even made arrangements to meet and talk with some of those fans personally.
It’s been said by fans that if you want to know a little bit about the “real” Jim Morrison, “Wonderland Avenue” is the book to read. The chapters about Danny being a young fan and interacting with Jim give a very good insight into the man Jim Morrison was, and how his influence helped Danny become the man he eventually turned out to be. His whole life, Danny credited Jim for giving him the self-assurance he needed to stay true to himself. He once said that Jim Morrison didn’t make him, but he did help make him who he was.
Danny Sugerman died at the age of 50 on January 5, 2005 after a long battle with cancer. Doors drummer, John Densmore, who visited Danny shortly before his death was quoted by Reuters news service as saying: “Danny was the No. 1 Doors fan of the world. I told him no one loved Jim as much as he did.” And Densmore was right. In one of Danny’s last e-mails to a friend, he talked about Jim Morrison leaving for Paris in March of 1971. He said they talked for a few minutes, and Danny asked Jim if he’d ever see him again. “Count on it Danny”, was the reply that he got. “I’ve been counting on it my whole fucking life”, Danny wrote to his friend. Here’s hoping it happened for him.
And so, in being such an integral part of The Doors legacy, Danny Sugerman left a legacy of his own. His passion, his dedication, and his unending love for The Doors will always live on in the hearts of Doors fans everywhere. Thank you Danny, for all you did, and all that you were to so many. Rest in Peace.
Originally published June 23, 2013.