Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s parting shot last December was his posthumous pardon of the legendary rock star Jim Morrison. Ripples were felt here in Arlington, for reasons I will break on through to.
Unmentioned in books on the frontman of the psychedelic Doors (famous for “Light My Fire” and “Touch Me”) is the fact that Morrison was an intermittent Arlingtonian before his drug-abused heart stopped in that bathtub in Paris in 1971.
It’s complicated. The crooner who made leather pants hip came from a military family that moved dozens of times. Morrison “hometowns” include Los Angeles, Mountain View (Calif.), San Francisco, San Diego, Kingsville (Texas), Albuquerque, Bethesda, Tallahassee, and, yes, Falls Church (6913 Jefferson Ave.)
Alexandria has the best claim because Morrison was a 1961 graduate of George Washington High School (now a middle school). His teen years in a hilltop house on Woodland Terrace are detailed in “The Lizard King Was Here” by local author Mark Opsasnick, who chronicles Morrison hanging out at Alexandria’s Queen Street library, the waterfront, the Wolfe St. tunnel and blues dives on Route 1.
The unsung Arlington connection, I assure you, is not just my own fascination with the poet and sybarite whose baritone rivaled Bing Crosby (only with a better scream).
True, I associate many Arlington sites with memories of the Doors’ carnivalesque organ; with Morrison’s family estrangement that so dramatized the ‘60s generation gap; and with parties at which pals recited Morrison’s reverb-enhanced pronouncements on petitioning the Lord with prayer. The first journalism I published for money was about my visit to Morrison’s freshly dug Parisian grave in December 1971. (Some friends in 2009 sent me a photo confirming it still draws crowds.)
What I’m presenting that’s fresh are Morrison’s actual Arlington addresses.
2320 N. Evergreen St. My high school mate Lowell Schuyler, a retired Arlington policeman, confirmed recently what he said when were kids, that his sister spoke of “little Jimmy Morrison” living in this house in the 1950s.
4907 N. 28th St. Rhonda Baron, an Arlington-based marketer of etiquette DVDs whose mother still lives in this house, says in the ‘70s she occupied the singer’s former bedroom. Her evidence is backed by former neighbor Alan Weimer, who recalls coming home from Yorktown High School in the late ‘60s and seeing the long-haired Morrison sitting on the home’s front stoop. Perhaps the most astonishing sign of his impact is Baron’s tale of experiencing on three occasions the restless spirit of Morrison in her room-real enough, she told me, to leave a dent in the mattress.
1327 S. Glebe Rd. On a 1996 visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, I saw on display (along with Morrison’s Cub Scout uniform) a letter from the sheriff of Dade County. It asked the father, Adm. Stephen Morrison (a key officer in the Vietnam war), whether his son was a good boy. I copied down this address in Arlington. It is now a condo.
The late Robin Richman, my colleague who covered pop music for Life magazine, once told me that an eager Morrison brought her his poetry to publish. He was more vulnerable than his bad-boy rep, she said.
The governor’s pardon has put to rest four-decade-old unproven charges that Morrison had exposed himself on stage. Local boy makes good — after a fashion.
Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org