Sexual Stimuli: Neuroimaging, Jim Morrison

Doors frontman Jim Morrison was photographed in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Paul Ferrara.
Doors frontman Jim Morrison was photographed in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Paul Ferrara.

Jim Morrison was the first rock and roll method actor who would wrap myths around him like a long leather coat, protecting and disguising himself in the process. In September 1965 Morrison met an eighteen-year-old redhead called Pamela Courson. Morrison's family were conventional, middle-class Republicans, with traditional patriarchal values. Pamela was ‘looking for something meaningful to do’. In Jim Morrison she found it. The couple fell in love, soon becoming inseparable, and their relationship continued right up until his death. It was a perversely normal relationship—sexual but platonic too. "Sex is full of lies," Morrison once said: "Sex can be a liberation. But it can also be an entrapment. Our society places a supreme value on control. We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict."

Jim Morrison would usually wait for women to approach him. He wasn’t particularly choosy, and would often slip away from a party with women who wouldn’t normally be considered to be in his league. He tried to placate his 'cosmic mate' Pamela with endless expensive presents, by letting her go shopping in his chauffeured limousine, and even bought her a clothes boutique. She tried to cope by initiating her own affairs (one of these revenge flings was with Morrison's friend Paul Ferrara). Andy Warhol, in his memoir POPism, remembered: ‘Jim would stand at the bar drinking screwdrivers all night long, and he’d get really far gone.’ Warhol also pinpointed part of Morrison’s appeal: ‘The girls were only interested in the guys that didn’t go after them. I saw a lot of girls pass on Warren Beatty, who was so good looking, just because they knew he wanted to fuck them, and they’d go looking for somebody who looked like he didn’t want to, who had problems.’ Warhol had wanted to film "I, A Man" with Jim Morrison and Nico both naked, but Morrison sent Tom Baker on his behalf. Morrison didn't attend any photoshoot with Nico not to incur Pamela's wrath. Tom Baker had dated Pamela before she met Morrison. Baker and Morrison would came to blows after their arrest in Phoenix.

Janet Erwin, a friend of journalist and former Morrison's lover Patricia Kennealy, remembers an occasion when Morrison was cluelessly hit on by a 'poor schlub' who didn't realize Morrison was "one of the most robustly and notoriously heterosexual men on the planet, the goddam Warren Beatty of rock." Mick Farren wrote about Morrison's myth in The Black Leather Jacket (2007) as: ‘the kind of ancient fertility religions ensured their followers’ survival and prosperity by choosing a monarch (young, cute and virile), who would be sacrificed by cute young females after seven years or some other mystic period. Morrison proposed himself as his generation’s sacrificial lamb: ‘We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish.’ As Farren pointed out, this wasn’t merely a bleak observation: it was Morrison’s career goal. Dressed in his martyr’s garb, he was ready to be lauded, victimised, and immortalised.

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