Jim Morrison’s Arrest History
Jim Morrison’s iconic status in the history of rock is hard to dispute. But what goes along with his role as lead singer and primary lyricist for the Doors is his bad boy image – especially when it comes it his run-ins with the law. That’s not to say the other members of the Doors didn’t do anything illegal, it’s just that they never got caught – save perhaps for John Densmore, who was arrested for protesting the logging practices of Bose-Cascade in 2001.
When one looks at the destructive role alcohol played in Morrison’s short life, it is indeed tragic. However, in addition to seeing Morrison as a tragic figure, there’s also the ‘90s cynicism of Denis Leary, who summed up Jim Morrison’s life in ‘No Cure for Cancer’ as: “I'm drunk, I'm nobody, I'm drunk, I'm famous, I'm drunk, I'm f---ing dead.” Whether you embrace the narrative of tragedy or how Leary makes the Lizard King the punchline of a joke, it’s clear that Morrison’s effect on the popular culture 40-plus years after his death looms large. His arrest record shows he was no saint, but it also shows he embodied an anti-authoritarian (and self-destructive) streak that pervaded the counter-culture of the '60s.
While attending Florida State University, Morrison is arrested for being a publicly drunk prankster during a school football game. It was the first, but not the last, time alcohol played a role in Morrison’s brushes with the law. After consuming what was described as "a fair amount of wine," Morrison proceeded to make fun of the football players and people in the crowd at Campbell Stadium. The police were called, but before they could catch and arrest Morrison, he stole an umbrella, and a police officer’s helmet from a squad car. He was charged with "disturbing the peace by being drunk," resisting arrest, and petty larceny.
Morrison's second brush with the law took place after a road trip with a couple of classmates went awry, with one of them, Phil O'Leno being separated from the other two. Upon returning, Morrison boasted about killing O'Leno and burying him in the desert. O'Leno's father pursued a police investigation into the matter, which revealed that Morrison had, without permission, kissed a 14-year old girl at the onset of the trip. Morrison was arrested on sexual assault charges and questioned about O'Leno's disappearance. The charges were dropped when his classmate resurfaced.
Morrison was arrested during a performance in New Haven, CT for inciting a riot after taunting the police at the show during the song 'Back Door Man.' Ray Manzarek recounted that Morrison and a woman were backstage making out in a shower stall. A cop saw them, and told them to leave. Morrison refused and then was maced by the cop, who later apologized when he found out Morrison was the lead singer of the band. On stage, he launched into a diatribe against the cop, calling him a “little blue man in a little blue hat.” After saying that the “little blue pig” maced him and that “they’ll do it to you,” the police rushed the stage and arrested Morrison, charging him for inciting a riot, public obscenity (he dropped the f-bomb a couple of times) and indecency.
On a trip to Las Vegas with writer Robert Grover, they stopped off at the Pussycat a’ Go-Go. Morrison, ever the prankster, was smoking a cigarette like a joint and one of the security guards at the club wasn’t having any of it. Morrison reportedly told the guard, “Whyn’t you jump up mah ass?” and was met with a billy club to the head. When the cops arrived, they arrested the pair for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace. The singer then taunted the cops in the parking lot of the club and at the police station. The pair were strip-searched, doused with a boric acid powder and thrown into a cell, with Morrison continuing to yell profanities at the cops until one of the officers said that he would see Morrison “in private” when he clocked out. Fortunately, Grover’s girlfriend was able to post bail for the duo before their "private" meeting with the cops.
Morrison’s homecoming to the Sunshine State was even less welcoming than his first arrest at Florida State University. It was the start of the Doors’ tour, and after the band launched into 'Touch Me' from the soon-to-be released album 'The Soft Parade,’ Morrison stopped the band and started on a long rant about love and hate. After someone from the audience poured champagne on him, Morrison took his shirt off, held it over his crotch and simulated masturbation. Morrison was also accused of exposing himself on stage. Concert promoter Ken Collier ended the show after things got too chaotic with audience members on the stage and Morrison repeatedly shouting for revolution. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he turned himself in a month later. He was found guilty on charges of public exposure and profanity, but not lewd behavior or public drunkenness. However, Morrison died before his appeal could be heard and, in 2010, Florida Governor, Charlie Crist, pardoned Jim Morrison, citing that there was a lot of doubt as to what happened at the concert.
Morrison’s final arrest before his death on July 3, 1971 was in Los Angeles. After a night of drinking, Morrison fell asleep on a porch in front of Elenor Brough’s home. She found Morrison in the morning when she went to get her paper and unsuccessfully tried to rouse him out of this stupor. She then called the police, who arrested him, but he paid $25 bail and was released.