Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Los Angeles Doors Tour

I have been a Doors fan since 1991. I got into them purely by accident. I was a record store wasting time and the music playing over the speakers caught my attention. It wasn't even a Doors song, it was Carmina Bruana, a very intense opera. I asked a salesperson what classical music CD we were listening to. It wasn't, it was the Doors soundtrack. I was intrigued with the selection of that piece of music on a classic rock band's movie soundtrack. So I went to see the movie, The Doors.

I would hope that in everyone's life they have an epiphany;  a moment of clarity. That was the way I felt after watching The Doors movie. I can still remember walking down the steps with my mind completely blown away. This was a common reaction to witnesses of a Doors concert. I immediately purchased the soundtrack and listened to it too many times to count. Over the years, I began to amass a collection of Doors media. My bookshelf contains at least a dozen books and my CD collection numbers a dozen plus the second box set, the number of tracks at 220. Some of the gems I count in my collection is a compilation CD released by Starbucks, a "blues" release with Albert King, and my personal favorite, the version of The End from Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola, who went to film school with Jim, needed a song to open the movie. He choose The End because of the juxtaposition of the title of the song at the beginning of the movie. One could also submit the insanity of Vietnam conflict was the end of our humanity, one of the themes of the movie. I was fortunate to meet John Densmore, the drummer, at a book signing. My wife and I went to see the Doors tribute band, The Soft Parade. They put on a great show! It was the closest I will ever get to attending a Doors concert.

                                                14 Westminster Ave, Venice Beach

This is probably one of the most important landmarks in the history of The Doors. It was June of 1965 and Jim had planned to move to NYC after graduating from UCLA film school, but stayed in LA instead. He was hanging out with his friends getting drunk and high. He was living with friends or girls he was seeing, with no permanent address. One of his friends, Dennis Jakob, was a janitor at an apartment building and suggested that Jim live on the rooftop. It was perfect environment for him. He was alone to concentrate on his writings and it was here James Douglas Morrison wrote the songs for their seminal self-titled first album, The Doors.

By now Jim had been writing poetry for several years. He was drinking moderately and was consistently smoking weed. An ex-girlfriend commented, in her opinion, that his intake was too high. She should have waited 5 years! LSD was still legal and could be purchased over-the-counter. This was the main ingredient in the creation of the album. Jim had no job, so he was not eating. This resulting in a loss of 35 pounds in roughly 6 weeks. What he was doing was writing and writing and coupled with the psychotic visions from the LSD dancing in his head the album was born. In later interviews Jim explains the first songs written were from a concert he heard in his head.

 8447 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This is one of Jim's favorite restaurants. There are several BB locations throughout the city. This is the original location and has been there since 1927. Every star and musician passing through LA has been to BB. It was a rush to be in the same eatery as Jim. It was more of a rush to sit on same barstool as he did.

8513 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was Jim's liquor store of choice. It is located steps from the Alta Cienega Motel and across the street from the recording studio. Best part? He could purchase liquor on account. Jesus, a liquor store that extended credit to a boozehound like Jim Morrison.

 8505 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This used to be a bar/strip joint called The Phone Booth. This is between the motel and the liquor store.

8500 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was once a bar/strip joint called the Extension. It is on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega. The next building to the west was the Doors office.

8512 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was the Door's offices from 1968 - 1972. The top level was the offices and the lower level was used to record L.A. Woman. I'm glad the building is still standing and of the plaque in the front.

8572 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

Another one of Jim's favorite bars.

 947 La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

This building once had Pam's boutique, Themis and the HWY, Jim's documentary, office. The serious looking gentleman in front is my cousin. He was cool enough to meet me in LA to indulge my quest. We ended up eating at Barney's, walked around, and chatted a bit.

962 La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

Here is where the Doors recorded The Soft Parade and Morrison Hotel.

I was reading Life. Death. Legend, an excellent biography of Jim, and on pages 226 - 227, the author comments on how Jim lived this part of his life in such a small box. Look at the addresses of the landmarks on Santa Monica Blvd., 8447, 8500, 8505, 8512, 8513, and 8572. That's two blocks. On N. La Cienega, 947, 962, and 1005.  That's two blocks as well. The only address "far" away was Pam's apartment on W. Norton Ave and that is only a 10 minute walk. 

 8214 #2 W. Norton Ave., West Hollywood

Jim and Pam lived on the second floor.

The sign says it all. After this residence his new home would be Paris until his death.

9081 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was one of Jim's haunts. It is about 10 blocks from where he lived.

6650 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood

This is the recording studio the Doors used for The Doors and Strange Days. Legend has it, Jim, blitzed out his gourd, returned one night after a recording session and doused the entire studio with foam from a fire extinguisher. When confronted, he claimed to have no memory of the incident. What gave him away? Before dousing the entire studio in foam, he took his boots off and forgot to put them back on before he left.


     6263 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood

This the Army/Navy Surplus store on the corner on Vine and Santa Monica Blvd. This is where Jim would buy his clothes. At this point Jim was interested in clothes that were tough and basic. I read he would go in and buy several sets of clothes to last a few months. The clothes he came in with were thrown away. He said it was akin to a snake molting. 

6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood

Here is the Door's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated on February 28, 2007. Fittingly it is right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. Inside there is a mural of Jim and a pair of his trademark brown leather pants.

Sorry about the blurry picture!

Ok,  I have saved the best for last!...

1005 N. La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

The Alta Cienega Motel. Jim lived in room 32 for three years. His window is on the left of the green sign. 

They actually charged me $10 to open the door so I could look inside. I had to talk the lady behind the window down from $20.

Well, if these walls could talk! The walls and the bathroom look original. I'm guessing the tv, the bed, and furniture are not. The first thing you notice is the graffiti. Almost every square centimeter is covered with some sort of writing or drawing. I saw a picture of the room from 2005 and it does not look too bad. It has evolved exponentially from there. You can still rent the room for $120 a night while the other insignificant rooms rent from about $80.

It was quiet and felt calm inside the room. I have never been in a famous dead person's hotel room. Mick Jagger visited Jim in this room in 1968 before the famous Hollywood Bowl performance.  One can only speculate what shenanigans went on in here. The women, booze, and drugs consumed within these walls are of biblical proportions.  

I went to rayandrobby.com for the guide to the Doors landmarks in LA. I also consulted Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis for additional information. While I discovered the more important landmarks, I did miss a few. The Copper Skillet, The Whisky A Go Go, Gazzari's, The London Fog, the 9000 Building and other places. These landmarks are on the Sunset Strip and I did not get to Laurel Canyon where Jim and Pam lived for a while. 

R.I.P. Raymond Daniel Manzarek

        Yesterday, founding member of the rock band, The Doors, Ray Manzarek, died. He passed away in Germany while being treated for bile duct cancer. His wife, child, and grandchildren were present at the time of his passing. He was 74 years old.

source louderthanwar.com
       Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek first met at UCLA Film School. After graduation Jim had plans to move to New York City. Instead Jim lived on a rooftop in Venice and conjured up the music for the first two Doors albums. Ray though he had seen the last of Jim. However, one day, Ray is on Venice Beach relaxing and spots Jim. He waves him over and asks what happened to New York City. Jim explains that he was just hanging out and writing songs. Intrigued, Ray asks him to sing one of the songs he wrote. The still shy Jim, kneels down, scoops up sand, and sings a few lines of "Moonlight Drive". Ray Manzarek is the first person in the world to hear a Doors song. Instantly Ray suggests they start a rock and roll band. The rest is history.

Raymond Daniel Manzarek Jr.
February 12, 1939 - May 20, 2013
source noise11.com

Monday, May 6, 2013

Best Western Hollywood Hills

6141 Franklin Ave
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 464-5181

Image Source

My wife and I went to LA for the TCM Film Festival. One of her friends, Jill, recommended this hotel near Hollywood Blvd.  This hotel is geared towards a movie buff. It was built in 1948, went through a few remodels and is still standing.

Upon check-in we were immediately impressed. The entire lobby is covered with photos of movie stars mostly past and some present. They also had personal correspondence and cancelled checks from some of the stars. They also had an old-time light they would use on set in the lower lobby. Even a few famous movie lines are paved into one of the parking lots!

The lower lobby. The door on the right leads to the diner.

A letter from Frank Sinatra

A letter from Jimmy Stewart

Sammy Davis Jr.
Desi and Lucy Arnez
Jack Lemmon



Joey Bishop
Francis Ford Coppola


Burt Lancaster
Edward G. Robinson


Kirk Douglas
Paul Henreid

Sydney Greenstreet

I had to take a picture of this! There were hundreds of movie star pictures along the walls. I chose some of my favorites.

When we entered our room we were greeted with more photos of stars from the past. My wife chose the bed with Tyrone Power and I was "stuck" with Orsen Wells. There were several pictures of Marilyn Monroe and a picture of Barbara Eden with one her cancelled checks.

This is inside of the elevator. That is Joan Crawford on the right and Gregory Peck on the left. The two other stars not pictured are Lucille Ball and Natalie Wood.

This is the pool which I intended to use several times. Unfortunately due to the hectic schedule of the TCM Film Festival, I used it exactly once!

Equally impressive was the coffee shop, 101 Coffee Shop. It is named as such because it was your last opportunity to drink a cappuccino before hitting the 101 highway. It was once much smaller and was a drug store. Then it was changed into the diner it is today. The food was moderately priced and very good. I was surprised how tasty everything was. I was expecting bland diner food. We had a very cool waitress, Marissa. I had to ask her which famous persons have eaten there. She mentioned several and noted Drew Carey was a regular and a very good tipper. The movie "Swingers" was filmed there. One morning I was eating breakfast and I saw Johnny Knoxville. On our last day there my wife saw Josh Radnor from, "How I Met Your Mother". It's difficult to tell that is him from this shot. She recognized him before he sat down. 

I was pleasantly surprised how friendly everyone was, the quality of the rooms, and the decor. I would not hesitate to stay in this hotel again. Derrick, one of the gentleman behind the front desk, was kind enough to answer my questions about the history of the hotel and mentioned a video on YouTube chronicling the hotel. I watched it and here it is: