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November 20, 2010  | by: Kerri O'Malley

Jim Morrison

When you’re strange, death won’t stop the weirdness, it seems.  Florida governor Charlie Crist announced on Tuesday that he will officially submit Jim Morrison’s name to his state’s clemency board in hopes of securing a pardon.  Morrison, lead singer of The Doors-turned-cultural icon since his 1971 death at the age of 27, was arrested, charged, and convicted of profanity and indecent exposure in Miami in 1970. 

The charges came after one of The Doors’ last concerts at the Miami Dinner Key Auditorium in March 1969 took a nose-dive into on-stage drunkenness, and Morrison allegedly whipped out his penis for the crowd to see.  Modern Doors fans may recall Val Kilmer’s re-enaction of the incident as a sort of Dylan-esque “fuck you” to the crowd in Oliver Stone’s 1991 The Doors movie.

Although I’m sure thousands of people would kill for a glimpse of Jim Morrison’s nether region these days, the exposure shocked fans and critics of the time alike (check out the vintage footage of the reaction I found on youtube).  Retrospectively, it signaled the decline of The Doors and exposed Morrison’s increasing inability to control himself.

When asked why bother to pardon Morrison now, 39 years after the singer’s death, Governor Crist responded: “I’ve decided to do it, for the pure and simple reason that I just think it’s the right thing to do. In some ways it seems like a tragic conclusion to a young man’s life to have maybe this be a lasting legacy, where we’re not even sure that it actually occurred. The more that I’ve read about the case and the more I get briefed on it, the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here.”

Morrison was still in the process of appealing the conviction when he died in Paris in 1971.

Still, I doubt fans will remember the exposure as the singer’s “lasting legacy.”  Morrison’s poetry and The Doors unique sound define his legacy.  Honestly, things like his 1969 arrest for indecency and the general debauchery of his life only add to the intrigue and appeal of a pop star who seemed dark, even when cast in the bright lights of stardom.

The appeal is not yet guaranteed, as it must first be approved Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency.  The board will meet on December 9th (the day after what would have been Morrison’s 67th birthday) to discuss the matter.  Where Morrison is now, I can only hope they don’t care about public nudity.

(To read more about the controversy surrounding this pardon and for a link to an 11-part youtube video series on the indecent exposure case, check out this New York Times article.)

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