Generations

2nd most overrated rock star still dead…should we care why…?

People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend. – Jim Morrison

jimmorrison.jpgA new interview with Sam Bernett, close friend of Jim Morrison, in that bastion of serious journalism, The Mail, offers a wild new account of the death of the 2nd most overrated rock musician of all time®.

Bernett claims in the exclusive interview that Morrison died of a heroin overdose in a toilet at The Rock and Roll Circus, a Paris night club. Here’s what supposedly happened:

According to Bernett, Morrison bought the heroin from two men working for Jean de Breteuil, a French playboy and drug dealer. “The dealers who Jim was talking to were well known,” said Bernett. “Both were French guys in their 20s. I knew what they were up to, and kept an eye out for Jim. He disappeared to the toilets at around 2 am….

Bernett became concerned when Morrison didn’t reappear, especially after a tip from a club employee:

Then, about half an hour later, a cloakroom attendant came up to me and told me someone was locked in one of the cubicles and wasn’t coming out. It was then that I got a bouncer to smash the door down. Bernett was met by the sight of Morrison’s body, slumped on the toilet.

Supposedly, Morrison was already finding out, as he poetically put it, if “Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens claws.

Bernett says he then got medical confirmation of his suspicion:

Bernett’s first reaction was to send for one of his regular customers, a doctor. The medic, who Bernett refuses to name, recognised Morrison but kept his cool. Very calmly, and expertly, he examined the body for a few seconds…. He pushed Jim’s head back, lifted his eyelids, opened his mouth, and fixed his ear to his chest to listen to his heartbeat. He looked for marks and bruises on the body and the arms. It was a quick and professional examination. His diagnosis was very confident: ‘This man is dead. Apparently the victim of a cardiac arrest.’ The doctor was not stupid and spoke of a lethal overdose.

It’s then when Bernett’s story takes its predictably conspiratorial turn:

In the meantime, Morrison’s two “friends” from the bar who had sold him the heroin had arrived. Ignoring the doctor’s verdict, they insisted the singer ‘had just fainted’ and they would take care of him. Then, according to Bernett, they lifted Morrison’s body out of the toilets and along a corridor that linked the Circus with Alcazar, the club next door which still exists today. That was the last Bernett saw of the body but, from Alcazar, he says it would have been easy to place Morrison in a car or van waiting in the small side street outside, and then take the body to the singer’s apartment across the river in Rue Beautreillis. Minutes after the tragedy, a representative of the club’s owner – a well-connected Paris businessman called Paul Pacini still alive, we are trying to get a comment from him] – warned Bernett not to tell anyone what had happened. Bernett says: I was told, “Since Morrison’s friends want to take him with them, we have nothing more to do with this story. “The club has no responsibility for what happens here. It was a sad accident, certainly, but that’s fate. So we saw nothing, we heard nothing, we shut up! OK? It’s what we better do to avoid a scandal.” Bernett adds that he saw little point in calling the emergency services, as he was convinced Morrison was already dead and nothing could be done for him.

The yarn continues from there with Bernett claiming that Marianne Faithfull was present that night and has remained silent about the conspiracy to cover up Morrison’s actual cause of death. Other key figures who might shed light on the truth of Bernett’s story are, predictably and conveniently, dead – including the doctor who signed Morrison’s death certificate and Pamela Courson, Morrison’s longtime girlfriend who gave the “official” account of Morrison’s last hours. Bernett himself has refused to name the doctor who examined Morrison in the night club in order to “protect” him. Marianne Faithfull was “unavailable for comment,” according to The Mail.

Now for the “call bullshit” portion of the essay…

Let’s start with Bernett: this “interview” appears as part of the PR campaign for a new book Bernett is hawking. It’s subject? Oh, c’mon, you know this – the truth about Jim Morrison’s death! Bernett’s explanation that he’s trying to clear his conscience seems to be conveniently timed. Plausible? Maybe. Probable? Not likely. Way too many people who could have made money knew too much…. Marianne Faithfull, for instance, has never been publicity shy – had she known something of this nature, she’d have done a “tell all” book as soon as the statute of limitations was over – about 15 years ago.

Now for the “conspiracy”: Let’s face it, when a young, talented culture hero dies, we want answers. Let’s look at a short “off the top of my head” list of popular culture “early angels” about whose deaths conspiracy theories have been raised over the years: John Lennon: Brian Jones; Jimi Hendrix; Sam Cooke; James Dean; Tupac Shakur; Janis Joplin; Kurt Cobain; John Belushi; and of course, The Lizard King, about whom we now have a new theory to gab about….

The point?

We have a difficult time dealing with the deaths of famous people we admire. It comforts us to think that somehow they were snatched from us, that they didn’t do stupid things like drink too much, take too many drugs, drive too fast, mess with the wrong woman/man. It makes them human and fallible and problematic if they do such things. It makes them like us.

And it makes us vulnerable to clowns like Bernett peddling crazy tales like his. It lets us think that maybe Jim didn’t just die in a bathtub, his body giving out on him due to years of self-abuse. It makes it possible that sinister forces conspired against him. After all, from Bernett’s story it’s an easy step to believing Morrison was given highly potent, toxic drugs by CIA/FBI/KGB/UFO agents.

It’s easy enough then to believe it wasn’t his fault that he died at 27, a waste of youth and talent.

But it was. And he did.

Damned facts. They always ruin our myth making….

xpost: The Savoy Truffle

4 replies »

  1. Yeah, but you seemed much more willing to credit the conspiracy theory about how Brian Jones was murdered. Was that one just more credible on its face?

    And what kind of idiot either takes Sid Vicious seriously enough (or thinks anybody else does) to make him the most overrated rock star ever? Seriously – I’ll just write my own list and then Morrison can have the #1 slot he so richly deserves….

  2. Well, Sid couldn’t sing OR play. Morrison could sing. That gives Sid a possible statistical edge.

    The Jones thing – I just don’t know. For the very reasons I offer here, I have to be dubious of my own willingness to accept conspiracy in Jones’s death when I readily reject in the other cases….May I just want Brian not to have done something so stupid and wasteful, you know…?

  3. Sid: Right, but where are these people who are OVERRATING him. In order to be overrated, somebody has to be saying you were great. Sure, he was iconic – a SYMBOL of the whole punk thing – but nobody is making him out to be anything beyond that.

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