- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2007

Did Jim Morrison overdose on a nightclub toilet or die of a drug-induced heart attack in a bathtub at home? Thirty-six years after the death in Paris of the Doors legend, biographers are locking horns over his final hours.

The latest book on the life and times of the 1960s rock star, published this month in Paris, says Mr. Morrison was found slumped behind a locked toilet door on July 3, 1971, in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus — a club that in its heyday rocked to the sounds of Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens, the Beach Boys and Eric Clapton.

This version of the so-called Lizard King’s final hours has angered the author of another 2007 book on the singer-cum-poet-cum-filmmaker.

“He is diminishing a great poet and songwriter,” author Philip Steele said of Sam Bernett’s just-published “The End.”

“He’s trashing him,” said Mr. Steele, whose biographical novel about Mr. Morrison, “City of Light,” was published in Germany last February.

Not so, retorted Mr. Bernett, a writer and former journalist and nightclub operator who was then the 23-year-old manager of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. “I’m not tarnishing anything; I’m simply telling the truth” he told Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Bernett says in his book that on the night of July 2-3, 27-year-old Mr. Morrison turned up after midnight, binged on vodka and beer, bought a dose of heroin intended for his girlfriend and disappeared into the men’s room.

When Mr. Bernett, the bouncer and the cloakroom attendant forced open the toilet door, “Jim Morrison is there, his head between his knees, his arms hanging,” Mr. Bernett writes.

“I raised his head gently, holding him by the shoulders to stop him falling over. His face was gray, his eyes shut, there was blood under his nose, and whitish dribble like froth around his slightly open mouth and in his beard.”

Among those who rushed to the scene were two dealers believed to have sold Mr. Morrison drugs and a doctor whom Mr. Bernett knew was at the club that night. The dealers, unfazed, decreed the singer was alive but faint.

And when the doctor, who is unnamed in the book, pronounced him dead, probably of heart failure, the two took matters into their own hands, dragging the singer, with difficulty, out through a back door leading into an empty nightclub that backed onto the now defunct Rock ‘n ‘Roll Circus, on Paris’ hip Left Bank.

How they got Mr. Morrison back to his home — where they threw him into a hot bath in a failed attempt to revive him as his hysterical girlfriend looked on — Mr. Bernett does not know.

Another witness, contacted by AFP, said Mr. Morrison was carried from the club rolled up in a blanket.

“He had a malaise in the toilets and I helped carry him,” said war photographer Patrice Chauvel, who, then aged 19, worked in the club. “I don’t know if he was dead. Maybe he died at home. They announced his death the next day, or perhaps the day after, I don’t remember.”

“He was overweight, bearded, violent and a bit delirious. The boss wasn’t too pleased to have him as a customer as it was a very fashionable club.”

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