Pop-quiz: name the definite biography on Jim Morrison and the Doors? There really isn't any argument, is there? No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins. 

Where should you begin in writing about Jerry? Well, how about his biography? Jerry Hopkins has published more than 1,000 magazine articles and 27 books, including three international best sellers.

}His biography of Jim Morrison, No One Here Gets Out Alive, went to No. 1 in the New York Times in 1980 and to No. 2 in 1991. It has sold more than four million copies and was a primary source for Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors. A collection of interviews with Morrison, with an updated and revised biography, was published in 1992. Other biographical subjects include Elvis Presley (Elvis: A Biography, published in 1971, and Elvis: The Final Years, 1980; totaling 3.5 million copies sold), Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Yoko Ono - comprising a body of work that earned Hopkins the title "The Dean of Rock Biography".    

Additional books about popular music include a history (The Rock Story), and books about music festivals (An American Celebration), (Groupies and Other Girls). His other books cover a wide range of subjects including humor, journalism, the environment, Hawaiian history, behavior modification and strange foods.

For over three decades, Hopkins served as a correspondent and contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine in Europe, Africa, the US, and Asia, and published articles in the New York Times, Far Eastern Economic Review, Islands, and numerous in-flight magazines. He has also worked as a feature writer, reporter, and music critic for daily and weekly newspapers, including the Village Voice and Los Angeles Times. And he's worked as a radio news editor; and as a writer-producer in television for Mike Wallace, Steve Allen, and Mort Sahl, among others. He's been based in Bangkok for the past ten years.

Recently Scott Murray had a chance to sit down and talk with Mr. Hopkins about his life and work as a writer.

Why did you decide to stay in Thailand?
"I decided to stay for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I'm married and have a Thai family in Surin. Much to my delight, I discovered that Thailand was able to continue to surprise me on a weekly basis. This is part of the country's charm and I think that's what holds a lot of ex-pats' attention and loyalty to the country. There's no place I'd rather be."

Tell us about your marriage?
"I met a woman named Lamyai about seven years ago, and we became an item about three years ago. We built a house on her family's rice farm outside of Surin, in what is predominately an ethnic Khmer neighborhood. We were married earlier this year, twice actually in four languages. I've never been so married in my life. The first ceremony was held in our home and was conducted by a Khmer ajarn (the Thai word for teacher, which has a more priest-like connotation in Khmer). We also had a couple of Buddhist monks come and chant in ancient Pali in the afternoon.

"Then three days later, with thirteen of Lamyai's family members traveling to Bangkok by train, we did it again this time at Father Joe Maier's Mercy Centre with Father Joe conducting the service in English and Thai. Afterwards, we had a reception, attended by 40 of Father Joe's street kids. So we asked all of our guests to bring stuffed animals, which they could then present to the kids.

"Our arrangement sees me spend a week, or ten days, out of each month in Surin with Lamyai doing the same in Bangkok so that gives us two to three weeks of every month together and gives her most of her time in Surin with her family. I sit on the balcony of our house there, but Lamyai doesn't have 'balcony' in her English vocabulary yet so she calls it the place where 'papasitdowndrinkbeer' and I look out on a rice paddy that's about half the size of France. It's flat as a billiard table and nothing much but rice."

You are known for writing so many great books about music, how did you get into Strange Foods?
"I still write about music but I tend to write about Gamalan and Mor Lam Sing and other local music. And what the Strange Foods book represents isn't really that much of a deviation. I have always been interested in the road less traveled; I have always marched to a different drummer. Strange Foods was just one of those things I was always interested in but never thought of in terms of it being material for a book.

"Over the years, even going back to my teenage years, when I encountered unusual foods I would want to try them. In 1972, when my son was born in London I took the placenta home from the delivery room, cooked it, made it into a pate, and served it to my guests the next day, who came to meet my new child. I recently got a letter from the Ripley's Believe It or Not TV show in New York and they asked me if they came to Thailand would I recreate that for them. I told them when I did that back in 1972, it was a hell of a long time before anyone had ever heard of AIDS, and I was using my then wife's placenta. Can you possibly imagine my calling up a local hospital in Bangkok and asking for a placenta? I think it would be the first recipe that included an HIV test.

"The idea for Strange Foods came about from two small book proposals; one was to be called The Complete Crocodile Cookbook, which would then be reprinted with one word changed as The Great Alligator Cookbook; the other would be called The Great Shark Cookbook. I visualized this as a large format paperback that would be sold where crocodile, alligator, and shark show up on the menu on a regular basis. I submitted it to a publisher in Singapore who said he wasn't interested but said he would be if I expanded the scope of the book to include even more unusual foods.

"Then I heard from a friend that Michael Freeman has a collection of photographs of strange food. It turned out that we had both spent significant parts of our lives chasing the same subject. So with the publisher's approval, we became collaborators but the project was delayed for a year as Michael continued to take pictures while piggybacking assignments. So if he went to Japan, I would say while you're there go to Shimonoseki because I'm going to do a chapter on fugu and whale and both of those fishery industries are in that city. Then when he went to Paris, I told him to put aside a Saturday to photograph the markets and restaurants that sell horse. So over a period of a year or so, the text was cut considerably to make room for Michael's great photographs. It's strange foods from the entire world and throughout history. The chapter that starts out with my cooking a placenta goes back and really is in large part a history of cannibalism."

Please tell us your thoughts on Oliver Stone's film based on your book, No One Here Gets Out Alive?
"Oliver Stone bought the rights to my book, and he bought the rights to my research material, which were essentially the transcripts to 200 interviews I had done. That was the extent of my involvement in the film. I have mixed feelings about the movie. Mainly that it was so one-sided. Jim was a drunken fool, but that wasn't all he was. I knew Morrison. I knew him to a man who had a sense of humor about himself. He was a man of staggering intelligence. He read enormously, and he remembered everything he read. The man put things together in an interesting manner, and he was a great conversationalist. Very little of that comes out in the movie. Forty percent of the movie is sheer fiction. Stone merged characters. He ignored chronology. It was Stone writing his version of the sixties. Stone has done this before. Born on the Fourth of July also had some major pieces of fiction in it; JFK as brilliant as it was had me almost laughing.

"Hollywood never has let the facts get in the way of a good story. People credit Rolling Stone with inventing gonzo journalism but Hollywood was way ahead of them. The way Hollywood portrays the American West wasn't the way it was. Oliver was just being Oliver. He is a terrific filmmaker. What bothers me most about Stone is that most young people today use movies as their major information sources and he knows it. If they get misinformation from the film they won't even bother to crosscheck with a book. Oliver's dishonesty and he is not alone in this, is a disservice to young people whose ideas are formed by what they see in the movies."

Is there any truth to the rumor you introduced Lenny Bruce to Groucho Marx?
"From 1962-64 I worked for Steve Allen as his 'Vice-President of Left Fielders' - his kook booker. We did five shows a week, and I had to come up with someone off the wall for every show. Then one of the nights we weren't filming I arranged for stand-up comedian and satirist Paul Krassner to host a show at our theater, and most of the big time comedians in Hollywood were invited. Then near the end of the evening, I just happened to be standing close to two people who had never met each other and I said, 'Lenny met Groucho, Groucho met Lenny.'"

I also heard that you dated a movie star for a couple of years?
"Yeah, well, sort of. That was in 1965 when I was booking acts on a syndicated rock n' roll show for ABC TV in the States, and we had three go-go dancers on platforms above the stage, and all the top groups lip-synched to their hits. I went out with one of them. She called herself 'Terry Garr, Movie Star' although at the time all she had going was a Dial soap commercial. Later she shortened her name to Teri and became famous for role in Young Frankenstein, and was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Dustin Hoffman's girlfriend in Tootsie."

What about the Yoko Ono book?
"I didn't want to do the Yoko book, I wanted to do a book about Cher, but my publisher didn't and he suggested Yoko. I had been writing about Yoko's artwork years before she met John Lennon. And though she remained a minor figure in art, I thought she was underrated and I also believed she had nothing to do with the Beatles break up. I also thought she deserved a biography, if for no other reason than she was John Lennon's wife. So I wrote the book and I blew it. There were two important themes in her life that I gave short shrift. One was how an ex-Japanese national who had grown up in Japan, had become so westernized that she was no longer accepted in Japan. She was loathed for going blue-eyed. At the same time, she was loathed in the West for breaking up the Beatles, and for being Asian. At that being between a rock and a hard place had a lot to do with her story, and I didn't cover it adequately."

What about the book you were supposed to do on Raquel Welsh?
"It was actually her manager's idea. She was the great sex symbol of the 60s and he had read my Elvis biography and wanted me to do the same thing for her, but with her cooperation. So I hung out with her for a year, even went with her to Rio when she was doing a round-the-world nightclub tour. She'd just broken up with her longtime boyfriend and my wife had just walked out on me, so when we went dancing in Rio's nightclubs, the newspapers called me the 'mysterioso barbudo Americano,' (the mysterious bearded American). But when I finished a draft of the book, she hated it and I never heard from her again, only from her lawyer, who said if I even so much as told a story about Raquel at a cocktail party he'd come after me with hedge clippers."

Tell us about your Hendrix experience?
"My then wife was taking a yoga class in LA when a young black guy made a move on her and said he was with Jimi Hendrix and would she would like to meet him. She said, 'Yah and so would my husband who is a writer for Rolling Stone.' The guy had the class to introduce us both. So that afternoon, we went to Jimi's hotel, the Beverly Rodeo, on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and he was gracious enough to give me an interview. Jimi was inarticulate except when it came to his guitar, and I don't know why anyone ever expected him to speak as well as he could play. He had decided to break up the Jimi Hendrix Experience and start what he called Skychurch Music, so I got that story for Rolling Stone. There was another guy in the room who had just gotten out of the army, and he was going to the bass player in Jimi's new band. So at the end of the interview, Jimi said 'my friend and I are just going to jam for awhile if you want to hang out that would be alright.' So we sat there and listened to Jimi Hendrix jam for an hour."

How did you end up having the first head shop in L.A.?
"I was working in TV in L.A. and became quite disenchanted and I had a buddy who just as unhappy as I was so in 1966, a year before the summer of love, we quit our jobs and opened up a store. We decided to call it 'Headquarters' and we opened up shop in Westwood, which was close to UCLA and not far from University High School, where we figured most of our clientele would come from (it was the third in the country, with others in New York and San Francisco). Newsweek got on to us and came to interview us and I'm not sure how happy I am about this but I feel I have to take some credit or blame for what happened next. I told their reporter, and he dutifully told the world, that if we continued to take in money at the rate we had in the first six months of our business we would gross US$50,000 a year. As soon as the issue came out, all across America, I could hear, 'Hey man, let's open a head shop.' Then just like mushrooms, they sprang up everywhere across the country."

How did the idea for the book No One Here Gets Out Alive come about?
"Jim was not a friend of mine, but he was more than an acquaintance. Our paths crossed, we drank in some of the same bars. I was the Rolling Stone correspondent in LA, and I interviewed him a number of times. He invited me to poetry readings and screenings. After the infamous Miami concert, where he allegedly dropped his pants, and I am convinced he did not, he refused to give interviews for a while, even with Rolling Stone who he was upset with for portraying him as a 'drunken clown.' Eventually, I got the interview though, and I wanted to do it because I knew that Jim had a lot more to him than the media was painting. During the course of the interview, we discovered that we had the same literary agent.

"The idea of doing a biography had appealed to me. I considered doing Frank Zappa. I had known him pre-rock n' roll, and I thought he was intelligent and articulate. Jim said he would like to read a book about Elvis, so I wrote a book about Elvis back in 1969. People said, "What are you writing about Elvis for?" He hasn't even gone back to Vegas yet. He was still making all those dumb movies. The book was sold to the same publisher that Jim had (Simon & Schuster), the same editor as well. The book was dedicated to Jim; unfortunately, he died before it was published. Two days after Morrison's death our mutual editor at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Dolger, called me and asked me to do a book on Jim. I told him I had already decided to do one, and when he asked why I said it was because I was more affected by Jim's death than our relationship warranted, and I wanted to find out why.

"ImageJim Morrison was an interesting guy who wasn't given the respect that he and his group deserved. Today most of my fan mail comes from teenagers. I think it is one of those rites of passage books. The continuing new readership is a youthful one, just as the majority of the recordings are sold to young people who are just discovering Jim Morrison.    

"The music holds up, and at the end of it all, it's the music people remember. A lot of the hits of the 60s are nostalgia now, and that's all. The Doors' music, however, is just as easy to listen to today as it was twenty years ago. The themes that Morrison wrote about, however dark some of them may have been, were universal themes: rebellion against ones parents, the search for identity, taking risks. Morrison appeals to people looking for answers. Not that he ever thought he had any. His whole point was to, 'By God, ask questions, take risks.' Morrison cut a figure that many have emulated since. An interesting point about the Doors is that even though Jim Morrison or Robbie Krieger may have written the songs, the songs always said written by the Doors, and the royalties were split four ways even though one individual may have written the song."

What are your favorite Doors' albums?
"My favorite Doors albums are The Doors and Strange Days, which came out in 1967. I also liked the last LP, LA Woman, which came out in 1971, and Morrison Hotel from 1970 if for no other reason than the song Roadhouse Blues. 'I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer, the future is uncertain, and the end is always near.' Word to live by."

How has journalism changed since you first started in the business?
"Checkbook journalism is anathema. When people are being paid for a story, they make a hell of a lot more of it than they should because they want to please the guy who has given them a lot of money. For example in the OJ Simpson case, the guy who sold him a knife was paid US$10,000 by a supermarket tabloid for his story. What story? There is no story there. The sensationalist approach to the news bothers me. The trivialization of major issues bothers me. Many developments are to be applauded though, as well. Whatever flaws CNN may have, it is a brilliant accomplishment. It has created a world community something that even the BBC world service couldn't pull off."

What writers have influenced you the most?
"The writer who influenced me the most was a World War II correspondent named Ernie Pyle, who was shot by a sniper on Ie Jima in the final days of the war. He is buried at a cemetery called the Punchbowl in Oahu. He wrote about the little guys, the foot soldiers, and he wrote about them with humanity and dignity. I was reading him when I was nine years old and I decided then that I wanted to do what he did: travel around the world, meet interesting people and write about them. I never changed my mind. Authors I admire included Ernest Hemingway for his sense of adventure and Thomas Wolfe for his lust for life."

Parting Comment?
"Rock n' roll has been very good to me. Both of my kids went to college thanks to Jim Morrison and the book continues to provide income, but it is not enough to cover everything. I've led a life that was blessed and I have taken advantage of every opportunity that was offered, which is the better part of success very often. But there's a great deal to be said about being in the right place at the right time."

For more information contact Jerry Hopkins c/o:
48 Sukhumvit Soi 8
Klong Toey, Bangkok
Thailand 10110

Tel & Fax: (02) 254-3189
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Note from Jerry Hopkins

Dear Friends,

"When I returned from Surin recently, I had a dozen messages from friends about a new book written by a guy who managed the nightclub in Paris where he said Jim Morrison died of a heroin overdose in the club¹s men¹s room. This story got really big play in Time, CNN, etc.  I am amazed for two reasons.  One: I wouldn¹t have thought anyone really much cared after all this time. Two: it¹s not news.  It was common knowledge in Paris when I was researching NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE in 1972 and some others have told it since, in print.
"Jim died July 3, 1971.  The official story was that the cause of death was a heart attack, his having been found in a bathtub by his common-law wife Pamela.  There was no autopsy (none was required by French law, so long as there were no signs to indicate anything more than death due to ³natural causes²).  As it happened, all of 1972 I was in London for Rolling Stone and I made several trips to Paris to research the final months of Jim¹s life. Several individuals, including people at the Rock and Roll Circus when Jim OD¹d (not the guy who wrote the book), confirmed what is now making headlines 35 years later.  When I returned to the States the beginning of 1973, a further source told me that heroin was the cause of death---this woman being the person Pamela stayed with for several months after she returned from France to the US.  All were credible sources.
"I wanted to end NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE in an unusual way. I wanted there to be two final chapters.  One would spell out in detail how Jim died of a
heroin overdose in the bar toilet and was hurriedly and secretly taken to his flat and thrown into the tub, the place overdose cases often are taken in an attempt at revival.  The second final chapter would contend Jim wasn¹t dead at all, but merely staged his death and vanished to gain the ³freedom that came with anonymity.²  My suggestion to the publisher, Warner Books, was that if they printed 10,000 copies of the book, let¹s conclude 5,000 with one version, the other 5,000 with the other one. Then distribute randomly and don¹t say anything.  See what happens.
"I still think it¹s a good gimmick and one that I believed was appropriate to the telling of Jim¹s life.  Warner Books said it was too complicated, asking me to merge the two endings and give the book an ambiguous close.  I did that, and in the process, a lot of the overdose detail was lost.  But it is in there: the heroin, the nightclub toilet, the bathtub.  I don¹t have my files handy, but as I recall, the nightclub backed up to another (fancier) club on the next street and Jim¹s body was carried through the kitchen the two clubs shared, through the darkened showroom of the second club as its performer went right on singing or whatever, then was thrown into a cab and taken home.  When the doc looked at the body, he saw no needle marks and ruled it a heart attack.  (Jim hated needles and in this unusual use of heroin inhaled; he also was probably drunk, so the two central nervous system depressants hit him synergistically, meaning 1 plus 1 equals 3, and he died on the spot.)  His name also was given to authorities as Douglas James Morrison and he was identified as an 'American poet,' so no one was the wiser. The date also probably played a role; when the death was reported to the US Embassy, it was July 4th, a day when the embassy was operating in low gear.
"I haven¹t read the new book, THE END---JIM MORRISON by Sam Bernett, but I suspect his story is little different from mine.  NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE was published in 1980 (after being rejected more than 30 times) and I suppose it was the ambiguous ending that drew the readers¹ and critics¹ attention away from the various choices of ³end.²
"In the following years, several others told what had happened, including the French filmmaker Agnes Varda and Jim¹s friend from his days at the UCLA film school, Alan Ronay, the two people called by Pamela, who were on the scene by the time the paramedics arrived.  Initially, they assisted Pamela in her cover-up, but later gave interviews to the press and Ronay wrote a book in which something closer to the truth was told.  In 1996, I wrote an epilog to my book finally telling of the overdose. A year later, Schirmer Books published THE DOORS COMPANION, a collection of essays and commentary edited by John Rocco that included a story by Albert Goldman, the mean-spirited biographer of Elvis and John Lennon who died when he was working on a Morrison book.  He made a clear case for a heroin overdose, getting the story from some of the same people who had given it to me.  (Goldman did his best to make me look like a fool, said I was a lousy reporter who didn¹t believe my sources, and I exploited Jim rather than tell the truth. To which I offer no comment.)  So there was hardly any news in the new book.

"I¹m sure this won¹t be the last word on Jim, however.  Ray Manzarek may be older than Mick Jagger, and he and Robbie Krieger may be calling themselves Riders on the Storm (after John Densmore took them to court for using the name the Doors, and won), but they are still doing sell-out shows across the US and Europe. The CDs continue to sell.  There's a brisk market in memorabilia.  (Check eBay and <>.)  Pere Lachaise Cimetiere, where the poet is buried, is Paris¹s third most popular visitor attraction after the Eiffel Tower and the Louvres.  Friends tell me that there¹s even a tour of Paris that takes the curious to all the places Jim frequented; I¹m sure the Rock On¹ Roll Circus, or whatever is at that location nowadays is now on the tour.

"I want to thank Time and CNN and all the others for jumping on the tired old bandwagon.  It may sell a few books, of course, but most important, it will help keep Jim Morrison¹s name alive, and for good reason or poor keep the Doors¹ music alive, as well.  Because I believe it¹s the music that keeps the Doors going, not just Jim¹s lifestyle."

Thanks, Jerry


(Sadly, Jerry Hopkins passed away in Bangkok on June 3, 2018)


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