An hour of magic with Jim Morrisonís friend Frank Lisciandro
A very special interview

A Ship Of Fools was very proud to give you the opportunity to send your questions to Frank Lisciandro. We got more then sixty questions from the fans! After a serious sorting out, we did forward the best of them to Frank Lisciandro himself. Most of the fans out there already know that Frank Lisciandro worked on the documentary Feast of Friends and the movie HWY. He was also one of the cameramen for the famous Hollywood Bowl concert. He published two books about Jim Morrison, Feast Of Friends and An Hour For Magic. He took an astronomical quantity of great pictures of Jim on and off stage. Being one of his closest friends, he was also part of many of Morrison's non-musical projects. This was more then reason enough to start this interview project, and we are all happy to present here the first part of this very special interview. Here is your chance to know a little more about Frank Lisciandro and his friend Jim Morrison. Take your time and have a closer look at the man behind the myth. We hope everyone out there will enjoy it, we did.

Jim Morrison and Albert King - Vancouver 1970
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

© 2002 A Ship Of Fools (Frank Lisciandro, Louis Boisclair, Tony Romanazzi, Paolo Facen)
This article and the accompanying photographs may not be distributed in any other context or media without the written permission of the copyright owners.

And now a few words from people who are involved in this project:

Louis Boisclair: A Ship Of Fools, in collaboration with the Feast Of Friends fan club, was very proud to give you the opportunity to send your own questions to Frank Lisciandro for an interview. Frank Lisciandro agreed to answer all the questions that seem appropriate about Jim Morrison, the man and his accomplishments. Paolo, Tony and me worked on this interview for about 1 year and now, itís time to show you, all Doors fans, what some of you are looking for since the past 30 years, an exclusive interview with a Jim Morrisonís close friend. You will see that Frank took the time to answer each question with his own feelings and will uncover a Jimís side that we didnít hear often in the past. We will learn a lot more about Jim, the artist, the poet and human being and throw away some myths that circulate among the Doors community year after year. Iím very proud to be part of this interesting project and Iím sure that you will enjoy this special occasion in your life being a Doors fan. Finally, I want to thank Frank to have agreed to do this interview only for us and be sure that all appreciate your words. Now, the ceremony is about to begin...

Tony Romanazzi: Hello Doors people, we are very happy to offer you a very interesting interview with Frank Lisciandro, longtime friend of Jim Morrison, photographer, filmmaker and author of two excellent books on Jim Morrison (An Hour For Magic and Feast Of Friends). Hopefully he can cast some light into the shadows. You know, the Doors camp is famous for hiding things, there are plenty of spy stories about videos and tapes. Collectors went crazy for information about songs and venues of live official releases. Videos are very difficult to find. We know a lot of footage exists, but for some unknown reason we couldn't see this stuff for many years. Frank can tell us also more about Jimís poetry. He, Katherine, and Corky Courson worked hard publishing two books of poems of James Douglas Morrison. Frank Lisciandro also was co-producer of the "An American Prayer" album in 1978; there are mountains of questions to ask. It's impossible to ask everything, but he can talk to us about the young Jim at UCLA, life on tour with the band, the Doors office, relationship with the Elektra people, the music, the photos, sixties personalities and hanging around with Jim. Now Frank it's your turn, please reply to our questions. Peace & love.

Paolo Facen: I think this is a nice project. Louis, Tony and me started all this last year with an announcement at the Ship Of Fools Forum. The task was to collect interesting questions only, questions that go straight to the heart of who Jim Morrison was, and what he tried to do during his short life. We were looking for questions about the man and his work. It was our lucky chance that Frank Lisciandro agreed to do this interview sharing a close look inside the world of Jim. Of course there are not only question about Jim the singer, the poet, the filmmaker, the friend or human being, there are also many questions about rarities and any further releases or projects. We all hope Frank will be able to respond to a few of these topics in the near future. There are also a few questions about video and audio tapes that are still there unreleased in the vaults. And itís the true hope of any hardcore fan to hear and see as much Jim Morrison as he can get. Thank you for your time Frank, we all are so grateful to be part of this journey.
Here's a few thoughts from a fan who sent great questions, this is the place to share your comments for this interview, so if you like to share your feelings, we will post more "fans voices" here in the near future:
Robert Lang: I would like to thank Frank Lisciandro for his loyalty to his deceased buddy Jim Morrison. So called friends still try to promote the Lizard King image for the sole purpose of making money. Jim had put behind that image and was moving on with his life. Thanks to these so called friends, many Doors fans are left with an image of Jim Morrison as a complete ogre and asshole. Thank goodness that we can now get the real story. Frank Lisciandro presents the true image of Jim as a kind and gifted human being along with all the samedeficiencies that the rest of us have. Thank you Frank!


Question # 1

Frank, you were one of the producers during the project "An American Prayer". How do you think about this album twenty years after the release? Was this a good idea to add new Doors music to Jim's' poetry?

The "An American Prayer" album still sounds good today, more than 20 years after it was made. It was one of the first records to successfully mix spoken poetry and rock music, so it cut some new ground. Should we have released Jim's poetry without the Doors music? In some cases the music does not distract from Jim's poems, in other places it is an intrusion. I am always skeptical about the use of music in films because the music is often used as a signal to the audience about what emotion to feel. For example, a sad scene will begin with lots of crying violins to condition us to feel the pathos that the scene hopes to convey. If the scene itself without the music is not able to portray the intended emotion, then the use of music is manipulative.

The last part of album when Jim reads his magnificent poem "An American Prayer" could have been ruined with the wrong music. But the Albinoni piece fits the poem beautifully and abstractly. It doesn't tell us what to feel, yet it carries us on a tangent and similar trip as the poem. That lovely piece of music is stirring and emotional without strangling the poem. The music lets the poem reach it's full dramatic impact without specific comment. Many people have said that the music is too loud and tends to drown out the softly spoken words of Jim's poetry. I agree. I think that the music should have been under the poetry, way under. If there is to be another album of Jim's spoken poetry (and I hope that there will be), I would use very little music, or maybe no music at all. Just the sound of Jim's voice and the beauty of his poetic images. But that's for the future; what we have now is "An American Prayer". Give it a listen, play it for friends or strangers. Listen to it in the dark with just a candle burning. There is something wonderful about the album. Something magical.

Question # 2

Many fans would like to hear more of Jim's' poetry who didn't make it onto "An American Prayer"! Do you think one day they will get the chance to listen to more unreleased poetry, I mean poetry without any Doors music, poetry like he did record in 1969 or the evening of his last birthday? You are not only one of Jim's best friends, after his death in 1971 you were also one of the main persons in all projects related to his poetry. I remember also your photos from the birthday session, and you did read a few poems yourself that night, right? How do you feel about Jim's role as a visionary poet of the last century?

The Doors in the studio
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

That's a very involved question or questions. Let me answer it my way. I was present at the recording of Jim's poetry on his birthday in 1970. I was there for the entire session and I took photos. I did not read any of Jim's poems, although he did ask me once or twice to read. Some of the poems that are on "An American Prayer" are from this birthday poetry session. I have a hope that more of the poetry from that night's reading will someday be released. And if it is released, I think it should be without Doors music, maybe without any music at all. Jim Morrison was one of the best poets of his time. That's not only my opinion but it is also the judgment of teachers and poets in America who use Jim's poetry in the classroom. I don't know if he was a "visionary poet"; maybe all great poets are visionaries. Jim's poems conjure up real and surreal images and his words can open our minds to fantastic visions. An image filled world is just one aspect of Jim's poetry. There are many more levels to these poems, so don't just stop on the surface. Read them like you would the text of any great writer: with attention and an open mind, and be ready to dig down below the surface to uncover the strata of allusions and questions and conflicts that Jim's fertile mind created. And forget "meaning". The meaning of any poem is within the grasp of each reader; it will make itself clear with time. Just be patient.

You can spend many hours discovering the rich world of just one Morrison poem. I have read and studied the "Brian Jones" poem dozens of times and still find something new in it every time.

Question # 3

Ray Manzarek is acting many times as the "keeper of the truth" in Jim's story. To the real fans this looks more like he would abuse into his role as band member, just to enlarge the myth and the legend around Jim to complete fiction, the same way Oliver Stone did years ago with the movie. Ray did a few negative comments about you, Babe Hill and Paul Ferrara, talking about you as "media manipulators" referring to the projects Feast Of Friends and HWY. He did comment this in his Doors biography and also during the last interviews. He classified HWY as uninteresting film and added bad and ironical remarks about the job you guys did at that time. Can you do a free statement to these exaggerated accusations?

Manzarek, Paris 2001
© Photo by Davide Rampazzo

Being the "keeper of the truth" is a very hard job and one I would NOT want. Ray Manzarek is basically a nice guy but I think he must have a very bad memory. And sometimes he acts like he hates anyone that was a friend of Jim. Most of what he wrote in his book and what he says in interviews about me and Babe Hill are far from the truth. I won't call his statements lies; let's just say that his memory is dysfunctional. We all know that Ray stretches and changes reality to suit his own purposes. Let me state this accurately: Jim Morrison was a fantastic human being and an incredible creative artist, but not for the reasons Ray says. Jim's myth and legend do not need the manipulation of Ray or Danny Sugerman. Jim left us with poems and songs and films and writings that establish him as one of the 20th century's most creative inhabitants. Jim doesn't need Ray to pump him up into a steroid monster myth. Actually Ray is doing himself and the Doors damage by not citing Jim's real accomplishments. Ray should stop trying to make Jim the bad boy of rock, stop trying to show how he was the embodiment of Dionysis (com'on Ray, the Greek god metaphor was old 30 years ago), and stop trying to portray Jim as a petulant child. He should stop because it doesn't do the Doors any good in the long run. Jim's poems will endure long after anyone can remember Ray's stories. It would be far wiser for the Doors to cite Jim's accomplishments. Instead they want to sell the public an image of Jim (Jim the drunken troublemaker and black leather outlaw) that they think will sell records. This is very short sighted, and something that Jim would find distasteful.

It's strange and somehow ironic that Ray doesn't like HWY.

Maybe it's a matter of taste. Maybe he doesn't like experimental films, or films that turn their back on convention. Jim thought HWY was complete (he says so in interviews) and he thought that it was something of a break through film. He was proud of it, proud enough to bring it Paris with him to show to his friends Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy. In matters of artistic taste I'll side with Jim Morrison every time. Ray didn't like the film "Feast of Friends" either, but he cut it up and used sequences from that film for the Doors home videos. Maybe he didn't like it because he wasn't much involved in the making of the film? And you know, he was very unfair about those home videos. He never did credit me for my camera work at the Hollywood Bowl Concert.

I filmed about 50% of the footage that is used in the Doors video. Com'on Ray, give credit where it's due. You know that I shot at the Bowl and that most of the good footage of the concert came from my camera, but not once have you ever given me a line of credit for my work. Why is that Ray? And you didn't ever credit me for any of the sequences in "Feast of Friends" which I edited and you lifted from the film and used in the Doors videos. Not a single word crediting me for my creative editing. That's very petty, Ray. I've never mentioned any of this before but now that the question has come up, I thought it was time to reveal the facts.

Ray, Robby and John are excellent musicians and even, most of time, OK guys. But something monumental happened to them when they were young and they've never recovered. They met a genius on their way to maturity and they've had trouble trying to justify their behavior during and since that genius walked out of their lives. Wow, I just realized that a whole book could be written on this subject: the effect that a truly remarkable human being has on the lives of the ordinary humans he encounters. Does anyone remember Pier Paolo Pasolini's film "Teorema" which explores this very subject?.

One last note: I have no hard feelings about Ray. He and I were friends once. I wish he'd remember that and stop demeaning me in the press. In fact I wish he'd retract all the bullshit he's said about me and set the record straight. I was NOT one of Jim Morrison's 'drinking buddies', I was his friend and Jim and I worked on some projects like HWY together. Babe Hill and I went to bars and clubs with Jim because we were his friends and that's what friends do, they hang together. We didn't lead him to bars; we didn't encourage him to drink. He went to bars and clubs because he was young and he enjoyed it. He drank because he was an alcoholic. There were many nights that either Babe, or I, or both of us carried Jim to his car and drove him wherever he was staying, and put him to bed. It's what friends do for each other; they look out for each other. I won't claim that we protected him or that we kept him out of trouble. Jim did what he wanted to do. But when there was trouble, Babe and I did what we could to get Jim out of its way. And that is the absolute truth.

Jim Morrison
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

Question # 4

The Doors told us at the Anniversary in Paris 2001, that they are working on a DVD project for HWY and FEAST OF FRIENDS, but at the same time they admit to not be able to release anything without the consent of the Coursons as copyrights owner of Jim's art. We know you may are in the position to find an agreement with Pamela's parents, if there is a way to release this material, can you imagine this as a common collaboration with the Doors camp, or do you think you would do this release on a private basis in collaboration with the Coursons?

Screenshot of HWY

Mr. & Mrs. Courson want to release the works that Jim created outside of the Doors the way they believe Jim would have released them, i.e. under his own name without reference to the Doors. Jim did this when he was alive, publishing 3 books of poetry and many individual poems under his own name, and recording his poems in a studio. With the help of three friends he created the film HWY and did not want the involvement of the Doors in the project. He was very determined on this point.

One of the first poetry book of James Douglas Morrison

The Doors own no rights to the works Jim created on his own, this is indisputable. They own no right to HWY. When they posted the notice on their web site announcing the release of a DVD containing HWY & FEAST OF FRIENDS they were deceiving the fans and the public. Why would The Doors do this? They know the copyright laws and they know that the Coursonās control Jim's artistic creations. Yet, they never spoke to the Coursons about a DVD release of HWY.

I'm working with the Coursons towards a release of HWY that will include lots of bonus material on a DVD. We hope it will be available within a year, and possibly even sooner. The Coursons do not have any intention of involving the Doors in this project. And who can fault them?

I expect that the release of HWY will be the first in a series of Jim Morrison projects that can be offered in the coming years.

Question # 5

Can you tell us if there are many video out-takes, interviews and rarities, you will be able to add to a future release of FEAST OF FRIENDS and HWY on DVD? In Ray's book "Light My Fire" he states that over 1,000 ft of footage ware shot for FEAST OF FRIENDS. We imagine this was greatly exaggerated, but what happened to the footage not used till now? We know for the near future there are plans to release HWY and FEAST OF FRIENDS on DVD. Will you include all these outtakes if they are worth the release?

An image from an official video, an outtake of Feast Of Friends

I don't know exactly how many hours of footage were shot for FEAST OF FRIENDS, but there were many. This footage belongs to the remaining Doors and the Coursons in partnership. I imagine that the Coursons could use this footage in a project if they wanted. But the current plans do not call for using this footage in the HWY DVD. Again I want to stress that the Coursons want to release what Jim created as an artist in his own right, not as the dynamic leader of The Doors.

I don't know where the outtakes from FEAST OF FRIENDS are but I imagine The Doors have it all safely stored away. I do know that they used lots of the footage that was shot for FEAST OF FRIENDS in their home videos.

By the way, 1000 feet of 16mm footage is only about 30 minutes of film, so that figure quoted in the question can not be correct. There were thousands of feet of 16mm film shot for FEAST OF FRIENDS.

Question # 6

Frank, there are rumours about video footage from the Doors shows they performed 1969 in Mexico City. Years ago you met a woman in Paris with a friend in Mexico; she claimed her husband did film The Doors in Mexico, June 1969. Was you in contact with this cameraman since then, or did you got any confirmation about the existence of such a video footage?

Jim Morrison in Mexico, 1969

Yes, I remember meeting this woman in Paris. Yes, I think I do remember talking with her husband. I don't remember the outcome of our conversation; and I honestly do not remember anyone filming the Doors performances in Mexico City, although it is possible. And even if there was someone filming the Doors during those performances, there is no reason to imagine that the footage continues to exist. If there was good footage shot during these shows, I think it would have come to light by this time. Anyone who owns such valuable footage would have wanted to sell it by now. Let's not get our hopes up too high about this or any other lost film or video of Jim in performance.

But...if there is anyone reading this who knows this Mexican cameraman or who knows how to contact him, please contact Louis on this web site and he will pass the information on to me.

Jim Morrison in Mexico, 1969

Question # 7

Can you tell us about any film footage, besides the ďFEAST OF FRIENDSĒ stuff, that you know exists? I have heard that there is the complete Doorsí concert performance from Toronto 09/13/1969 out there. There are mainly rumours about two shows: the Rock ní Roll Revival show (not the Canadian TV, where they only performed The End) and one other Doors concert in Boston 1970. Reliable sources told us, these both shows are complete filmed performance.

It would be lovely to be able to view a complete Doors performance with great audio on a DVD. I would be the first to buy it. I am sorry to say that I donít know a thing about any Doors shows that were filmed, except for those that have already been released. I have heard the rumours like everyone else but I have no reliable information nor have I ever seen any of this film material. My question is: if there are any great filmed performances out there, why havenít they come out? Why hasnít anyone seen them? If anyone reading this has information about any footage with Jim Morrison (performance or not), I wish they would let me know about it. We are looking for rare film or video of Jim for use in future projects. So please, dear fans and friends, share your knowledge of these lost rarities with us so that we can all enjoy them.

Question # 8

I have also heard rumours of filming during the L.A. Woman sessions, which wouldnít surprise me. You did some great photo shots during the recordings. Were you also able to film some parts of these record sessions?

The Doors, 1969
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

I didnít film anything during the LA Woman sessions, but I havenít published all of the photos I took during those sessions.

Question # 9

You wrote two books where you talked very sincerely about Jim Morrison; do you have plans to write a new one, maybe about your life with Jim Morrison? We all did enjoy your books with all these great pictures of Jim, we hope you will start someday a project for a further book with rare photos, do you think this dream can become true?

Jim Morrison
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

Thanks for the kind and generous words about my books. I wrote them in response to what I considered unfair attacks on Jim. I wrote ďAn Hour for MagicĒ because I was angry about the way Jim was presented in the Hopkins/Sugarman book, ďNo One Here...Ē, which as many of you know, Jimís friends call, ďNothing Here But Lots of LiesĒ. This book started out with misinformation about Jim as a kid and got progressively worse. The book is so badly distorted that a close friend of Jimís cried after reading only 20 pages and threw the damn book away. My reaction to what I read was one of anger and disbelief. Here were two people who claimed to be Morrison admirers retelling bullshit lies about him. I wanted to slam the authorsí heads together.... HARD!

But Iím a peaceful person and not much into violence, so I decided that as an antidote to the poison of ďNothing Here...Ē I would try to write about my experiences hanging and working with Jim. I wanted to describe him as I knew him: funny, generous, very smart, gentle, creative and always considerate.

My goal was to relate only events in which I was a participant, so that the reader has my point of view (my eye and ears) about what went down. I was the witness and here is what I saw, heard and felt. I had taken many photos so I used them in the book for people who donít like to read but would rather look at images.

I did the interviews with Jimís close friends that are gathered in my second book, ďA Feast of FriendsĒ because of the Stone movie which was supposed to be about Jim, but contained not a shred of truth about any Jim Morrison I ever knew. Although the film was made with all the technical skill that Hollywood is famous for, it was an endless series of lies not only about Jim but also about the times in which we lived. The film presented an image of this era (the mid to late 1960ís) that was gloomy and drug infested; while the truth (at least from my perspective) was that the era was very much alive with hope for a better future. It was an exciting and vibrant time that pulsed to the beat of great music, that grew an intelligent, confident and active opposition to the war-machine in Washington, and birthed a genuine search for spiritual awakening. All this while the arts were experiencing a renascence-like renewal.

Stoneís view of the 60ís is not recognizable to anyone who lived through and was even partially conscious during those years. Yes, the costumes and the sets in the movie looked real, but Stone missed the energy and life force fuelling our lives. He missed the attitude of defiance and rebellion; he missed the essence of what created our era. He didnít get it because he wasn Ďt a part of it; he was a soldier in Viet Nam.

To counter the effect of that horrific film and to once again try Ďset the record straightí I asked Jimís friends (all of them hated the film) to give their views about Morrison the man and the creative artist. Warner published the book in 1991. I called it ďA Feast of FriendsĒ because... it was exactly that. I put lots of photos in the book (mine and those of other photographers) once again for those of us who love looking at pictures.

Hereís something to note: not one of the remaining members of the original Doors, not Ray, not Robby, not John ever once (that I can remember) said a complementary word about either of my books. Why is that? Are the books so bad that they wanted to spare my feelings? I donít think so; too many fans have told me how much they like the books. Are the three remaining Doors afraid of the truth about Jim Morrison? Afraid the fans will see Jim as the central creative force in the band, as the intellect and soul of the group? Why donít they want the world to see Jim as a complete human being? Guess what guys? Almost all the people I meet have already figured out that Jim Morrison was an extraordinary individual, and not the asshole that Hopkins/Sugarman/Stone would have us believe.

Am I going to write another book about Jim? I donít think so, but you never know. Right now Iím very much occupied with doing my own work; and Iím interested in getting all of Jimís work ready to release.

The Doors, 1969
© Photo by Frank Lisciandro

But I do have a few unpublished photos of Jim that I hope to include with the DVD of HWY, and even a few others for future projects.

© 2002 A Ship Of Fools (Frank Lisciandro, Louis Boisclair, Tony Romanazzi, Paolo Facen)
This article may not be distributed in any other context or media without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Later you will be able to read this complete interview in the second issue of our Fan Club official magazine, in early 2003. It will also contain exclusive questions not showed on this website!

Feast Of Friends Fan Club magazine