Offbeat L.A.: Break on Through to The Morrison Hotel for L.A.’s 4th Annual Day of the Doors

Photograph by Henry Diltz used as the Morrison Hotel album cover

“Driving down your freeways
Midnight alleys roam
Cops in cars, the topless bars
Never saw a woman so alone…”

Perhaps no rock and roll band epitomizes the city of Los Angeles as intuitively and perhaps self-destructively as The Doors, with their Venice Beach dive bar beginnings, the Sunset Strip as their playground and eventually the world as their oyster. The band’s much deserved legendary status was written in stone after singer Jim Morrison’s poetic baritone was forever silenced in 1971 at age 27. Though Morrison’s reputation for turbulence, vulnerability and artistic audacity raised him posthumously to mythic level worldwide, his image as martyr, icon and all-powerful rock god, The Lizard King, will forever belong to the warm breezes of Southern California. In fitting honor, four years ago the city of Los Angeles proclaimed the annual Day of the Doors as January 4th, commemorating the anniversary of The Doors first record release on that day in 1967. 

This January 4th The Day of the Doors promises an amazing series of events to celebrate both the band and the upcoming 50th anniversary of their fifth album, Morrison Hotel. This includes a performance by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, a sneak preview screening of the soon-to-be-released documentary The Doors: Break on Thru – A Tribute to Ray Manzarek and a photo-op recreation of the original Morrison Hotel window, which famously graced the album cover and gave the record its name. The four-level Morrison Hotel, constructed in 1914, operated as low income housing until 2008 and has been vacant ever since. It’s about to go through a major renovation and turned into an enormous $300-per-night luxury hotel, so this may be your last chance to see this historic gem in its original glory and to get a photo of yourself in the recreated facade. Afterward you can view never-released location images captured by Henry Diltz, photographer of the Morrison Hotel album cover, meet Robby Krieger during both Q&A and autograph sessions and hear Krieger and his band perform a few Doors songs with Dennis Quaid on vocals. One more special enticement is a drawing from which proceeds will go to benefit downtown’s Midnight Mission, an organization helping the homeless. The lucky winner will be photographed in the Morrison Hotel window by Diltz, bringing an artistic surreality that cannot be matched.

The Doors at the Morrison Hotel photo by Henry Diltz

The Morrison Hotel album cover was photographed by Diltz on December 17, 1969. The location had been discovered days before by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek at 1246 S. Hope Street, near Pico, while driving in downtown L.A.. The Morrison Hotel was a down and out flophouse, priced at $2.50 per night (to get the idea, that translates to about $16.16 per night in today’s dollars) and Robby Krieger remembers the area surrounded by bums. When the band arrived with Diltz to begin the photo session they were immediately sent packing by the desk clerk. “They kind of kicked us out and said, ‘you can’t take pictures in here unless you’re staying here,'” Krieger recalls. “We should have just rented a room,” he laughs. “Then we went outside and saw that the guy had gone back upstairs, so we snuck in and took a couple of pictures and then split.” The renegade-style cover portrait was shot quickly by Diltz through the plate glass window. Afterwards the band got into the car to look for another location and found a divey beer joint, the Hard Rock Cafe, a few blocks away at 300 E. 5th Street. They decided to stop for drinks while Diltz ended up capturing more images, one which ended up on the rear cover of the album. Based on these locations, the Doors chose to label one side of the album The Morrison Hotel and the other side The Hard Rock Cafe. Today Krieger, who co-wrote five of the eleven songs on the record, insists “there was no rhyme or reason” to why particular songs ended up on one side versus the other, “It was more like, ok, what song would sound best after Roadhouse Blues.

After the Morrison Hotel “we decided to just drive around and see what else we could find,” Krieger coolly reminisces, “And we saw this place, Hard Rock Cafe. So we park and we’re going into the place and this bum comes up and asks for some money. So Jim says to him, ‘Can you do something? You know, entertain us?’ And the guy says, ‘Well, I can whistle. I have the loudest whistle in the world. You wanna hear it?’ ‘OK!’ He whistled so loud we were holding our ears. It was probably 110 dB. We asked him how he did it. He said, ‘Jesus taught me how.'”

The Doors at the Hard Rock Cafe, photographed by Henry Diltz

The Doors outside Hard Rock Cafe, photo by Henry Diltz

The Doors captured by Henry Diltz on December 17, 1969

Schedule for Day of the Doors:

Free and open to the public:
3 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Morrison Hotel window photo opportunity
The Doors pop up shop
Morrison Hotel Gallery Doors Photo
Food Trucks
Beer Garden
DJs

Ticketed opportunities:
1:00 p.m. – VIP photo slots begin
3:30 p.m. – Screening of When You’re Strange
5:00 p.m. – Signing with Robby Krieger for When You’re Strange ticket holders
5:30 p.m. – Henry Diltz photo raffle winner announced
6:30 p.m. – Artist on Artist conversation with Robby Krieger and special guest for The Doors: Break on Thru ticket holders
7:00 p.m. – Acoustic performance with Robby Krieger and Dennis Quaid for The Doors: Break on Thru ticket holders
7:30 p.m. – Sneak Preview Screening of The Doors: Break on Thru – A Tribute to Ray Manzarek

Location: The Original Morrison Hotel, 1246 South Hope St., DTLA; January 4, 2020, 3pm-11pm. Tickets Free to $150.

Please check out The Doors official website for more upcoming events.

The Doors photographed by Henry Diltz

Outtake from the Morrison Hotel photo shoot by Henry Diltz

Nikki Kreuzer

About Nikki Kreuzer

Nikki Kreuzer has been a Los Angeles resident for over 30 years. When not working her day job in the film & TV industry, she spends her time over many obsessions, mainly music, art and exploring & photographing the oddities of the city she adores. So far she has written 110 Offbeat L.A. articles, published at the Los Angeles Beat. As a journalist she contributes regularly to LA Weekly, Blurred Culture and has also been published by Oddee.com, Twist Magazine, Strobe and Not For Hire. Nikki is also a mosaic artist, radio DJ and published photographer. Her photography has been featured in exhibit at the Museum of Neon Art, in print at the LA Weekly and in exhibit at the Neutra Museum in Los Angeles. She has recorded with the band Nikki & Candy as bassist, vocalist and songwriter, directing and appearing in the 'Sunshine Sunshine Santa Claus' music video for the band. She co-hosted the monthly radio show Bubblegum & Other Delights on Dublab.com for over two years. Her acting credits include a recent role in the ABC-TV show 'For The People', 'Incident at Guilt Ridge', 'Two and a Half Men', the film 'Minority Report' and 'Offbeat L.A.', a web series, written and hosted by Nikki Kreuzer. Her writing, radio and video portfolio can be found at OffbeatLA.com, her photography work @Lunabeat on Instagram and her music history posts @NikkiKreuzer on Twitter. Find Nikki & Candy music on iTunes, Amazon or at NikkiandCandy.com.
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