If you’ve heard of Patricia Kennealy Morrison chances are you see her as one of several well-defined stereotypes. For most, she is Jim Morrison’s highly controversial pagan bride. Her supporters consider her his soul mate, an exemplary witch of the Celtic tradition, and a feminist spiritual warrior. Her haters call her a liar, or simply crazy. In great detail they condemn her statements blind to the nuances, her humor and the context. They point out contradictions in interviews as if revealing fraud. For example, she has said that Jim was serious about their pagan marriage, but she has also said that he was not. Within separate contexts, both statements make sense. Was Jim a drunken drugged-up extremist who married her for kicks? No, he was serious about the ceremony. Did he intend that it be recognized by any and all official authorities as legally binding? He and Patricia are the only ones who can say. It was the Sixties; who was serious about marriage in the old-fashioned way anyway?
But Morrison did decide to experience this ancient wedding ceremony with Patricia, and that fact stands on its own. Their relationship has been hashed out online with such emotion that it becomes clear she is right up there with Yoko and Courtney Love in the holy trinity of despised rock star relationships. But I won’t be asking much about that part of her life; you can read her own work about it and the numerous rebuttals and endorsements she’s inspired. For me, the most poignant aspect of this research was seeing how very personal issues like abortion and heartbreak became a feeding frenzy for critics whose words ultimately say so much more about their own obsessions than about Patricia and Jim’s realities.
Over the past three decades, Patricia’s fans have known and appreciated her as an author who has done pioneering work in the area of science fiction, fantasy and mystery, foreshadowing the mutation of these genres now occurring, thanks to their overwhelming popularity in e-book publishing. Patricia was writing e-books before there were e-books. The Keltiad, her eight-volume series (soon to be expanded by two more) about an alternate universe where Celts went to space in the year 453 A.D., earned her many loyal readers; her newer series of mysteries about murders at famous rock landmarks and events, “The Rock & Roll Murders”, where she interweaves insider commentary about the golden age of rock stardom with love story and suspense thriller elements, have earned her many more.
Most recently she has published “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music”, a compilation of her early writing as a rock journalist in the 60s, as one of the first female rock critics and the editor in chief of Jazz & Pop magazine. Jazz & Pop, a completely female-driven operation, brought women right into the heart of the then-exploding rock business. Patricia, first as journalist then as editor, was often repulsed by the reality behind the romantic images—the supposedly chivalrous rock poets who turned out to be typical pigs. She expected the worst when she met Jim Morrison, but he turned out to be closer to her ideal. Although he could easily turn mean and display the abusive characteristics of his generation of men; Hendrix and Lennon were also guilty of bullying their women. Lennon lived long enough to grow out of it, Jim didn’t.
I view Patricia through a different lens. In the October 1970 issue of Pop Talk Patricia published a groundbreaking feminist critique of rock, Rock Around the Cock, that could have come right out of a riot grrrl zine twenty years later:
“…Congruent to the situation of women: rock concerts is the position (no pun intended) of the groupie. Judging by all the criteria available, the role of groupie seems to be the only one that most rock musicians are willing to allow females to fill. Carrying the concept of woman-as-object to almost as great an extent as do men who patronize prostitutes, rock artists. by their own admission, see the groupie as a rather fetching device of roughly the same convenience quotient as a knothole, only more decorative and lots more fun; there are no demands, no wondering where you stand in the woman’s eyes, no frantic posturing and juggling of stance—everything out front and the rules thoroughly understood by all parties involved.”
“…the real reason I write about rock and roll is because I want to get up onstage at the Fillmore East, wearing a black leather jumpsuit and a silver-plated Telecaster, grab the mike, sneer at the audience, “You PIGS”, and then get off forty-five minutes of the indisputedly finest rock guitar ever heard anywhere. And then retire from the rock and roll scene forever. Now that’s all very well, and it hasn’t been done before, and it’s just Patricia’s private fantasy, no weirder than your own; but the point is that the way things are now, neither I nor any other woman will be able to do it, and not because we can’t play guitar…if a man is free to do it, then so should a woman be free to do it, whether it’s rock and roll stardom, or producing, or being the president of CBS or the United States; that’s obvious.” (read the entire article here).
But I also see Patricia as an important woman in the history of American Metaphysical Religion. Whether she is revealing the truth behind the real Jim Morrison or reworking the myth to provide a more worthy inspiration for later generations, she herself represents a courageous public devotion to Paganism, or mother religion as she sometimes calls it. People who think her involvement with Morrison after his death is weird should read up on Ida Craddock and then try to explain what happened over at The Whites.
Finding her own way through life as a respected rock journalist, twice Clio Award-nominated advertising copywriter for RCA Records (she worked on campaigns for Bowie and Lou Reed) and successful author, Patricia, it seems to me, would have been right at home correcting Madame Blavatsky’s grammar at the dinner table, or sorting out the spiritualists and suffragettes at the birth of American feminism. Hers must have been a rather lonely path but during her lifetime America has transformed from ridiculing and persecuting such “fringe” behavior to embracing and celebrating it from film to academia.
As is always the case for the holy trinity of the despised, some have argued that Patricia was a bad influence on Jim, but I wonder who Patricia might have become if the media and popular culture had not become obsessed with what was after all only one chapter of her life. People forget that Jim, Patricia, Pamela were really only kids. Boomers in their early 20s in the middle of a whirlwind of evolving culture, their passions and immaturities are scrutinized as if they weren’t kids getting drunk, and experimenting with lifestyles we can all look back on smugly but only by forgetting that they were blazing trails in uncharted territory in a culture suffocated by conformity.
I spoke with Patricia recently and my fascination continues.
Your most recent book is Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music. You saw the inner workings of the glory days of rock and roll and how the business has evolved and dissolved. Women are the most popular artists now but there are still so few female musicians; how do you feel about women and the world of music today?
If women really are the most popular artists today, that’s great, but we have to consider: what kind of women artists? The Mileys and the Britneys and even the Madonnas: the half-naked prancers and posers who don’t for the most part write their own songs or even play their own music. They’re not whom I would dignify with the noble word “artist.” They’re just a few rungs up from strippers. Artists are people like Jim and Grace Slick and David Bowie and Hendrix and Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder. People who create beauty and mystery out of the depth of their own souls, and share it with us.
I don’t listen to music these days, really. I am always being told by rock critic friends that there is great music out there, and I’m willing to take their word for it, but I’m less willing to put in the effort needed to find it. Every now and then I’ll hear a track on a TV show, or even in a commercial, that will catch my ear—Piers Faccini, Susan Enan, Snow Patrol—but I’ve noticed that when I go check them out on iTunes, too often that one song will be it for the album. There will be one terrific song, cherrypicked for the use, and the rest will be crap. Very disappointing, and certainly not the way it was in my youth, when it was completely the other way round: you’d have one or two singles, but the real weight and beauty of the album they were on display in the other six or eight songs.
So I listen in the past, to acts I love, and I keep up with a few favorite artists who have kept reliably going, people I know, like Bowie or Steeleye Span. Funnily enough, I’ve been completely grabbed by the TV show “Nashville” and the really excellent music it employs—great, great stuff. I was never a country fan, but these songs are wonderful: I’ve already loaded a dozen onto my iPod.
As to why more women aren’t musicians, I have no idea. I just recently got back from MEOWcon in Austin, Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women, where in the daily workshops and nightly showcases I heard some amazing female musicianship. I would have to chalk it up, yet again, to chauvinism. Which at this late date is just preposterously stupid.
You’ve been published by Dutton and HarperCollins, among others, you went indie, and now you publish e-books. What do you think of this transformation of the business of getting a writer read?
I think it’s great! It has freed writers from the tyranny of publishers, from being sat in judgment by half-educated twinkies half one’s age. For the most part, I had decent experiences with my editors, until the end anyway.
It’s very much like the arc of indie musicians, isn’t it? Getting out from under the yoke of the record companies who have ripped them off for generations.
When I had publishing deals, I made in royalties about twelve cents per book sold, and that only if I had earned out my advance, which was usually about the yearly salary of a McDonald’s worker. Now, as an indie writer and publisher (Lizard Queen Press!), I can finally earn a decent percentage on my own work. Sure, I don’t get an advance up front, but I also don’t have to deal with idiots. Just me.
What was something that was around in the 60s that isn’t anymore that you wish still was, not counting that Jim guy?
Oh, there is so very much. I miss the sense of engagement we had with everything: politics, social change, music, even clothes! Today it’s so solipsistic: people walking around glued to their electronic devices, not interacting with the world. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t all enlightened beings back then—there were plenty of people who were stolid and unimaginative and fearful and resistant to change, just like their parents. But I didn’t have anything to do with people like that.
You’re so literate and well read, yet you seldom write nonfiction about cultural history. Do you have any plans to do so?
Nope. Doesn’t interest me; in fact, I find such things arid, masturbatory and depressing. I suppose it has to be written about, but it’s not going to be written about by me. Not any more than I have done, anyway, in “Strange Days” and now “Rock Chick.” Besides, my literacy and well-readness that you so kindly commend is not the sort one must possess in order to be a cultural commentator in this time and place. Apart from the fantasy and mystery genres, in which I make my livelihood and from which I derive a tremendous amount of reading pleasure, I can’t be bothered with any fiction later than, say, Thomas Hardy and Anthony Trollope. I do my real spiritual and cultural commentating through my fiction writing; anything I have to say is found there.
As a High Priestess in the Celtic Pagan tradition, you’ve run into academics who are convinced that all modern Wiccan and Pagan groups are neither continuations nor revivals of ancient religion. Yet in your lifetime you’ve seen a great expansion of Pagan culture; do you think this is an anomaly or do you think we’re witnessing an actual evolution in spirituality, perhaps an unforeseen benefit of feminism?
I think it’s probably all those things, but that doesn’t make modern Paganism any less real or valid. It came from somewhere: maybe that somewhere wasn’t old Granny McNightshade’s secret stash of lore, handed down for generations, but it absolutely has much of value in it. I wouldn’t look too closely for confirmation of origins in the past: Mormonism began with a magic pair of glasses and a magic white lizard, if I recall correctly. I would say that Witchcraft and Paganism today is now suffering from an excess of the fluffybunny factor; no one wants to admit that if you have Light, you’ve also got to have the Dark—the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. And I do like the fact that we’re getting the balance factor between male and female energies, at last. The Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—did their best to subjugate or even root out the Divine Feminine. Yet they couldn’t, not completely. Because the people needed it and wanted it, and so you have the Shekinah and the Mother of God and other such powerful and essential female deities. Besides, if you have a Father God and he needs to create the world, where’s he going to stick his divine dick if not in the Mother Goddess?
People have accused you of Christian bashing in your writing and interviews but you’re a Dame of the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. How do your Celtic and Templar spiritual paths complement each other?
Ha! Morons. If they really heard or read what I was saying or writing, they would have been aware that I never bash Christ, only Christianists. I have loads of friends who are good Christians, in fact, and the operative word there is “good”. Christ was the first, last and best friend that women had in the Church that bears his name—it should really be called Paulism, not Christianity. But I will go to my grave continuing to bash whited sepulchres and Pharisees and other such Christianist excrescences, and most particularly those in authority in what I consider to be a corrupt Church hierarchy that has done nothing but abuse its sheep for centuries. Jim felt the same: we may have been cultural Christians, but we had Pagan Celtic souls.
On the other hand, I have no problem reconciling my Celticness and my Templarness. The Templars were Catholic warrior monks, but they also had a submerged “occult”, for lack of a better word, tradition, that hooks up nicely with Pagan concerns. The Holy Grail is just one example of that, and that’s what I connect to.
Recently you wrote eloquently about your experience of JFK’s assassination, and of the powerful spiritual experience you had as a young Catholic at a memorial mass. What do you think of that new Jesuit Pope?.
By the time of JFK’s death and that incredible Solemn High Requiem Mass I attended, I was no longer a Catholic. In fact, I hadn’t been a Catholic since about age seven, when I became aware that there were seven sacraments for men, but only six for women. I didn’t take kindly to that, nor to any God who would allow such an injustice to stand. But that didn’t stop me from being able to enter into a deeply affecting spiritual event, that Mass for JFK: I’ve done as much with Hindu pujas and Native American drum ceremonies and of course Pagan circles. It’s what you bring to such rituals as much as what you take away from them.
As for Pope Francis, well, I like him so far, with reservations—he’s a vast improvement over Benedict and his predecessors going back to John XXIII—but people mustn’t get too excited: he has not, to my certain knowledge, to date said word one about allowing gays and women into full participation in the Church. He is, however, saying more in concordance with the teachings of his Lord Jesus Christ, and in more truth and sincerity, than any pope in my lifetime. I hope it doesn’t get him assassinated.
What do you enjoy more, researching your books or the actual writing?
Oh, the writing. I enjoy both, but the writing is where I can put all that research and all my own feeling and all my creative needs and powers together. It’s true magic when it flows through me and I’m just the one typing it out—the first reader of my own work. It makes me feel very humble, and also very proud.
What inspired you to blend Arthurian legends, Celtic culture and the interstellar technology of science fiction in The Keltiad?
It just sort of happened. It was all just a bunch of stuff I liked. I liked swords, and Celtic legendry, and starships, so there it was, Kelts in Space. In fact, Jim was the first one to hear about it, long ago. But it seems to have struck a chord in a LOT of readers, for which I am ever grateful. My head isn’t entirely back in it yet: I still have more Rock & Roll Murders books to write. But I think the year after next I’ll get back to the Keltiad, and write two more books to finish the series off in a blaze of glory. In the meantime, I’ve been writing a huge novel about Vikings in England, “Son of the Northern Star”, which will be out early next year, and I also just wrote three Kelts short stories, which for me is a very big deal. I’m a marathoner, not a sprinter; it takes me five chapters just to get my typing fingers going, so writing something where you have to be into it before the first word on the page is really, really hard. But I needed a Kelts fix, and so did my readers, so there it is. They’re “readers”, not “fans”, by the way. Jim had fans; I have readers. They’re my readers, and I’m their writer.
Are your murder mysteries catharsis for all the icky stuff you must have seen and experienced at rock venues?
I would call them more vehicles than catharsis, actually. Or perhaps karma, even. I can settle some old grudges, which has been great fun—Celts never forget grudges—and give some behind-the-scenes gossip, and a glimpse, however imperfect, at what rock was like back in those days, especially for a woman. My protagonist, Rennie Stride, is a rock journalist, but she’s definitely not me, and my co-protagonist, her lover then husband Turk Wayland, superstud Brit guitarist, is certainly not Jim. They’re archetypes, in a sense, but also they stand alone—there never were people like them in the rock scene in real life, so in a sense they’re also ideals. I’m immensely enjoying writing the books: murder at the Fillmore, murder at Woodstock, murder at Monterey Pop, etc. And I have tried to fill them with as much authentic period detail as possible.
One totally unforeseen result: I’ve written songs for the books. It started out when Turk began demanding verses for his songs in concert scenes. I am nothing if not indulgent of my characters’ wishes—if I weren’t, they might not come to me anymore—so I wrote a few verses. Then Turk started pushing for whole songs, and God does he know how to push. I now have almost fifty songs, enough for six albums! It is very different writing songs: they come from a whole other direction and I need to get into a whole other head for them. Jim and I once wrote a few songs together, including some extra verses for “People Are Strange”, because I didn’t think it had enough verses, which it does not. But Turk’s songs do not sound like Jim’s songs at ALL. Totally different, which is…interesting. So now in each Rennie book I have a full song intro and a full song outro. My dream is that someday a real musician, someone I respect, will record one. We’ll see.
I get the impression reading your detractors that they don’t get your sense of humor. In my own music, my lyrical jokes have been mistaken for anger, yet caustic geniuses with penises like Bill Hicks have been lionized. Any comment about this state of affairs, and am I wrong to wonder if sometimes you pull people’s legs when you think they deserve it?
I think you’re quite correct on all those points. The detractors don’t get what I’m saying because they are too wrapped up in their own fantasy of Jim, which excludes me, as a real person who knew him and loved him and slept with him and talked with him. I knew him, they did not; so naturally I must be lying about it all.
As for the rest, it seems to be, yet again, women being castigated and dismissed where men are lionized. And no, you are not wrong to think that. And I totally pull people’s legs, with bells on, because, in all modesty, I’m a LOT smarter than they are, and I can. In a random room of a hundred people, going strictly by the percentages, I would be one of the two smartest people there; and Jim would be the other. Intelligence is a great component of humor: Jim’s own sense of humor is vastly underrated as well. He was so dry and so witty—read the court transcript from his Miami trial, which I was with him for, at least a week of it. His testimony on the stand is so funny and so brave and so desperate—he knew he was doomed, but by God he was going to have some fun while it was happening. So really he didn’t get credit for his humor, and I don’t either, except among the only people who count: my blessedly intelligent readers.
How might your life be different had you not met Jim?
There was never any question of my not meeting Jim. I knew it was going to happen the instant I laid eyes on him, long before I ever got the job at Jazz & Pop and had no idea how this was going to come about. I just knew it would happen for us. Of course, lots of other chicks thought exactly the same thing, and as it turned out, a lot of them were also right, in a lesser sense. But I like to think I was right in a different way, and he said I was, so there it is.
What’s your favorite oracle and why?
You mean like the Tarot or scrying or runes or whatever? I don’t really go in for that sort of thing. Every couple of years, I’ll have someone do a Tarot reading for me, or I’ll draw a rune if I feel I need some instant perspective, but for myself I don’t bother. Some kind of guidance is often required, but after almost fifty years of practice I’ve long since gotten to the point where I can pretty much sense things ahead—reading the road, as it were. And the things I can’t sense coming, well, we all need a surprise in our lives every now and then. Don’t you think?
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
You very kindly and very courteously avoided talking about Jim. But I’d like to address a few of the points you made in the introduction. First off, do people seriously think that I would have made the declarations I have made with regard to Jim and myself if they weren’t true? What woman would want to subject herself to the viciousness the haters have lobbed my way, if she weren’t speaking the absolute truth? I have my own modest degree of success and even a little fame in my writerly career; why would I risk jeopardizing that for a false claim? Nobody’s that much of a masochist, and if for that I am placed in the company of Yoko and Courtney, then I’m proud to be there—three strong, creative, accomplished women who are envied because of the men who chose them and pilloried because they don’t fold up under the hate. I can live with that, just as they do; and I have done for over forty years.
How do you respond to accusations that you commercialized your relationship with Jim?
I don’t benefit materially from any of this, as they accuse me; sure, I got some money for writing “Strange Days”, but every single person who ever wrote about Jim, including Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, was paid for it…why am I the only one vilified because I got an advance for my own literary efforts, the way they all did?
How do you respond to their focus on apparently contradictory things you said?
If I said different things from time to time, well, I was probably just messing with their minds, or else it was my own defensiveness. Let the haters be interviewed thousands of times about the most painful and personal events of their own lives and see how well they hold up. They don’t remember, or choose to forget, that I lost my husband under very suspicious circumstances, and my grief is endless, and my fidelity stainless. Who could follow an act like Jim, anyway?
Does the negative attention impact your life?
I don’t pay any attention to any of the raving lunatics or the sneerers; I don’t go to Doors or Jim websites and I don’t read their pathetic claims to more authority on the subject than my own. Indeed, it’s amusing to me that they seem to have so little going on in their lives that they can afford to pay so much attention to mine, for the past twenty years. Well, let them rave, so that people will know them mad; the dogs bark, but the caravan passes on.
Why do you think they are so commited to discrediting your relationship with Jim?
I know how Jim felt about me, because he told me how he felt; and his words are the only ones that matter.
How do you respond to their accusations that you’re “crazy”?
Anyone who has managed to write eighteen complex and successful books in three different genres, compose almost fifty songs, become acknowledged as an authority in Arthurian lore, received awards and even knighthood in an ancient order, is not crazy and not a liar.
What was your motivation then in sharing your side of the story with the public?
I have, I like to think, done more to get the real Jim out there for people to know and see and read about than anyone else. I also like to think, as Dylan Jones, one of the few guys who ever got it, put it in his book “Dark Star”, that seeking refuge in my arms was one of the shrewdest things Jim Morrison ever did. The tragedy for us both was that that seeking came too late, and though I tried my best to help, by simply loving him but also by not putting up with his nonsense, and he tried his best to save himself through our love, the damage to him was irreparable.”
Are there unpublished Jim Morrison letters in your possession?
I have letters where he tells me of his return from Paris to join me in New York; where he calls me his wife and “Mrs. Morrison”; where he writes poems for me that one British reporter, whom I allowed to read them, described as “jaw-droppingly erotic”. I have plenty of proof; the haters don’t matter. Only Jim does. Jim held me to be his wife and his equal and his beloved. How dare they challenge his choice?
Written by Tamra Spivey
Newtopia staff writer TAMRA SPIVEY is a founding member and primary singer of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War and Exile Nation, and associate producer of The Gits documentary. She was art editor and west coast editor of Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation, collaborating on in depth interviews with whistle blower Michael Ruppert, ACLU and record business honcho Danny Goldberg, and grassroots political strategist Larry Tramutola. Follow her on twitter @MongrelPatriot.