47 Years Ago: Jim Morrison of the Doors Maced and Arrested in New Haven
One of the most mythologized and romanticized figures in rock history, Doors front man Jim Morrison possessed a deep-seated anti-authoritarian streak that repeatedly landed him in trouble. On Dec. 9, 1967, the rebellious rocker was arrested at a Doors gig in New Haven, Conn., earning him the dubious distinction of being, as far as we know, the first rock star ever arrested onstage during a performance.
According to Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Morrison was “making out” with a female fan in the shower in the backstage area of the New Haven Arena when a local police officer who was providing security for the band — apparently not recognizing the singer — told them to vacate the area, to which Morrison reportedly replied, “Eat it.” When the officer brandished a can of Mace and warned, “Last chance,” the singer retorted, “Last chance to eat it ‘ — earning himself a face full of Mace for his defiance.
The officer apologized for the incident after the Doors’ manager told him he had just Maced the lead singer of the very band he had been hired to protect, admitting he hadn’t recognized Morrison. “Okay — if you’re famous, you don’t get Maced,” Manzarek said. “If you’re just a kid making out, then you’re gonna get it. So it was like, ‘Hold it, man, it doesn’t work that way.’”
The concert was delayed to allow Morrison a chance to recover, and when the band finally got on stage, the angry singer took the opportunity to get back at the cops. During ‘Back Door Man,’ Morrison recounted the experience in a profanity-laced tirade, reportedly shouting, “The whole f—ing world hates me!” He taunted the police from the stage, calling the officer who had hassled him a “little blue man in a little blue hat,” as well as a “little blue pig.”
He added, “I’m just like you guys, man — he did it to me, they’ll do it to you.” The cops responded by entering the stage and bring the show to a halt. They took the singer into custody, causing a mini-riot as the angry and disappointed crowd took to the streets of New Haven, resulting in 13 additional arrests.
Morrison was charged with inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity. He posted a bond, but the charges were later dropped. Unfortunately, the incident proved a sad harbinger of things to come; fueled by his escalating problems with alcohol, Morrison was charged with exposing himself at a concert in Miami on March 1, 1969, and he was arrested on Nov. 11 of that year for heckling the flight crew of an airliner.
The Miami charges caused many cities and venues to ban the Doors, effectively bring an end to the group’s touring career. Morrison was subsequently convicted, but free on appeal when he was found dead in his bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971, becoming another in the long line of rockers who died at the age of 27.
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