DOORS SINGER JIM MORRISON'S GRAVE MAY BE EVICTED
Twenty-five years after his death, Doors singer Jim Morrison's grave is marked by a decapitated tombstone, the curse of graffiti, and angry cemetery officials who may evict his corpse.
by Richard S. Ehrlich
PARIS, France -- Morrison, who died in a bathtub here in Paris at age 27 on July 3, 1971, is buried in the same soil as Honore de Balzac, Frederic Chopin, Marcel Proust, Apollinaire and Moliere. Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde are also in this elaborate maze of seemingly endless tombs.
At 4,000 acres, Pere Lachaise is the largest graveyard in Paris. Stone walls protect a lush spread of trees, tangled paths and disheveled, baroque tombs. Many shrines suffer rusted gates, broken stained-glass windows and poor maintenance.
Many tombstones also bear garish, black, spray-painted scrawl ranging from the optimistic, "Morrison Lives!" to lists of favorite rock groups, to drug-related outbursts in English, French, German and other languages.
Morrison was a leather-clad singer of hypnotic, decadent, organ-embroidered songs who frequently referred to himself as a "Lizard King" and an "erotic politician."
He is buried under a tiny tombstone. On a recent afternoon, the headstone sported a six-inch metal spike where a bust of the singer once had been anchored.
A policewoman stood near a group of European backpackers to ensure order, while a janitor used a scrubber and water spray to erase graffiti from nearby gravestones.
"There was a confrontation here a few minutes ago when they began cleaning off the graffiti," an American visitor said.
Morrison's grave is a top tourist attraction, after the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Visitors often arrive by metro at the Pere Lachaise stop in northeast Paris. Next to the entrance, a flower shop sells maps of the cemetery, pin-pointing the tombs of Morrison and other famous dead people.
There's a chance the dead rock star's popularity will grow even more, if the cemetery decides to evict him. Morrison was buried at the site with only a 30-year lease, which ends in 2001. Many Parisians detest the extensive graffiti defacing many of the cemetery's headstones, shrines, statues and walk-in vaults, and would be only too happy to see him go.
"I doubt that the lease will be renewed," said Jerry Hopkins, who has written two books on Morrison. Hopkins said the cemetery informed Morrison's parents about a year ago that their son's body will have to be moved.
"The Morrisons have been attempting to take responsibility for cleaning off the adjacent area for the past two or three years. But you scrub everything today, and tomorrow the place looks like hell again," Hopkins said.
It is uncertain where Morrison's corpse would go if it leaves Pere Lachaise. Relations were strained between him and his parents.
"I don't know if they would want him buried around the corner from where they live. The easy thing would be to have the remains cremated and dumped somewhere," Hopkins said.
Hopkins also suggested that Morrison's family could auction the remains, to attract bids by cities that "need a tourism boost."