Rant ‘N’ Roll: Hard News For Hard Times

The 1990s were a time of political turmoil (when wasn’t?) as the Conservative Christian Coalition unveiled a “Contract With Families” at the same time that one of its heroes, Senator Phil Gramm (a Presidential hopeful back then) was discovered to have invested in a soft-core porno film called Truck Stop Women. I was writing a column called Hard News with headlines like “Here A Nazi, There A Nazi, Everywhere A Goddamn Nazi” where I attempted to ferret out the facts concerning those elements of society that any healthy left-leaning former hippie like myself would consider unsavory. So under the headline of “Puke Time In America,” I tore into their so-called contract. What did they want? 1) Prayer back in schools, 2) Ban abortions, 3) Abolish the Department Of Education, 4) Subsidize parents who put their kids into religious schools, 5) Promote home schooling, 6) Censor cable television, and 7) Withdraw federal arts funding completely. Loony, huh?

In scouring the daily papers, we’d come up with an item like how the U.S. Government, during the Vietnam war, trained 88 commandos, sent them into North Vietnam, then completely wrote them off as losses, simply deleting their names from the official record, lying to their families, and, in 13 cases, paying out a $4,000 “death gratuity” despite 10 of the 13 still alive and locked up in Southeast Asia prisoner-of-war jails. Fun stuff to write about.

Not all news was bad. We reveled when Internet free speech was upheld. We also found a “Book Of The Week” to write about. But we were big on domestic terrorists, far right-wing radicals, Bible-thumping hypocrites and serial killers. One “Book Of The Week” was from the drummer of The Doors. Riders On The Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison And The Doors (Random House) by John Densmore was a bitter and fascinating diatribe against his former frontman.

“By the middle of our set,” he writes of a university gig. “Jim was blitzed. The whiskey had caught up with him. He was slurring lyrics, missing musical cues, swearing and berating the students… My heart was pounding double-time when I made the decision to leave the stage! And I did—in the middle of a song. To me, the hour onstage wasn’t worth the babysitting and traveling anymore. When we started out, we knocked ‘em dead 90 percent of the time. Now we fucked up about 50 percent of the time.”

Densmore told The Aquarian during his 1990 book tour, “He never admitted he had a problem. Jim took a lot of acid but it was the drinking that killed him. I loved the guy for his art but the truth was he was impossible to work with.” Densmore goes on and on in the book about Morrison hanging out naked in the hotel hallways the first time they played New York, pissing at will and chanting “Fuck the mother, kill the father,” the Oedipal theme he explored in “The End.” And imagine being awakened at four in the morning by the telephone after a long night with Morrison whispering in your ear, “This is God. I’ve decided to kick you out of the universe.” One particularly vituperative chapter surmises that had Morrison lived, “He’d probably be a burned-out, 47-year-old drunk.”

We also wrote a lot about pot and don’t forget this was way before the advent of medical marijuana. We wrote so much about pot back in those days, I wound up doing another column called The Pot Page. Once we had Kentucky State legislator Ron Cyrus (a Democrat) tell us, “I think that marijuana should be like alcohol and tobacco and should be able to be controlled by a governing body.” In other words, legalize it, baby! And yes, Rep. Cyrus is the grandfather of a singer named Miley.