Patricia Kennealy-Morrison has forged a path for herself that has lead to an accomplished and unusual life. She was the editor-in-chief of Jazz & Pop and one of the first female rock critics. The job as a critic is, of course, what lead her to meet the love of her life, Jim Morrison. As a practicing witch, Patricia and Jim were married in a Celtic handfasting ceremony in 1970. As Patricia says, the handfasting ceremony goes beyond life, it lasts forever. Patricia has written of her life with Jim in the book Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison. She has also written the Keltiad novels, a series of Celtic science fantasy books. Now, she writes the wonderful Rennie Stride rock n’ roll murder mystery series. Patricia was so kind to chat with me about her wondrous and historic life.
Izzi Krombholz: In Strange Days you speak of the status of women in rock in the sixties. How were you treated as a female rock journalist during that time?
Patricia Kennealy-Morrison: Surprisingly well. There were a few incidents including Robert Plant asking me, “would I care to sit on his face” backstage at the Fillmore, he was put in his place very quickly I can assure you. But I approached it in a professional manner, it went over surprisingly well. I had some great interviews with some great people and I’m very grateful for that. I think other women weren’t treated quite so well… there weren’t that many of us. There were maybe 4 or 6 women in New York doing what I did. The groupie thing was really there.
PKM: I wrote columns and reviews. I think the thing I’m proudest of is a column that I did called Pop Talk and the best thing I wrote for that was a column called Rock Around the Cock which was about the status of women in rock n’ roll. That’s in my book called Rock Chick. I compiled all the columns together. Rock Around the Cock was probably it, I got to say a lot of stuff and I kinda took up the [fight] for my sisters in rock n’ roll.
IK: You interviewed Grace Slick and talk about meeting her and you mention being a fan of Janis Joplin, did you ever get to interview her?
PKM: Not interview her particularly, we got to hang out together a little bit. I didn’t really hang out with musicians, it wasn’t my job. Like they say in Almost Famous, “it’s not your job to be friends with them, it’s your job to criticize them.” When you see them over and over again you do develop a personal fun relationship with them and they knew they could trust me to be fair. Janis was a pet of the magazine. We loved her so much and we were devastated when she died. Jimi, I was not a fan of. All the musicians I met told me what a great musician he was and how incredible he was and frankly, I just didn’t hear it. I was an Airplane girl, I was a Doors girl, Grateful Dead to some extent, but Jimi, I just didn’t get. But Janis was just so amazing.
IK: You talk about attending Woodstock and the height of the music scene. As a journalist and a friend what was it like to watch so many of the greats at their height and then begin to self destruct?
PKM: It was horrible and there was nothing anyway could do about it, apparently. Woodstock was a nightmare for starters. I mean if anyone tells you, “oh my god, woodstock was so great,” it sucked. It was awful, nobody played well. Pete Townshend says he always knows if anyone was actually at Woodstock by what they say about it. If they say it was wonderful he knows damn well they weren’t there because it just wasn’t. There were a couple moments of really amazing things, Santana played really well, the Airplane was sorta good but when you’ve seen them at their best it was hard to sit there and listen to what was coming off the stage. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t the techys fault either. No one had done anything like this before. Nobody knew how to put across a concert like that. It was horrible and then the rain and the mud and there were so many people and everyone was hungry. I went there with a ticket to the grandstand. I was there backstage with a performer’s pass sitting in the pavilion eating shrimp and lobster. I have no reason to complain, it was like Marie Antoinette goes to Woodstock. But everybody else was out there wallowing in the mud like pigs and maybe they were stoned enough to be happy, I don’t know but it wasn’t for me. The Doors were very wise not to go.
IK: In Strange Days you talk about your handfasting marriage ceremony with Jim Morrison, you talk about how marriage is forever. Do you still feel his presence with you, do you still wear your ring?
PKM: Oh absolutely, it’s totally forever. I don’t know if he quite appreciated that, he certainly seemed to be into it no matter what other people may say. He wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t want to and he loved me and wanted to be tied together like that and I do wear the rings as a rule. And absolutely [in regards to his presence], he wouldn’t be around unless he still wanted to be with me and that’s really very reassuring and very touching and very helpful. It’s still really painful to try to talk about it and be involved in it.
IK: When Jim first spoke to you about dying after Janis and Jimi had died did you have any feelings or premonitions of his death?
PKM: I had a total feeling that he wasn’t in it for the long haul. And when Jimi died and then when Janis died and he felt it himself, he said I’m going to be number three. He said that to multiple people and it turned out sadly that he was right. It was just so inevitable. It was very much so that it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it and there was nothing he could do about it, so it seems. I guess there was but he wasn’t really willing to put in the effort as it were. But I felt a premonition when the time came and he was there, he was right with me. I thought okay this is here and I’m going to have to deal with it.
IK: Do you have a favorite Doors album?
PKM: I wouldn’t say an album, per say. I would put together an album from the songs I like and it wouldn’t be the same album other people would put together of what they like. My favorite long song of the Doors is “Soft Parade” and my favorite short song is “Crystal Ship.” And, I have quite a few others. “Waiting for the Sun” I really like and even though the message is really grim I like “The Changeling.” As soon as I heard that on LA Woman I thought, that’s it, that’s the warning. That’s him telling us goodbye. I very seldom listen to the Doors, I just can’t… I just can’t bare hearing his voice, as beautiful as I find it and as wonderful as a singer as I think he was it’s still just very hard for me.
IK: How did you feel when you saw Oliver Stone’s movie, The Doors?
PKM: If I ever get in reaching distance of him again he’s a goner… He didn’t pay attention to anything we told him. John called me twice when the movie was in production and in the end we agreed that it was going to be horrible but at least we’ve been shouting the truth into Oliver’s ear… he seems to think his version, what goes on in his head, is better than the truth.
IK: How did you deal with being around Pamela Courson?
PKM: Well, it was hard. I wasn’t around her all that much, I only met her a couple of times. She was the stupidest person I ever met. For whatever reason Jim needed her in his life as much as he needed me. I do believe she killed him, absolutely. Most people think that’s a really terrible thing to say but you know, I really do believe it happened. I mean maybe it wasn’t deliberate or intentional more like, “here, Jim, just take this, it’s cocaine” and it wasn’t, it was her smack. There are many many theories about how it actually happened, many contradictory stories about he was in a nightclub and he came home and did the stuff but he didn’t do smack, you know he always talked about it and when he talked about it he said that it was a horrible thing to do and he didn’t understand why she did it. And then we see that she actually became a hooker after he died. I don’t understand why he felt the need for to be around her but he did and you just kind of have to deal with it.
PKM: I don’t know, it just came to me. I didn’t want to get back to my Keltiad books, my Celtic science fantasies books just yet after I wrote Days, although I did get back to a few of them. But then it came to a natural stopping place with those because my publishing company dropped me, which was very annoying, and they didn’t want to pick up anything I wanted to write.. Then all the sudden I thought well I like reading cozy murder mysteries and certainly I like rock n’ roll and I think I could maybe put together some things that would be really fun. I started working on the first one and it came so easily and so naturally, Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore, and that kind of sets up the whole series. And the next one is Murder at Monterey Pop and Murder at the Whiskey a Go-go, Murder at the Royal Albert Hall, and Murder at Woodstock and that’s really a fun one to write because it was all so horrible and I got to kill off people I really hated. That’s the other great fun thing about it is that all the victims are based on people I know and you know, people can figure it out maybe by the hints I give. And then, Murder at the Fillmore East was my favorite one of the whole bunch because I got to write about what was actually here and what I knew about and to set it in New York in 1969… The Fillmore was where I was all the time, I went to almost every show.
IK: Do you have a favorite show that you attended?
PKM: There was an Airplane show that I dragged Jim to in May of 1970. I had promised Diane Gardner and the group that I would go and then it turned out Jim was there that weekend to be with me…It never occurred to me that he didn’t want to go because he didn’t want to be recognized, it was so weird, I just never thought of him like that…he didn’t care for the Airplane… but he went, he was a good sport. We were sitting in the VIP sound box on the right hand side of the stage with Allen Ginsberg of all people. He was just weird. I think he thought I was just some groupie Jim picked up… And of course the first Doors concert, the first and only time the Doors played the Fillmore. They were unbelievable. I went to all four shows. Some of them I paid for and some of them I got in for free as a credit but I had to see all four of them and they were just amazing. They were so on and so into it. And the audience was also so on and into it. The thing about the Doors concerts was that sometimes they could be messes from hell but when the group was into and the audience was into it you were frozen in your seat. You did not move, you didn’t take your attention off the band for a second and you certainly didn’t turn your back on Jim. No other group really affected people like that.