By Ivor Levene
In a tiny, nondescript, empty building in downtown Los Angeles, the fourth annual “Day Of The Doors” was held on January 4th. The building, within earshot of the Staple Center and million-dollar condos that overlook the neighborhood, was the site of the original photo shoot for the eponymous Morrison Hotel album cover, shot by renowned photographer Henry Diltz, the subject of last August’s cover story on Woodstock. It’s hard to believe that this tiny little building at 1246 South Hope Street was actually considered to be part of what was termed “Skid Row” fifty years ago. How times have changed.
Relevant Group, the developer who owns the storied building had cleaned up the lobby and re-painted the window to restore it to its original state as it was when the band used it as the cover for Morrison Hotel. What was the lobby had been gutted, cleaned up, and was essentially an empty room with a couple of chairs and lamps, ready for fans to pose in and be transported back in time. As legend has it, Henry went down to the hotel a week before the shoot to “check it out” and then returned with the band. When they assembled in the lobby to shoot the cover, the manager was none too happy and asked them all to leave. Fortunately, the phone rang and the manager stepped away from his desk and exited the lobby. Thinking quickly, Henry told the band to sit in the window, ran out and snapped the iconic photo.
Originally released on February 9th, 1970, Morrison Hotel was The Doors’ fifth album, somewhat of a “comeback” after the Miami bust and the heavy costs of the previous album, The Soft Parade. The event was originally declared by the Los Angeles city council in 2017 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the band. Fans who had RSVP’d to the event organizers were given the opportunity to file into the recreated hotel lobby to have photographers snap their photo behind the glass facade, recreating the album cover with themselves in it. The lineup stretched down the street and around the block, and one lucky winner of a raffle was allowed to pose behind the glass and have their photo shot by Henry Diltz himself, recreating the original cover. Fittingly, the proceeds from the raffle went to Midnight Mission, an organization that helps the homeless.
The event began in the warehouse adjacent to the hotel, where there was a screening of The Doors’ documentary, When You’re Strange, followed by a meet-and-greet with Robby Krieger, where fans were allowed one item each to be signed by the famed guitarist. Fans of all ages lined up for a chance to have one single item signed by the rock legend. I was both surprised and pleased to see so many young fans in attendance; it’s great that the music of The Doors has transcended the generations. One individual had his California license plate with “N2 DOORS” with him, having had it previously signed by John Densmore and Ray Manzarek. Robby signed it and put an “RK” in the box where the renewal sticker goes.
In a corner of the warehouse, the Morrison Hotel Gallery had set up their own exhibit, which consisted of many outtakes from the famous Morrison Hotel shoot, some rare photos of the band from various other photographers, and most interestingly, Henry Diltz’s daily planner from 1970, showing the notations for the famous shoot. The two pages were completely filled with notes, shooting locations, dates, and other projects. Henry was quite a busy guy back then and having worked with him on quite a few occasions over the past few years, I can state that nothing has changed. He is as in demand today as he was fifty years ago.
After the signing, there was a one-on-one panel discussion between Krieger and Michael Des Barres, followed by an intimate performance by Robby and Dennis Quaid’s band. All the hits were covered: Break On Through, Backdoor Man, When The Music’s Over, Riders On The Storm, and L.A. Woman. The concert was followed by a sneak preview of “The Doors: Break On Thru - A Celebration of Ray Manzarek,” a live concert that took place on February 12, 2016, on the day of his birth, and will be shown in theaters for one day only this coming February 12th. For more information, visit https://www.thedoorsfilm.com/