As a journalist/film
critic who is always up against the tyranny of deadlines,
it warmed the cockles of my heart to read the following requirement for
subscriber contributions to the reviews and critiques portion of The Doors
Quarterly Magazine: "The product/event you are writing about should be at least
two years old/ago."
That is a standard that many publications HAVE to live with due to infrequent
publishing schedules, but it's refreshing to find a magazine that actually
ASPIRES to reviewing things and events only after they've had a fair shake in
Rainer Moddemann revived the idea of an international Doors fan club back in
1983 at the suggestion of Ray Manzarek, and he's been putting together The Doors
Quarterly Magazine as a labor of love ever since. On July 3rd, Moddemann, a
pleasant, bespectacled fellow, about 40, with jet black shoulder-length hair and
an appealingly democratic demeanor, made his 20th-some pilgrimage to Pere
Lachaise cemetery, travelling from his home in Germany to commune with the
faithful and hand out copies of the magazine's 34th issue.
Rainer Moddemann is a serene lowkey star in his own right, obviously known and admired by many of the fans on hand. A very sweet-faced 17-year-old German blonde called Heike tells me that she met Rainer yesterday and this encounter would seem to be the next best thing to having met Jim himself. "It's my first trip here -- I have been listening to The Doors since I was 12 or 13," she enthuses. "I met Rainer yesterday. It is more than I hoped for. You can talk to anyone."
Rainer and a fan, Vicky from England, July 3, 2000, Paris. Photo by Nicole Meyer
Rainer has never heard the band perform live, he has met and interviewed
the remaining Doors and many of the seminal survivors of the era the band
characterized, and he has briefly met Jim in Paris in 1971 in a restaurant.
"I was only 14 years old, living in a small town in the north of Germany, and they only played Germany once," Rainer explains in the cafe just outside the cemetery walls, where dozens of fans are taking refuge from the rain. "I saw them on German television. The Doors were in Frankfurt, where they did a video for 'Hello, I Love You.'
I was fascinated by the contrasts, by the architecture, by these people in suits and the way the band was behaving."
The seeds of a life-long enthusiasm had been planted.
In a process that would be the envy of many a magazine publisher, people come up
to Rainer and try to press money into his hand, to start or renew subscriptions.
But Rainer does not want to engage in commerce today. "Send it to me. Write to
me. It's better," he says.
enthusiasm and eloquence remind me of Jean-Pierre
Jackson, a school teacher in Avignon who, in the late 1970s, convinced the
editor of an obscure French fanzine to devote an entire issue to the films of
Russ Meyer. Meyer was so impressed that he looked up Jean-Pierre on one of his
nostalgia trips to Germany and France (WWII vet Meyer is proud of reporting that
he lost his virginity in a French brothel recommended to him by Ernest
Hemingway) and suggested that Jean-Pierre become Meyer's distributor for France.
The experiment went well and Jackson ended up abandoning teaching and moving to
Paris with his wife and son, where he proceeded to succesfully distribute most
of Meyer's oeuvre as well as the early John Waters films.
Rainer Moddemann works as a teacher and makes a point of mentioning that he has a 14-year-old daughter he lives with, lest one suspect that his 32-year passion for all things Doors might be his sole raison d'etre. Even a brief conversation with Rainer leaves one wondering, "Why haven't I devoted more of MY life to studying Jim Morrison and the Doors?"
owns an extensive array of Doors memorabilia, including awards to Jim Morrison,
autographs, personal belongings of Jim and of course the original
pressings of their albums, a disc collection that is complete "except for some
bloodly Italian albums," Moddemann says, referring to the elusive LPs and
singles issued on the black "Vedette" label. He's got the 'Waiting For The Sun' Vedette LP meanwhile, though, including the lyrics of 'The Celebration Of The Lizard' in Italian language ...
The Doors albums were manufactured and distributed in practically every country,
per Moddemann, who reels off "Israel, South America, South Africa, Russia, China
and Taiwan" as examples.
"The sound is better on CDs, but I prefer the original vinyl albums," he says.
"The sound of vinyl is a little softer. And the covers are so much bigger. Cover
design is very, very important. The Doors always did a great job."
Of his 28 anniversary trips, Moddemann singles out 1991 as "the worst, when
there were 1000 drunk people smashing cars and setting fire to the gates."
Speaking of bummers, what does Rainer think of Oliver Stone's movie 'The Doors'?
"The Doors movie is full of faults," Rainer explains. "In my opinion, it's
shit. Robby Krieger said 60% of the film was completely wrong. Stone had to
dramatize, but at least he could have put some more true facts in. The photography and the sound is great, though."
July 3, 2000: The BBC interviews Rainer at the Père Lachaise.
do today's Doors fans see in what they understand to have been the life
James Douglas Morrison? Rainer says he looks at Jim's life "like a self-service
restaurant with many different drawers. One drawer contains poetry. One holds
music. One has the great singer or the angelic-looking guy. One stores alcohol
and drugs. Another holds the philosophy of the Sixties. Everyone who's here
today has already opened one of these drawers and looked inside. Don't ask me
which one I've opened. Whichever drawer you open, you pick out what you like as
What would Jim have achieved had he lived? "He planned after he returned from
Paris to return to his wife Patricia -- they were married in a witchcraft
ceremony, " Rainer asserts. "He would have returned to the Doors," Rainer
continues, hypothesizing, "which would have become a 7 or 8 piece band with
horns and a bass player. He probably would be a retired drinker. He'd still
write poetry. Probably would have been a great director of movies. He was
writing a book called 'Observations on America while on Trial in Miami'. I've
never seen the manuscript, but I'd love to read it. He would never have lost his creativity."
And would Jim have been surprised at the continuing popularity of The Doors and
the impressive annual record sales so many years later? "No, I don't think he'd
be surprised," says Moddemann. "Jim once said, 'The kind of music we do is for
eternity. Let's make music for eternity."
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