Since Santa Monica was founded in 1886, it has attracted artists from all over the world: painters, poets, writers, actors and filmmakers, to list but a few. A who’s who of the talented and famous (and some infamous) who lived here at one time and those who were born here could could fill up a website. (Which actually isn’t a bad idea.)

Among those born here are: Shirley Temple, Robert Redford, Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen, Jack Black, Amber Tamblyn, Carson Daly, Angelica Huston and Geraldine Chaplin, the latter two being the daughters of John Huston and Charlie Chaplin, respectively.

Among the infamous born here (assuming Charlie Sheen doesn’t count) is Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Manson family follower who attempted to assassinate President Ford in 1975. Squeaky, who escaped from federal prison but was recaptured two days later, was paroled in 2009. (Which means I hope Her Squeakiness doesn’t read the Daily Press.)

Songwriter and poet, Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, also lived in Santa Monica, albeit briefly. He resided on Fraser Avenue in Ocean Park, a half-block from the ocean. (Linda Ronstadt lived nearby on Hart Street.) July marks two Morrison anniversaries, one tragic, one inspirational.

Today, July 3, is the 44th anniversary of Morrison’s death in Paris at the age of 27. His demise was a deadly combination of demons, drugs and alcohol, with heroin reportedly the lethal culprit. Thus, Morrison became a member of the “27 Club,” rock stars who died at that age.

The group you don’t want to belong to includes Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, all of whom passed away between 1969 and 1971. Twenty-three years later Kurt Cobain passed away at 27 and 17 years after that Amy Winehouse did the same. Eerie.

On a decidedly more celebratory note (thankfully!), 50 years ago Morrison and late keyboardist Ray Manzarek decided to form the Doors. It was a typical July day in 1965 when they reunited on the beach by lifeguard tower No. 25. In May, Jim had graduated and Ray received his M.A. from UCLA. But Ray thought Jim was going to New York City and maybe he’d never see him again until Morrison appeared on the sand.

Enthusiastically, Morrison confided that he had recently written some songs. Manzarek asked, so Jim sang “Moonlight Drive.” “Let’s swim to the moon, let’s climb through the tide, penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide.”

After “Summer’s Almost Gone” and “My Eyes Have Seen You,” Ray exalted, “We gotta get a band together!” And the rest became rock history, the birth of it all right here in Santa Monica.

Since his untimely death, Morrison’s local legend has continued to grow. In addition to Fraser, he lived in numerous apartments in Venice and on the canals and was even homeless, living on the roof of a commercial building. But it’s universally held that the Doors’ first two albums, “The Doors” and “Strange Days,” were written while Morrison was living in Santa Monica and later in Venice.

Signing with Elektra Records in 1966, the Doors released eight albums between 1967 and 1971, all but one going platinum or better. In the U.S., they sold 33 million records and over 100 million worldwide, vaulting them into the pantheon of rock gods. The Doors are listed among the greatest all-time by Rolling Stone magazine, which placed them 41st on its list of 100.

Whereas Jim’s extreme substance abuse often made his behavior unbearable, the others, especially Manzarek, were charming. To get an idea, watch thisYouTube videoofManzarek touring Venice and Santa Monica.

For those who missed the Morrison/Doors era, don’t miss Sundays at the Venice Bistro on Ocean Front Walk. It’s there that Peace Frog, a terrifically talented Doors tribute band with lead singer Tony Fernandez, brings Morrison’s spirit to life.

Peace Frog’s repertoire includes 60 Doors hits. Over the years, they’ve toured a dozen states from New York to Oregon and traveled the world spreading Doors music in Mexico, Japan, Australia, Greece, Sweden and India.

Perhaps the highest validation for a tribute band, Peace Frog has jammed with two of the original Doors, Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, both of whom sang their praises. (No pun intended.) It’s also fitting that lead singer Tony Fernandez, like Morrison, has passions outside of music. He teaches political science at Pierce College.

As they have every Sunday for 11 years at the Venice Bistro, Peace Frog delivers a remarkable recreation of a live Doors performance. It might just leave you feeling you’ve experienced the poetry and magic of Morrison: “Let’s swim out tonight love, it’s our turn to try. Parked beside the ocean on our moonlight drive.”

And to think — “ocean” and “moonlight drive” started here in Santa Monica.

For more info, go to Venice Bistro: 323 Ocean Front Walk, (310) 392-3997.

Jack Neworth is at, and

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *