What is the truth of Jim’s funeral? Did Marianne Faithfull really see Jim dead?
Most (not all) of my information on this excruciatingly painful and deeply distressing topic comes from the well-known Paris-Match article written by Jim’s friend Alain Ronay; which also contains the first and apparently only comment that French filmmaker AgnËs Varda, with whom Ronay was staying on the morning Jim died, ever made for publication concerning Jim’s death.
According to this article, Ronay got a frantic dawn phone call from Pam, in which she told him Jim was dead and to hurry over. He immediately called the Paris equivalent of 911 (Pam didn’t speak a word of French, so she couldn’t call for emergency help for Jim herself), and Ronay and Varda arrived at the rue Beautreillis flat an hour later, about 7:30 am, to be told by a tearless, caftan-gowned Pamela that Jim had died while taking a bath, while she herself slept.
The flat was full of firemen (who in France respond to emergency calls) and police, and Pam’s statements were translated for her by Ronay, who over the next three days escorted her to the American consulate, where she reported Jim’s death and turned in his passport, and to various French government offices where she had to give further statements, as did Ronay himself. Varda, in her attempts to comfort Pamela, seems to have been well snubbed.
Ronay also found time to help Pam dispose of all the drugs in the house, while simultaneously dealing with the police and the two medical examiners, who all seem to have behaved with singular ineptitude. (Which hasn’t changed much in two decades, apparently: witness the farcical “investigation” into the crash that killed Princess Diana–who died in a hospital just across the Seine from the scene of Jim’s death, not a mile away.) The most egregious blunder is that Pamela and Ronay, the two chief witnesses to the circumstances of Jim’s death if not the death itself, were not interrogated separately but together, and Ronay was actually allowed to translate for Pamela. Mon Dieu! Where’s Inspector Clouseau when you really need him???
In the apartment, Pam was in more of a daze even than usual–though quite understandably–burning letters and papers in the fireplace while Ronay watched. At various times, she demanded Xanax (a major down), tried to steal a fur coat belonging to the flat’s owner (because, as she said, she’d never get back the unused rent or the security deposit Jim had paid; Ronay dissuaded her from the theft), contemplated trying to pass herself off to the French authorities as Jim’s wife, by means of the Colorado marriage license application she was still carrying around (Ronay dissuaded her from that too, pointing out that the word `application’ means the same thing in French as it does in English), and finally gave Ronay the story of what had happened: Jim had been snorting heroin with her, it was the first time he’d tried it, being Jim he’d had to have more than was good for him. She crashed out in a druggie stupor, and when she woke up she found Jim dead in the bath, having probably taken even more heroin after she’d gone to bed.
She called Alain first; then Max Fink, Jim’s Beverly Hills lawyer, twice; also her lover, French count and fellow junkie Jean de Breteuil, demanding his instant presence (though whether he brought more heroin over is unknown); and finally Doors manager Bill Siddons, who told the other Doors he was heading off to Paris, as Jim might be dead–really dead this time (there were always rumors). They reportedly said fine, tell us all about it, why should we go all the way over there if it’s not true; and as far as I know, though I would gladly be corrected, once they did know Jim was dead, they did not bother going to visit his grave for at least a year thereafter, possibly longer.
Jim’s body, wrapped in plastic and packed in dry ice, was kept in the flat at Pam’s insistence (“I’d like to keep Jim this way forever,” Ronay says she told him), and–this is unspeakably difficult for me to write or even think about–she slept beside him for the next three nights. A coffin was finally brought on I believe Monday, and when Siddons arrived Jim was already inside with the lid sealed, so Siddons never saw Jim dead and never thought to ask to see him, for the historical record if nothing else.
Ronay says he too never saw Jim’s body, even though Pam urged him many times to go and look–he wanted to remember Jim alive–though he did catch a glimpse of Jim’s bare foot through the door of the bedroom once Jim had been laid out on the bed for the medical examiner and coroner. Varda is quoted in Ronay’s article as saying that she did see Jim before he was taken out of the bathtub where he died–if my French and my memory are both correct, she said the water was dark with blood, and he looked pale and peaceful…
Ronay, Varda and her husband French actor Jacques Demy arranged for Jim’s burial in PËre-Lachaise on Wednesday July 7, and Jim’s identity as a famous rock star was covered up at Ronay’s own instigation, as he admitted–according to him, a deception of which Varda was aware–even going so far as to list Jim in the cemetery as “Douglas James Morisson”, an American poet living in France on a private income, in hopes of further hiding the trail.
Mme. Colinette, a Frenchwoman whose own dead husband was buried nearby shortly before Jim moved in, was inadvertent witness to Jim’s interment, visiting her husband’s grave at the time. She also vividly remembers seeing me at Jim’s grave the week after he was buried–and recalls also, approvingly, that I was clad in proper mourning, veil and everything. I wore full mourning (not the veil, of course) for the correct year and a day after Jim’s death, I might add, not just the week I spent kneeling by his grave (well, which I wore a lot longer, and still wear, actually–if it was good enough for dear Queen Victoria it’s good enough for me–though in New York everybody wears black anyway… It’s so weird to think that someone saw me there and actually remembers me; I thought I was invisible, and I remember nothing but Jim).
And Mme. Colinette has also said, on national television in Germany and France, that she never saw a more disgraceful funeral than the one Pamela Courson gave the man I love, a man for whose death she was by any reckoning responsible.
Jim’s burial was attended by Courson, Ronay, Varda, Demy, Siddons and Robin Wertle, a young Canadian woman who had acted as a sort of secretary/personal assistant to the French-illiterate Jim and Pam. The whole sorry thing lasted eight minutes; nobody wore black, there was no service, no prayers, no flowers–and Mme. Colinette says it looked as if they couldn’t get him into the ground and get themselves out of there fast enough. Given Pam’s druggie proclivities and flipped-out state–not to mention a possible murder or drug rap–one can well understand their haste to spirit her and themselves out of France.
The coffin cost 366 francs–a franc was then about five to the dollar–say $75; Mme. Colinette says it was cheap, shoddy, like plywood. The entire cost of interment, not counting the price of the plot, was 878 francs, or less than $200. (By way of contrast, the flowers that I brought to Jim in PËre-Lachaise that first day–27 red roses for the years of his life, 13 white roses for the months of our marriage–cost more than 100 francs; so Pam paid for Jim’s COFFIN about three times what I paid for ONE DAY’S WORTH of flowers…)
We have never heard one word from Wertle or Demy on the subject of Jim Morrison’s death; we have heard from Varda and Siddons only very, very briefly, and not recently; only Ronay has reported in extenso any of this dreadful, calamitous closure. If they do not talk or write about it, perhaps it is because they are still too griefstricken; or perhaps it is because they are too ashamed.
As for Marianne Faithfull, she says in her autobiography that Pamela’s French count lover, Jean de Breteuil–with whom Faithfull was also involved–went in haste over to Jim’s apartment after a hysterical Pamela phoned him on the morning of 3 July 1971, to tell him Jim was dead. Faithfull says she did not go there herself, and so never saw Jim’s body, but she did know Jim was dead and that it was heroin that had killed him, because Pamela had told Jean and Jean told Marianne–and Faithfull and the junkie count had apparently scored from the same shipment, or at least had used the same dealer.
In his unpublished manuscript Max Fink mused that between her two phone calls to him Pam seemed to have gotten her story down, and further speculated that she talked to someone else who helped her do so. That was probably Breteuil–Ronay says Pam and the count were closeted in private talk, or other activities, for some time after the police cleared out and Jim lay alone and undisturbed at last in his bedroom.
Upon the count’s return, he and Marianne promptly bolted like rabbits to Morocco to avoid questioning, and in her book she professes amazement at how little investigating (well, none, actually) was done into the cause or the circumstances of Jim’s death. Faithfull cleaned up her own act, but Comte Jean died of a heroin overdose a year later, and Pamela herself two years after that.
There was no autopsy performed in Paris on Jim Morrison, a famous foreigner who died there suddenly and suspiciously at a very young age–a procedure you would think would have been routine in the death of such a young and healthy man, a procedure that could not have failed to turn up the presence of heroin in his system, the heroin Pamela Susan Courson admitted was there and admitted was hers and admitted she gave him, the heroin which would have nailed her to the wall, hopefully the wall of a French slammer. One wonders how many palms may have been crossed with silver to ensure this lack of action, this final betrayal of Jim in death by people he had the supreme bad judgment to have trusted in life…