This one is for Ray Manzarek

This one is for Ray Manzarek

excerpt “History of the Groove, Drummer’s Story” Russell Buddy Helm ©2013 All Rights Reserved

1985. We’re standing in his living room up in Benedict Canyon, talking about his current production, the band ‘X’  and I decide to blow Ray’s mind. I said, “I used to be at the Beaux Arts Coffee House in Pinellas Park, Florida. Ray jerked his head back in surprise “Is that place for real? Jim used to talk about it all the time.”

It was one of the most infamous coffee houses on the East Coast. Every great folksinger played there. Gamble Rogers would often grace the funky old establishment with his brand of Southern gentlemanly music in the Sixties. Folkies leaving New York on their way down to the Gaslight in Coconut Grove might stop in for a gig. The coffee was bad, the pay even worse, but the experience was worth the price of admission. Tom Reese had been a dancer with Ballanchine, in New York and Beaux Arts coffee house was his hometown art piece. His mother ran the door and she would not let anyone in for free unless you were performing. Full size statues of the three turbaned wisemen and a camel stood guard over her little metal box holding a roll of orange tickets and change for the $1.75 admission price. It was the birthplace of the Bethlehem Asylum. This place was a very important oasis of culture. I saw art house movies, like ‘The Bed’, that UCLA film students had only heard about.. There was that one local bad boy who would read his poetry, get the local girls in trouble, get thrown off of more than one college campus and ruin the careers of college roommates before he went to L.A. and formed a band with Ray Manzarek called The Doors.  Beaux Arts was an off white three story Tennessee Williams antibellum mansion drenched in Spanish moss. Dim Tiki lamps lurked in the backyard jungle that was the spawning ground for great music and no doubt several love children. The screened in back porch was where the poetry and folk music occurred amidst sofas, easy chairs, tailless Manx cats, bad portraits and chessboards. The Bethlehem Asylum first performed here; in this humid, dusky, tropical wet dream. It was our home. Our bass player Jim had a  bachelor pad upstairs with fuzzy red flocked fleur de lis wallpaper he had put up himself. The living room had a high ceiling with rows of chairs, sofas, more bad paintings and a large movie screen for showing incredible 16mm movies from Tommy’s friends in New York. It was no wonder that Jim Morison wanted to make movies. This was where we all saw the cutting edge in avant garde cinema. Fresh movies arrived every week as well as great folk music; both local and national performers.

I was in Ray’s Benedict Canyon living room in LA to shoot the only television commercial ever made for the Doors. Ray was a patron of “New Wave Theater” because he produced the LA punk band ‘X’ and they performed on the show hosted by Peter Ivers. I shot the handheld live band footage, my experience as a drummer gave my footage extra style. The director asked me to see Ray about making a Doors commercial to run in between the punk /art damage bands like Suburban Lawns, the Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, and of course, “X”.  Ray laid out the Doors album covers on his living room floor,  video taping them with a soundtrack from Strange Days feeding into the Sony portapak recorder. It was our first project together. We soon progressed to screenwriting. Ray had some good ideas using punk rock music in Chinatown where the local bands could perform at the Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s. He used a story from author Maxine Hong Kingston, with a touch of Black Orpheus; to be shot verite style in the gritty downtown L.A. Art Ghetto.   Ray would drive from Hollywood to my studio loft in the worst part of Downtown L.A. and park his vintage Mercedes gull wing sports car with original cream colored paint job amidst the bums and homeless people sleeping in the gutters. His car never got broken into. He had a charm about him that was palpable. No wonder Jim Morrison liked him. They were magic together, I am sure. Some of that magic came from the Beaux Arts Coffee House in Pinellas Park, Florida as well.

excerpt “History of the Groove, Drummer’s Story” Russell Buddy Helm ©2013 All Rights Reserved

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3 Responses to This one is for Ray Manzarek

  1. Bryan says:

    Hi Buddy,

    Does this Doors TV commercial exist online somewhere, and if so, where? If not, could it be uploaded to Youtube?

  2. Bryan says:

    Hi Buddy,

    Me again, was just wondering if you’re seeing this — I wrote you about three weeks ago (see above), about this video you mention here. Dying to see it. Shall I call you?


  3. admin says:

    Sorry. David Jove was producer/director and is no doubt enjoying the fruits of his labor on the other side of the grave. There might be archives of the show originally broadcast in LA on local tv then nationally on USA cable.

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