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By the court's order, 'the Doors' can't tour

August 21, 2008|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

In a victory for the estate of the late Jim Morrison, the California Supreme Court has slammed the Doors shut.

The court denied a petition by two of the surviving members of the Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, to review a lower court's decision that blocked them from touring under the name of the band that rose to fame on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s and recorded dark hits such as "Light My Fire," "L.A. Woman" and "Riders on the Storm."

Manzarek and Krieger had toured with other musicians under the name the Doors of the 21st Century and advertised their shows with images of Morrison, the decadent rock icon who died in 1971. The use of the name led to joint legal action by the Morrison family, the family of Pamela Courson (Morrison's common-law wife, who died in 1974) and the third surviving Doors member, drummer John Densmore.

The unified front of Manzarek and Krieger has fought other battles with Densmore, especially over the use of Doors songs in television commercials. Corporations routinely pay millions to use signature classic-rock hits in commercials, but Densmore, citing the wishes of his old friend Morrison, has vetoed the idea of "renting out" Doors songs, even for eight-digit paydays.

That veto power dates back to the 1960s, when the four members of the Doors agreed that business deals required unanimity in their ranks. The band broke up not long after Morrison's death, and today their still-lucrative music and licensing interests are controlled by a four-way partnership: the three surviving band members and a final vote shared by the Morrison and Courson families.

That struggle over commercials had Densmore on his own, but when Manzarek and Krieger toured with the old hits and a new version of the Doors name, the Morrison and Courson families joined the drummer in protest. The families and Densmore also argued that the profits of that tour should have been shared with the Doors partnership.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Alarcon ruled in July 2005 that Manzarek and Krieger could not use the Doors name without written consent from the partnership. The defendants' appeal ended when the state's highest court denied the petition.

Densmore said Tuesday that he was deeply relieved: "A five-year cloud has passed over my head."


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