On this day in 1969, a reported 30,000 people showed up at the Orange Bowl in Miami for the "Rally for Decency," a response to singer Jim Morrison's alleged "indecent exposure " during a concert by classic rockers The Doors three weeks earlier. One of the more infamous arrests in the history of Rock & Roll, an apparently wasted Morrison was reportedly erratic throughout the Miami show; Morrison's people admitted as much, but the evidence that the Lizard King pulled Lil Jim out during the show was never ironclad. Despite tons of photographers in attendance, there wasn't one shot of Morrison whipping it out onstage. (Some in the audience insisted he exposed himself, but others said it appeared Morrison was doing that third grade trick where kids poke their index finger out of their zipper to create the illusion of a penis. Today, it's widely reported that Morrison merely simulated masturbating on stage, which Lady Gaga does every time she goes grocery shopping.)
The Rally for Decency was organized by local teens from an area church in response to the incident. Conservative politicians took great joy in the event; like the right wing "wedge issuing" of today, it was a great way to keep people afraid of scary popular music and rally them to their anti-counterculture side. Morrison's behavior was indicative of the threat Americans faced if the longhairs were not defeated in the culture wars of the time.
Just like when there's a big GOP rally today and you can be sure people like The Statler Brothers and Kid Rock are going to make an appearance, the "decency" rally drew a who's-who of squares — according to a report that ran in The New York Times, the guest list included Kate "God Bless America" Smith, white-bread vocal group The Lettermen, Mickey Mouse Club member Anita Bryant and actor/comedian Jackie Gleason, whose huge appetite for alcohol was not only well known, but celebrated (the famous quote, "I'm no alcoholic. I'm a drunkard. There's a difference. A drunkard doesn't like to go to meetings," is credited to the former Honeymooners star, who, of course, also made threatening your wife with violence a running gag on his hit show.)
At the rally, Gleason expressed some wishful thinking, reportedly saying, ""I believe this kind of movement will snowball across the United States and perhaps around the world." Tricky Dick Nixon (another wonderful example of impeccable morals) also expressed support, writing a letter to the teen who headed up the rally that read, in part, "This very positive approach which focused attention on a number of critical problems confronting society strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of tremendous hope for the future."
Eventual culture war veteran Pat Buchanan (then a Nixon aide) gave Nixon a note during his briefings the day after the rally that showed evidence that the administration's interest was politically motivated. It read, "The pollution of young minds … an extremely popular issue, one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans" (according to history.com).
The rally, of course, failed to get rid of the evil counterculture. And the world hasn't ended. (Yet.)
Morrison died in Paris in 1971 while his indecency case was being appealed (according to Rolling Stone, he was found guilty of indecent exposure and "open profanity" after his 1970 trial). In December of 2010, Florida's Clemency Board pardoned Morrison at the request of departing Florida governor Charlie Crist.
Here's an hour-long concert by The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. So as to not cause society to crumble once it is viewed, we scoured the footage thoroughly for any intentional or inadvertent penis flashing. You should be safe.
Click on for Born This Day featuring David Grisman, Damon Albarn and Chaka Khan.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 23 birthday include Modern Bluegrass legend David Grisman (1945); singer/guitarist/songwriter for New Wave superstars The Cars, Ric Ocasek (1929); masterful guitarist Phil Keaggy (1951); singer/drummer for over-the-top Punk band The Mentors, Eldon Wayne Hoke, known better as El Duce (1958); Post Punk hero with Swell Maps and Crime and the City Solution, Kevin Paul Godfrey, stage name Epic Soundtracks (1959); singer for BritPop rockers Blur and cartoon band Gorillaz, Damon Albarn (1968); and R&B/Funk/Soul singer Chaka Khan (1953).
Yvette Marie Stevens (Khan's real name) has been called the "Queen of Funk," largely due to her great work in the ’70s Funk band Rufus (you may have heard their "Tell Me Something Good" in seemingly every other commercial on television). Chaka launched a solo career in 1978 with her debut album, which featured the huge hit, "I'm Every Woman," a Disco (and Oprah) anthem. Khan's biggest chart success came in 1984 when she release her sixth album, I Feel For You. The title track was a smash for Khan and originally recorded and written by Prince (and covered by The Pointer Sisters). It scored the Best R&B Song Grammy at the 1985 ceremonies (one of 10 Grammys she's won).
It was announced earlier this week that Chaka is to be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame this June alongside Reba McEntire. Last year, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She and Rufus were also on the short list for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, but didn't get the final nod. It'll come soon enough.
Here's Prince, Stevie Wonder and a bunch of other fans paying tribute to Khan at the BET Awards: