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Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess by Danny Sugerman

I read this as a young man during a short-lived, coming-of-age, drug experimenting, collegiate-Doors phase in my life, and found this rock and roll biography of lust and loss to be quite the scintillating page turner -- even juicier, I'd say, than freshly squeezed navel oranges.  Next to No One Here Gets Out Alive, also co-authored by Danny Sugerman, I can't think of a better insider's glimpse into the sordidness orbiting Jim Morrision and his psychedelic entourage in the late sixties and early seventies.  Danny Sugerman was there, allowed inside the inner Door's circle, and recorded some of the funniest, sublimest moments in rock history -- and also some of its saddest.

Sugerman's autobiographical tale of teenage success (and excess) moves beyond Morrison's mythical death in Paris and follows the sad fate of his widowed long-time girlfriend, Pamela Courson, as well, into the mid-70s, all the way to her similar (but far more bitter), drug ridden demise.  Sugerman was an excellent writer for one so young, and unblinking reporter unafraid to tell the truth even though the truth might cost him, given an opportunity most young would-be writers could never dream of -- becoming friends with a rock star and his band.  Unfortunately for Sugerman, along with so much access to his rock idols, came the easy access to what ruined and often killed so many of his idols -- the drugs -- and the drugs, of course, had turned Sugerman into a heroin addict by the time most young adults his age are graduating college.  Of course, on the flip side, most young adults just graduating from college can't say that they managed the Doors, either, as Sugerman could.  Would you rather have at that age, an entry level position in a cubicle at some dumb company, or be the Doors manager and a heroin addict?  Pick your poison.  I'd of probably picked the latter, had I the opportunity.

Following Morrison's death, the Door's decided to make a go of it as a band sans their Lizard King, and, as aforementioned, hired Sugerman to point them in the right directions, which he more or less did quite well, but, let's face it, the Doors without Jim Morrison? ... just not the Doors without him.  Regardless, they released two albums -- Other Voices and Full Circle -- the former barely breaking Billboard's top-40 album charts, and the latter an even larger commercial flop, before officially disbanding in 1973.  Which was like a second death of the band for Sugerman, a second loss, and sent him into a despairing self-destructive binge-spiral that rivaled his idol's, Jim Morrison's, swift plunge to an early death.

But Sugerman found sobriety (and Buddhism) and turned his life around.  Read how he did it in Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess.

Sadly, Danny Sugerman died of lung cancer at the age of fifty, on January 5th, 2005.


Peter Weissman said…
There's a fine line between comic asides and exaggerations undercutting a review or enhancing it. And then there's playing it (almost) straight, which you did in this one, counter to what I see as your usual style. For my money, this is the better style: straight ahead, without excess, making your points and getting out. Good one, Brent.

I did want to point you in the direction of Didion's White Album--I'm pretty sure that's the book--where she has a devastating portrait of Morrison and the Doors.
EnriqueFreeque said…
Thank you, Peter! I haven't read that one by Didion. But now I want to with the Doors connection.

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