Jim Morrison Helped Kate Simon Finish a Term Paper After Chance Meeting 2 Months Before His Death, Rock Photographer Recalls

“He told me he just wanted to stop doing music and go back to filmmaking,” Simon says

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Famed photographer Kate Simon has countless tales to tell from a five-decade career in which she captured a treasure trove of iconic images featuring the likes of Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

But a chance encounter with Jim Morrison before her career even started may be her best story of all.

Simon, in a recent podcast interview on “WTF With Marc Maron,” recounted the time she met The Doors frontman in Paris two months before his death, in 1971.

“During that year, I met Jim Morrison and got him to help me write my term paper for ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night,’” Simon told Maron, quickly and matter-of-factly before the host could interrupt her.

“C’mon!” Maron reacted, incredulously. “How was he a help?”

“He was excellent,” Simon said. “I totally liked him so much.”

But Maron of course needed the details, to which Simon obliged.

Simon said she met Morrison in her first year as a student at the American University of Paris (then called the American College in Paris). At the time, she was stressed out over a term paper focused on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning 1950s Eugene O’Neill play, “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”

“I was standing in line at the First National City Bank on the Champs-Elysees, and Jim came up to me and asked me if I would teach him French,” Simon said. “And you know, I looked at him and I thought, ‘Oh he could help me with my “Long Day’s Journey into Night” paper.’ No, I thought, ‘That’s Jim Morrison.’ And I said — I had two guys with me from college, you know — and I said, ‘Uhh, yeah I could teach you French.’”

Simon said her mind then shifted back to “desperate, write the term paper” mode, and she asked Morrison whether he could help her.

“And he knew the play,” Simon said of the legendary songsmith and poet. “He did. And I was like, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’”

Simon then delivered an impression of how the conversation went.

“‘Jim Morrison, OK. Listen, great to meet you. I’m sorry about that whole uhh,’ you know, what they were getting him for, some sort of,” Simon said, before Maron helped her out.

“Obscenity?” Maron said.

“The obscenity thing, yeah,” Simon said. “He was very concerned about that, actually.”

Morrison had in 1971 moved to France after being convicted of indecent exposure and open profanity in the U.S., charges that stemmed from a 1969 concert in Miami. He was sentenced to six months in jail but remained free while the verdict was on appeal.

Morrison died in Paris under mysterious circumstances on July 3, 1971. His cause of death was ruled a heart attack after his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, reportedly found him dead in their apartment bathtub. But no autopsy was ever performed, which over the years has led to varying theories.

“And did he help?” Maron asked again of Morrison and the term paper.

“Yes, he most certainly did,” Simon replied, before saying she did not give him credit for it.

“I liked him, though,” Simon said. “I liked him. I really did. There was something about him that was — he was charismatic of course, but really intelligent.

“He told me he just wanted to stop doing music and go back to filmmaking,” Simon added, referring to Morrison’s first passion, in which he majored at UCLA. “And he was obviously a little bit terrified by all the court stuff that was going on.”

“Yeah, they kind of beat him down a bit,” Maron said.

“A bit, yeah,” Simon replied.

After her brief stint as a student in Paris, Simon moved to London. Through the help of friends and mutual acquaintances she then launched her career, in which she would photograph an untold number of rock stars, music industry standard bearers and pop-culture changemakers.

Morrison, however, was not among them. Simon said she “didn’t take one picture of Jim” — one of only two people she ever wanted to shoot but didn’t. Albert Grossman, the talent manager for Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, was the other.

Grossman had always insisted they hold off until he was able to lose 15 pounds, she said.

Contrary to popular belief, Morrison would not have needed to shed any weight.

“No, he didn’t have a beard, and he wasn’t chubby,” Simon said.


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