The shocking truth about how my pal Jim Morrison REALLY died
Daily Mail | July 9, 2007
For more than three decades it has remained one of rock music's most tantalising mysteries.
Why did Jim Morrison, legendary lead singer of The Doors, suddenly collapse and die in his Paris apartment, aged only 27?
The official death certificate states he died in the bath of "natural causes".
But now, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, a former close friend of the singer says he knows the truth.
According to Sam Bernett, Morrison died of a massive heroin overdose in the toilet of a nightclub he was managing, the Rock 'n' Roll Circus on the French capital's fabled Left Bank.
Bernett, 62, a French-born former New York Times journalist, claims the death was then covered up by two drug dealers who transferred Morrison's body from the club to the singer's apartment and dumped it in the bath.
Bernett was then warned by the club's owners never to tell anybody about what he had seen.
This extraordinary testament is contained in Bernett's forthcoming book "The End - Jim Morrison" soon to be published in France.
The allegations are being taken so seriously that they are being examined by the French authorities and may lead to the investigation into Morrison's death being reopened.
Jim Morrison first arrived in Paris in March 1971. One of the most widely-recognised stars in the world, thanks to hits such as Break on Through and Light My Fire, he had just finished recording what was to become The Door's most popular album, LA Woman.
He lived a notoriously wild life, abusing both alcohol and drugs, and soon became a regular at the Rock 'n' Roll Circus, a club frequented by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
It also played host to trapeze artists and, on one memorable occasion, a live tiger and monkeys from a nearby circus.
In the early hours of 3 July 1971, the underground disco was heaving with 500 revellers, including 24-year-old British siren Marianne Faithfull who had recently split up with Mick Jagger. Morrison, who was living in Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson, arrived at about 1am.
"I greeted Jim as I always did," recalled Bernett from his home in Paris.
"He didn't look in great form, and immediately went to his usual spot at the bar and ordered a bottle of vodka. He was also drinking beers.
"I was used to talking about everything with him - from Janice Joplin to the beatniks - but that night it was just a bit of small talk.
"He'd come in to pick up heroin for Pam. He was always collecting drugs for her and the club was full of dealers."
According to Bernett, Morrison bought the heroin from two men working for Jean de Breteuil, a French playboy and drug dealer.
"The dealers who Jim was talking to were well known," said Bernett.
"Both were French guys in their 20s. I knew what they were up to, and kept an eye out for Jim. He disappeared to the toilets at around 2am.
"Then, about half an hour later, a cloakroom attendant came up to me and told me someone was locked in one of the cubicles and wasn't coming out. It was then that I got a bouncer to smash the door down.'
Bernett was met by the sight of Morrison's body, slumped on the toilet.
In his book, he writes: "I recognised the US Army combat jacket and the riding boots from the Camargue region of France which he never took off. It was Jim Morrison, with his head between his knees, his arms dangling.
"For a few seconds our eyes were glued to the unmoving corpse. We were mesmerised by the baffling spectacle.
"The flamboyant singer of The Doors, the cool and good-looking Californian guy, was now a collapsed and inert lump lying in a nightclub toilet.
"Seeing Jim in such a bad way was pretty awful. We were certain he'd been snorting heroin because there was foam coming out of his lips as well as blood. He was scared of needles so never injected drugs. He just snorted them."
Bernett's first reaction was to send for one of his regular customers, a doctor. The medic, who Bernett refuses to name, "recognised Morrison but kept his cool. Very calmly, and expertly, he examined the body for a few seconds.
"He pushed Jim's head back, lifted his eyelids, opened his mouth, and fixed his ear to his chest to listen to his heartbeat. He looked for marks and bruises on the body and the arms.
"It was a quick and professional examination. His diagnosis was very confident: 'This man is dead. Apparently the victim of a cardiac arrest.' The doctor was not stupid and spoke of a lethal overdose."
In the meantime, Morrison's two "friends" from the bar who had sold him the heroin had arrived. Ignoring the doctor's verdict, they insisted the singer 'had just fainted' and they would take care of him.
Then, according to Bernett, they lifted Morrison's body out of the toilets and along a corridor that linked the Circus with Alcazar, the club next door which still exists today.
That was the last Bernett saw of the body but, from Alcazar, he says it would have been easy to place Morrison in a car or van waiting in the small side street outside, and then take the body to the singer's apartment across the river in Rue Beautreillis.
Minutes after the tragedy, a representative of the club's owner - a well-connected Paris businessman called Paul Pacini still alive, we are trying to get a comment from him] - warned Bernett not to tell anyone what had happened.
Bernett says: "I was told, "Since Morrison's friends want to take him with them, we have nothing more to do with this story.
"The club has no responsibility for what happens here. It was a sad accident, certainly, but that's fate. So we saw nothing, we heard nothing, we shut up! OK? It's what we better do to avoid a scandal."
Bernett adds that he saw little point in calling the emergency services, as he was convinced Morrison was already dead and nothing could be done for him.
And he says anyone else in the club that night who had an inkling of what went on - including Marianne Faithfull - was also sworn to secrecy.
Incredibly, after Morrison's body was found in his apartment, no proper investigation into his death was carried out.
Pamela Courson, Morrison's girlfriend since they were at university together in Los Angeles, swore on oath that her lover had been alive and well the night before.
She told police they had been to the cinema together and then returned home at 1am - the time Bernett claims Morrison was arriving at The Circus - where she did the washing up and he watched a film, before they retired to bed to listen to music.
Then, in the middle of the night, Morrison had woken up coughing and she had watched him leave the room to take a bath "and relax".
Max Vassille, a compliant French doctor, was happy to write off Morrison's demise as "death from natural causes", pointing out that the singer had been suffering from a serious stomach ulcer and asthma attacks after moving from America earlier in the year.
He ruled that no autopsy was required, as there was "no evidence of foul play".
Vassille and Pamela Courson have both since died.
Morrison's official death report, still filed at Paris town hall, has been used ever since to quash countless conspiracy theories ranging from security agency plots to theories that Morrison faked his own death to escape the trappings of fame.
As for Marianne Faithfull, Bernett says she and Jean de Breteuil left Paris for Morocco the moment they heard about Morrison's death.
"De Breteuil was Pam's dealer, and had supplied the heroin on the night," said Bernett.
"He and Marianne immediately packed their bags and headed for Casablanca, where De Breteuil had relatives. They didn't want to hang about.
"Marianne never mentioned Jim again. She won't talk about what happened in the club to this day."
The Mail on Sunday contacted Marianne Faithfull but she was unavailable for comment. De Breteuil died of an overdose not long after Morrison.
Bernett, a former journalist who now presents programmes on French national radio, says he has finally decided to break his silence despite risking prosecution for covering up the death in his club.
"I was 26 in 1971," he said. "Today, I'm past 60, and want to get rid of my heavy load. At least everything is now out there to be discussed. I've said what I have to say."
According to French law, criminal cases cannot be reopened after 20 years have lapsed. However, civil law - as well as international law - may provide an opportunity for investigators to re-open the case.
A spokesman for France's Police National said: "The new evidence will have to be considered.
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