The Doors Guide to Los Angeles
We all know that Los Angeles was (and still is) the epicenter of all Doors activity. From 1965 to present, LA has always been the place to be for Doors fans. These guides have been put together to help you find all the "Doors spots" and allow you to get the most out of your trip to the city of lost angels.
Click on a tour below to get started, or.. just keep reading and start with the La Cienega/Santa Monica tour.
This is the first in a series of "mini-tours" covering most of the places that you will want to visit as a Doors fan in Los Angeles. The first leg of our Doors tour will cover the area right around La Cienega Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd. We will follow up with tours of The Sunset Strip, Venice Beach, the Hollywood Bowl, Laurel Canyon and other locations important to all Doors fans.
Note that we are always looking for vintage and updated photos of the locations and venues featured in all of the Doors tours. If you have one that you would like to share with the rest of the world, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll start at the center of Jim's world from 1968-1970..
La Cienega Blvd / Santa Monica Blvd
Corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica, 1969
The Alta Cienega Motel
1005 N. La Cienega Blvd
Although I'm sure Jim stayed in different rooms (as did many of Jim's friends), his favorite room was room 32 which has an incredible view overlooking the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica. No trip to LA would be complete without spending at least one night in Jim's room. As you can see, it has become somewhat of a shrine to Jim, with floor to ceiling graffiti. Every few years, the owners put a fresh coat of paint over it all - and the cycle begins again. It isn't long before the walls are filled again with poetry, messages to Jim, and Doors song lyrics.
Jim's room in April of 2002, and then again in July of 2005:
Back when Jim stayed in the room, it was painted green ("The green hotel"). If you look closely around all the nooks and crannies of the room, you'll probably be able to find traces of that original green paint. Although many of the fixtures in the room have been replaced since Jim was there, there are still a few original items left such as the "office buzzer" and the heating unit.
Up until a few years ago, if you exited from his room and took a left, you could go around the corner and look out over La Cienega/Santa Monica on a "porch"-type area. A few years ago they closed off that section and made it into a storage area.
While staying in Jim's room is cool, you tend to get a lot of noise from the street, and the random person knocking on your door asking to look around and take pictures (sometimes in the middle of the night). What you might want to do is stay in some of the other rooms of the Alta Cienega. I would recommend room 22. Rooms like room 22 haven't had to put up with 30 years of graffiti and look a lot more like they did back when Jim was staying there.
This is the ceiling of one of the other rooms (room #24). This is probably what the ceilings of all the rooms looked like in '68-'70. Also pictured is the office and parking lot as seen from the balcony outside room #24.
Here is a postcard from the Alta Cienega actually sent from the motel in 1969 and a room key from Jim's room.
When you get up in the morning you can grab a breakfast roll and a drink of orange juice that the management puts outside the office and get ready to explore The Doors' old stomping grounds.
If you exit the interior Alta Cienega parking lot onto La Cienega, and take a right (be careful of the fire hydrant!), you'll see LA Premier on your right (8505 Santa Monica Boulevard). Back in the day, this was the location of a strip club called 'The Phone Booth'.
The Phone Booth
8505 Santa Monica Blvd
Pictured below is The Phone Booth sign in the '60s, what it looks like today (LA Premier) and previously (Leo's Flowers).
The Phone Booth, which was right next door to the Alta Cienega Motel, was one of the many strip clubs Jim used to frequent. I'm sure Jim went through plenty of these matchbooks, and probably knew these young ladies personally:
A scene from Jim Morrison's unreleased movie "HWY" was filmed right outside the front door of The Phone Booth. Below you can see a photo of The Phone Booth sign as it appeared in late 1969, a pass to get into the club, and a vintage '60s ashtray/key.
According to Jerry Hopkins, this is where Jim Morrison took him to his first topless bar. "It was during a couple of weeks of interviews for Rolling Stone in 1969, and after finishing one of the sessions at the band office, he asked me to join him next door for a drink, at the Telephone Booth. We walked in, 'Love Me Two Times' dropped onto the turntable and one of the girls came over and shook her two times in his face."
After you move past LA Premier, keep walking and curve to the right onto Santa Monica Blvd. One of the first buildings you will see is Monaco Liquor.
8513 Santa Monica Blvd
Monaco Liquor is where Jim and the band bought most of their beverages before and after rehearsals. The Doors' offices and rehearsal studio were right across the street, so that made it the obvious choice!
If you keep walking down Santa Monica and you will come to the Ramada Inn/New Orleans Square. This is the former location of the world famous Tropicana Hotel.
The Tropicana Hotel
8585 Santa Monica Blvd
Jim stayed at the Tropicana on and off before moving into the Alta Cienega Motel around the corner. This was also the location of the original "Duke's Coffee Shop" where Jim and friends frequently ate breakfast. The Tropicana and Dukes were torn down in 1986 and were replaced by the Ramada Inn. Dukes Coffee Shop moved next door to the Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Blvd in 1986 and went out of business in 2012. In 2013, the building was gutted/remodeled and replaced by the current tenant, "Pearls".
Here is the site as it looks today:
This is what it looked like in the '50s and late '60s:
Now let's cross the street to the other side of Santa Monica Blvd. If you had travelled to LA previous to 2012, across the street from the Ramada you would have seen "The Palms" bar.
8572 Santa Monica Blvd
This is another of the bars where Jim and The Doors would stop for a drink after a long day in the studio. Regretably, this building was bulldozed in 2012 and a vacant lot exists in it's place. :(
The Palms bar exterior and interior:
Now start walking back towards La Cienega and you will run into a restaurant called Scorpion West. This was the location of The Doors offices from 1968 to 1972.
The Doors' Offices
8512 Santa Monica Blvd
This building was the center of all Doors activity from 1968 to 1972. This is where Bill Siddons ran the day to day operations of the band. This is also where a young Danny Sugerman hung around outside listening to the band rehearse, eventually being invited by Jim Morrison to answer the band's fan mail. It was also at this location that The Doors recorded the entire LA Woman album in the lower level, which they called "The Doors Workshop." The building has undergone many changes of ownership and renovations since 1972. Below you can see photos of some of the changes over the last decade.
Back in 1968, The Doors had some promo shots taken on the staircase on the left of the offices. Below is one of those promo shots along with the staircase as it existed in 2002.
During the recording of LA Woman, Jim's vocal booth was situated in the lower-level bathroom of The Doors' Workshop. The trip wouldn't be complete without singing a few verses of LA Woman in the old vocal booth!
Now that we're done with The Doors' old offices, let's go to the next stop. As you keep walking down Santa Monica towards La Cienega, you will run into a red and white building called 'Al & Ed's Autosound'. Back in the '60s, this was a topless bar called "The Extension".. another of Jim's favorite spots. There are quite a few stories floating around of Jim's antics at this location.
8500 Santa Monica Blvd
Now let's go to the final three buildings on La Cienega - Pam's boutique 'Themis', the 'HWY Offices' and Elektra Sound Studios.
We get there by taking a right at the Extension and going down La Cienega (away from the Alta Cienega Motel). After a few buildings, you will run into a store on the right called "Mahin Oriental Rugs". This was the location of Pam's boutique called "Themis" as well as the location of the "HWY Offices".
947 La Cienega Blvd
As most of you know, Jim's live-in girlfriend and soul mate was a beautiful redhead named Pamela Courson. In the late 60s, Jim purchased a boutique for Pamela which she named "Themis". The store contained fashions from all over the world and became a popular hangout for Jim and Pam's friends. Themis was located in the current "Mahin Rugs" building. Below are photos taken in 2002 and then again in 2011.
Looking at the above photos, you will see a small caged door under the round window (in the first two photos). If you go through that door and up the steps, you will find the former location of the HWY offices. The entrance to the offices are through the door marked with a "K". That is where Jim Morrison, Frank Lisciandro, Paul Ferrara and Babe Hill put together and edited the film HWY.
Now let's get back out onto La Cienega and cross the street. The building to our left is the studio where The Doors recorded "The Soft Parade" and "Morrison Hotel". Today it is a building called "Discovery Studios (previously "Intersound, Inc."). Back in the '60s it was called "Elektra Sound Recorders."
Elektra Sound Recorders
962 La Cienega Blvd
After all of this walking, you're sure to be hungry. Time to have a meal and your favorite beverage at one of Jim's favorite places to eat and relax with friends: Barney's Beanery!
To get to the Beanery, walk up La Cienega towards Sunset and take a right on Holloway Drive. Walk about half a block and you will see Barney's across the street.
8447 Santa Monica Blvd
The world famous Barney's Beanery has been a staple of West Hollywood dining for over 80 years. According to Danny Sugerman, this was one of Jim's favorite place to eat. Many a night was spent belly up to the bar enjoying good food and drink with friends. It was (and still is) a short walk from the Alta Cienega to Barneys just in case you have a few too many beverages. Barney's is as popular today as it was back in the '60s, and you can still get a great meal at a fair price.
That ends the walking portion of the La Cienega/Santa Monica tour. There are a few more sites in this tour that you could walk to, but it's much easier to just drive a car since they are at opposite ends of Santa Monica Blvd. You decide!
Troubadour9081 Santa Monica Blvd
The Troubadour is another one of those places that hasn't changed much since the '60s. It still caters to live music just as it did back then.
This was another of the many night spots Jim Morrison would visit on his nightly prowls down Santa Monica. According to Danny Sugerman, Jim was kicked out of this club many times and was later permanently banned from entering the club (although that never stopped him from trying).
Not only was the Troubadour a hangout for Jim, but later in the '70s and '80s, Ray was known to sit in with the bands for a late night jam. Two songs from one of Ray's sit-ins with "The Knack" at the Troubadour (Soul Kitchen and Alabama Song) were released on the CD "But The Little Girls Understand". Ray's band, Nite City also played a few gigs here.
Ray and Dorothy's Vista Grande ResidenceCorner of Vista Grande St. / Hammond St.
The house that Ray bought with his first royalty check in November of 1967. In 1967 it had both a swimming pool and a fish pond.
Ray and Dorothy's Beverly Hills Residence232 South Rodeo Drive
Ray, Dorothy and Pablo lived here for many years before moving to Napa. The below shot was taken right before their move to Napa, as you can still see the "RayMan" VW Beatle in the garage.
Village Recorder Studios1616 Butler Avenue
December 8, 1970 - On his birthday, Jim Morrison rented several hours of studio time at Village Recorders to record his poetry. He invited his friends Frank&Kathy Lisciandro as well as Alan Ronay to attend and participate in the session. Portions of this session were used in the 1979 release, "An American Prayer".
The building itself was built in the 1920s as a Masonic Temple. In the 1960s it was used by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as his Los Angeles center for Transcendental Meditation. Soon after that, it was converted into a recording studio. It was one of the first 24-track studios in Los Angeles. Although there have been major renovations since then, it is still the same state-of-the-art recording studio that Jim recorded in 40+ years ago.
According to local lore, the Village is haunted by a ghost. The ghost supposedly roams the hallways at night, drinking leftover booze. Hmmmmm.
Click here for a great walkthrough of the interior of the studio by Jeff Greenberg, CEO of the Village Recorder.
Army/Navy Surplus6263 Santa Monica Blvd
Want to buy your jeans at the same store Jim Morrison did? All you need to do is stop into California Surplus Mart on the corner of Santa Monica and Vine. This store has been in it's current location since 1945. According to Paul Ferarra, this is where Jim and friends would buy their jeans and other clothing back in the late '60s.
That ends the "La Cienega/Santa Monica" leg of our tour. Go back to your room at the Alta Cienega and rest up...
Next Stop.. the Sunset Strip!
Or pick another tour below to continue...