The real life price of dating a rock star: interview with author Judy Huddleston
As a young Californian teen in the 1960s, Judy Huddleston met Jim Morrison backstage at a concert. Not a groupie and yet not quite an official girlfriend, their intermittent relationship lasted for four years till his death. Willing to risk it all for her idol, this grey area intimacy took her to the brink of self-destruction and threatened her very identity and sanity.
Judy first wrote about her experiences in the 1991 book This is the End… My Only Friend: Living and Dying with Jim Morrison but the book was only available for a short time before the publisher went bankrupt. Recently released Love Him Madly: An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison is an updated and expanded version.
Judy’s beautifully written coming-of-age story about her sexual relationship with Jim Morrison of the Doors is a compelling example of personal meets political in pop culture and media. Readers of her book will not only see a more developed and nuanced portrayal of Morrison but also what the sexually free 1960s were really like for a teenage girl raised on 1950s romantic ideals.
In our interview conducted through email we discuss how emotional vulnerability affects identity and gender beliefs, surviving the death of ideals and ultimately breaking free from power imbalanced obsessive relationships. More than just exposing what Morrison was like behind scenes, it is Ms. Huddlestons’ deepest desire to reach other woman who might find themselves powerless and offer the hard won insight she finally achieved.
As a fan of your writing and first book I just want to say thank you for re-visiting the story and being willing to share such deeply personal memories. The first seems to be about Jim Morrison while this one is more of your story.
Judy: Love Him Madly was intended as a coming-of-age tale, primarily for women who had ‘loved too much’. The fact that the man was Jim actually got in the way. Apparently it still does. Although I’m writing about an unbalanced, co-dependent and obsessive relationship that many women have had — especially when they’re young, people often say: “Oh, but it’s Jim Morrison.” Like that somehow normalizes how we turn a man into a god and crawl over glass for him!
Why do you think were you willing to crawl over glass for him and lose yourself in the process? Wasn’t it because he was Jim Morrison?
Judy: It’s kind of chicken-and-the egg why I was willing to crawl over glass. Yes, his “Jim-ness” inspired it; but honestly, he was also an archetypical romantic ideal… Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, James Dean and Kurt Cobain. He’s the bad boy, the tortured artist, every misunderstood rock n’ roller or addict who’s even half cute. We’re programmed for him!
Jim Morrison has a reputation for being unbalanced and on the edge. Many fans don’t want to believe that he was mentally unstable or a troubled man (especially as portrayed by Oliver Stone) so they look to biographies to find a more human side of someone who is collectively worshiped by many.
Judy: Jim was usually on the edge and sometimes unbalanced, not always. He definitely wasn’t as one-dimensionally dark as the Stone characterization. But he was an alcoholic and probably borderline or bi-polar. These were major mood swings!
What makes young girls especially vulnerable to such relationships?
Judy: Some girls might not have the programming — the healthier ones. And he can probably be more of a good guy, too though being unattainable helps the fantasy stay alive. When you’re younger, particularly your teens and early 20s, it’s easy to project your dream onto someone. Girls are often losing daddy and wanting something to believe in, someone like a god.
I believe most of us are programmed for him, especially if we are inexperienced in love and look to stories, movie and music for guidance on relationships and someone to direct all our feelings and emotions towards. I don’t know anyone whose parents sat them down and said “this is what a healthy relationship looks like” (most of our parents didn’t even have such relationships themselves).
Healthy relationships can encompass the mundane and routine at times while the bad boy always promises adventure, excitement and daring at first glance. Put him on a stage and that doubles!
Plus going after someone your parents or society doesn’t approve of offers a chance to set yourself apart and feel grown-up because you are becoming your own person that doesn’t just blindly follow the rules. If you get that guy that seems so self-assured and together while he is leading a crowd from the stage then you must be doing something right and something not just anyone can do!
Judy: That’s so true and so unconscious — we rarely know what we’re doing. My dad was a singer from the Big Band era; he was originally in a group with Frank Sinatra. Yet I somehow thought I was being original! My parents separated when I was 14 and it was full steam ahead from there.
Did you see Jim as a father figure? Once you got to know him was he anything like your dad?
Judy: At first I saw Jim as the opposite of my father, an Orange County conservative from the Midwest who hated rock n’ roll. Ironically, they were both fairly tyrannical authority figures that I wanted to approve me.
Your book also discusses another reason why women ignore their own internal voices in obsessive relationships, in the 60s it was called the ‘sexual revolution’ and now it’s known as ‘no strings attached’. Let’s talk about this for a moment.
Jim clearly thought it was a sexual relationship in the beginning and even told you that he couldn’t be your boyfriend but yet you were willing to accept this even though you wanted him to love you. Women offered this option often take it because it’s better than nothing at all but it’s not very satisfying and ultimately soul-destroying.
Judy: That’s a hard one. It was especially difficult when the idealistic concept of ‘free love’ was so strong. I certainly liked the idea of loving someone without being possessive or jealous. A few years earlier, my anthem had been a Lesley Gore song called “You Don’t Own Me.”
Morally, I believed it was the true high road, but experientially it’s much harder as a woman. You are literally the one who is entered. That makes a huge difference emotionally, but I wasn’t able to accept that then.
So secretly, I thought I’d eventually win him over… I didn’t understand the price I was paying, how advantageous it was for him (or men). Women still buy into that as a viable option on an uneven playing field. Maybe it depends on whether you win or lose the game, but either way, it hurts.
That is a very good point; we do literally open ourselves up! What was the price you paid? And how were you able to get over the hurt?
Judy: I had a strangely delayed reaction. It’s like the hurt built up over time until I felt dead inside. Honestly, it wasn’t just the relationship with Jim. He was more like the model of counterculture expectations that lasted through the seventies.
Do you think the prevalence of ‘free love’ is the reason why Pam Courson (Jim’s official girlfriend) was willing to tolerate Jim’s numerous dalliances?
Judy: I’m sure Pam had little choice but tolerance, though not happily. I believe she had several relationships too, probably just to even things out. By the time the 80s hit, I, for one, was totally burnt out by freedom…
Your book illustrates how harmful it can be to hold onto expectations instead of seeing a relationship or person as they really are. Obsessive relationships are never about that person but who we want them to be and who we want to be in their eyes.
What advice would you give to young girls (and women) who might be experiencing the same thing?
Judy: At least listen to the voice inside you that knows the truth. You don’t have to give up the man or relationship, but slow down enough to look at what’s actually happening. There’s a tendency to hang on to a future that never comes. Is it really worth the pain?
In my case it was idealizing a man almost like he was God. And if only he can love you, life will finally be OK. Then the physical attraction and emotional pull of a dangerous, unattainable type heightens the romance.
Yes the physical and emotional often clouds judgment, especially for those relatively new to relationships. Why do women have a tendency to idealize men?
Judy: I think there’s almost a need to idealize a man — like a lofty goal you’re aspiring to… and a fantasy about the charmed life you’ll enter through the relationship with “Him”. Just a plain guy with all his boring flaws won’t do the trick, you need some kind of god/daddy. So we may super-impose this ideal over the guy. Part of that’s just hormonal and somewhat real, but the rest seems to come from culture and family.
Do you think it’s different for younger generations who don’t have the same media or cultural influences (the game Mystery Date comes to mind)?
Judy: I don’t feel the cultural influences have changed all that much on this level…that emotional/physical pull is so instinctual and our brains seem fairly slow to catch on that we’re not survival-dependent on men. I’m thinking it’ll take a few more decades to get encoded (however that works).
How can women keep their eyes open and listen to their inner voice in the face of strong physical attraction and emotions?
Judy: Breathe in, meditate or pray for clarity, and ask your friends to tell the truth if you’re losing it.
Let’s talk about the ‘like god’ part for a moment. In your book, you discuss questioning religion and see a correlation between this and your rebellion against Jim (which happened later on in your relationship). Can you tell us more about this?
Judy: This was fairly unconsciousness as it happened. I’d more or less rejected traditional religion, particularly god personified as a He. Yet underneath that bravado, I was in love with Jim as if he was God, whether that is personified as Adonis, Dionysius, or Jesus… I believed his love could save me but I didn’t believe I could save him.
How did your relationship with Jim affect your relationships afterwards? Have you ever been married or had kids?
Judy: Unfortunately, it took me a few decades to stop being attracted to “Jim types.” I tried several other varieties. Finally, I went the other direction and married a yoga teacher for good measure. We didn’t have children.
The most poignant part of the book for me was when you discussed what most people in art school ponder at some point (and I dare say, anyone who breathes); a realization that you may not be able to create a masterpiece — something of importance that ‘marks your existence’ and singles you out as a creator of significant art. Then you also discuss the added pressure as a woman to not live up to the expectation that it will all be given it all up when becoming a mother. Do you feel like this memoir erases that fear?
Judy: I’m glad I was able to revisit the story in Love Him Madly. It seems slightly more comic or tragic, depending on my mood, but the desire to create a significant work of art won’t go away. The difficulty with this book is the recurrence of my identity being overshadowed by Jim. Even as I write my memoir, people think it’s his biography. On the other hand, some literary people won’t bother to read it because they assume it’s “just another groupie” book…
It is ironic, isn’t it?! The whole book is about finding out who you are and it seems the biggest problem you had with Jim is that he didn’t think of or know who you were outside the context of your time together despite having poetry, writing and an interest in art in common.
But in the same vein he was also overshadowed by his ‘image’ and still is. Do people read his work because of who he is or because they think he’s a great poet?
How do you feel about the fact that the book has been marketed to Doors fans, specifically with the title taken from a song and image of Jim on the cover?
Judy: I understand it’s our culture and the marketplace, but it still hurts… like he’s the only thing that matters in my memoir and writing.
What would Jim think of your books?
Judy: He’d know I was as true to him and the experiences as I could be. I honestly think he’d understand and like the books.
Did you gain any new insight while writing this book?
Judy: How deeply lost I was in those years.
What do you think of your younger self? And how do you now feel about Jim Morrison?
Judy: I’m startled by how stubborn, reckless and naive she was; and I’m grateful she wasn’t hurt more. I feel more compassion for Jim than before — he seems so trapped. I don’t see a viable way out for him.