Kate and Andrew Kirby never got a chance to meet the frontman of the Doors. But they do have his phone number.
The owners of the Rock and Roll Emporium in downtown Huntington Beach put together a memorabilia show to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Jim Morrison's death July 3. Among the items they gleaned from collectors is a business card Morrison made before his band's success that describes him as a "poet-musician" and includes his Venice Beach address and number.
For the record, it's 321-7143. When dialed with the modern Venice area code, the number proved to be out of order.
Still, Kate Kirby has an idea of what she might say to Morrison if she got him on the phone.
"First, I'd tell him how much we love him and miss him," she said. "And then I'd ask him to send back a poem describing the other side. I think he could write some really trippy stuff about heaven, I really do."
Kirby and her husband doubt that they're the only ones in Surf City — or around Southern California — who miss the auteur of "Light My Fire," "Hello, I Love You" and other FM classics. Their exhibit is scheduled to remain up through July 15, and at the weekly Surf City Nights street fair Tuesday, they plan to set up a booth outside the shop, at 205 Main St., where passersby can record their memories of Morrison in a book.
In addition to the business card, the exhibit features gold records, rare photographs, handwritten poetry and lyrics and even a bond document signed by Morrison after his famous 1969 arrest in Florida. All the items are on sale, some for a set price and others open for competitive bids.
The exhibit honors a band and lead singer who remain among rock's most controversial. While critics seem to have reached a consensus on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and other icons, opinions on Morrison and his crew vary widely from one source to another.
The most recent Rolling Stone Album Guide ranks the Doors among the definitive California bands and calls Morrison's work "riveting and real"; a previous edition called them "the most overrated group in rock history." Entertainment Weekly once took a more middling approach, calling the band's catalog "an astounding amount of junk and also 15 to 20 of the most thrillingly impassioned rock & roll tracks ever recorded."
John M. Borack, a rock critic and historian who lives in Fountain Valley, said he once disliked the Doors intensely but came to appreciate them as a singles band. He added, though, that the band deserves more praise for its classic songs than for Morrison's self-destructive lifestyle, which he believes has garnered an undue cult following.
"When you celebrate the music instead of the myth, I think you get a lot more bang for your buck there," Borack said.
Andrew Kirby, who leads the band Ravages of Time along with his wife, counts himself a much bigger fan. One of his earliest memories, he said, is playing with toy cars on the floor of his mother's car while "Riders on the Storm" played on the radio.
The exhibit, he said, will provide a recession-friendly alternative for fans who can't afford to visit Morrison's tombstone across the Atlantic.
"Not everybody can pick up and fly to Paris to celebrate a memorial," he said.
If You Go
What: Jim Morrison 40th Anniversary Memorial Exhibit
Where: Rock and Roll Emporium, 205 Main St., Huntington Beach
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (open until 9 p.m. Tuesdays) through July 15
Information: (714) 960-4040 or http://www.therockandrollemporium.com