I’m the clown standing on the right between Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger of the THE DOORS when I was their opening act in 2004. Standing on the far left is their lead singer, Ian Asbury, next to their manager, Tom Vitorino, the ringmaster of this crazy circus. I got the gig thanks to my friend, Sarah Sawyer, who had recommended me to the Orpheum Theater where THE DOORS were scheduled to play, but needed an opening act.
I remember on the day before I was hammering away on my computer trying to finish the script for our annual Waldorf Circus, when an email pops up from Sarah that I read as, “Lloyd, are you available this Friday night to open doors as a mime at the Orpheum?”
Disgusted I type, “Yes,” then press “send,” and return to my script. I hate putting on mime face to perform mundane tasks like being a doorman silently greeting the public, but I needed the money.
Then Sarah fires back a second email that I stop to read, “Great Lloyd, I feel like a Rock Star groupie. “I’ll let the Orpheum know.” I was a little confused, but I shrug it off, and go back to writing.
A short time later I receive an email from the Orpheum that reads, “Mr. Brant, we are so glad that you are available to be The Opening Act for THE DOORS this Friday night at The Orpheum Theater.
Perplexed, I retrieve Sarah’s original email, and re-read, “Lloyd, are you available this Friday night to open for The Doors as a mime at the Orpheum?” I shit in my pants. Quickly, I email back the Orpheum to confirm exactly what it is that I had agreed to do, and then go back to writing my script a bit distracted.
Finally, the Orpheum answers back assuring me, “Yes, you will be The Opening Act for the Rock and Roll band, THE DOORS.” The message ends; “Please arrive tomorrow at noon. Bring your own mime make-up, costume, and juggling equipment.”
The next morning I wake up in a panic. I couldn’t believe that I had agreed to perform for 3,000 screaming Rock and Roll fans… as a mime. I will be eaten alive. I go to the basement and begin digging through my props. I think luckily they want me to juggle, as I pack my prop case with fire torches, gasoline, and a set of two-foot long knives. Almost as an afterthought I also toss in a set of glow-in-the-dark LED powered juggling balls .
At noon I arrive at the Orpheum, and I’m shown to a front room where a crew of scraggly old hippies are sitting. One of them asks, “Who are you?”
I answer, “I’m the opening act for THE DOORS.”
They all look at each other and laugh. The one who appears to be in charge says, “You’re not opening “for” THE DOORS. You’re opening “with” THE DOORS.” Ray Manzarek’s organ music is playing you on, and we will be doing the special lighting effects.
I ask, “Who are you?”
He answers, “You’re looking at the Liquid Light Show.” He explains that they are the original crew that created the wall of psychedelic liquid light that was the iconic backdrop in the 1960s for bands like, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors.
Soon a slick man with jet-black hair arrives introducing himself as Tom Vitorino, the band’s manager. Tom leads me back to where Ray Manzarek, and Robbie Kieger were just sitting down to eat. Over lunch I listen to their stories from the sixties; then enjoy observing a good natured argument between Ray and Robbie on who will lead The Door’s signature extended jam that night, and finally I learn the reason why the original drummer John Densmore is not on the tour. It has something to do with John being half deaf, but fully crazy.
After lunch, Tom leads me to my dressing room. He wants to see my costume, and approves of my top hat and tailcoat. He then asks if I brought my make-up. When I say yes, he takes out paper to sketch what looks like a crude human skull, and asks, “Can you paint this with your makeup?”
I ask, “You mean like a Mexican Day of the Dead mask?” Tom, smiles and nods yes. At that moment all my nervousness from the past 24 hours vanishes, and I knew I had nothing to fear. I said, “Yes, but I’ll need time.”
Tom leaves me alone, and I begin painting my face like the image on the paper. A dark character fully formed enters my imagination, and begins guiding my hand as I finish applying my make-up. When I look in the mirror I see a shaman-clown staring back at me
When it’s time for my tech rehearsal I decide to use my glow-in-the-dark juggling balls, and stuff them in my pockets. I follow the smoky haze to Ray Manzarek’s dressing room, and silently enter. When Ray sees me his eyes grow to the size of saucers, as he leaps up in shock.
I crack a smile and realize I’ve broken the spell. I say to Ray, “I’m sorry this character really shouldn’t smile.”
Ray nods, “Yah, stay in character. Keep it up.”
I then walk out to the stage where two technicians are talking in the wings with their backs turned to me. I hear one guy say, “Why did Tom book a mime this year.” Then the other guy laughs, “How about the Indian Chief he booked last year to do that Buffalo Dance.” The first guy begins to turn, “All I know is that I hate mimes.” Suddenly he sees me standing in the shadows. I remain deadpan watching their two faces turn white, then bright red as they sputter their apologies. The rest of the tech rehearsal goes smoothly.
At the top of the show I walk out in darkness, with Ray Manzarek’s organ playing carnival music. I stand silently at center stage with my head bowed to hide my horror makeup behind the brim of my top hat. I then reveal my LED powered juggling balls that were concealed under my tailcoat, and begin juggling. The light trails created by my glowing orbs spark a huge acid induced gasp from the audience. As I continue juggling I look-up slowly revealing my painted face, which causes the audience to freak out in joyful terror. I then start throwing the balls high in the air until Ray’s organ music falls off to silence, which is my cue to drop my juggling balls to the stage. In the empty darkness a huge video image appears of a human heart beating loudly, which is meant to scare death away. I quickly pickup my juggling balls and slink off, as THE DOORS enter to thunderous applause.
After my short moment on stage I slip behind the closed mid-traveler curtains to find myself directly behind the band in the vast dark void of the Orpheum’s cavernous backstage. Still wearing my costume and make-up, I begin dancing alone to the music. In the inky blackness I close my eyes, and allow my imagination to feel the ghostly presence of Jim Morrison looking down at me from the rafters. This is the night when I followed the footprints of an Indian Chief to help raise the spirit of Jim Morrison from the dead.