Earlier this week, in a lasting (if not especially prompt) display of loyalty, a pair of Doors fans sent a letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist, asking him to pardon the late Jim Morrison, who was arrested nearly 40 years ago on charges of indecent exposure after a concert in Miami.
See, on March 1, 1969, Morrison and the Doors were playing a show at the Dinner Key Auditorium when the iconic — and, on this night, reportedly very intoxicated — lead singer berated the crowd, encouraged them to "take [their] clothes off and love each other" and, in a moment that lives on in rock and roll infamy, shouted, "There are no rules!" and allegedly exposed himself. (This scene is re-enacted, doubtless with a keen eye toward historical accuracy, in Oliver Stone's 1991 film "The Doors.")
A public outcry ensued — including a "Rally for Decency" at the Orange Bowl stadium — and within a few days, the city of Miami issued a warrant for Morrison's arrest on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, public profanity and public drunkenness (phew!). More than 18 months later, Morrison was convicted on the profanity and indecent-exposure charges and sentenced to six months in jail. He was released pending an appeal, but died in his Paris apartment in on July 3, 1971, before that appeal could be heard.
Many Doors fans argue that the Miami incident marked the beginning of Morrison's downward spiral and see it as a permanent scuff on his legend. Of course, whether Governor Crist actually will pardon Morrison — something that requires the approval of two-thirds of the Florida Cabinet — remains to be seen. And while the appeal is no doubt a noble one, there is a sense of "Um, why now?" If the matter is so important, shouldn't have the speedy wheels of justice been greased decades ago?
But it did get us thinking: if we had the power (and weren't slaves to that most unforgiving mistress, time), which of music's most felonious would we pardon — and why.
In our court of clemency, things like "evidence" and "alibi" carry just as much weight as a truly awesome mug shot or a completely epic flame-out — and as such, our verdicts are not necessarily legally airtight, nor are we in any way advocating such behavior. But hey, we're the judges here, so whatever we say, goes!
Court is in session, and we're ready to rule ...
Defendant: Ozzy Osbourne
The Charge: Back in the day, Ozzy was like the Michael Jordan of public intoxication and bad behavior. Take, for example, his infamous intoxicated incidents of 1982, when he bit the head off of a dove in a record-company meeting, and the Alamo incident later in the year, when Osbourne urinated on the Texas landmark, was booked on public-intoxication charges and subsequently banned from ever appearing in San Antonio again. Or his 1984 arrest in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was popped by police officers after "staggering drunk" — those words are from the police report — down Beale Street, and perhaps for showing his allegiance to the St. Louis Blues.
Our Verdict: Totally pardoned! Ozzy has sorta mellowed over the past two decades — so much, in fact, that we're willing to forgive all his past indiscretions (except "Close Your Eyes Forever"). Plus, anyone who can appear on consecutive album covers as a blood-spattered Mr. Hyde and a savage, tree-bound wolfman — as the Ozzman did on 1981's Diary of a Madman and '83's Bark at the Moon — can do no wrong in our book.
Defendants: The Beastie Boys
The Charges: The most serious legal ramification from the band's unhinged 1987 License to Ill tour was Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) being arrested in England for allegedly hitting a female audience member in the face with a beer can he'd batted into the crowd. But you kinda get the feeling that the Beasties have spent the last 20 years trying to live down the events of that raucous worldwide trek, which saw them work a giant inflatable (and, according to some reports, motorized) phallus into their stage shows, invite female fans onstage to dance in cages, trash more hotel rooms than Led Zeppelin and — allegedly — lob insults at leukemia patients in the U.K. They've since traded in their hell-raising ways for retro obsessing, unsuccessful business diversification (Grand Royal Records and magazine) and, uh, Buddhism.
We Say: No harm, no foul (well, aside from the beer-can incident, which, if true, sounds unintentional). The B-Boys were just borrowing the whole inflatable-donger thing from the Rolling Stones' 1975 tour anyway, and we're pretty sure the hard partying suited the guys well: Ever since he went all "clean livin'," Mike D has started to look like the Crypt Keeper.
Defendant: Jack White of the White Stripes and Raconteurs
The Charge: In December 2003, White got into an altercation with Von Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer at a Detroit rock club (see "Jack White Brawls With Fellow Garage Rocker At Detroit Club"), an incident that allegedly stemmed from disagreement over production credits on the Bondies' 2001 album Lack of Communication. White took full credit, while Stollsteimer said he felt engineer Jim Diamond, who later unsuccessfully sued White over White Stripes royalties (see "White Stripes Win Royalties Lawsuit"), did most of the work. Regardless of what caused the scrap, it's clear who the winner was: White emerged unscathed, despite being able to brawl with only one hand (he'd recently broken his left index finger), and Stollsteimer ... well, he didn't fare quite as well. White was subsequently charged with aggravated assault, but ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. He was fined $500 and ordered to attend anger-management classes.
We Say: Pardoned. After all, White totally whooped ass with only one hand — and he might do it to us if we don't pardon him.
Defendants: 2 Live Crew
The Charges: Geez, where to start? The bootymasters' 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be got a lot of people all hot and bothered (not in the good way) thanks to its highly explicit content, drawing the ire of the American Family Association and eventually being classified as obscene — and therefore illegal to sell — in Broward County, Florida. In June 1990, a local record store clerk was arrested for selling a copy of Nasty to an undercover police officer, and a few days later, three members of the Crew — Luther "Luke Skyywalker" Campbell, Chris "Fresh Kid Ice" Wong Won and Mark "Brother Marquis" Ross — were arrested on charges of obscene conduct after performing songs from the album at a nightclub in Hollywood, Florida. But none of the charges stuck, and in 1992, a Court of Appeals overturned the obscenity ruling.
We Say: Even though their convictions were all thrown out, we feel like the whole incident is a blemish on the group's otherwise sterling reputation, so we're granting the Crew clemency. Anyone responsible for a tune as excellent(ly terrible) as 1999's Bill-Clinton baiting "Bill So Horny: The Presidential Remix" is clearly worthy of a presidential-style pardoning.
The Defendant: R.E.M. Guitarist Peter Buck
The Charges: In April 2001, Buck boarded a British Airways flight in Seattle, bound for London. Somewhere in between, he began downing glass after glass of red wine and, according to British court documents, Buck "behaved ... like the transmogrification of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde," getting stuck between seats, wandering around the first-class cabin bellowing "I am R.E.M.!," trying to sit next to a woman he inaccurately claimed was his wife, threatening the cabin crew with a tub of yogurt and a spoon, attempting to insert a CD into a drinks cart and — in the piece-de-resistance — smashing a trolley of breakfast crockery for no apparent reason (see "Peter Buck Arrested For Busting Up First Class"). He was charged with two counts of common assault on the cabin crew, one count of being drunk on a plane and one count of damaging British Airways cutlery. At trial, his defense claimed the wine he had drank had reacted adversely with some sleeping pills, which caused him to lose control; Buck said he remembered nothing between closing his eyes in his first-class seat and waking up in the Heathrow Airport police station. After some heartfelt testimony from Bono and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, Buck was cleared of all charges on the grounds of "non-insane automatism," which essentially means his actions were not considered intentional.
We Say: Sure, the British court may have already cleared him, but if we were in charge, this whole thing would've never even got to trial. After all, who among us hasn't mistaken a cart loaded with alcohol for a stereo? And who doesn't hate crockery?
Defendant: Lil' Kim
The Charges: In 2005, Kim was convicted on charges of perjury and conspiracy for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about her involvement in a 2001 shooting at New York radio station Hot 97 (see "Lil' Kim Gets A Year And A Day In Prison"). She served 366 days in a Philadelphia prison, then departed "wearing sunglasses, carrying a bouquet of white roses ... blowing kisses and [telling fans] 'I love you,' " according to The Associated Press, which sort of proves that there is no situation she can't glamorize. Since then, she's kept her nose clean (unlike chronic-antagonizer-of-beauty-salon-employees Foxy Brown) and logged time as a "stern-yet-fair" judge on the CW's "Search for the Next Doll."
We Say: The Queen Bee is pardoned. She paid her debt to society via a stretch in the slammer (which is more than we can say for just about anyone else on this list) and has behaved ever since — although her dedication to the whole "Stop Snitchin' " ethic isn't particularly admirable.
The Defendant: Trey Anastasio
The Charges: The former Phish frontman faced a seven-count indictment that included a felony charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance, driving under the influence of drugs, and misdemeanor drug possession, stemming from a late-night traffic stop in rural Whitehall, New York, last December — charges that could have gotten him 14 years in prison. Police reportedly pulled Anastasio over after he was seen "swerving" between lanes, and then found a quantity of heroin, prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety medication in his car. Anastasio allegedly also told police that he had been smoking hashish and taking pills prior to his arrest (whoops!). According to AP, Anastasio accepted a plea deal on Friday (April 13) that spares him time in prison but involves community service, drug testing and weekly appearances in New York's drug court program for 12 to 15 months.
We Say: Despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to a lesser drugs charge, we'll pardon him. Because not only is Anastasio's "aw-shucks" mug shot beyond cute, we don't know how anyone could survive 20 years of Phish without some serious painkillers.