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Are You Manzarek Enough?: Ray Manzarek built his directional debut around his own musical history when he made 'Love Her Madly.'

Truly, 'Madly,' Deeply

Ray Manzarek pays tribute to Jim Morrison and realizes his own filmmaking dreams with 'Love Her Madly'

By Sarah Phelan

Somewhere in a parallel universe, Ray Manzarek is a lawyer instead of a rock icon. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in this dimension who thinks we got the short end of the stick.

"Even my own mother and father told me, 'Raymond, we're glad you didn't become a lawyer,' which coming from my parents was like, holy cow!" says Manzarek.

Instead, he dropped out of law school at age 24 to enroll in UCLA's film school, where he met Jim Morrison. The pair recorded eight platinum albums and three platinum singles, but they never made a movie together in the seven years between that meeting and Morrison's death at age 27, leaving yet another of Manzarek's alternate-reality ambitions unfulfilled.

This one, however, has finally been realized with Love Her Madly, the film he directed that was selected for this year's Santa Cruz Film Fest. Manzarek will make an appearance with his film noir when it screens at the Rio on Friday, the festival's closing night.

In fact, Love Her Madly brings together Manzarek's musical and movie dreams. It's somewhat of a Morrison tribute, given that it's based on one of his short stories and offers new insight into the meaning of the Doors' hit by the same title.

"'Love Her Madly' is a love song, a hard-rocking love song about a femme fatale, who, 'Don't you love her as she's walking out the door/ all your love is gone,'" says Manzarek, breaking into the song's famously catchy words, as he speaks by phone from his home in Sebastapol. "It was always intended to be a part of a movie about my femme fatale, but I just didn't know it. It was always waiting there to be brought to life."

"Waiting to be brought to life" is how the three men in Love Her Madly view Hadley (Jennifer Lothrop), an exquisite femme fatale. after whom they all lust. Indeed, Hadley's boyfriend Gram (Richard Danielson), her videomaker friend Dills (T. J. Thyne) and her professor Gabriel (Madison Mason) all try to interpret her through their art, but only as they want her to be. Meanwhile, the equally artistic Hadley has other ideas of her own--a clash of wills that turns out to have fatal consequences.

Set on the campus of the California College of the Arts, Love Her Madly opens with the discovery of an unidentified corpse in the school's Greek amphitheater, then cuts back to cover the events of the previous 24 hours, revealing a web of intrigue that gives us plenty of reasons to believe that any one of the protagonists could have been the killer or the one to get killed.

"Men all try to shape women--and disaster befalls us," says Manzarek, who credits director Joseph von Sternberg (Blue Angel, Shanghai Express) for influencing him stylistically.

"I had a class with Joseph von Sternberg at UCLA, which changed my life, if not my attitude towards women, which has always been lustfully wonderfully beautiful, but in terms of style," he says.

Wonderful is also how Manzarek describes Lothrop, who he says was "huge fun to work with," despite the prima donna role that she had to portray.

"What's great about working with unknown actors is they don't bring any star ego trip to production," he says. "They simply love to work."

Work in Lothrop's case also included having to stand and be plastered as various molds and castings of her body were made-- a necessary step given that Hadley's boyfriend Gram supposedly has a studio filled with life-size sculptures, not to mention photos and drawings, of Hadley, who he has chosen as the only subject of his life's work.

Strange as literally getting actors plastered may sound, the weirdest part of the film for Manzarek was appearing as himself playing keyboard alongside Beat poet Michael McClure.

"For us to be performing at a club, as we have in real life, but while filming for a movie, left me wondering, 'Am I playing at a club with Michael or am I directing this movie?'" he says.

The hardest part, on the other hand, was the "much too short" 17-day shooting schedule.

"The upside was that the actors had the luxury of doing lots of takes since we were shooting digital, which only costs $20 an hour," says Manzarek, recalling that such luxuries were not possible back when he was in film school and using what he describes as " virtually indestructible 16 mm cameras, the same as were used in World War II."

"You could kill someone with one of those little cameras, consequently we were using them all the way up to 1960s," he jokes. Then suddenly that gets him thinking about how said cameras would make a great murder weapon in a film noir about film noir students making a film noir.

"I have a thousand ideas for movies in my head, plus novels and stories," says Manzarek. "And God, the music I still want to make would alone leave me with no time to tend to my garden and check out my tomatoes. But that's the wonderful thing about taking LSD. You find out that life is more than a series of events, failures and successes. You realize that the sun is out, and you've done what you've done."

Manzarek thinks Jim Morrison would be very disappointed with the state of America in 2004 and with the current war in Iraq. He himself has been booed onstage since 9/11 by people who don't like entertainers using their shows to tell Americans what they could or should do.

"Not that that's gonna stop me," he says. "Our direction should be love, peace, hope, beauty and tending the garden of America. Last week, I was onstage in New York playing "The Unknown Soldier" just like the Doors did in New York in '68, '69 and '70. It's ridiculous how similar the situation is. And then we have senators saying, 'They're more savage then we are, ergo, let's kill the motherfuckers!' So, it doesn't matter who Kerry is, because who the fuck wants Bush?"

Ray Manzarek performs at the Santa Cruz Film Festival's closing night after the 8:30pm, May 21, screening of Love Her Madly at the Rio Theatre. Call 831.459.7676 or visit www. santacruzfilmfestival.com.

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From the May 19-26, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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