Pamela Courson

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Pamela Courson
Pamela Courson.jpg
Born Pamela Susan Courson
(1946-12-22)December 22, 1946
Weed, California, U.S.
Died April 25, 1974(1974-04-25) (aged 27)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Partner(s) Jim Morrison
(c. 1965–1971; his death)

Pamela Susan Courson (December 22, 1946 – April 25, 1974) was the long-term companion of Jim Morrison, singer of The Doors.

Early life and involvement with Morrison[edit]

Courson was born in Weed, California. She was described as a reclusive young girl from a family that did not mix with the neighbors very much. She did well in school until junior high, when records show that her family was contacted about truancy. Courson hated high school, attending Orange High School, and her grades declined when she was sixteen. That spring, she left for Los Angeles, where she and a friend got an apartment. Rumor has it that Neil Young wrote the song "Cinnamon Girl" about her, as well as "The Needle and the Damage Done", but both have been denied.[1]

One biography states that Courson and Morrison met at a nightclub called The London Fog on the Sunset Strip in 1965, while she was an art student at Los Angeles City College. In his 1998 memoir, Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek states that Courson and a friend saw the band during their stint at the London Fog, a lesser-known nightclub.[2]

Courson's relationship with Morrison was tumultuous with loud arguments and repeated infidelities by both partners. Courson briefly operated Themis, a fashion boutique that Morrison bought for her.[3] Her death certificate lists her occupation as "women’s apparel".[citation needed]

Deaths of Morrison and Courson[edit]

On July 3, 1971, Courson reportedly awoke to find Morrison dead in the bathtub of their apartment in Paris, France. The official coroner's report listed his cause of death as heart failure, although no autopsy was performed. Questions persist over the actual cause of death. Under Morrison's will, which stated that he was "an unmarried person" yet named Courson his heir, Courson inherited his entire fortune. Lawsuits against the estate would tie up her quest for inheritance for the next two years. Courson did not remain in contact with the remaining Doors members after she received her share of Morrison's royalties.

After Morrison's death, Courson became a recluse in Los Angeles, using heroin and showing signs of mental instability. Jerry Hopkins, in his revision to the Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, mentions that Courson might have prostituted herself after Morrison's death, probably to keep up with the costly lifestyle she was used to when Morrison was still caring for her needs, and was apparently pimped by a former Doors employee, a chauffeur[citation needed]. Former Doors employee Danny Sugerman became friendly with her in Los Angeles after Morrison's death. Many years later Sugerman wrote in Wonderland Avenue that Courson's heroin addiction progressed to the point that when she smuggled her drugs in her car she hid them in different-colored balloons;[4] planning to swallow them if she was pulled over by law enforcement.[4] She planned to later "shit them out" (her words)[4] upon returning home.[4]

On April 25, 1974, Pamela Courson died of a heroin overdose on the living room couch at the Los Angeles apartment she shared with two male friends. A neighbor said she had talked about looking forward to seeing Morrison again soon. Her parents intended that she be buried next to Morrison at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and they listed this location as the place of burial on her death certificate, but due to legal complications with transporting the body to France, her cremated remains (ashes) were interred in the mausoleum at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California. The plaque reads "Pamela Susan Morrison 1946–1974," despite the fact "Morrison" was never part of Courson's legal name. Several months after her death, her parents, Columbus and Penny Courson, inherited her fortune. Jim Morrison's parents later contested the Coursons' executorship of the estate, leading to additional legal battles. In 1979 both parties agreed to divide the earnings from Morrison's estate equally.[5]

Estate controversy[edit]

In his will, made in Los Angeles County on February 12, 1969, Morrison is listed as "an unmarried person." Morrison left his entire estate to Courson, also naming her co-executor with his attorney, Max Fink.

When Courson died, a battle ensued between Morrison's and Courson's parents over who had legal claim to Morrison's substantial financial estate. Per the will still on file at the time of his death, his property became Courson's; on her death, her property passed to her next heirs at law, her parents. Morrison's parents contested the will under which Courson and subsequently her parents had inherited their son’s property.

In an attempt to bolster their position, Courson’s parents presented a blank application for a marriage license, which they claimed Pam Courson had acquired in Colorado. Courson's parents argued that this blank document constituted a declaration that Courson and Morrison had contracted a common-law marriage under the laws of the State of Colorado. However, neither Morrison nor Courson had signed the document, nor had they filled it out in any way, nor was there any evidence that either of the deceased had even been aware of the document's existence. Neither Morrison nor Courson was ever a resident of Colorado.

The ability to contract a common-law marriage was abolished in California in 1896, but the state's conflict of laws rules provided for recognition of common-law marriages lawfully contracted in foreign jurisdictions. If a common-law marriage was lawfully contracted under Colorado law, it could be recognized as a common-law marriage under California law.

Whatever the circumstances of the dubious, blank document and lack of Colorado residency, the California probate court decided that Courson and Morrison had a common-law marriage under the laws of Colorado. The effect of the court ruling was to close probate of Morrison's and Courson's estates and to reinforce the Courson family's hold on the inheritance.

Fictional portrayals[edit]

Courson was portrayed by Meg Ryan in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors.[6]


  1. ^ Davis, Stephen. Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend. New York: Gotham, 2005. ISBN 978-1-59240-099-7.
  2. ^ Ray Manzarek (15 October 1999). Light My Fire. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 162–. ISBN 978-0-698-15101-7. 
  3. ^ Butler 107
  4. ^ a b c d Sugerman, Danny. Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess. London, United Kingdom: Abacus, 1991. pg. 276.
  5. ^ Hopkins, Jerry; Sugerman, Danny (1995). No One Here Gets Out Alive. Mass Market Paperback. p. 377. 
  6. ^ Kagan, Norman. The cinema of Oliver Stone. Continuum, 2000. p. 312. ISBN 0-8264-1244-0.

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