March 23

This Day in History

Music

Mar 23, 1969:

Jim Morrison prompts a "Rally for Decency"

"Dear Mike," wrote the recently inaugurated President Nixon to Miami-area teenager Mike Levesque in a letter dated March 26, 1969, "I was extremely interested to learn about the admirable initiative undertaken by you and 30,000 other young people at the Miami Teen-age Rally for Decency held last Sunday." The event of which Nixon spoke was organized in response to an incident at a Doors concert some three weeks earlier, when a drunk, combative and sometimes barely coherent Jim Morrison allegedly exposed himself to the crowd at Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium. The alleged exposure, whether it took place or not, created serious legal problems for Morrison. It also created an opportunity for socially conservative Floridians and their celebrity supporters to speak out against the counterculture at the massive "Rally for Decency" held at Miami's Orange Bowl on March 23, 1969.

The Associated Press described the event as being part of "a teen-age crusade for decency in entertainment." On hand to support that crusade was a handful of celebrities not normally associated with the youth market: Kate Smith, Jackie Gleason, The Lettermen and Anita Bryant, spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission. Ms. Bryant, who would later become an outspoken opponent of gay rights, was not the only grownup to make political hay out of what began as a sincere event organized by the teenage members of a Roman Catholic youth group. On March 24, the day after the rally, President Nixon's daily news summary included a mention of the event along with a handwritten note from a young aide named Pat Buchanan: "The pollution of young minds...an extremely popular issue; one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans." Eight months later, Nixon would give his famous "Silent Majority" speech, and 23 years later, Buchanan would make a serious bid for the Republican presidential nomination running as a veteran of the so-called "Culture Wars."

As for Jim Morrison, the incident that sparked the Rally for Decency led to his conviction seven months later on charges of profanity and indecent exposure. Sentenced to six months' hard labor in a Florida prison, Morrison left the United States for France while his conviction was under appeal. He died in Paris in July 1971.

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