comscore Former islander Jerry Hopkins, biographer of Jim Morrison, dead at 82 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Former islander Jerry Hopkins, biographer of Jim Morrison, dead at 82


    After his last show, Don Ho posed with his wife Haumea and, from left, George Engebretson, Jerry Hopkins and Tom Moffatt in 2007. Hopkins had just wrapped up a month of interviewing for Don Ho’s authorized autobiography, to be published in December.

Jerry Hopkins, an early music writer for Rolling Stone magazine whose many books included biographies of Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix — as well as a memoir of his affair with a Polynesian transsexual prostitute in Honolulu’s Chinatown — died June 3 in a hospital in Bangkok. He was 82.

His son, Nick, said the cause was heart failure.

Hopkins, who lived in Hawaii from 1976 to 1993, produced an eclectic range of work that was largely about rock music but also included books and articles about exotic food, sex and travel. He wrote at least a dozen Hawaii-related books, including autobiographies about entertainer Don Ho and music promoter Tom Moffatt.

But his most notorious subject was undoubtedly Jim Morrison, who rose to fame as the charismatic lead singer of the Doors and was only 27 when he died in Paris in 1971.

“Morrison was the most interesting of all the rock stars I met because he was the best conversationalist,” Hopkins told Post Magazine, published by The South China Morning Post, in 2013. “Something I always had trouble with at Rolling Stone was that I was interviewing people whose avenue of communication was singing or playing an instrument. Why should anyone expect them to have a political opinion worth listening to?”

Hopkins had a long interview with Morrison for Rolling Stone in 1969 in which the singer discussed the roots of his performing, his poetry, the chaos the Doors created in performance, and his arrest for exposing himself at a Miami concert.

“If for some reason you’re on a different track from other people you’re around, it’s going to jangle everybody’s sensibilities,” Morrison said in a meandering response to a question about an obscenity arrest in New Haven, Conn. “As long as everything’s connecting and coming together, you can get away with murder.”

HOPKINS STARTED writing Morrison’s biography after wrapping up “Elvis: A Biography” (1971), which he had dedicated to Morrison. A collaboration with Danny Sugerman, the manager of the Doors (who died in 2005), the book was rejected by many publishers until a young editor at Warner Books took a chance on it.

“No One Here Gets Out Alive” was a New York Times paperback best-seller for about a year and helped renew interest in the Doors. Director Oliver Stone bought the rights to the book and Hopkins’ research materials for his film “The Doors” (1991), which starred Val Kilmer as Morrison.

“I have mixed feelings about the movie,” Hopkins told Scott Murray, a Bangkok-based writer, in 2007. “Mainly that it was so one-sided. Jim was a drunken fool but that wasn’t all he was. I knew Morrison. I knew him to be a man who had a sense of humor about himself.” And, he said, “Forty percent of the movie is sheer fiction.”

In 2013 Hopkins wrote an e-book about Morrison, “Behind Closed Doors,” which he called an epilogue to the biography.

He also wrote biographies of Hendrix, David Bowie and Yoko Ono, collaborated with Don Ho on his autobiography and was hired by Raquel Welch as her authorized biographer. (No book ever came of that arrangement.) And he wrote a book about the history of hula.

Elisha Gerald Hopkins was born on Nov. 9, 1935, in Camden, N.J., and grew up nearby in Haddonfield. His father, Francis Brognard Hopkins, co-owned a dry-cleaning store, and his mother, Ruth May (Ginder) Hopkins, ran it.

Reading voraciously as a youngster motivated him to write. He was fascinated by the newspaper dispatches of Ernie Pyle, a World War II correspondent who was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire in 1945 near Okinawa. “I decided that was what I wanted to do when I grew up: travel the world, meet interesting people, write about them and get paid for it,” he said in 2013.

After graduating from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., he earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He wrote for The Twin-City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, N.C., The Village Voice in New York and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. In the early 1960s he was a writer-producer for “PM East,” a television talk show hosted by Mike Wallace, and a talent booker for the syndicated “Steve Allen Show.”

“NO TITLE on the door, but my boss, Steve Allen, says I am his ‘vice president of left fielders,’” Hopkins wrote in The Los Angeles Free Press in 1966, referring to the oddball people he booked for the show. He recalled that one of them, future rock star Frank Zappa, pitched his talent to him by saying, “I play musical bicycle” and “I want to teach Steve how to blow bicycle.” For a segment in 1963, Zappa played the bike.

In 1966 Hopkins and a partner opened Headquarters, a shop that sold drug paraphernalia, in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. He was also writing freelance articles for various publications, and in 1967 he responded to an ad in an early issue of Rolling Stone asking for submissions of music reviews. He sent in his review of a Doors performance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and the magazine ran it. Full-time work there soon followed, and in 1972 he became the magazine’s London correspondent.

In his roughly 20 years at Rolling Stone, he wrote about Presley in Las Vegas, apartheid in South Africa and Dr. Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy. His interview subjects included Keith Moon, the notoriously hard-living drummer of the Who, who recalled destroying a Holiday Inn room in Saskatchewan: “I took out me hatchet and chopped the hotel room to bits. The television. The chairs. The dresser. The cupboard doors. The bed. The lot of it.”

Hopkins moved to Hawaii in 1976 and to Thailand in 1993.

IN HAWAII he wrote “The Hula” in 1978, a coffee-table book that recounts the history of the indigenous dance. It was updated and reissued in 2011. He also wrote “How to Make Your Own Hawaiian Musical Instruments” in 1988 and the environmental guidebook “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Hawaii” in 1990 with former Honolulu Star-Bulletin staff writer Susan Manuel.

Hopkins collaborated with comedian Frank De Lima in 1991 to produce “Frank De Lima’s Joke Book,” which was later renamed “The De Lima Code.”

In Honolulu he met and fell in love with a transgender prostitute who had not yet had sexual reassignment surgery. In his book about their relationship, “The Ultimate Fish” (2014), Hopkins wrote that his obsession with rock music had been replaced by a different one.

“I believe the transgendered are the most interesting, and the most courageous, people I’ve ever met and tried to understand,” he said.

On his website Hopkins called himself “a longtime aficionado and fringe figure in the transgendered community in Hawaii.”

Even after he left the islands, Hopkins returned to Oahu to produce “The Showman of the Pacific,” the 2005 autobiography of music promoter Tom Moffatt, and “Don Ho: My Music, My Life” in 2007, which offers the crooner’s reflections from his final interviews, among other things.

In Thailand he met and married Lamyai Sakhohlam, who survives him. They lived in Bangkok and on a farm near the Thai-Cambodian border.

In addition to his wife and son, Hopkins is survived by daughter Erin Hendershot, brother Jack and eight grandchildren. His marriages to Sara Cordell, Jane Hollingsworth (the mother of his two children) and Rebecca Erickson Crockett ended in divorce.

Star-Advertiser staff writer Timothy Hurley contributed to this report.

Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up