Rainer Moddemann: Devoted Non-Profit Editor And Publisher

by Lisa Nesselson

As a journalist/film critic who is always up against the tyranny of deadlines, it warmed the cockles of my heart to read the following requirement for subscriber contributions to the reviews and critiques portion of The Doors Quarterly Magazine: "The product/event you are writing about should be at least two years old/ago."

That is a standard that many publications HAVE to live with due to infrequent publishing schedules, but it's refreshing to find a magazine that actually ASPIRES to reviewing things and events only after they've had a fair shake in the marketplace.

Rainer Moddemann revived the idea of an international Doors fan club back in 1983 at the suggestion of Ray Manzarek, and he's been putting together The Doors Quarterly Magazine as a labor of love ever since. On July 3rd, Moddemann, a pleasant, bespectacled fellow, about 40, with jet black shoulder-length hair and an appealingly democratic demeanor, made his 20th-some pilgrimage to Pere Lachaise cemetery, travelling from his home in Germany to commune with the faithful and hand out copies of the magazine's 34th issue.

Rainer is a serene lowkey star in his own right, obviously known and admired by many of the fans on hand. A sweet-faced 17-year-old German blonde tells me that she met Rainer yesterday and this encounter would seem to be the next best thing to having met Jim himself. "It's my first trip here -- I have been listening to The Doors since I was 12 or 13," she enthuses. "I met Rainer yesterday. It is more than I hoped for. You can talk to anyone."

Although Rainer has met and interviewed the remaining Doors and many of the seminal survivors of the era the band characterized, he never met Jim and he never heard the band perform live. "I was only 14 years old, living in a small town in the north of Germany, and they only played Germany once," Rainer explains in the cafe just outside the cemetery walls, where dozens of fans are taking refuge from the rain. "I saw them on German television. The Doors were in Frankfurt, where they did a video for 'Hello, I Love You.' I was fascinated by the contrasts, by the architecture, by these people in suits and the way the band was behaving." The seeds of a life-long enthusiasm had been planted.

In a process that would be the envy of many a magazine publisher, people come up to Rainer and try to press money into his hand, to start or renew subscriptions. But Rainer does not want to engage in commerce today. "Send it to me. Write to me. It's better," he says.

(The dOOrs Fanclub, Muendelheimer Strasse 91, D-47829 Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany. 4-issue subscription: Germany 25 DM, Europe 30 DM, Overseas, 35 DM. Write for more information or send cash in a registered letter or an International money order to subscribe. Exchange rate as of this writing, approximately $21 U.S.)

Moddemann's matter-of-fact enthusiasm and eloquence remind me of Jean-Pierre Jackson, a school teacher in Avignon who, in the late 1970s, convinced the editor of an obscure French fanzine to devote an entire issue to the films of Russ Meyer. Meyer was so impressed that he looked up Jean-Pierre on one of his nostalgia trips to Germany and France (WWII vet Meyer is proud of reporting that he lost his virginity in a French brothel recommended to him by Ernest Hemingway) and suggested that Jean-Pierre become Meyer's distributor for France. The experiment went well and Jackson ended up abandoning teaching and moving to Paris with his wife and son, where he proceeded to succesfully distribute most of Meyer's oeuvre as well as the early John Waters films.

Moddeman works as a teacher and makes a point of mentioning that he has a family, lest one suspect that his 29-year passion for all things Doors might be his sole raison d'etre. Even a brief conversation with Moddemann leaves one wondering, "Why haven't I devoted more of MY life to studying Jim Morrison and the Doors?"

Rainer owns an extensive array of Doors memorabilia, including the original pressings of their albums, a disc collection that is complete "except for these bloodly Italian albums," Moddemann says, referring to the elusive LPs and singles issued on the black "Vedette" label.

The Doors albums were manufactured and distributed in practically every country, per Moddemann, who reels off "Israel, South America, South Africa, Russia, China and Taiwan" as examples.

"The sound is better on CDs, but I prefer the original vinyl albums," he says. "The sound of vinyl is a little softer. And the covers are so much bigger. Cover design is very, very important. The Doors always did a great job."

Of his 2O anniversary trips, Moddemann singles out 1991 as "the worst, when there were 1000 drunk people smashing cars and setting fire to the gates."

Speaking of bummers, what does Rainer think of Oliver Stone's movie "The Doors"? "The Doors movie is full of mistakes," Rainer explains. "In my opinion, it's shit. Robby Krieger said 60% of the film is completely wrong. Stone had to dramatize, but at least he could have put some facts in. The photography and the sound is great."

What do today's Doors fans see in what they understand to have been the life of James Douglas Morrison? Rainer says he looks at Jim's life "like a self-service restaurant with many different drawers. One drawer contains poetry. One holds music. One has the great singer or the angelic-looking guy. One stores alcohol and drugs. Another holds the philosophy of the Sixties. Everyone who's here today has already opened one of these drawers and looked inside. Don't ask me which one I've opened. Whichever drawer you open, you pick out what you like as an individual."

What would Jim have achieved had he lived? "He planned after he returned from Paris to return to his wife Patricia -- they were married in a witchcraft ceremony, " Rainer asserts. "He would have returned to the Doors," Rainer continues, hypothesizing, "which would have become a 7 or 8 piece band with horns and a bass player. He probably would be a retired drinker. He'd still write poetry. Probably would have been a great director of movies. He was writing a book called 'Observations on America while on Trial in Miami'. I've never seen the manuscript, but I'd love to read it."

And would Jim have been surprised at the continuing popularity of The Doors and the impressive annual record sales so many years later? "No, I don't think he'd be surprised," says Moddemann. "Jim once said, 'The kind of music we do is for eternity. Let's make music for eternity."

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