"I don't even like to
be labeled that," says Dave Brock, who for more than 15
years has resurrected the spirit of the Lizard King in what he
calls a "Jim Morrison celebration."
"A lot of people place
the word 'cornball' next to the word 'tribute' in their psyche.
It makes people think of a fat, dumpy guy who looks nothing like
Elvis, yet thinks he's Elvis."
Second rule: This is serious.
Think of it as performance art - much the same way Morrison thought
of the Doors, though Brock doesn't go so far as to expose himself
or incite riots. Now, after a decade of fine-tuning and constant
touring, the show attracts a fanatical following.
But no matter how much it contributes
to the larger-than-life Morrison myth, Brock's unrivaled routine
- which once prompted Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek to remark,
"The guy's so good, he scares me" - is not some cheesy
send-up. The fact that many tag it as such is why he doesn't
grant many interviews anymore.
"I know why it used to
happen, but people still come to me with preconceived notions
that we're some circus act. They just want a quick one-liner
to twist around in their articles. I won't do it anymore."
Likewise, he says many people
assume he's perpetually on a Jim trip. That Wild Child's increasing
success has gone to his head. That he can't separate himself
from the act.
"I guess that means I
do my job well," he says. "But in no way, shape or
form do I think I'm Jim Morrison. I treat this entirely as a
theatrical show, not a freak show."
That becomes a double-edged
sword: In striving to recapture the raw magnetism of Morrison
and the Doors - basing his moves largely on kinetic intensity
of the famed Roundhouse concerts originally aired in England
- Brock can be so good that it's easy for fans to blur the line
between reality and surreality.
"When Dave's on, he's
on," says the Sun Theatre's Ken Phebus. "That's when
he'll only respond to Jim. I've known the guy a long time now,
and at times like that, even I have to call him Jim."
Phebus calls the Huntington
Beach-based Wild Child "an amazing phenomenon. The crowd
it draws is like the 'Rocky Horror' crowd. They're singing and
dancing and yelling things out at Jim. There's nothing like it."
"I try to make it as close
as possible to the original Doors experience," Brock says
in a halting voice that suggests he's either very careful with
his words or has studied the way Morrison gave interviews.
The 30-something Brock admits
that his show builds from films and tapes, not his own memory.
"I was too young to have seen them. I got into the band
when I was in high school. None of my friends were into them.
I was weird for liking them."
But it wasn't until he stumbled
into the role of Jim for an offbeat Doors "rock opera"
in the mid-'80s that the idea for Wild Child was born.
Brock had heard a radio ad
for what he thought was a Doors tribute at the now-defunct club
Gazzari's, but it turned out to be an open casting call for Morrison
"There were probably 50
or 60 guys there dressed in leather pants and hanging from the
rails, thinking they were Jim. It was strange." Brock was
the last to audition, performing "L.A. Woman" ("the
only song I knew all the words to at the time"). Two days
later, he had the part.
"It kinda changed my life,"
Now he relishes the opportunity
to bring the unpredictability of a Doors concert back to life.
"Our fan base spans from
teen-agers who know nothing about the band and go home huge Doors
fans to people in their 60s and 70s who saw the real thing. With
a lot of those older people ... it never fails that at one of
the shows, someone comes up and tells me they saw the Doors live
long ago and that our show is just as great."
And they told two friends,
and they told two friends, and so on and so on. That's what has
made them an O.C. staple.
"That word of mouth is
the best advertising we have ever had."