Jim Morrison would have been 50 years old last December 8, and as the world press reported, the rock star’s final resting place, the Gothic Cimetière Père Lachaise in northern Paris—where Balzac, Chopin, and Oscar Wilde are also buried—has become a cult attraction for a new generation of young Americans. American novelist Douglas Coupland describes these young Americans as “Global Teens”: the 1990’s offspring of 1960’s-era parents. On the day my wife and I visited Père Lachaise, hundreds of Global Teens flocked to Morrison’s grave. Some even traveled to the tomb with their aging hippie parents.

Ironically, Morrison went into self-imposed exile in Paris to escape the public limelight. During the late 1960’s, Morrison was lead singer of The Doors, and throughout his life Morrison attempted to convey the image of a mysterious, troubled poet. His songs are full of moody, obscure references to death, rebirth, and orgiastic, drug-induced experiences. Morrison’s penchant for self-destruction led to frequent confrontations with authorities, among them one well-publicized arrest in Miami in March 1969 for “exhibiting lewd and lascivious behavior by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation on stage.”

Morrison’s short, excessive life ended on July 3,1971, in his Paris bathtub. His wife, Pam, found him dead, a victim of heart failure. He was 27. Before dropping out of film school at UCLA, Morrison wooed his future wife with talk about Native American shamans who take peyote and see images “from the other side.” Pam Morrison died of a heroin overdose in April 1974.

With Hollywood filmmaker Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie The Doors, the Morrison cult spread to an entirely new generation. It thrives today, spurred by admirers and imitators in New Wave bands from Berlin to Los Angeles. Their anthem is the graffiti on the tombstones leading to Morrison’s grave: “Kill your parents,” “The Lizard King lives,” “Break on through to the other side,” “It’s better to burn out than fade away,” and “I will see you after my death and we will f— a long time.”

In Douglas Coupland’s novel Shampoo Planet, the protagonist, Tyler Johnson, asks a young woman named Chyna why she is visiting Morrison’s grave. Chyna hands Tyler “an unsolicited but much appreciated beer” and explains, “Because knowing my idols are dead makes death a lot less scary place.”

Tyler is an ambitious 20-year-old Reagan youth who was raised in a hippie commune by his now-divorced 60’s-era parents. He lives in a decaying Pacific Northwest city and aspires to a career with the corporation whose offices his mother once firebombed. The highlight of Shampoo Planet‘s six-month chronicle of Tyler’s life is his pilgrimage to Père Lachaise and the ongoing party beside Morrison’s grave. “Kind of puts the fun back in funeral, doesn’t it?” observes Mike, a 20-year-old from Urbana, Illinois, as he buries a joint of marijuana in the soil next to Morrison’s tombstone.

Daisy, Tyler’s younger sister, pleads with him in a letter to swipe a flower from Morrison’s grave. “A group of us shortly left the cemetery,” Tyler writes, “beers in hand and me with a daisy for Daisy in my backpack.” The flowers I observed on my visit remained on Morrison’s grave, perhaps because two Paris gendarmes are stationed at the tomb to maintain order. Barbed wire was added to the iron fence surrounding Père Lachaise, a 34-year-old pied noir from the Comoros explained in French, to stop the flow of young Americans illegally entering the cemetery at night to vandalize and party next to Morrison’s grave.

One of the most popular T-shirts worn by young Americans in Europe these days features the slogan “Kill your idols” superimposed over the crucified head of Jesus Christ. The shirt is popular at Morrison’s grave and outside Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur in Paris. In Italy late one afternoon, I counted half a dozen near the walls of the Vatican. That morning, I had been awakened at 5:30 A.M. by a Muslim praying feverishly in the next room.