“We were very poor and I lived in a small town… I remember falling in love in the first grade… I had a private tutor and skipped two grades in school… Now I’m hooked on Tinker Toys…”
I remember when I was born, I cried like a baby. It shook me up so bad that I couldn’t talk for a year. I remember when I was little my mother and father used to wrap my lunches in road maps. I began to feel I wasn’t wanted. I’d come home and find a sign on my bedroom door that said “Room for Rent.” My father would say to me as I’d leave the house, “Micky, why don’t you jaywalk?” Actually, I’m only kidding.
When I was a kid we were very poor. Up until the time I was 13 years old I thought knives and forks were jewelry. I lived in a very small town. It was so small both city limit signs were on the same post and when I’d plug in my electric razor the street cars would slow down. When you’d fly into our town the pilot used to say, “We’re now landing, would you please set your watches back a hundred years.”
Saturday nights were really fun in my town. We used to go out and step on crickets and watch the hair on the back of our necks grow. Sometimes I’d get all dressed up, put on my best suit, and go watch them unload the truck at J.C. Penney’s. We always did fun things like that!
My favorite games? I don’t remember playing too many games as a kid. Being in such a poor town we didn’t play many games. We did have one game called “life”—that’s trying to stay alive. That’s a fun game. You walk down the street and somebody would try and beat you up and you say “Oh, this game again, oh, fun, I’ll get you!” Then we’d play games like “Hit and Run.” That’s when you get on your bicycle or skateboard and go speeding down the street and try to run over kids. Actually, I’ve just been kidding, because the earliest I can remember back is the first grade.
I like girls a whole lot and I remember falling in love in the first grade. I don’t remember the girl’s name, but she had long brown hair. I’d send her little notes and she would take them, but never write back. She was not too nice to me, she didn’t like me too much. She went for a tall, handsome guy in our class. He was 3'4" and I was 2'8".
In junior high school I had a science teacher that everyone was scared of. He used to get the most unbelievable things out of his kids, because we were so scared of him. If we did something wrong, we had to go to the “electric chair.” It wasn’t really an electric chair, it was a chair that was wired with like a couple of volts. We built it in class as a project. It was science and if you ever made a commotion (which I usually did) or goofed off, you had to go and sit in the “electric chair.” It was kind of a joke. He was a very strict teacher, but I remember more out of that class than any class I ever took.
I imagine that my interest in show business was sparked by my father’s involvement in it. His agent was a friend of our family and when I was 10 he told my dad, “Why don’t you have Micky go down for an interview for a new show called ‘Circus Boy.’” I did and got the part. I’d never acted before in my life!
As far back as I can remember my sisters and I used to sing together at our house. My father was in show business and my mother had done a little singing in show business so it was natural for me to start singing. When I was on “Circus Boy” they needed something for me to do on personal tours, so I learned the guitar in about a day and a half.
I did personal appearance tours all over the country. I sang little songs that were popular at the time like “Purple People Eater.” I was once on one of those television shows like “Truth or Consequences” only that wasn’t the one. This little girl had made a wish to meet Circus Boy and have an elephant. So we met and since she couldn’t conceivably have an elephant, we gave her a bicycle instead.
I don’t remember being disappointed when the series stopped after three years. I think I was so young I didn’t understand much of what was going on. All I knew was that we weren’t going to film anymore. Then I went right into school.
Because I had had a private tutor I skipped ahead two grades, so I started into high school at 13. I’ve always been the romantic type—I mean if I could I’d like to sit under a window and play my guitar and sing to a girl. So I started taking out girls early, but it was sort of a drag because I didn’t have a car and I’d have to always depend on my friends for rides. Getting my driver’s license was very important to me.
I was very interested in sports until I found out I had a bad leg. I went out for gymnastics and basketball. I was always too small for football (because I was so much younger), but I’d always go to the games to watch. I was also in the drama club and loved the play productions. I never got parts as leading men because of my height. When I finally started to grow, I grew about three inches a month.
When I was 16 I went to New Zealand, the Fiji Islands and Hawaii on a hunting expedition. A close friend of our family, our family doctor, who went on safaris and expeditions to Africa and places like that, heard that New Zealand had great hunting and asked me if I wanted to go. I said. “Of course I want to go.” So we packed up, I got a release from my school (I had to study and do all my school work while I was gone) and we left for six weeks. We hunted Tar, which is a Himilian mountain goat and Shamy, which are like antelopes. They’re found in the open plains.
We hunted regions that had never been charted. We were there in March which is the beginning of winter down there, because the seasons are opposite. So it was just going into winter and we had a lot of rain and snow storms. We drove a big land-rover jeep with four-wheel drive which is pretty powerful. We would go charging across rivers that were four feet deep. But it got kind of spooky, because sometimes the water would start coming in over the windows and we might have been washed away!
I’ve always been very outdoorish. I love camping out, I love waterskiing and I love climbing mountains. I’ve climbed Mt. Whitney which is the tallest mountain in the United States. A friend and I got caught in a blizzard up there and almost didn’t get down.
After high school I worked as a Mercedes-Benz mechanic. I was going to go to college, but my father passed away. After a while I started at Los Angeles Trade Tech. I didn’t have a major, I just took general courses with a lot of science and psychology. I’d give anything in the world to go back to school someday. School is out-a-sight!
There are so many things I want to do. Someday I would like to produce, direct and act in my own shows—the Jerry Lewis type of thing. It’s funny—there’s nothing I don’t like. I want to be an architectural draftsman. I’d like to be an electronic engineer. I dig electronics and have ever since I was little. I used to build radios.
I’d like to be a teacher, I dig teaching. There are so many things I want to do, I just don’t think I’ll be able to do them all in my one lifetime. Right now, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. But two years from now I don’t think I’ll be happy doing exactly what I’m doing right now. I’ll want to do something more.
Also, lately I’ve gotten hooked on Tinker Toys. They’re a gas! Everyone of my friends comes into my house and says “YOU play with Tinker Toys?” They think I’m crazy, but it’s a gas! I’m planning on getting an erector set, because the Tinker Toys wear out pretty fast.
I guess the only thing left to tell you is how I came to be a Monkee. I was in school and I heard about the interview and came down for it. I didn’t even know I had a part until I read about it in Variety. No one told me. I called up Variety and said “Listen, I saw my name in your paper as one of the Monkees, is it true?” And they said, “Yeah! Didn’t they tell you?” I was really happy. It’s all been like a big fantasy!