Here are the facts about Mike, as revealed exclusively to TiGER BEAT and TiGER BEAT only! By his favorite teacher, Mr. John Igo.
Do you remember when you first saw Mike; and what was your first impression of him?
I remember it very well. I saw him in the Student Union coffee shop. I was headed for the faculty lounge area for free coffee (400th anniversary of the discovery of margins—or something like that). There was a very thin, quiet young man standing with his back to the wall sort of looking out over that noisy welter of people. I thought of Tony Perkins at the time (now I would think of Mike Nesmith). Later that day I saw him again in a doorway we were both trying to get through. He won! He started coming through as a personality then.
Can you describe Mike as you remember him?
(He continually tells us how “skinny” and “ugly” he has always been.)
He say she was skinny and ugly. He was skinny all right! If he hadn’t walked with a slight stoop, he wouldn’t have had any shape at all. But not ugly! It’s funny, but I never thought of Mike as ugly or tall or bluegrey or anything—he was always purely himself. He may have thought of himself as ugly because he had a visual dream he couldn’t match. Who would ever know that but Mike? I remember that he used to walk around looking as though he might need to sneeze. He was pencil thin, but not bony. He was more attractive than he wanted to be.
How would you describe Mike—shy, awkward, quiet, loud?
Contained is the best word I can come up with right now. He can be noisy, but that is when he is on—and he can suddenly be on during a regular conversation, or in the coffee shop, anywhere. But he is usually quiet, intense, and sort of reserved. He is probably murderously shy—he does things abruptly, and that sometimes is a sign. There are times when he was not there—withdrawn, listening to the beat of a different drum.
Was there a noticeable sign of his interest or particular talent in music?
Carrying a nylon-string guitar into classrooms and into the library and the Student Center coffee shop is probably a hint that he had something on his mid. He did a floorshow for a fraternity one night. I did the second show (a poetry reading) and arrived to hear the buzzing about Nesmith. He had wowed them—like dumbfounded. That skinny stranger had just smashed them. He also performed during a student assembly—wrote one of the three songs he performed. Another time I was winging free in the classroom and decided that it was time for Mike to bee seen in a situation where his contemporaries would understand that their appreciation was not just a fluke. He did a show in my English Composition class!
Was there any indication that he was talented or gifted in any one field?
I’ve already mention the writing the song for the student show. He was learning his way, discovering the boundaries of the personality—Mike. He set some poems from the English literature textbook to music. He wrote others.
I have no idea whether he ever displays it, but he has an incredibly acute ear for mimicry. His imitations of people are so close they are spooky—and outrageous. I have a teacher-friend who had a Southern accent that would stifle a magnolia; he liked her—but his “impression” of her indicated a kind of previous attention to her that would make her curdle if she ever suspected he watched her that closely.
How did he do in his class scholastically?
If you mean grades, I am not telling. But Mike was a stimulation student. He had very good questions—they required very good answers, not just slogans. He had keen insight, very fast. He saw the real issues and was impatient with a world that dallied with appearances. He had thoughtful, even wildly individual answers, even then. I had heard he was a trouble-maker in class; but I also knew what kind of student that term REALLY describes—individualistic, a student not a nodder. He was an irritant to decorum and standard-operating-procedure. But he was a joy!
Next month: Read about the day Mike played for the janitors, how he sang at a local TV show and find out if Mike mad the Dean’s list… in the second half of “Mike’s College Days” by his favorite teacher, Mr. John Igo.