My Life with The Monkees

Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork
Info This is a camera’s eye view of The Monkees as they wait for the next scene. FLIP practically lives on the set to capture the total and true spirit which is The Monkees! It’s during moments like this, which most of the world never sees, that Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike are most natural. Tired but alone, surrounded by people but not by problems, the group can drift off into separate worlds—where each of them can be true to himself. It’s at times like this that the guys will reveal themselves most candidly to friends—like FLIP’s groovy girl in Hollywood, Tracy Thomas.
Credit: Ric Klein


As you will remember, last month, I left you with the cliffhanging sentence: “Will Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike make it to the Monkee set Monday morning after a weekend full of concerts and no sleep?”

Filled with curiosity, bags under the eyes, and toothpicks holding up the eyelids, I went to the studio at Screen Gems where the Monkees film their shows and waited (breathlessly) for the arrival of the quartet. And I waited. And I waited and I fell asleep in Davy’s chair.

I was awakened at noon by a guard who slowly explained to me that because of the boys’ hard weekend, taping for today had been cancelled. Ah well, I thought (more or less), sturgling [sic] to my feet, at least I got a few hours’ sleep.

The next morning, bright and early (uh, early anyway) I was there again and so were the fabulous four. The segment they were taping starred Mike, so he was the only one awake. The other three were snuggled on cots in their dressing rooms.

Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones
Info This pix captures the special quality which Mike has—that of a young man who likes to be alone, off by himself, in a private world of ideas. Often, in the middle of a set bursting with excitement and nervous tension, Mike will simply be off by himself totally unconcerned with the hectic happenings all around him. It isn’t that he doesn’t care about things or wants to avoid people. It’s just that he needs a great deal of thinking time, which Davy, Micky and Peter are very understanding about.
Credit: Ric Klein

As a comedian, Mike is my favorite Monkee. He rarely smiles, so you hardly notice that he’s saying something terribly funny unless you listen closely. (he also has a soft voice, which can throw you off). On this particular day, he continuously cracked up the crew with the hilarious things he said during takes.

“They just come out of my head when the time comes,” he says. “I never plan anything, but if the crew likes it, I’ll sure keep it in. Sometimes Jim our director won’t let me but it’s only cause we haven’t enough time. Mostly I get to keep ’em in.”

In his first scene, Mike had to prevent a girl from ending her life by jumping out the window. All he had to say was “Don’t do it!” or something similar. But no, he couldn’t let it go at that.

Somehow or other, the lines ended up something like this:

Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones
Info The script is still the key to every show, even though The Monkees’ greatest moments often come when they ad lib a sequence. Here, Micky and Davy intensely go over their lines. Both are very fast learners, and can get the all-important “feel” of a show on first reading. Micky, of course, gained much of his experience on “Circus Boy” while Davy picked his up while co-starring in “Oliver” on Broadway.
Credit: Ric Klein

MIKE: Oh no, don’t do that! Don’t open that window!
GIRL: Why not?
MIKE: Why, a condor might fly in!
GIRL: A condor!?
MIKE: Yeah, you know, condors. They have a tremendous wing spread and they’re the California state bird.

She didn’t open the window. Instead she reached for an enormous knife, but Mike got there before she did, saying:

MIKE: Don’t take that knife!
GIRL: Why not?
MIKE: We need it to kill the condors.
GIRL: The what!?
MIKE: You know, the condors. They’re this big bird and they’re going to fly in the window and…

Mr. Schneider, Peter Tork
Info This is a familiar sight on the set—Peter in a corner, reading. With his rubber face and breathless sense of humor, Peter seems to be least likely to seek out solitude. But, a little like Mike, he likes to go off and read and just be by himself.
Credit: Ric Klein

You get the idea. Later I found Micky reading “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien and soon we were deep into a discussion of hobbits, the fictional characters that Tolkien writes about.

“Most people are hobbits,” says Micky. “They don’t really like adventures because they’re kinda scary and don’t necessarily turn out all right every time. But every once in a while, there’s one that doesn’t mind a bit of adventure now and then. I like to think that I’m one of those.”

You hardly ever see Peter on the set unless he’s in the particular scene they’re filming. “I get this horrible cooped-up feeling, cause there’s so little room and so many people. I’d rather stay in my dressing room and write things or go outside and talk to people.”

And does he like to talk! Micky and Davy may talk faster but neither of them talk more than Peter. But he doesn’t just make noises, he discusses and asks questions and pretty soon you’re talking as much as he is and suddenly he knows your life story, cause you’ve just told it to him in 5000 words or more. But you needn’t feel guilty—he asked you for it!

Davy always (it seems) has one or two English guests on the set. “I don’t get so homesick when I talk to someone in the same language and about things back home.”

Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones
Info Davy is making a point so intensely that his hand is but a blur in front of Mike! Mike listens quietly and carefully, always willing to listen to ideas from the other guys. Davy, when he’s not on the set, is usually in his dressing room with old friends from England, with whom he feels especially comfortable.
Credit: Ric Klein

Meanwhile back on the set… I must explain another cliffhanging sentence from last month (or must I?). Something about Micky squirting Mike in the face? Well, after about six phony takes, Micky took the giant fire extinguisher in hand, Mike closed his eyes, preparing for doom (well, his hair would be wrecked), Micky aimed, Mick grimaced and wham, a stand-in got it right in the face! “Hmm,” said Mike, and he was right.

But the funniest thing to happen on the set all week was when Micky and Mike were to rush in from either side of the stage, run into each other and grab for a phone together. When I came in (late) from lunch, they had already begun the takes and they went on for another half hour after I came. But each time, the two, would look at each other and collapse in a fit of laughter. Sometimes they’d get all the way to the phone and then start giggling. More often, they wouldn’t even get that far. I don’t know what the director finally did for the actual show (keep watching the old tube to find out—it’s the segment about the answering service), but he was beginning to panic…

Next month (hold your breath): Monkee romance (not with me, darn it)!

Magazine: Flip
Publisher: Kahn Communications Corporation
Pages: 21–23