Paris, for sure, will never be the same. Not since those galloping Monkees turned up there to do some film shots for a programme which we’ll probably see sometime in the New Year. In fact, there are some Parisians who swear that the old Eiffel Tower visibly rocked to its foundations when the boys were let loose to clown around as they wanted for the benefit of the film cameramen.
But let’s start at the beginning, as all good stories should. The Monkees were due in Paris a few days before arriving in London for their sell-out shows at the Wembley Pool. So as not to alarm the gendarmes, their spot of French leave was kept highly secret. As it happens, the secrecy wasn’t necessary… because, believe it or not, the Monkees are not very well known in France!
Can you imagine it? Micky and Davy walking along a street in, say, Birmingham or London without being instantly recognised? Or Peter sitting, nose buried in a book, in some Manchester coffee-bar and nobody taking any notice? Or Mike strolling through flower-gardens in Liverpool, firing away with his camera, and nobody giving him even a first glance, let alone a second?
But the Monkee telly-shows were on in France at this time. And the French fans were, as they often are, very slow in latching on to a newish group’s records.
Add in the planned secrecy, then, and you have this picture of the Monkees and all their mates arriving in Paris straight from America and checking in, under their own names, at the luxurious George V Hotel, which is just off the Champs Élysées… one of the most expensive “pads” in the whole of Europe…
Managers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were there, plus a lot of friends—and Samantha Juste who turned up mid-way through the visit to see Micky. The boys roared into the hotel, with Micky shouting to one of our reporters there on the spot: “This is our French shooting season. Anybody seen my guns?” And they flew up to their suite of rooms, beautifully furnished and with a massive selection of soft drinks already there on ice.
Though they were tired after a long flight, the boys made plans not to waste the first evening on French soil. True, Micky decided to stay in the hotel, but Davy and his entourage went out to some recommended night-clubs, like the Castille and the Cupole, where they could hear the music the French fans were digging then. Mike just wandered round the nearby streets, window-shopping by lamplight and soaking up the atmosphere of a city he’d wanted to visit since he was a kid at school.
Peter played it real cool. He armed himself with a book (a VERY serious tome with a long title but which added up to being about the psychology of religion) and he went from cafe to cafe sampling the local wine and coffee. Every so often he looked up to watch the “passing world” as he put it, but mostly his head was lowered to his book, a frown of concentration on his face.
Quite a bit later, they exchanged notes at the hotel. Said Davy: “Honest, it was great to be able to go out without being recognised. Maybe if we’d all been together it would have been different, but this way we had just one night away from being on show as a Monkee. Fantastic… a knock-out evening.”
Micky said: “Oh sure, but you’d hate it if nobody recognised you anywhere” but he was joking. And the boys agreed that it was like being in a different world and that they really enjoyed being in the middle of their fans.
And then it was bye-byes for a few hours. With the promise of something quite unusual in the Monkees’ schedule… a complete Sunday off. None of ’em could remember when they last had twenty-four hours to themselves without any commitments at all, like an interview or a phone call or a picture session or something…
Well, the best-laid plans and all that. In fact, the boys all slept rather later than they wanted. It was lunch-time when they split up and went out on tours of exploration. Paris on a Sunday is a wondrous city. The boys went, in two separate groups, round Versailles, which was the court of King Louis XIV in the eighteenth century. And they took pictures of the local characters and they sampled French delicacies of drinks and food. Walking and sightseeing is a tough business and soon they all felt rather tired. So it was agreed (in fact, it was ordered by their management) that they’d all have a very early bed-time that night.
Shooting on the Monday was due to start very early indeed. Would you believe 6.30 a.m.? The boys hardly could for this was earlier than they had to report back home in Hollywood for their series. Anyway, the alarm calls did the trick and the boys gathered in the foyer of the hotel bang on time. Peter Tork took on the role of interpreter because he speaks French quite well.
So off they went to the Flea Market. No, it’s not a place that sells, or even encourages, fleas. It’s a place famous for cheap and second-hand bargains. Micky immediately broke off to buy a beautiful slave bracelet for Samantha… “I’ll have it hammered on her,” he said. Another joke. But he later took her back to the market to show where he’d got it. Micky really flipped over the things on display… said he’d like to buy the whole market and have it shipped to America.
Davy bought a military coat, double-breasted and from the French Army style of the First World War. He also collected a ring, antique of course, which he said he’d give as a Christmas present. And Davy, by now right in the spirit of things, bought an old Bedouin throwing dagger which he said would have pride of place in his home.
They were filmed rushing among the strange old characters in the Flea Market. They sat together at a pavement cafe, just watching. And they agreed that they thought Paris one of the most beautiful places they’d seen, though they weren’t, all of them, too keen on some of the aggressive salesmen they’d met that morning.
And it was another fairly early-to-bed evening. Micky stayed in his hotel room, with Samantha. The others tried new night-spots.
Tuesday was another busy, hectic day. First there was a filmed sequence at a swimming pool, the boys wearing old-style costumes and hamming it up in the way of the old Keystone Kops. Point was that this was sort of free-style filming—the cameras kept on running and the boys did pretty well what they wanted. Which meant a very crazy scene indeed. They clowned around in an old cemetery, they roared through a fair-ground. And they started work on apparently trying to demolish the Eiffel Tower.
Even though they weren’t known to the locals, they attracted huge crowds, watching “the mad Americans”. They steamed up and down the Champs d’Elysees in an old jeep, getting the spirit of driving fast in Paris as everybody does. And there was the inevitable traffic jam. For three hours they choked the traffic because of the sightseers.
Mike had one sequence where he lifted the bonnet of the jeep—and showed astonishment when it simply came away in his hand. Fine… but the cameraman “shooting” this incident found he’d run out of film. They tried it again but by this time two gendarmes were leaping up and down in anger, so they scrubbed round it. Micky decided his ambition was to climb the Tower from the outside and made a pretty good stab at making it to the first platform!
In fact he had a real mountaineering instinct on this trip. Next day they took a canal trip, also filmed. They went by the Flea Market again and Micky improvised a horrific climb up the side of a building there… reaching the second floor, then blowing kisses to the girls watching. Two of the boys leapt from a moving car. Davy jumped 15 ft. from a building and turned over dangerously when he hit the ground.
For another sequence each Monkee had a girl-friend, enrolled by Bob Rafelson… but other locals got too enthusiastic and they ended up with about seven each! “Bad planning,” said Bob. “Good planning” chorused the Monkees. And they were filmed on the banks of the Seine. One of the most chaotic incidents in the history of Paris was now coming to an end…
There was a last meal at Maxim’s, one of the plushest of all restaurants. A quick return by Micky to the Flea Market to buy a silk square for Sammy. Then, on the Wednesday, on to a plane arriving in London at 23.30 at London Airport… to a huge welcome from fans.