I was one of the lucky girls chosen to answer fan mail for the Monkees at Screen Gems Studios, Hollywood, California; during Christmas vacation last year.
Before getting into the studio, on my first day the guard had to check with Frew Smallwood, who is head of Monkee Fan Mail. Each day afterwards I would write my name down on a chart and the guard would check my name and give me a studio pass.
The first day was a Monday morning, which meant that things were going to be pretty hectic. Marilyn Schlossberg, who is head of Monkee publicity, showed me what I was to do. Three rooms were being used for Fan Mail, one of the rooms was Frew’s office, the other two were used for answering letters.
When the chairs became scarce the girls would sit on top of the mailbags. Around 10.30 a.m. we were introduced to our supervisor, Charlene “Charlie” Novak. The atmosphere was really groovy, kids were working hard, there were three or four transistor radios playing “mood” music and then one girl said “I just saw Peter walk in!” We asked Charlie if she could possibly get him to come in, so away she went.
We didn’t think Peter would come in so we continued working. Then, all of a sudden, the door burst open and a voice said “Hi group!” Peter’s unexpected entrance startled one girl so much she tossed a bundle of mail she had been sorting into the air! Peter exclaimed “You shouldn’t be so nervous!” He asked the girl if she would forgive him for startling her, the girl gave a meek smile and nodded “Yes”. Peter beamed a smile and before leaving he said jokingly “Work hard, slaves.” I must admit it was a pleasant surprise to have a Monkee barge in on us while we were working.
After lunch, we came back onto the lot just as someone was going into Stage 7, where the Monkees film their show, all of us had the same idea. We didn’t have any trouble getting in and as my eyes started roaming around they settled on a tall, slim, goodlooking young man who had just jumped down some stairs; as he came toward our group I said “Hi Micky!” he smiled brightly and said “Hi!” shaking my hand with a warm, friendly grip. Just then we heard Marilyn’s voice, “O.K. you kids, back to work.” Honestly I never ran so fast in all my life!!!
We got out of the studio just in time to catch up with Charlie, she said “I called to you girls not to go in there.” We said we were sorry but we didn’t hear her. As we approached the office we saw two men with cameras and tape recorders interviewing Mike Nesmith, who was lying in the back seat of his black, convertible, GTO Pontiac. Mike stopped talking and took time out to sign autographs and talk to us. We thanked him and told him we had to get back to work, so we all waved good-bye to Mike and he waved back and then continued his interview.
Back in the mail room there was a lot of excitement going on. Micky had just received a Christmas present from one of the girls, it was a turquoise blue and green paisley “Hamlet” shirt, Micky was raving about it! As the girl was taking the pins out of the shirt, Micky bent down and gave her a kiss. He said “I’ll do that later and who knows, I might even wear it on the show! I think it is outasite!!”
The next afternoon Peter barged in again. I said, kiddingly, “Peter Halsten Thorkelson, don’t ever do that again!” Peter’s bottom lip started to tremble as if he were going to cry. We all started laughing because Peter looked so forlorn, he joined in on the laughter too, glad to know he had brought a little bit of happiness with him. He asked us how things were and we showed him all the cards we had addressed, five stacks of autographed pictures one and a half feet high, Peter exclaimed “Tremendous, keep up the good work!”
Wednesday I will NEVER forget. On that day they were filming in Stage 10 which is OUTSIDE the gates. I waited with a couple of other girls for them to come into work; since they parked their cars INSIDE the lot they would have to walk right by us to get to Stage 10. Peter was the first to come along, he was dressed in a polka-dotted shirt, beige cord jeans, sheepskin jacket, moccasins and NO SOCKS! We said “Hi” and asked him how he was, he replied “Fine, and you?” “Pretty good, but how come Davy isn’t here?” He told us that Davy had left early Monday morning to attend his sister’s wedding in Manchester, England. Two other girls had heard this and they both started to cry, they had been waiting faithfully outside the gates for almost six hours to catch a glimpse of the delightful Davy Jones.
Blew a kiss
Peter understood how the girls must have felt, but he turned to us and said “I’d better go now” he then blew us all a kiss and we waved good-bye. Micky came walking slowly along and we struck up a small conversation with him: “How are you, Micky?” “Just freezing, that’s all” he told us between chattering teeth. No wonder he was cold, he was dressed in choc. brown bellbottoms, paisley shirt, suede boots and NO COAT. He said as he was leaving “I’ll be up later, O.K.?” “Groovy!” we replied. And then, last but certainly not least, Mike passed us looking very pensive, so we just waved to each other. He was dressed very comfortably in faded blue jeans, checked shirt and his favourite old boots.
Micky kept his promise and came up to the office at about 3.00, he had come to pick up some mail and receive some presents. I caught Micky just as he was going out of the door, I presented him with “Spaniard in the Works” which I had wrapped in gold and green felt and paisley designed paper. He was so overwhelmed with all the gifts that the kids had given him that he began to get very sentimental and he gave me a big hug and a kiss. Since there was mistletoe above the door I kissed him back and said “Merry Christmas, Micky.” He then addressed everyone in the room “Thank you all for the great presents and cards.” He left everyone in an atmosphere of peace and serenity.
Thursday came rolling along and I became acquainted with Randy Creadick, Micky’s former girlfriend, she was very nice and not at all big-headed about having a Monkee as a boyfriend. Randy had waist-length, platinum-blonde hair, big blue eyes, a nice figure and stood at 5'9". Since Friday would be half day Frew asked for volunteers to work until 9 p.m. I’m glad I volunteered because at 7.30 p.m., Micky drove to a screeching halt down in the parking lot. He came bounding up the stairs to pick up MORE mail and presents, one present in particular; two girls presented Micky with a scale model castle, three feet long and one and a half feet high. Micky asked the girls how long it had taken them to make it and what it was made out of; it had taken the girls three weeks to make it and they said “We made it out of anything and everything, plaster of Paris, plastic, cardboard, plywood, marbles, a compass, we put a picture of each of the Monkees in the four windows and put an American flag on one turret and an English flag on the other.” The castle was a “beautiful piece of work” as Micky put it; it was painted authentically and had in gold glitter the name “MONKEE MANOR”. Micky rushed into the next room to get Bert Schneider and asked him if it would be at all possible to use the castle as a prop in the show, Mr. Schneider replied “I don’t see why not!!!”
Micky stayed around for a little while longer, signing autographs and pictures, telling jokes, making everybody happy. He showed us how to “stage fight”, he picked a girl as his guinea pig and told her to stand very still. He hauled back to punch her and then followed through with a loud “SMACK”, Micky had made the sound by hitting the palm of his left hand with his right fist. “A fake right cross” Micky called it; someone asked him to do his impersonation of James Cagney, which he did splendidly and with pleasure. He glanced at his watch and said “Oh, oh, gotta run, Merry Christmas, everybody!!” He bounced down the stairs singing “Jingle Bells” at the top of his lungs.
Friday, and hardly any work had to be done, but I managed to find out where each of the Monkees were going for Christmas. Davy was in England, Mike and his lovely family had left on Wednesday for Texas, Peter left on Thursday to join his family in Canada for the holidays. Micky was the only Monkee left, and he was full of Christmas cheer and joy.
Micky had bought a 1967 Lemans Pontiac for his sister, Coco, and an RCA Victor Colour TV set for his Grandmother. Micky, Ric Klein, and David Price (Peter’s stand in) tried every possible way to get the television into the back seat of the new car.
Although it was a pretty tricky job, Micky, Ric and David managed to wriggle the set into the car. We were watching them from the office balcony and when they had finished we all yelled “HURRAY FOR MICKY, RIC AND DAVID!!!” They said, very modestly, “It was nothin’”. Micky was running around pounding his chest and making noises like Tarzan, then he went into a fake coughing spasm. Ward Sylvester, the show’s assistant producer, gave Micky a crate of wine as a Christmas present, Micky thanked him very much and then blew kisses to everyone; as he climbed into the new car and drove off he waved to every single person in sight.
During the second week things weren’t as hectic, because the Monkees were on tour. There were a lot of odds and ends to clean up and when that was finished the volunteers remaining to help had a chance to meet such people as: Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, Producers, Jim Frawley-Director, Coco Dolenz, Micky’s sister who had dropped by on business; and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart-Composers.
I am now six thousand miles away from Screen Gems and the Monkees, but I wish I could go back this Christmas and once again be a part of the happy pandemonium.
NEXT MONTH: Micky talks about his life now! Another great Monkees Monthly Competition