Peter recalled his childhood for us. “You sometimes hear of kids who run away from home… maybe because they’d been getting in trouble with their parents. Not me. I had too good a time at home. Sometimes I’d go off on a hike and get lost, but always wanted to get back home quick as possible.
“But I was always the youngest kid in class at school. Maybe this helped me be a bit of a show-off in those days. You see, I’d started school at five years of age in Germany. It’s a later start in America and the school governors there wanted me to go through first grade all over again. Mom and dad didn’t want that so I went straight into second grade and got myself bullied a bit, sometimes, by the older kids.”
Tried too hard
“When I was at a private school, around fourth grade time, I got high ratings in most subjects. But later on, oh boy! did I go downhill. My ratings slumped badly. You know why? Because I was trying too hard to keep in with the other guys. I spent less time on my actual work and more on trying to prove I was a grown-up little social climber. That’s why. Sure I regret it now, but at the time what mattered was having friends.”
He did earn grudging praise from some of the classmates for his witty replies to teachers. But even when his class started a little club-house of their own, with upturned crates as chairs, Peter wasn’t all that popular. He was too young, which wasn’t his fault, was it?
He was also taught piano. Note that way of phrasing it: he was taught, but he didn’t really bother to learn. For a start he didn’t like the music he was required to play. He couldn’t be bothered with all the scales and chords he had to learn. He figured that it was too much of a slow process; what HE wanted was an instrument out of which he could get an immediate tune.
But always his home life was the happiest part of each day. And when he was sixteen, he was given his first guitar. Let’s leave Peter, for a while, right there… strumming away on his first-ever guitar—and picking up chords with surprising speed. For as this phase of his life went on, remember that Mike was involved in school examinations and worrying himself sick that he’d flunk out on everything.
Let’s start getting up to date on Micky, the third Monkee to launch a personal attack on the world. He first saw the light of day on March 8, 1945… so he appeared almost exactly thirteen months after Peter. He was born in Los Angeles. He was named George Michael Dolenz Jnr—his father, George Dolenz Snr., was, as we all know, a famous actor. He now has three sisters, Coco and Debbie and Gina.
Now we’ve spent hours talking to Micky about his childhood. In fact, it was a happy time for him and he puts that down to being involved in a show-business atmosphere right from the start. He says: “First people I can really remember, apart from my family, were pretty important folk in the acting business. It’s a different sort of life. Okay, I know some kids in this line get sort of precocious. But it’s a great start for anyone.”
But Micky kids about his childhood. He says they were so poor that he was thirteen years of age before he realised what knives and forks were for. He says that when aircraft flew into their part of Los Angeles, the pilots would say to the passengers: “Would you please set your watches back fifty years!” But the Dolenz childhood was spent in North Hollywood. Mostly he had the usual childhood thrills… like getting his first dog, when he was only four years old, and he remembers it looked a bit like a cocker spaniel and was called Mija. Once when Mija was in trouble, Micky wanted to sleep outside in the kennel to keep the pooch company.
Sense of humour
Young Micky had that sort of approach to life that made every day a holiday… but his main memories now are of actual Red Letter days in the year, like Christmas or Easter or even Hallowe’en. You know all about his sense of humour right now; well, he was a budding comedian even before he started school.
He said recently: “All my life I’ve liked to dress up. To play a part. So when it came to Easter, you’d usually find me all dressed up in Bunny clothes or somethin’ like that. First time my kid sister Coco saw me, all furry and trying to twitch my nose like a rabbit, she let out one almighty yell and had the neighbours thinking I’d been bullying her.”
Micky’s scrapbook is full of items showing his clever way of dressing up. Like when he saw the film “Wizard of Oz”, which starred Judy Garland—he liked the old scarecrow character so much he spent hours working on a costume just like in the film. He had straw coming out of his ears, ragged old clothes and an old straw hat that had previously acted as a nest for a litter of real-life rabbits.
It was good enough to win him a prize in a fancy-dress competition at his school. He was only seven by now, so he deserves credit for getting most of the costume made up by himself. And on one Hallowe’en, our Micky (then eight) took first prize for a costume that his Mum helped him make up. Bit difficult to describe but he actually went as A BOOK! With a false beard and huge spectacles disguising his face, his body was hidden from view by a book-like box, inscribed “The History of Hallowe’en, Volume One”.
Though he was a perky sort of pupil at school, he didn’t worry a lot about his lessons. Remember, though, that Micky of all the Monkees was the one most connected with show business as a kid. He was friendly with the sons and daughters of famous actors and actresses. THEY talked about moviemaking; and Micky talked about it to his Dad, who was, of course, a famous actor.
Micky knew that acting was in his blood and he didn’t try to fight it. You can’t plan for show business, though… his Dad kept pointing that out to him. Sometimes you have to wait for years for just a chance to show off your talents. Strings CAN be pulled, though… which happened for Micky.