Probably Mike’s most endearing quality is that he is among those happy people who are able to laugh at themselves. He says that he was included in the Monkees “because they figured why have all four popular and good looking—they wanted someone to prevent them from becoming too popular—I’m the weak link!”
This kind of sardonic, good-natured attitude in the face of adversity was something I took up in his defense when writing in an English paper. I proudly proclaimed, jokingly, that I was forming a “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Mike Nesmith” and that “I like Mike” badges were being pressed. I am still having to reply that it was a joke to the thousands of readers who wrote in applying for membership and badges. You hardly have to go much further than a Monkee concert to see that Mike has a very strong following and that his “sad sack” routine is only an act.
Mike reminiscing over his school days is enough to bring tears to the eyes—but whether they’re tears of laughter or sorrow depends on your sense of humor.
“I was the saddest kid you have ever seen at school,” he once told me. “At my school, there were three stratas of boys. The most popular was the school athlete, the ‘there goes Bobby Schmerberg, Jr.—he’s captain of the team’ type and then there was the smarty types who answered all the questions in English and History and then there were those who belonged to specialty branch—the choir or the band—and then there was me. I was the friend of the principal—everyone hated me!
“I remember having a list of 13 girls who might just conceivably go to the school dance with me—one time I’d rung up twelve and they all said they didn’t want to go. Not to the dance that is—they just didn’t want to go with me. Anyway I got to this thirteenth girl and rang her and said, ‘I suppose you wouldn’t like to come to the dance with me?’ and she said ‘I’d love to come to the dance with you, Mike.’ I’ll never forget her name—it was Carol. I was dumb struck—I just didn’t know what to say. Finally I blurted out ‘That’s great—gee, I wish I had asked you first!’”
And that kind of story is why I like Mike Nesmith. It’s probably true to say that he gets a little less attention than the other three but he revels in rolling in that little ole mud patch of his. Once while we were in their London hotel, Davy came into the room and said “Come on Mike—come and wave to the kids from the window.” “Naw,” smiled Mike, “I’m saving myself for them at the concert—anyway it’s so embarrassing when I go out onto the balcony and no one screams!”
This then is Mike Nesmith—the car mad Monkee who maintains he is searching for the perfect machine, the man who loves Indian wrestling but claims you can’t get the Indians to wrestle with these days. This is the man who claims that all his fan mail begins, “Hi Mike, please say hello to Davy for me.” This is the man with the house called ‘Arnold’—the dog called ‘Frack’ and wife called Phyllis. Like most humorists he has a character in opposite and if you can catch him on the serious side, he may talk about professional problems.
“I don’t know of any other group of young people who have been so successful in their own media and yet been so derided,” he says. “Everyone wants us to be as musically perfect as the Beatles, who played together for nearly three years before they ever had a hit record. We’ve been together just over one year and they expect us to produce a “Sergeant Pepper’s Album!” Where we have really succeeded was on TV with our series. That was our success—we became pop stars by accident. I doubt whether even the Beatles could sustain our weekly show.”
Mike was one of the firm supporters of the Rolling Stones during their troubled times before being acquitted on the drug charges in Britain. He wore a black arm band on stage during the Monkees Wembley concert and during the performance a picture of Jagger was flashed on their film screen. The audience booed.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Mike. “I only hope they were not booing the Stones and were booing authority. If the Stones had been convicted and sent to jail it would have been a sad injustice.”
One of the highlights of his visit to Paris was during the filming around the Champs Elysee. “We manufactured a traffic jam which lasted for two hours,” he declared enthusiastically. “I got out and looked under the bonnet and it came off in my hand. I thought the gendarme controlling traffic was going to burst a blood vessel. Finally we all got out and pushed the car for a couple of blocks—then we discovered our camera men had run out of film.”
Mike claims that it is only during the last six months that the Monkees have really begun to record seriously. “We look upon ‘Headquarters’ as being our first LP,” he said. “The first thing we knew about the “More of the Monkees” LP was when it appeared in the shops—there were tracks on it I’d never heard. Now we get the say in our discs, we make the music and decide what is to be released.”
Mike loves horror movies, and hates “The Beverly Hillbillies.” “Now that’s one TV program I can’t abide,” he drawls. “All those phony accents and phony mountain people.”
Mike’s accent, like everything else about him, is real.
Which is one of the many reasons he’s a rare Monkee and an even rarer human being!