As revealed by Phyllis Nesmith to Ann Moses
Q. When did Mike first start wearing his wool hat?
A. He’s had it for years and years and years and he wore it around Texas.
Q. Do you know where he got it?
A. No, he would never even tell me. I think that the original hat may have had some kind of sentimental attachment. It may have been knitted by somebody who meant a lot to Mike. Mike hadn’t been wearing his hat too much when we first came to California. When he finally decided to go to “Ledbetters” and play at one of their hoots, he made a decision then that he was going to be himself—sing his own songs, and that he wasn’t going to try to project any other kind of image but his own from that time on.
He got dressed one night (and I never went with him when he tried out new things, because it left him free to explore) and I remember watching him dressing and he asked me what looked best as he tried on different outfits. I said, “Please, wear your hat. And you should take your harmonica, because you groove with your harmonica.” He had a tamborine [sic] that he strapped to his boots which was fastened with string to hold it on to his foot. Just before he left the house, he put on the wool hat and I said, “Yes, the hat makes it Michael, and you should wear the blue jean jacket, because that’s just you.”
He thought he should wear the little striped shirts and the jeans, like an outfit, and I said, “No, you don’t need to do that anymore.” So he went down and he really “wowed” them that night. Randy Sparks got interested and wanted Mike to be in his group the “Survivors,” so he joined and it was great because he suddenly had a regular salary coming in each month. We moved out of our little apartment into a duplex. Then he started writing more and developing an act. But it wasn’t so much an act, it was just himself.
Q. Did Mike wear the wool hat to the Monkee interviews?
A. Yes. He never had it off after Ledbetters, once he decided to be totally himself.
Q. Did he wear it around town?
A. He wore it everywhere.
Q. So many entertainers hide their marriages. Did Mike ask you about this? How did you work it out?
A. No, he didn’t come and discuss it with me. It was always sort of policy with Raybert Productions and Mike together that they would be honest, yet not make a big deal of it. They would just state it, but not expound on it.
Q. In early interviews, Mike didn’t want to talk too much about you and Christian and he let very few photographs out. Why is that?
A. Well, personal possessions are very important to Mike, they’re his alone. While he’s so generous with so many things, there are other things that he has to keep to himself. His family life is very important to him, a comfort. If his family were exploited, it wouldn’t be the same, somehow. I don’t think he wanted to keep me in the background, he just wanted to make sure that there was something to come home to that wasn’t touched by the “other” life, like at the studio.
Q. What was your reaction to the very first press party given by Screen Gems to present the boys, before the series started?
A. It was very exciting. I didn’t go on the “Last Train To Clarksville,” but I went to the first press party and saw lots of people and had a great time.
Q. Mike once mentioned you used to make some of his clothes. Is that right?
A. Yes, I used to make him shirts. I haven’t been doing very much lately, because he can have the most beautiful clothes made for him. I used to make these lovely lop-sided things for him, but now he can buy anything he wants.
Q. Do you make any of your own things?
A. I used to do that too. While I was pregnant with Christian I would make shifts and jumpers. Mike just recently bought me a beautiful sewing machine. It does everything—you just push a button or set on something and it does the whole thing. I have a sewing room in our new house, where I’ll probably make some things. Like Mike and I would like a pair of suede pants with fringe all the way down the side. He said he couldn’t find anyone to put fringe down the sides of suede pants and I said, “I will.” So I’m going to give it a try.
Q. When did Mike start calling you April?
A. He has called me that since the first time we met. I guess it seems like a happy thing to call somebody. It has always been his pet name for me.