Marvellous invention, the telephone. Okay, so sometimes it rings at the wrong time and gets you out of the bath or ruins a deep slumber. But it’s still marvellous. Specially if you happen to have the top-secret number of one of the Monkees—AND an invitation to “call me any time if there’s anything you wanna know on behalf of our British fans.”
You put in a call to America. Book the time you want it to go through. The most difficult thing is working the time out: if it’s mid-day in America, a Monkee lunch-break, what time will it be right here in London. The operator helps out, and ends up with: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
And you sit and wait. And sure enough your call comes through. You’re connected to “Mr. Tork in America”. And you gabble through your first few sentences ’cos it’s always just a wee bit nerve-wracking to talk to a big star like Peter…
But he soon puts you at ease.
“Jackie? Hi, there. You’re coming through loud and clear. Say, is that noise in the background drowning me out? Sure hope not, because I’m talking as loud as I can and I really should save my voice for a long record session we’ve on tonight.
“Jackie? How’s the scene over there? How about ole—uh, huh… you wanna ask ME questions, dontcha! Sorry… but you just fire away, ’cept that I’d rather you don’t press me too hard on what our film is all about.
“You see, there’s a whole lot of the production that we wanna keep a secret. If you let out too much of the story… well, there goes the surprise element.
“All I’ll add to what you’ve already read in the Monkees Monthly is that the end of the movie is about the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in show business. Sometimes we’d come off the stage at Wembley, when we did concerts there, and feel that it just wasn’t possible to feel any more tired. Well, Jackie, it is possible. I guess I ran about six miles to get the right shots for a chase sequence and it was nearly enough to get me going on a course of weightlifting or somethin’.”
Me: all understanding: Fine, Peter, I’ll help you keep at least some of the secrets of the film. But we’re all really looking forward to seeing it. But tell me this: do you ever get fed up with the busy life you lead as a Monkee?
“Hmnn, that’s a tough one. If I say ‘yes’, people’ll only start making up some crazy rumour like I want to quit. But to be truthful, obviously there are some days when I feel I just don’t want to get out of bed. It’s always been a theory of mine that if you end up doing something that you’re only half-way interested in… well, you should forget it! Right now, with the developments going on for the Monkees, you just couldn’t get bored with it. If ever I lost interest, then you can be sure I’d move on to something else.”
Me (nothing special, just a short gasp of surprise)…
“But that sure won’t happen. I’d like to find more time to write some poetry and a big novel… maybe a story about the formation of a group like the Monkees. I’d also like more time to read about things happening in other parts of the world. Sometimes I snatch a few moments to day-dream, like trying to work out what I’d do if I was President of the United States—you know, a real powerful figure with the ability to make vital decisions.
“This isn’t just part of being a Monkee. Jackie, I’m sure you have some days when things seem a bit black and depressing.
“Well, I’d be an odd-ball sort of guy if the same didn’t happen to me. But once you get out there working, concentrating on doing the best performance you can no matter where, well… you forget that you were feeling a bit down earlier on. Dull routine would make my hair go grey, I’m sure of that. I’d be old before my time. But there just ain’t no dull routine with the Monkees. Even if you wake up with aching legs, like I did just the other day after a spell on the film lot.”
Me: Would you please tell your fans here what you usually do when you go out on a date?
“WhatEVER do you mean! Am I to have NO privacy? No, seriously Jackie, I’ll tell you. It’ll make me sound kinda boring, I guess, but the fact is that I don’t do any of the wild things. I like to date girls who have a good line in conversation. I figure that there is something you can learn from everybody, but even so there are some people around who have minds like cabbages. They just don’t know what to say. But apart from just having a Coke and chatting, I like doing the usual things. Like going to the movies, or walking through the parks, or just window-gazing if we’re in a shopping zone.
“What surprises me sometimes is to read a story called ‘My dates with Peter Tork’ and then look at the pictures and I find that I just can’t remember even having met the chick. But I guess that’s one of the problems of being what they call a public figure.
Me: But what about all the letters you get—the proposals of marriage?
“I try my darnedest to read them all and I get frenzied evenings when I settle down and try to write out the answers. But over a marriage proposal, well, I have a pretty standard sort of reply. I mean the girl doesn’t even KNOW me except through what I do for a living? She could get to meet me and hate me for not being exactly what she thought I should be. But then a lot of the proposals I’ve had have been from girls who are only ten or eleven. There’s a nice way to let them down gently. But the OTHER kind of letters, the nice ordinary ones from nice fans who just wanna say ‘hi’, or ask me a question—well, I do my best to keep up-to-date with them.”
Me: What about all the world travelling you’ll be doing later this year—looking forward to it?
“Jackie, this could be the most exciting year yet for us. When I was at school, I wasn’t the greatest student ever. You probably recall that I flunked out a couple of times, to the stark horror of my dad. Things like geography and history didn’t mean much to me. I had no idea that I’d ever get to SEE places all round the world, and learn at first-hand what went on in centuries gone by.
“Now I have this interest, because of our travelling. Why I even started taking Japanese lessons on the film set, so I’d be able to say at least a few words to the local inhabitants when we’re over there. Result is that I’ve developed this admiration for the Japanese way of life. Their culture is basically a very beautiful culture… and incidentally their writing isn’t as tough to understand as it looks. Originally they did pictures of things and they were gradually simplified till it got like it is today.”
Me: Well, don’t forget to keep up with your Cockney accents for when you come back here.
“Say Jackie I gotta fly. That recording session is due right now. Been real nice talking to you again—and my love, OUR love, to all the fans. Call again… and soon!”
Peter was gone again. But don’t worry. I’ll for sure take up his invitation and call him, on your behalf… and soon!