Monkees’ Insider Jennifer McLeod Whips Up Their Stage Costumes, But She Also Knows A Whole Lot About One Very Special Monkee… Read On!
Jennifer McLeod is an artist who works with oils, watercolor and fabric the way most painters work with paints and canvas. Her unique talent is one of the things that brought her to Monkee Peter Tork’s attention and it’s also the basis for her current status as a Monkees’ costumer. Because 16ers are so special to the Monkees, Jennifer has created a stunning jacket—based on one Davy Jones wore on stage!—for a fabulous Monkees Jacket Giveaway in this very issue; she’s also sharing her personal stories about Peter and the Monkees… Listen in!
When did you meet Peter, Jennifer?
And at what point did you begin making costumes for the Monkees?
In 1987, in Australia. David Jones asked me if I would be interested. He’s seen a couple of the silk jackets and things that I’d done for women. I’d never really done anything for men before other than some stage costumes years ago. David asked me if I would be interested in doing the Monkees costumes for the ’87 tour in the U.S. and I positively leapt at the chance.
Davy saw the clothes on you or on Peter?
I had made some clothes for Peter. Davy actually saw them on me. I don’t know if it was that he liked my sense of color or what it was. It was definitely a leap of faith, I think, on his part.
How did Micky feel about it?
Micky said that was an interesting idea. I then treated it like any other job. I went home and I did a lot of sketches and I sent the Monkees the drawings with the fabric swatches attached and said, ‘This is what I would like to do for you.’ I sent them a number of things specifically for each Monkee and said, ‘Choose three each.’ And that was that.
Did you design all the clothes for the U.S. leg of the tour?
All of them except Davy’s “Valerie” costume.
Did Peter feel okay about your working for the Monkees?
Um, I think it was… gee, this is tough. Peter’s always liked my work. I think it’s one of the things he does like about me. It was the biggest job I’d had in quite some time and it was a new thing and he probably… I can’t say for sure… he probably was worried that it wouldn’t come out very well and he knew that would be hard on me. But he was enormously pleased with the results… I think that Trina Dolenz (Micky’s wife) and Anita Jones (Davy’s wife) both liked my work as well and they were definitely part of the selection process. That made it easier. I think Micky in particular was surprised at my skill. I will say too that they were a dream to work with. They were all very supportive.
When they saw the sketches and the swatches, did they then give you suggestions?
In ’89, Micky and Trina specifically requested (tuxedo) tails… There was one sketch that I had done with tails. It had actually been done for David, and Micky said he would like tails too, so I modified a design I’d proposed for him and did it in tails.
The Monkees could make changes and you wouldn’t be insulted?
No, not really. David, in ’89, wanted a black version of the jacket I’d done for him in ’87 with piano keys. So I did that. Peter came to me after he saw that both Micky and Davy had black suits and said, ‘I really want a black jacket as well.’ So there was a certain give and take.
The “Valerie” costume is something that Davy put together himself?
He put that together in ’87. At one point he came on stage wearing it (he didn’t have the wig and all the other accessories then) as a surprise for the other guys. A total surprise! And it just about knocked them over as you can imagine. And then it sort of became part of the show… David loves costume changes! In fact, that year I had my sewing machine on the road and was running up new things.
Was there ever a time where there was a major costume change right before a show?
No, but there’s been before-the-show “Take this in!”
Jennifer, going back to something you said earlier, how did you know that one of the things Peter liked about you was your work? Did he tell you?
Yes. I have some of my work hanging on the walls at my home. He liked it. Like the first time I saw him perform. You know people and then you see what they do and you really like what they do and it just adds a whole other dimension to how much you like them.
Many rock wives and girlfriends don’t really have their own careers.
If I didn’t have my work I would be nuts and I probably wouldn’t be with Peter… It’s very hard. You’re out there and your fella is getting all the applause and all the attention. And I personally need the satisfaction of my own job well done.
How did you meet Peter?
We were introduced by mutual friends. I came into a Bagel Nosh restaurant and some friends were sitting there and he was with them. In passing they introduced me to Peter… I sat down with them and we talked. Then I kept on seeing Peter here and there.
What’s Peter doing this year?
He’s working on a solo project.
You mean he’s shopping for a band?
Yeah. And he’s finding people.
Are there no Monkee plans for the immediate future?
No Monkee plans for the immediate future I regret to say. The only movie that I know of in the works is David’s and I’d heard that there might be a possibility of the other Monkees working in it… Peter would not be averse to it… Right now I think a rest is needed while the Monkees regroup and decide what they want to do.
Does Peter see this new solo work as something he’d go on the road with or search out a record contract with?
Both. He’s doing originals… pop-rock, you know. A few oldies. Some covers. Good dancing music.
What’s going on for him personally? Is he still out in San Francisco?
He’s out in San Francisco.
Was he there during the last big earthquake?
Yes, he was.
Any problems for him?
Absolutely not, thank God. It was a couple of very distressful hours for me.
He’s living with or near his children?
Near his children.
When do the two of you see each other?
He was out here, I’m going out there. In fact, I’m moving out there.
So he wants to become a West Coast person permanently?
Well, at least for the time being, because of the kids.
How old are the kids now?
Ivan is 14 and Hallie is 20.
Are either of them interested in show business?
Both. Hallie is a dancer. She’s going to college up in Marin County and she’s taking this semester off to look around and choose a school which will offer her a more suitable dance program. She’d like to be a dancer and choreographer. And Ivan wants to be in showbiz. He wants to be an entertainer.
What’s your relationship with the kids? Friend? Buddy? Adviser?
I’m a friend and sometimes I’m an adviser. I love them a lot. We feel very comfortable with each other at this point. It’s been a while. I’ve known Ivan since he was six years old and his reaction to me when he was six is different than at fourteen. Ivan calls me his stepmother at this point. Their mother, Barbara, and I are friends.
What’s the relationship between the two kids? There’s a big age difference. Are they close? Do they fight?
Siblings always fight… They can also entertain each other very well and hang out together very well sometimes.
Do you have any Valentine stories with Peter… What’s the most romantic thing he’s ever done?
We don’t tend to get all mushy on Valentine’s Day. He has done some very sweet things, but nothing very specifically for Valentine’s.
Is Peter a romantic person?
Shot down by his own girlfriend!
He’s not particularly romantic in terms of gestures, but he’s very loving. And that’s what matters really.
A Gift From Jennifer And Peter!
This beautiful, custom-made jacket—for one very lucky 16 reader!—just might be yours if your contest entry is the one we select at random! How do you try to win this lovely Valentine gift Peter asked Jennifer to make for you? Simply fill out the coupon on this page and send it to 16! All coupons received will be placed in our contest basket and one winner will be chosen at random and announced in the August issue of 16, on sale May 5!
… Send a $2 check or money order for Jennifer’s mail order catalogue to McLeod Fabric Arts, 1120 Sixth Avenue, Suite 4229, New York, N.Y. 10036. The $2 fee will be credited toward your first order. There are beautiful t-shirts, sweats, scarves, jackets, accessories, and lots more, so check ’em out! And be sure and tell Jennifer you read about her and Peter in their favorite magazine—16 natch!