In 1967, I was a seventh-grader in Palm Desert, California, obsessed with all things Monkees. Had all the albums, collected the pinups in Tiger Beat and 16 magazines, watched the TV show every week. Wrote fan fiction about my school friends being their girlfriends. Obsessed.
At the time, the desert area had lots of open spaces, with dunes that went for miles beyond the housing developments. One afternoon, my family was on a drive and saw a German World War II tank parked at the end of a cul-de-sac. My dad, a WWII veteran, pointed out aspects of the tank and compared it to the American tank he drove in the war. Finding a Nazi tank in a neighborhood wasn’t so weird back then because the pristine desert dunes often served as backdrops to cheap movies filmed outside Hollywood.
About a week after the tank’s appearance, a movie crew set up at the edge of the housing development. Word soon spread that the Monkees were filming. That was all my junior high needed to hear. Our school sat across a dry wash from where filming took place. The student body left school in the middle of the day, trudged through the wash, to arrive at the set. Can’t remember if we saw any Monkees that day, but the principal came by to herd us back to school.
My family came by the set after school and for several days, armed with a Super 8 camera. Somewhere in the bowels of a closet, I have a reel my dad shot of the Monkees on set and waiting between takes. We saw Micky film a scene with a Coke machine perched on a dune. I was able to get all four Monkees’ autographs and for years wouldn’t let anyone touch the pen they used. Sadly, I have no idea where those autographs might be.
The Monkees’ film, Head, didn’t get much of a release in 1968. Of course, I owned the soundtrack. At the time I didn’t like the psychedelic turn they’d taken. I always wanted to see it and didn’t get to until it showed up on Cinemax years later. Very weird film. Besides the Monkees, it featured cameos from Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, Vito Scotti, Sonny Liston, Carol Doda, Ray Nitschke, Frank Zappa, the director Bob Rafelson and screenwriter Jack Nicholson. (OK, you’d know who those people were if you were my age.)
I write all this in honor of Davy Jones, whose death at 66 was reported today. Although I loved the Beatles, Stones and other ’60s bands, the Monkees were mine, because they came to my hometown when celebrities of my generation generally didn’t visit. And now that Davy’s gone, I’ve lost a little piece of childhood. Fun facts: David Bowie had to adopt that name because Davy had claimed David Jones. And Davy appeared on the same episode of the Ed Sullivan Show as the Beatles. He performed a number from Oliver!, the West End musical he was starring in at the time.
Rest in peace, Davy.