Sad to hear that Davy Jones died this morning in Florida of a massive heart attack. And shocked to realize that the former Monkee was 66 years old. When I look at the crazy long list of celebrity obituaries that I have written on this blog (see column on the right), I’m amazed (and slightly creeped out) at how many times I am able to dredge up some kind of personal connection to the departed star. I never met Davy Jones but he was certainly a part of my childhood, including one of the most traumatic events of my early years.
I can already hear everyone who knows me, especially my sister, starting to groan—they know what’s coming. My obsession with being left behind when the rest of my family took a fun-filled road trip from Chicago to the 1964 New York World’s Fair is hardly along the lines of the actual abuse that so many unfortunate children have experienced but I haven’t stopped bitching about it for over 40 years! I was discussing it with my mom on her death bed in 1999 and I frequently torment the rest of my family members with queries that may be at the root of my well-burnished abandonment issues.
Why my parents would leave their five-year-old son behind on such a child-centered fantasy vacation is beyond my comprehension. They planned the trip for months—got all the maps, read through the colorful brochures, planned their detour through Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the air smells like chocolate, and packed everything they needed into our 1963 Buick Skylark for the long trip east. Everything, that is, except one little thing they decided to leave behind…ME!
I suppose I should come clean and admit that most of my outrage took shape years later when I realized the full import of the event—I don’t remember feeling particularly upset about it at the time. But I’m still confused. Was I such an out-of-control brat that my parents worried that I’d jump off the Unisphere at the World’s Fair or get lost in the Johnson Wax Pavilion? My sister, who has a tendency to infantilize me, swears that I was left home with my grandparents so that they could teach me how to walk. AT THE AGE OF FIVE? If my parents did have a five-year-old who couldn’t walk, they should have been taking me to see a team of doctors, not gallivanting around General Motors’ Futurama or singing along with “The Happy Plastic Family” at DuPont’s Wonderful World of Chemistry.
When the Betrayers finally returned home from The Best Family Vacation in History, my brother and sister regaled me with stories of unlimited fun and excitement. One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Imperial Theater in New York to see the original Broadway cast of the Tony Award-winning musical “Oliver!” This cast included the legendary Georgia Brown as Nancy, Clive Revell as Fagin, Barry Humphries (now known as “Dame Edna”) as the undertaker, and as the Artful Dodger, a young 19-year-old former horse jockey named Davy Jones. My sister, like her doppelganger Jan Brady a few years later in a famous episode of “The Brady Bunch,” instantly fell in love with Jones and described the musical that I missed in explicit detail, reading her cherished Playbill over and over again.
Okay, I did it again. Davy Jones died and it’s all about ME, ME, ME! But why else do we ever note the passing of people in pop culture if not to remember where we were in our own lives when their stars were shining brightest. It was only a year later that the Artful Dodger left the cast of “Oliver!” and auditioned for a TV show in which producers picked four people to become part of a Beatles-like rock group. “The Monkees” became a huge sensation, and Davy Jones’ fame hit the stratosphere. (The more famous he became, of course, the more my sister reminded me that she saw the heartthrob live before any of the other screaming girls ever laid eyes on him!)
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit what a big fan of The Monkees (featuring Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, and Peter Tork) I was. I knew their songs at least as well as I knew The Beatles’ repertoire. I could sing every word of “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” and “Daydream Believer” and I could probably still perform an impromptu concert of these tunes today if asked (so please don't!). I watched every episode of “The Monkees” from 1966 to 1968, not quite realizing that they were a fake band put together for a TV show. The Beatles were very good-natured about the TV cloning and actually came to admire The Monkees. During one meeting between the two groups, Mike Nesmith reportedly asked John Lennon if he thought they were a cheap imitation of The Beatles. “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers,” Lennon replied. “I’ve never missed one of your programs!”
Davy Jones participated in many reunion tours over the years. The group last played together (sans Mike Nesmith) in 2011 but after a few dates the tour was cancelled because of “internal group issues and conflicts.” The Beatles have lost half of their members but Davy Jones is the first Monkee to go. I’m surprised that the obituaries I’ve read don’t even make reference to his Tony-nominated performance in the original Broadway production of “Oliver!” I’ll always remember Jones most as the Artful Dodger I never got to see.
Consider yourself at home
Consider yourself one of the family
We’ve taken to you so strong
It’s clear we’re going to get along…