We sometimes forget that celebrities are real people.
They have the same physical and emotional needs. They have the same responsibility to provide for their families and protect them from harm. And even though they’re adored and envied by millions, they often harbor a deep-seated desire to do something else with their lives.
They are human. Cut them, and they bleed.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since learning of the death of Davy Jones last week. Jones, who died on Feb. 29 at age 66 of a heart attack near his home in Florida, will forever be known as being a member of The Monkees, a rock band created for television in 1966 that evolved into a real rock band that wrote, recorded and performed its own songs.
They were all beloved, especially by pre-teen girls, but none more so than Jones. Like it or not, he was forever branded as a teen idol by that one two-year TV show and subsequent records and tours.
And he often didn’t like it.
I once interviewed Jones during The Monkees’ 2001 reunion tour. It was supposed to be a 15-minute phone interview. But Jones talked for more than 90 minutes, shifting topics with a rapid-style delivery that would have been impossible to transcribe had I not been taping the conversation. I barely got a word in — in fact, I finally had to break the interview off because I had another one scheduled. That had never happened before with a celebrity interview, and it never has since.
We talked about The Monkees, of course, but Jones also wanted to talk about his love of nature, his Broadway career, his relationship with his children and how they liked to buy him “hip” clothes, the then-hot trend of manufactured boy bands like The Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync (a by-product of The Monkees’ success), and his love of training and riding racehorses.
But mostly about how being “Davy Jones of The Monkees” had impacted his life as David Jones, the man.
“I’m in need of lots of therapy,” he said with a sigh as the interview wound down. “The conversation this morning has been basically me giving you a whining session on all my stuff.”
Since his death, Jones’ accomplishments outside The Monkees have been viewed with a sharper focus. He had a career on Broadway before and after the TV show, and received a Tony Award nomination for his performance as the Artful Dodger in the original Broadway production of “Oliver!” (He would return to “Oliver!” years later as Fagin, a role he was particularly proud of.)
In one of those quirks of fate that can only be described as kismet, Jones was performing a scene from “Oliver!” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” the same night The Beatles made their historic live U.S. TV debut in February 1964. Watching the Fab Four from the sidelines and hearing the screaming fans, he decided to pursue a career in music — and had a solo record contract and a single in the Billboard Hot 100 within a year.
Then came The Monkees. The show lasted only two seasons, and the band lasted for only a few years after the show’s cancellation. But the typecasting of David Jones as Davy Jones, the happy-go-lucky, mop-topped Monkee, would never end.
“I played Davy,” he said. “It’s been a good servant to me, and I ended up being the slave. George Clooney didn’t play George on his TV show, he played somebody else. I played Davy, so I’m stuck with this … it gets to be a pain in the a–.
“There’s always been the fear that somebody, at some point in my life, was going to pat me on the head. And I was going to have to slug ‘em.”
Once considered a serious actor with a bright career, Jones was considered old news by the age of 27. It often drove him to depression.
“This is affecting my children,” he told me. “It’s affected my marriages. It’s certainly affected me. It has driven me — it’s total mood-swinging sort of occasions, where I have to hide, go get away and be alone. And that’s interesting. I find myself riding in Pennsylvania in the mountains, seeing black bear and deer and badgers and squirrels, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I wish everyone could see this. This is me, this is what I want to be. This is the guy I am — riding my horse, my trusty steed.’
“Well, that don’t sell records. What sells records is a little guy jumping about singing and dancing to the familiar tunes and these other two clowns that everybody knows.”
Still, Jones said he had come to peace with that, especially since The Monkees’ revival of the 1980s had endeared them to a new generation. Instead of an albatross around his neck, he came to view the group as a meal ticket, something he could rely on to provide financial security for himself and his children. He referred to participating in Monkees reunions as “protecting my investment.”
But it wasn’t just a job, either. Jones seemed to genuinely love performing onstage, whether it was singing “Valleri” in front of screaming fans or playing Jesus nailed to the cross in “Godspell.” And he referred to the female adoration that continued into his 50s with that classic Monkees humor firmly intact.
“I go for the best-looking ones — as long as they don’t outweigh me too much, it doesn’t matter,” he said with a laugh. “They no longer throw panties, they throw Depends. That’s why I like these older women — they don’t yell, they don’t tell, and they’re grateful.”
The one passion that trumped everything else, though, was training and riding horses. Jones was training to be a jockey when the joined The Monkees, and owned his own horse farm in Florida. I find it fitting that the last day of his life was spent riding horses with his family, because it brought him the escape from being Davy Jones that he craved.
“You find that other life that’s far away from that stuff, and that’s what my horses do for me,” he said. “I’m not that guy when I go pick up horse s— in the mornings, when I get on my thoroughbred I don’t go around singing ‘Daydream Believer,’ you know what I mean?”
In the end, Davy Jones left this world doing the things that he loved, and he made other people happy in the process. We all should be so lucky.
Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at: