March 8, 2012

From the Editor: Remembering Davy Jones, the Monkee and the man

By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor

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--.

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