How to Enjoy MonkeeCon on $5 a Day

I survived my first (and likely only) fan convention.

Ape at Monkee Convention
So this happened…

Last summer I posted about my excitement after my husband bought me a ticket to the Davy Jones Memorial Monkees Convention in Newark, New Jersey for our anniversary. Three days of all Monkees, all the time. At first, this sounded wicked awesome. Yet as time went by, I began to become a bit leery. I may be the biggest Monkee fan that anyone who has met me has ever known, but put me up against other Monkee fans, and I probably fall into the lightweight category. After all, you were not going to see me at this convention dressed up as one of the Monkee Men characters, or haggling over the price of an original T.V. Guide with The Monkees on the cover, or waking up at 4 a.m. to be the first one in line to meet Micky or Peter. Nope. I like to think of myself as being able to properly “contain my crazy.” So I was wary of the voodoo that I might encounter at such an event. And then I began wondering why I was going at all.

This feeling of unease was not helped by the fact that any and all communication about and leading up to the convention, well, kind of sucked. Despite there being a webpage and two Facebook pages for the convention, there was not a whole lot of useful information by way of them, most notably a schedule of events. But I tend to be a fairly go-with-the-flow kind of gal, so I trusted that I would have a good time, which was cemented when I found out my friends Hugh, Shannon, and Shannon’s husband Brian would be going as well. At the very least, this could turn out to be a weekend of our own kind of debauchery.

And that is exactly what it ended up being. MonkeeCon tended to be very hot and cold: anything dealing with the celebrities and special guests was muy caliente; anything dealing with the logistics of the convention was an iceberg…like the one that sunk the Titanic. While the idea and intention of the convention was noble, it ended up being one of the most unprofessional events I have ever attended. I won’t go into long and boring details, but the thing that upset me the most was the blatant and unabashed ways in which convention-goers were expected to shell out extra money of which we had not been forewarned. Had we been told up front that it would cost money to see all the celebrities, that certain events would require a cover charge, or that we would have to pay $25 for a program if we wanted to know the schedule of events for a convention we had ALREADY SPENT $200 TO ATTEND (not counting travel and lodging), I would have let it go….because I would have known what I was going into. What was even more shameful is that if people expressed discontent over the lack of communication, they were made to feel guilty since proceeds were going to charity. Well, charity still isn’t an excuse for getting people right where you want them and then bleeding them dry.

Fortunately for us, Hugh, Shannon, Brian, and I were simply content with being there and relishing whatever “free” opportunities came our way. We decided what was worth paying for (an autograph from Micky on a children’s book based on the 1950’s show he starred in as a kid, “Circus Boy”) and what wasn’t (a $12 garden salad from the hotel restaurant, which was the only restaurant within walking distance…thank God for pizza delivery). Then whatever experiences graced us, we welcomed. And some pretty cool stuff ended up happening.

Henry Diltz Monkee Convention 2013
Move over countless rock legends. Diltz has a new muse now.

The first of which was meeting famed celebrity music photographer, Henry Diltz. Most Monkee fans know Diltz because he shot probably 75% of the photos of Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike that we crushed on in our bedrooms. But he has also snapped the mugs of The Beatles, CSN&Y, Michael Jackson, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and countless others. Oh, and me. Well, my nails, anyway. While Shannon and I were chatting  with him, he commented that he really liked the color of my nail polish, which I later told him was called “Stormy.” He asked if he could photograph my nails. I of course said yes, and then proceeded to let him take a few shots of my hands that were shaking like a Polaroid picture. That moment was only topped when later that weekend, he referred to me as “Stormy.” Ladies and gentlemen, I have been nicknamed by the great Henry Diltz. And my nails might be well on their way to becoming famous and even winning a Grammy someday. I can already hear the opening line of their E! True Hollywood Story: It all began for Stormy and the Phalanges Band with a photograph from a simple point and shoot camera in the Winter of 2013…

Next to Henry Diltz was Gary Strobl, who has done numerous things with The Monkees over the years. He is currently working on a new book about them, and my friends and I had a really great discussion with him about that. We must have had that right balance of fans who would get super jazzed over cool memorabilia without the “I will stalk you on Facebook” mentality, because he offered to show us a copy of one of the Great White Whales of Monkee Junk: The 1969 Tour Program. That may not sound very cool, but it was. The Monkees toured in ’69 after Peter Tork had left the band, and not a whole lot is known about it, besides the fact that they were backed by a funk and soul band known as Sam & The Goodtimers. So it was über cool to see an artifact from that time, along with some photos of the guys I had never seen. That is always a bonus.

Gary Strobl Monkees Convention 2013
The unveiling of the ’69 Tour Program. Have you seen it? I hadn’t seen it. Has anyone seen it? Well guess what…I DID SUCKERS!

 

P1010040Another big highlight for me was the performances throughout the weekend, namely by Robbie Rist (formerly known as Cousin Oliver on the Brady Bunch!), Circe Link, and Christian Nesmith (yes, THAT Nesmith. Papa Nez is really his papa). Public service announcement: check out their stuff; it is the bomb-diggity. Most notable was a performance of a song called Calico Girlfriend that was written and originally sung by some guy who once had amazing sideburns. Don’t tell Nez, but Christian’s and Circe’s rendition takes the cake. Circe’s voice seemed to be born to sing it, plus she did this mesmerizing “swishy-swashy” thing with her hands that made them look like psychedelic tentacles.

P1010126Aside from being a metaphorical weekend keg party at which fans could get a good buzz (or sloppy drunk) on copious amounts of memorabilia, celebrity sightings, and performances, the MonkeeCon held a larger purpose. Proceeds went to the Davy Jones Equine Memorial Fund, which raises money to help care for the large herd of beloved horses Davy left behind after his death. And in his absence were his four beautiful daughters, Talia, Sarah, Jessica, and Annabel. Class acts. All four of them. Sweet to anyone who wanted a bit of their time, listening to every story about their father that fans had to offer (Annabel properly enjoyed my story about seeing two girls lick her father’s elbows). During his Q&A session, Micky paid the simple yet eloquent compliment to these girls as well as to Davy: “The measure of a man is his children.” Well, from what I know of his daughters at the convention, Davy’s true legacy has nothing to do with The Monkees, and is much greater than we could have known.

Micky Dolenz Monkee Convention
Look how suave I am. I’m not even looking at him. I mean, come on guys…he’s just a person.

Oh yeah, and there were these two guys named Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork there as well. Honestly for me, this convention turned out to be anything but centered around the only two actual Monkees present. And there were a few reasons for that. As I mentioned, it cost money to meet with them, and I have already had that privilege in the past. I was simply content just catching glimpses of them around the hotel, for as I have told my kids on many occasions, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. I guess I figured I hadn’t gotten what I should have though, because I did finally decide to be a sucker and shell out the cash to get Micky’s autograph after all. But only because Hugh found me that “Circus Boy” book I mentioned before. I mean…The Monkees AND children’s literature in one? As someone who still wants to grow up to be an author of children’s books, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It was like the universe was telling me, “You’ve lived the Monkee dream, kid. Now get going on that literary one.” I consider it an inspirational investment in my future. And it had absolutely NOTHING to do with having him smile at me for ten seconds. I swear.

Circus Boy and Henry Diltz
A signed Diltz photo and a signed “Circus Boy” book. Not a bad haul. Or mini haul. Or two things. Yeah, two things.

 

Peter and Micky did treat us to a performance, which of course was perfection. But the best part actually happened OFF stage during one of Peter’s solo pieces. As he tore through a blues song, everyone was moved by the spirit to rock out right along with him. And I mean everyone…including a very familiar silhouette standing behind the projection screen off to the right. I knew that Dolenz profile anywhere, and I couldn’t help but feel we were witnessing something special: one band mate genuinely appreciating the talents of his other band mates, not realizing he was broadcasting his admiration for the music to the entire room…

Monkee Convention
I will seduce you with my monkey pajamas and hypnotic laser eyes..and New Jersey pizza breath

Speaking of admiration, I had my own personal moment of glory while at the convention. Prior to leaving, I had come across this pair of super cute and comfy pajamas that also happened to have adorable little monkeys on them. Kismet? You bet. So I bought them and packed them for the convention. Call me a loser, but you know I looked hot. I am certain of this because of the attention I received when I decided to head down to the lobby with Hugh to catch a late night jam session with The Blue Meanies, a Monkees cover band. Not three seconds after stepping off the elevator, a man walking past said, “Nice pajamas. How can I talk you out of them?” I simply looked over at Hugh and said, “Score one for the monkey pjs.” Who would have guessed that it would take MonkeeCon 2013 to convince my husband he has a wife so smokin’ that she doesn’t need Victoria’s Secret?

So that is the long and short of my experience at MonkeeCon. As I said, I don’t know that I would ever attend another one, but overall I am happy I went. And I am proud of myself that I didn’t get caught up in all the voodoo and end up spending the equivalent of a month’s worth of tuition at my daughter’s school. As my friend Shannon put it, we just had to look for the “‘best value’ deals of the weekend: a $10 autographed photo and fab convo with THE Henry Diltz; warm smiles and hugs from Christian and Circe; the twinkle in Annabel’s eyes as she heard the elbow story.” So let this be an assurance to other fans who might attend a MonkeeCon in the future that you can get the full Monkee experience for a fraction of the cost, and feel good about the rest of your money going to support Davy’s horses. I hear they are already planning another convention for the West Coast in 2014. That sounds like just about enough time for them to get the schedule worked out…and then not tell anyone what it is.

And our good times start and end, without dollar one to spend. But how much, baby, do we really need?

Thanks to my buddy Hugh for letting me post his video of Micky rockin’ out to Peter’s performance (I love you dearly for having the good sense to hit record on that one!). The “Calico Girlfriend” video was not from the convention, but can be seen on circelink.com. The Daydream Believer Sing-a-long video was posted on YouTube by “pegbarr,” who I am also grateful to for sharing the love.  

26 Responses

  1. Very Cool! I really enjoyed the Monkees when they were original but not as you do. I really enjoy seeing their talent continue through your eyes when so many talented people hit the skids in their personal lives and couldn’t get through it. These guys really love what they do and you help them make it work! Thanks for helping us “monkee originals” reminisce. It always amazes me when I see the guys who were stars
    on tv when I was a kid and who are about the same age!!

  2. I am sad to have not been there myself, but so happy to hear the (Monkees) tales!

  3. I was there too, and I agree 100% about the disorganization and the issue with the schedule. I went to and/or worked staff at a number of Monkees conventions in the ’80s and early ’90s and none were this bad in terms of organization. I’ve also been to a lot of memoribilia conventions, and the celebs always charge for autographs but the organizers always tell you IN ADVANCE how much each person will be charging. The fact that these didn’t, and that they expected us to pay $25 for the schedule was in my opinion inexcusable. There is a lot they could have done to improve that, like post the schedule on line in advance. Obviously they had it because they got it to the printer. And if they wanted to charge for the program, either charge less (we paid $5 for it at the end of Sunday), or include one free autograph from each celeb with it.

    Overall as Monkees Conventions go it was very good – lots of good attendees, fun moments, and supporting a good cause. It just could have been so much better with a little more organization and consideration.

    One of my highlights: we went outside to see the original Monkeemobile on Saturday, just as the 4 Jones girls were there. The owners allowed them to get in the car, and took lots of photos. And David Cassidy’s sincere tribute to Davy was fantastic.

    • Thanks for your comments. Like I said, I have never been to a convention before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. In a way it is nice to know I wasn’t the only one noticing these things, and this was not the typical way events like this are handled. I have no doubt that good intentions were in place in the planning, and hopefully they will take these criticisms to heart when planning the next one. I wondered if perhaps they tried to cut a lot of corners in order to net more money for the Equine Fund…like the fact that the t-shirts, program, website, etc. were terribly designed. I smelled Word clip art all over the place :) But I think they could certainly elicit professional help from Monkee fans who could use their professional talents with design and marketing…and who would likely do it for a reduced cost, or even for free to benefit the Fund. I personally know a few who would probably offer their services. So cool that you got to see that moment with the Jones girls. I saw the photo, and it was beyond adorable. And I agree that the Cassidy moment was nice, though I wonder how many people were upset that he ended up not doing autographs and photos. I myself didn’t care about that, so that nice little moment was a bonus for me. I kind up ended up in his Q&A on accident because well, gee, I didn’t have a schedule :)

  4. oh man i posted a thought out comment but the net shut down and lost it.
    i’ll just say quickly that you were right chickie..i’ve been voicing my opinon about that the two women who were ‘running’ the ‘con’ (l always put that in quotation marks..i wonder why: ) ) were only out to make a buck …and suck true fans dry. It took months and a LOT of folks asking over and over (and having their posts deleted..yeah those chicks were deleting happy…like dealing with 5th graders)for them to finally admit that NONE of the money from the ‘con’ was going to the memorial or the horse fund.
    YET up til the very end they were telling new folks who came in that their ticket money was going Davy’s horse fund.
    Charles …the dude who was supposed to be involved with it was onyu there at the ‘con’..he was the ONLY person you could talk to..and you could find him cuz HE (unlike those two old women) was wearing a ‘con’ tee and not a mini dress with no identification. (hmm…why would you create something and then NOT want anyone to know who you were??)
    BEWARE! those women are NOW setting up a ‘con’ for the Brady Bunch here (some are saying that this ‘con’ was a mini brady con…i called it the ’70s Sit com star ‘con”). So i guess they dind’t get enough money out of folks with this deal.
    OH yeah…and thanks for the good words for the Blue Meanies..they are great guys who do a LOT more than just Monkees stuff (they will be at the beatlesfest here in NJ in a few weeks…they do a lot of BEatles stuff but also Kinks, Who, even Johnny Cash as well as their own original music…wow, yeah! the Blue Meanies and Loose Salute actually are real musicians who don’t want people to think they are faux celebs:) )
    I fought long and hard to get the Blue Meanies into this thing and was ostrosized by the ‘women’ running the ‘con’ when they finally brought them in. And all i’ve heard good about the “con’ was how much people loved the Blue Meanies:) And their shows (which were cut short every day by the way!) were FREE! you could get them to sign stuff and take pics for FREE!! okay so ya should by a CD (at one point scott was letting folks have ’em for $5!)or a tee ( hey…a tree and a cd for $20..where else did you get that good a deal!).
    AND the Hootananny on Sat night was Gary and Scott’s idea . NOTHING to do with the ‘con’ at all;) I was there…i’m glad you were too;)
    If ya saw a red haired chick in a grey felt fedora full of buttons and a lavender jacket knitting Nez Hats all weekend..that was me:) and if you came up and chatted with me and were nice…and ESP if you mentioned you were a Nezfan..you got a goodie…i was handing out buttons to the good folks:) and yes..they were FREE!!!
    Well…the buttons were..sorry i’m making the hats to help pay a cancer patient’s medical bills;) ( i WISH i could have given those out for free!)

    • Wow…I did not know that the admission price did not go towards the fund. If that is true, that changes a lot…and makes how things were handled even more shameful. I did not end up buying one of those “Keep Calm and Ride On” shirts thinking I had already made my contribution to the fund with my ticket purchase. Had I known, I would have bought one (especially considering those shirts blew away the convention shirt in terms of quality and design.). I am bummed I didn’t run into you and get a button! I think I was always trying to figure out what was going on that I missed a lot of other opportunities to chat with other fans I didn’t already know. But it was fun to be with friends who I don’t see often. I would say I will catch you at the next convention, but I doubt I would go to another :)

      • yep…those women (I always point that out cuz i don’t believe that charlie was involved very much if at all on that whole FB thing or in much other stuff..like that hideous ‘program’ which i’ve been told was just a whole bunch of crap about the two women and how they are the ultimate monkee fans blahblahblah! i’m thankful for the folks who took pics of the pages of the ‘event’s and put them on online ..i passed those suckers around like candy corn on halloween;) NOBODY should have had to pay to find out where things or were going to happen. AND with all the conventions and fests i’ve been to and worked behind the scenes i’ve NEVEr had to pay for such a thing. Whether it was something as simple as printed out on somebody’s printer at home or a thick professionally done magazine type program:)

        IF you want to help the horses and get one of those shirts (I agree ..even though i didn’t even look to see who made the ‘con’ shirts and liked the graphic on the front..and HOPE they PAID the person who originally drew it…)Davy’s daughters say that they are getting more in soon and will have them for sale on their site. DJEMF.If you need the link let me know and i could dig it up..but its not hard to find. And ALL that money goes to the horses;)
        They might also be selling them in June at the FREE (yes! FREE!) MEMORIAL right in Beavertown. The dude running that is the same who ran it last year so it should be run pretty well.

        • Thanks for the info. I heard they would be selling them online. I will have to keep an eye out. I was happy that they sold out of them at the convention.

  5. lonerose99

    Met Henry Diltz in 2011, he was going around the country with an exhibit of some of his photos, and telling stories about all. Three Monkees photos were among the photos….nice guy!
    I was one who saw the 1969 tour, in late April of that year in Chicago, yeah had that tour book but now long since lost to the 4 winds through moves in my earlier years. Wish I still had it, who’d have thought there’d be such a thing as the internet where I’d reconnect to being a fan, but at least memories of that concert have not blown away.

    • Very cool! I would love to hear about your memories of that concert. Being a second-generation fan, I am a bit envious of anyone who was able to see them in the 60’s. I bet it was a trip!

      • lonerose99

        Yes it was a trip, full house in Chicago at the Auditorium Theater. I was in the balcony in the 2nd row somewheres….my sis and Dad were with me, 2 of my friends from school were on the main floor. Back at school Monday we were squealing in the halls comparing notes LOL….awesome time, Micky’s my favorite I couldn’t believe he was right there LOL. Mike off a bit away from Davy and Micky, Davy and Micky bouncing around all over the stage. Micky on the drums a little…ya the Goodtimers behind them as well as a video screen….though I remember the band, I can’t quite recall all on the screen….probably snippets from the show.
        Some people sort of dis the 33 1/3 special they had, but not me, I was glued to the tv watching them being so awesome, getting excited by the minute, because I knew I’d be seeing them in less than 2 weeks! LOL what good memories!.

  6. Hey…thanks for the shout-out for my Daydream Believer singalong video! It was magical….and…omigosh…you were 9 in 1986?! Yikes! I’ll be starting my 3 year-old granddaughter on them soon…what will that make her…something like 5th generation? How about first generation 2 times removed? I tried hard with my 23 year-old daughter when she was little…she liked them fine, but it didn’t stick. I will succeed with Chloe, she will have no choice.

    • Good luck with your granddaughter!! I have tried with my kids…I think they definitely have an appreciation for them, but I don’t think either one will take their fandom to the level I have. In some ways, that’s probably a good thing :) Thanks for making your video available to the masses. We did get down there for the tail end of the jam session, but unfortunately, we missed the sing-a-long!!! Bummer! Very cool that Jessica and Talia were there. All I could think was that I hope they felt the love.

      • They did. I took some photos as well and you can see the joy plastered all over Jessica’s face…

  7. barry aka d.j. jonny thunder

    Just wanted to say helo to all the fans who responded to the original post. I was one of the emcees of the convention and i wont disagree with anything any one had to say good or bad about the convention. The only point i wil make is that the convention site did state they were not responsible for celebs charging for autogrphs or pics.. that was up to them solely.. now all the other insanity that was stated . yes yes and yes i do agree and having been one of the emcees i wil admit i had to wing everything as i was not told anything either. but as the song says.. “that was then, this is now”. Now if only someone in here saw me at the Butch Patrick, Donna Loren, Arlene Martel q&A or even the auction..No one seems to have made those portions of the convention im bummed..

    • Barry, thank you so much for your comment. It is nice to see that someone involved with the convention is open to discussion about it, since sadly the ones who planned it aren’t. I do recall them stating that celebs would/ might be charging, but that only seemed to come to light a few short weeks before the con, after most of us bought our tickets. When I bought mine last year, the site had very little info at all. My simple statement to that would be to not start selling tickets before your site and social media pages are finished and up to date. If I am mistaken and that WAS there from the beginning, it must have been very fine print. I am just a fan of honesty and openess, and making SURE people know up front what their money buys them. I do think the emcees did a good job…some of the very few Convention workers I saw to be in a good mood. So thank you for that. And as far as the the Q&A’s you mentioned, I might have been at them had I known the schedule (I refused to pay $25 for the poorly put together program) …ha! But honestly, I did miss a few things I wanted to catch because of that. And I skipped the auction because by Sunday night, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more money after three days of feeling like people were asking for money at every corner. Again, maybe this is a scheduling problem. If they want people to bid, put the auction at the beginning of the convention when people still have money. It sounds like even you and some of the other convention workers had a lot of the same frustrations as the fans. But overall, we all had to find our own moments of fun, which I certainly did. Hope you did too!

      • barry aka d.j. jonny thunder

        i totaly agree with you on quite a few things about the convention.Al of this was out of my hands as i was only a volunteer but you’re right as far as posting some type of schedule at least an idea of what was going to happen at some point in time and if things had changed at last minite u post it that it wasnt your fault.. i had never thought to brought it up with the organizers but i should have mentioned to them to have radios to be in constant contact with one another. That was my fault for not suggesting that to them and for that i was caught going up and down that escalator 10 times a day lol. Il oved the atmosphere of it, thats why i volunteered.. i am as much a fan as anyone else that was there. I feel like i paid something back to the guys who entertained me as a kid. All the pissing contests of the ones who planned this event and some of the other workers thee and even some of the celebs… ‘who knew who best” and who worked with and performed whim whom the most” i saw often while there and it was kind of funny but i bet you see that all these kind of events. I think of myself as a fan and was lucky to enjoy the shows of the 60 and early 70’s that were family fun, clean and so dopey that they are just iconic today. One of the reasons why i was not delegated more duties at this convention was because of those “pissing contests” and i didnt know the guys well enough to intro them.. lol.. its ok it gave me a hearty laugh and even after meeting some of the talent that worked with David..they can have their self titles and crowns.. for 3 days i was an emcee and worked for fine people like yourself and if i knew you’d be there id do it again..Now lets see if i ever get asked to do it again lol doubt it..D.J. Jonny Thunder here.. and all u fans are the best… you made the convention not us volunteers, not the celebs.. YOU ALL!!

        • Thanks for your kind words. Hopefully mistakes will be taken to heart and used as learning experiences to improve future conventions.

          • barry aka d.j. jonny thunder

            I hope so as well. I have a funny feeling i wont be asked to do any more conventions, at least with these organizers, but you never know.. thanks and stay well

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