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