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Interview: Grease & Reunion

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under davy



By JOHN PAPAGEORGE Special to the Mercury News

LATE last night, Davy Jones — former tambourine-playing Monkee — wrapped
a scarf around his neck, put a baseball cap on his head and, with hands in
pockets, walked from the Shubert Theatre two miles along the cold, gray
snow-covered sidewalk along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue to his apartment.

He walks these two miles every night. No limousine, no cab. He says he
needs this time to think.

One night, he stopped off in a drugstore where he watched a mother
violently tug her child away from a candy display.

”Whoooa. Don’t pull him about,” he commanded in a scolding tone.

”Why don’t you mind your own business,” the mother snarled.

That put the five-foot tall Jones, who won over adoring teen fans with the
whimsical ”Daydream Believer,” in a nasty mood. ”Excuse me?!” he
roared. ”It is my business!”

The next night he decided to take a detour down an alley adjacent to the
Chicago Theater, where Don Osmond (ne Donnie) was signing autographs after
his performance in ”Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Jones, an invisible observer, smiled to himself and reflected on his
35-year career as fans rushed by, bumping into him, to meet the
thirtysomething Osmond.

He remembered meeting the Beatles backstage the night of their famous
performance on ”The Ed Sullivan Show.” Jones was there to perform a scene
from the play ”Oliver!” in which he originated the role of the Artful
Dodger on Broadway.

Jones speaks so passionately about ”Oliver!” — he recently returned to
the play to triumphantly recreate the role of the 70-year-old Faigin — one
would think Jones wrote it . . . or lived it.

”When I see shows like ‘Cats,’ it leaves me wondering why theater has gone
this direction,” ponders Jones. ”When I watch made-up actors crawling
ground on the stage, I wonder why I bought the ticket. It’s almost circus
theater — and it’s gimmicky. When I did ‘Oliver’ in the ’60s, we had a
book with words that the audience listened to, that led into songs, that
guided the piece along.”

Admittedly, Jones sees his role as the wild disc jockey Vince Fontaine in
the touring production of ”Grease” — which comes to San Francisco’s
Golden Gate Theatre starting Tuesday — as a ”gimmicky” means to attract
TV-loving audiences to the theater.

”It’s not a big part,” says Jones. ”I look like the character. People
who come to see the show will say, ‘Hey, that’s Davy Jones.’ ”

When Jones isn’t touring, he lives in an Amish village called Beaver Town
(population 850) in Pennsylvania, where he raises horses.

Jones rushes from thought to thought as if he’s just made sense of a
baffling puzzle. Like Scrooge, who was transformed after his visit by the
three ghosts of Christmas, Jones has just had a Yuletide revelation.

This past Christmas, the 49-year-old Jones went to Santa Cruz to visit his
23- and 26-year-old daughters. While sitting on their back patio, enjoying
the company of his daughters, he says, for the first time in his life he
had a ”game plan”: It was time to put family before show biz.

”Seeing how my daughters had grown up so fast without me being much around
made me realize that this is going to be my last show,” says Jones. ”I’ve
done my time, and I’ve done my work. I have a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old
daughter from my second marriage in London, with whom I’ve spent a total of
a year at most over the last six years. . . . I want to see their smiling
faces and share my thoughts with them.”

There’s something bittersweet about Jones’ memories. Perhaps it’s his tale
of leaving home before his 14th birthday, just after his mother’s death. Or
maybe it’s the fact that after years of loyalty to Columbia Pictures during
the Monkees’ heyday, he and fellow band members Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz
and Michael Nesmith weren’t allowed back on the production lot once the
series ended.

Jones, who says he makes just $3,000 to $4,000 a year off the Monkees,
recently asked Burt Schneider, who just sold the music rights of the group
to Rhino Records, and ”The Monkees” series producer Bob Rafelson if it
might be possible to get a few more royalty percentage points before the
deal was sealed. The answer, he says, was a resounding ”no.” The
experience left Jones, who was part of a group that had three No. 1
singles, feeling, as he put it, ”raped.”

A recent headline suggested that a Monkees 30-year-anniversary reunion,
which would coincide with Rhino’s re-release of the group’s complete audio
and video catalog, and a possible feature film starring the group are in
the works. Don’t count Jones in.

”Not unless the benefits increase 1,000 percent,” says Jones. ”I won’t
be involved unless we’re all equal partners — all band members and the

What’s most surprising about Jones, who will be replaced in ”Grease” by
Dolenz once the production moves from San Francisco, is how entirely
exhausted he is with the grind of it all.

”After the show, I come back to this luxury apartment and I’m alone. It’s
ridiculous,” says Jones. ”I don’t want to sound downtrodden and lonely,
I’m just very, very tired. I’ve finally discovered myself and it took all
of this time.” —

John Papageorge is a San Francisco free-lance writer

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