Micky Dolenz: my family values
The musician, best known as one of the Monkees, talks about living on a chicken ranch with his Hollywood actor parents and making furniture with his daughter
My mother was a typical “go west young lady” who came from Texas to Hollywood to become a movie star. My father was born in Italy and left when Mussolini was recruiting men to fight in the war. He worked as a waiter on a cruise ship, jumping ship in Cuba and working his way to Hollywood. He became maitre d’ at the Trocadero and, so the story goes, in the men’s room, he met Howard Hughes, who signed him.
By the time my parents married my father was doing quite well as a film actor and my mother was able to stay home with us. She sometimes said she regretted losing her career, but we (I and my three younger sisters) were very fortunate to have a 24/7 mum right from the get-go.
We never lived in Hollywood. I had a rural childhood in the San Fernando Valley. I was born on a chicken ranch and grew up mucking out the horses. I would visit my father on set (I thought everyone’s dad was an actor), but if my friends asked what my father did, I said “mow the lawn” because 90% of the time he wasn’t acting.
My father was always building and mending things. I certainly inherited that. In fact, I now have a furniture business – Dolenz and Daughters Fine Furniture – with my youngest daughter, Georgia, who is also acting and writing here in Los Angeles.
I was never coerced into showbusiness, but it seemed natural to follow in my father’s footsteps. When I was 10, my mother told me there was an audition for a show called Circus Boy and asked if I’d like to go. I remember saying no at first – I had a baseball game. But I must have changed my mind because I got the part and that changed my life in one swell foop. Even at 10 I knew it was a game-changer.
Micky Dolenz’s parents, George Dolenz and Janelle Johnson, who were both Hollywood actors.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Micky Dolenz’s parents, George Dolenz and Janelle Johnson, in 1945.
I was in the show for two or three years, but my parents kept my feet on the ground. When it finished, they took me to see an educational psychologist. I’d been out of school a long time. He must have said, “Get him out of the business immediately” because they did. Overnight, I was back in the local school. That was probably the best thing they ever did. Puberty is hard enough in a normal environment.
My father got me into music at this time. I learned classical guitar and loved it. But when I took my little guitar to parties, I discovered that the girls preferred the Kingston Trio to Segovia and soon I was playing rock’n’roll.
Keeping your feet on the ground is probably the most important value my parents gave me and knowing to take – and make – opportunities. My father used to say, “You can’t wait for the phone to ring, you’ve got to be doing something,” and “You have to follow the fish; the fish won’t follow you.”
My father died when I was 17, which was traumatic. I had not seen a lot of him in the time before this. He had bought a restaurant and was always working and I was out with my friends. I remained very close to my mother. I even made her my business manager. She saved my butt. I had all this money coming in from the Monkees and I didn’t know what to do with it so I asked her to sort it out, and she did.
I don’t think my mother liked the fact that I lived in England [in the 70s and 80s]. She would have liked to have me closer. But I married for a second time in the UK and had three more daughters – I already had one from my first marriage. We moved out of London to an estate in Nottinghamshire. I like hunting shooting and fishing – I’m a country boy – and I learned to ride properly, instead of like a cowboy.
The Monkees, featuring Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, play the London Hammersmith Eventim Apollo on 4 September and the Moseley Folk Festival on Sunday 6 September. Tickets from alt-tickets.co.uk or 0844 871 8819