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Monkees Convention 2014 Review

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Fred Velez, news feed

by Fred Velez

The Monkees Inducted into the American Pop Music Hall of Fame. Photo by Fred Velez.

It took me about a week to fully recover, but here’s my little report on the 2014 Monkees Convention at the Hilton Meadowlands in New Jersey.

I arrived at the hotel early with my lovely Linda Walsh and had a brief meeting with the convention organizers Phyllis Paganucci and Jodi Blau Ritzen on our assignments. This year I had my new book, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective’ available and I was given a table to sell my books and memorabilia and records from my personal Monkees collection, so my duties as a co-emcee were a little more limited than the previous year, but Dave Alexander from the Monkees touring band capably handled the emceeing duties for the first two days of the convention. I was in and out between the dealer’s room and the ballroom but I was able to catch as much of the main activities as I could.

Among the many events to take place over the weekend were autograph and photo sessions with Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork was only going to be at the convention for a small window of time on Saturday. Another big event was the premiere of the Boyce & Hart documentary ‘The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em’. The screenings of the film took place in the Seminar Room where other rare Monkees videos were shown. Unfortunately because I was busy between the dealer’s room and ballroom I didn’t have a chance to see the film but from all reports it’s an excellent movie on the careers of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart who together wrote so many hit tunes for the Monkees and other artists. Bobby Hart attended one of the screenings of the film at the convention and I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it eventually goes into wide theatrical and DVD release.

Bobby Hart and Andrew Sandoval at the 2014 Monkees Convention. Photo by Fred Velez.

Friday began with a welcome from David Alexander from the Monkees touring band and performances by The Frodis Capers followed by Michael Nesmith’s son Jonathan performing with Mother of Winter and Outer Spaces with Jonathan’s sister Jessica. Among the first of many highlights at the convention was a Q&A session with Michael Nesmith, marking his first full Monkees convention appearance. The moderator Rachel Rosenfelt relayed questions fans had sent to Nesmith which he answered in his usually, quirky fashion. Nesmith appeared a little out of his comfort zone in his first convention but loosened up as the weekend continued. Afterwards followed another convention first-timer, producer Andrew Sandoval who answered many questions from the fans and dropped some big news that Rhino was going to issue a deluxe box set of the Monkees debut album with many never before heard rarities and a remastered DVD of the original version of the Monkees TV pilot which features Boyce & Hart singing the songs rather than the Monkees. Sandoval was soon joined onstage by Bobby Hart who talked about the new Boyce & Hart documentary was there at the convention to say hello to fans and plug the film. I floated between the ballroom and dealer’s room which I shared with other convention guests like F-Troop actor Larry Storch, Micky’s sister Coco and his daughters including actress Ami Dolenz, whom we share a fun story that’s featured in my book ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective’. Nesmith’s children also shared a table together alongside Christian Nesmith and his singing partner Circe Link. Other guests included Brad Waddell of the website, Monkees’ author Eric Lefcowitz, John Lennon’s former assistant May Pang, the bands the Blue Meanies, the Monkeephiles and the Characters, actress/singer Geri Reischl, affectionately known as ‘Fake Jan’ on the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Monkees’ co-stars Valerie Venet, Donna Loren and Butch Patrick from the Munsters who co-starred in the Monkees Christmas episode. I had Butch as my table neighbor in the dealer’s room and he was a hoot. Very funny, warm and gracious and not taking himself too seriously. We had comical moments when I unintentionally kept blocking him from getting back to his seat behind his table and we kept cracking each other up. I had brought along copies of my new book and folks came up and purchased copies which I signed for them. This was a new experience for me, I’m usually the one asking for autographs and now folks were asking for mine. It was a very pleasant change which I enjoyed.

The Friday evening events included a performance by the Van Halen cover band Romeo Delight whose lead singer happened to be Micky Dolenz’s brother-in-law and the band was joined on stage by Micky who performed some heavier sounding versions of his Monkees hits. Christian Nesmith and Circe Link came right after them and performed a well-received set which showcased Circe’s singing style and Christian’s musicianship. Donna Loren & The Rip Chords followed them and the evening ended on a party note with The Characters giving their usual high energy show with the fans dancing the night away.

Saturday March 15 began with a VIP brunch attended by fans who held VIP passes and some of the convention guests like the Dolenz and Nesmith families. Micky Dolenz attended the brunch and after his meal worked the room and said hello to the fans who were there. I was able to present Micky with a copy of my book and told him that it was a token of affection from me as a fan for everything the Monkees meant to the fans. Micky graciously accepted the book and I placed it at his table where his family each turns looking at it. I spoke with his daughter Emily Dolenz afterwards who said that everyone at their table liked the book and she thanked me for writing it. Soon Michael Nesmith sat with his family and ate and chatted with them. Convention organizers Phyllis Pagnucci and Jodi Blau Ritzen said hello to Nesmith at his table. Nez said hello to a few fans before leaving. I was able to approach him with a copy of my book and presented it to him, expressing my admiration for him. I added that turnabout was fair play and rather than me asking for my autograph I was going to sign the book to him and asked him how he’d like it signed, as ‘Mike’, ‘Michael’ or ‘Nez’? He replied “Oh please, Nez would be fine”. “You’ve got it!” I said and I wrote “To Nez, Thanks for the Ride”. He graciously accepted my book before heading off to the autograph rooms. Nez briefly entered the dealer’s room to say hello to his kids which thrill many fans who were there.

In the ballroom the Blue Meanies did a great set of Monkees covers along with Dave Alexander prior to an event Monkees fans had been waiting for, the Monkees induction into the American Pop Music Hall of Fame. The Monkees had received more fan requests for induction than any other artist in the Hall. Having been long snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the fan’s involvement felt so much sweeter. Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork accepted their awards while members of their families shared the stage with them. It was at the Induction that the Monkees formally announced their spring 2014 tour to the cheers of the fans.

After the ceremony the three Monkees did professional group and individual photo/autograph sessions with fans. As Peter was only going to be at the convention for a short time, the line for him was particularly long. As I only wanted to present him with a copy of my book, I fortunately was able to see him briefly. Peter was in great spirits and was happy to see me. As I didn’t want to take too much time from the other fans I kept my visit short. Like Nez, I told Peter that after all these years of me asking for his autograph I was finally giving him mine. We said our goodbyes and I said I’d see him at the NJ Pac when the tour arrived there on May 24th.

After the ceremony was a Q&A with Monkees co-stars Valerie Venet, Butch Patrick and Donna Loren followed by a performance by the Monkeephiles band. After the concert was tribute to Davy Jones presented by BBC broadcaster Iain Lee who showed rare videos of Davy and Monkees. Iain brought the British spin on Monkee fandom to the convention and the fans loved his presentation. Iain also filmed and interview fans including myself for a documentary on the convention. After Iain’s presentation was a Q&A with Micky Dolenz’s daughters Ami, Emily, Charlotte and Georgia closely followed by a concert performance by Micky’s sister Coco Dolenz. Right after Coco’s performance was a wonderful Q&A with Micky Dolenz conducted by Andrew Sandoval. In talking about his vocal harmonies with Coco, Micky invited Coco back on the stage and together they sang a wonderful a cappella version of ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, their voices blending beautifully.

Micky Dolenz and Andrew Sandoval. Photo by Fred Velez

Micky and Coco Dolenz. Photo by Fred Velez

After Micky’s Q&A was over a raffle was held to raise money for various charities before the ballroom was cleared to prepare for the big event that evening, Michael Nesmith performing one of his ‘Movies of the Mind’ concerts. Folks with special wrist bands for the concert were readmitted into the ballroom and the band took the stage and Michael Nesmith made his entrance to the roar of the fans. Because of a rheumatism problem, Nesmith did not strap on a guitar and his son Christian Nesmith took over the guitar duties for his dad. Because his hands were now free, Nesmith was able to make motions with his arms and hands which emphasized the visual elements of the stories attached to his songs. As a result Nesmith was much more animated on stage which enhanced his performance. I felt it was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen Nesmith do and many concurred with my opinion. During ‘Crusin’, the fans clapped along with the rhythmic beat of the song, which surprised Nez who delightfully joined in with the fans, the look on his face was priceless. The concert ended with a fantastic rendition of ‘Listen To The Band’ which combined the solo version from ‘Loose Salute’ with Boh Cooper’s keyboard replicating the horn heavy Monkees version, earning Nez and the band a well-deserved standing ovation from the fans. Saturday ended on a party note with sing-a-long sessions in the Hilton Sheraton’s main lobby by The Characters, Jonathan Nesmith and the Blue Meanies and a fun pajama party with fans dressed in sleep wear.

Nez Live at the Monkees Convention. Photo by Fred Velez

Sunday, March 16 was a low key day with photo and autograph sessions with Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. I moderated a slideshow with Monkees photographer Henry Diltz and we were joined by fellow Monkees expert Gary Strobl, the fans loving Henry’s wonderful photos and clapping when images of Samantha Dolenz who had recently passed away flashed on the screen. Because a threatened snow storm that day Henry Diltz needed to leave earlier than scheduled, as did Eric Lefcowitz who did a solo talk about his book ‘Monkee Business’. Because Henry and Eric had to leave earlier, there was a slight change in the schedule and I suggested to Phyllis and Jodi that we could substitute Iain Lee to take over for Henry and Eric for the scheduled Monkees panel with myself, Brad Waddell and Gary Strobl. After Henry’s slideshow was a Q&A with the Nesmith family which included Christian, Jonathan and Jessica. After them was great performance of Monkees tunes by the Blue Meanies followed by another concert by Christian Nesmith and Circe Link. Eric Lefcowitz then did his talk about his book taking questions from the fans in the audience. Following Eric was a concert by the 1910 Fruitgum Company who were joined on stage by members of the Rip Chords. After the concert the final raffle for the Monkees charities was held. Then I took the stage along with webmaster Brad Waddell, fellow Monkees author Gary Strobl and BBC broadcaster Iain Lee for our Monkees panel where we chatted about the Monkees from our different viewpoints and took questions from the audience. Iain brought a fresh British viewpoint the proceedings and it was a fun panel.

Monkees Panel with Brad Waddell, Gary Strobl, Fred Velez and Iain Lee.

Right after our panel was a performance the live Monkees stage tribute ‘Here We Come’ which in the spirit of the Real Live Brady Bunch combined episodes from the Monkees TV series into one coherent plot with hysterically funny performances by the spirited cast, with three actresses playing Micky, Peter and Mike and the actor playing Davy was brilliantly funny. During a brief set change the video screen showed a parody/tribute to Butch Patrick from the Christmas episode was the audience loved. Because he had to leave early too, the cast brought a DVD player to Butch Patrick’s table and showed him the video parody which he loved. The fans who stay to see performance loved the ‘Here We Come’ show and I hope that the convention producers will consider putting the troupe on earlier in the convention program for more fans to see and enjoy them.

A schedule screening of ‘Head’ was dropped when Columbia Pictures were unable to deliver a disc of the movie so Jodi, Phyllis, Dave Alexander and myself thanked the fans for coming and wished every one goodbye with a promise to do it again soon.

The convention had some bumpy spots during the weekend, but overall those who attended the convention had a great time. It was wonderful talking with fans who came to my table and purchased copies of my book which I signed and some of my personal Monkees collection. Some fans asked me if I would consider writing a follow-up book of more Monkees’ fans stories and I’m seriously considering it. Fans who attended had the opportunity of meeting Micky, Peter and Nez as well as many others closely associated with the Monkees, enjoying the Boyce & Hart movie and many great live performances and the excitement of witnessing the Monkees being inducted into the American Pop Music Hall of Fame and announcing their 2014 tour. And I along with many other fans am looking forward to the next Monkees Convention!

Fred Velez, 2014.


2 Responses to “Monkees Convention 2014 Review”
  1. JAZZ4JEFF says:

    Thanks, Fred. A great recap from a long time Monkees supporter. I also had a great time. I made sure to thank Phyllis and Jodi for respecting the fans. While the convention was not as emotional as the event in 2013 (Davy’s passing) it was a great weekend. My only suggestion was with Mike’s O&A. It seemed very stiff & scripted. I would have loved to see Mike interact with the fans.

    I told friends that the best part of these conventions is the camaraderie. We all are joined together in our admiration for the Monkees. And it’s great to be surrounded with so many people as crazy as myself. Good luck on the book Fred!
    And thanks to Brad for his live streaming. Your creativity is very much appreciated.

  2. ameropean says:

    Spent 5 hours on line for nez’s autograph which cost me $100.00, which I thought was a bit steep for a man who is a millionaire. Since I was in line for so long, I was unable to enjoy the bands or the vendors room. I love the monkees but this convention stank of greed! Very disappointed.


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