“You have 10 minutes!!” My friend Emily, sternly warned me, with arms folded and foot tapping, before I heard the click of the dressing room door.
A few hours prior, I was driving from Long Island to Washington DC to begin my senior year at Georgetown, when about an hour outside of DC, I heard on the radio an advertisement that The Monkees (all four of them) were making a rare appearance at a mall in Virginia.
in 1986, Michelle Chin invited me over for a sleepover (rare because my folks didn’t let me leave the house very much.) Our only goal for this highly anticipated sleepover was to stay up all night. We stocked up on M&M’s and Pepsi and rolled out our slumber bags in front of her father Harry’s, ginormous Zenith TV set. While flicking through the TV stations (with a cable box that required a wire), we stumbled onto MTV that was airing a Monkees Marathon.
The Monkees? Yes, that band from the 1960’s, that was from an entirely “other” time, that looked completely different than anything else on TV, I had ever seen, who said things like GROOVY and DIG IT, who flashed their fingers to form peace signs and ran around their house bursting into songs (they invented the music video, by the way). They were like nothing I had seen before and I was beyond hooked.
My slumber party pal Michelle only made it a 1/2 liter of Pepsi and 6 episodes into the night, but not me! I stayed up all night watching obsessively, drawn to their silly romps and psychedelic wardrobe. When my mother picked me up the next morning in her Yellow Cougar (yes, my mother drove a car, named a Cougar) I was forever changed. The Monkees would now be all that I ate, prayed and loved for the next three years of my life.
A self-professed-weirdo, I had now found a TV show full of weirdos to whom I could also relate. I also found the only other weirdo in all of Long Island, that too loved The Monkees, my best pal Lara, who, like me, took an unspoken vow to devote the best part of her post pubescent life not on real boys but these manufactured hippy pin up boys.
And just to give you a sense of exactly the type of weirdos we were, we were the kind that wrote fan-fantasy fiction and pretended that we were married to the Monkees (we’d take turns, depending on the week, which one was our betrothed), and in many ways, it was real to us. The time we spent on The Monkees, kept us away from the girls who started to meet outside school to smoke cigarettes or try those anything-goes-nearly toxic- with- alcohol cocktails (made of all the contents of my friend parents liquor cabinet) sooner than we should have. In a word, they kept me innocent and just nerdy enough to elongate that period between childhood and adulthood.
Years went by, and once I discovered real boys and allowed myself to enjoy music other than Monkees tunes I actually went on to become a functioning member of society, keeping my love more of a secret, one that I could come revisit just by turning on a song or popping in a VHS tape (for the record, there was a time, when I could recite all the episodes and air dates on demand. If there was a Monkees Jepordy, I would have SLAYED!)
Until one day…..
I heard this on the radio!
“TODAY at 4pm, THE MONKEES will be appearing at RECORD WORLD!”
I looked at a map to see where Record World was located (yes, I had a map in my glove compartment) and plotted and within seconds, turned the car in the opposite direction of Georgetown and hightailed to some mall in Virginia.
The line to meet the Monkees was surprisingly huge. It wrapped all the way around the mall twice. Anxious to make it back to campus for the first night of my senior year, which we all know is the BEST night of the year, I became anxious the line was too long and The Monkees would leave before they got to me. I needed to come up with a plan, stepping off the line, I found myself moments later in Sharper Image, purchasing a small tape recorder.
With tape recorder in hand, I marched myself up to the security guard outside the RECORD WORLD where all four of the Monkees were signing records.
“I’m here from the Georgetown University newspaper, The Hoya. I wasn’t even sure if that was the title of our school newspaper…a lucky guess.
“I’m hoping to get a quick interview with the guys.”
“Sure, right this way.”
WOW! That was easy.
They let me cut the line and stand RIGHT behind the Monkees while they continued to sign records. Me looking out at a sea of other Monkee lunatics, just like me!
OMG!!! I had NO questions, I had no way of handling being this close to the four guys that I spent my entire pubescent life fantasizing about marrying, dancing or at least camping!
“Hello.” Micky Dolenz says to me!!! and I go numb. I got nothing.
I look over to Peter Tork, who asks me my name and when I say Mary, Davy Jones chimes in and says, “Ah, Mary Mary.”
WHAT!!!!???? Smelling salts please?? (Actually, true story, Lara did really pass out once when she met Davy Jones at a book signing!)
I stumbled my way through the interview, holding up the tiny tape recorder every time I asked a question. Thankfully they never caught on that the tape recorder didn’t even have batteries in it or that I had not actually pushed any of the buttons to start or stop recording. I just moved it from my mouth to their face, like a child playing make-believe.
I kindly say thank you and tear up. The security guard ushers me away from the table but right before I was about to steal a tuft of Mickey’s hair, Peter Tork looks at me and said, “write your phone number down here.”
In a Monkees haze, I write it and then, I’m quickly whisked away by security.
I cried the entire 3-hour car ride back to DC, happy tears, and this was before cell phones, so I had no one to call and scream the news. Just me, alone, reliving how I had just pulled off a Monkees miracle.
When I arrived back to my senior year house, all my pals were wondering why I was so late and informed me I had thirty minutes to get dressed because we were all heading out for the BIG first night back at school. The night you waited all summer long for, so you could show off how great you looked to your biggest crush.
I threw down my bag, jumped in the shower and was interupted by my roommate telling me that I had a phone call.
Wet from the shower, I grabbed the call.
“Hi. This is the Monkees Tour Manager. Peter Tork asked me to leave two tickets for you at the Will Call for tonight’s show. It starts at 8pm. “
I looked at the clock…it was 6pm….the concert was two hours away, back to where I had just left the scene of my delicious deception.
I HAD TO GO!
I started down my list of roommates to come with me, one at a time, rejection, followed with “YOU’RE NUTS!!”
Finally, I bribed my most beautiful and most fun pal Emily to join me. I think the bribe was, I’ll pay all your bar tabs the entire first semester if you drive to Virginia with me. If you saw how we drank back then, this was a generous offer.
She agreed to join me, but made me promise we could be back by midnight as to not miss out on the first night back to school.
And there we were, back in my car, heading two hours south, right back to where I just come from.
We arrived at the concert hall and Emily (my personal timekeeper) reminded me. “You have two hours…that’s it.”
We had great seats and a bunch of songs in, a roadie came and plucked us from our seats to go backstage. WHAT!
There was an intermission or maybe it was the moment between the last song and the encore, but all I remember what that it was fast and there was a lot of scrambling.
This was the first “backstage” I had ever seen. A minute in, Peter Tork comes over to ME!? Says, “I’m so glad you made it” and invites ME!? into his dressing room.
I look at Emily, who somehow understands just how big a deal this was to me and grants me, sternly, “10 minutes!!”
Inside his dressing room, he towels the sweat from this head, takes out a guitar, pulls up a chair and starts singing ME a song.
The 13-year old girl in me dreamt about this moment for years and now it was right in front of me. My very own little concert with Peter.
“2 minutes!” An announcement comes up on a loud speaker, but the perfect amount of time for him to put down his guitar, change his shirt, tell me that I was a very special person (something about my aura), asks me to write down my address in a small book AND then………
He DIPS me, yes, like a dance dip, asks me permission and then kisses ME chastely on my cheek!
The door opens, Emily is now taping her feet and thwarting off flirtatious talk by Davy Jones (with something I remember as subtle as “FUCK OFF!”)
“You’re done!” She tells me sternly.
I was, forever. Forever change, just like Marcia Brady was when Davy Jones kissed her on her cheek.
The whole ride home we laughed at the idea that we were “groupies” and I tried to downplay to her how UNBELIEVABLE and SUREAL the whole moment was. Like I had manifested a dream.
Later that night, back with other people my own age, back to what we all deemed very important…shots and dancing, I was still reliving every moment of what happened that magical day, wishing I had a phone to call Lara (she’d never believe it) or that that there was a special Monkees hotline that I could call to discuss “my feelings.”
“What is that!?” My friend Chudney asked me mid dance to Franki Valli’s Oh What A Night, pointing to a small foam ball peeking perfectly outside the middle of my bra. I looked down, reached in and just started laughing.
Peter’s microphone fob (or whatever the furry thing is at the tip of the microphone) must have fallen into my shirt during our torrid dip.
This was sure to go into the Smithsonian of my life.
Months later, when I returned back to earth, I received a three page letter from Peter Tork (remember, he asked me for my address before the dip) which was just beautiful, poetry mixed with kindness, which is how I choose to this day to describe him as a human.
Yes I was 22 and he was 52, yes this moment would be fully frowned upon today, but it was my moment, willingly and open heartedly. I willed myself backstage and into that dressing room and I’m grateful for that his real sweetness and this (I’m hoping you find benign and funny) story.
Yesterday when I heard of Peter’s passing, I danced with my daughter (even dipped her a few times) and then expressed gratitude to Peter and The Monkees for keeping me innocent, for keeping me weird and for keeping me alive with possibilities of real love – the kind you get from a song, or a glance or a sweet cheek kiss.