Curtain Closed: Goodbye to Davy Jones of the Monkees

My favorite photo of Davy

When I heard the news of Davy’s death, I was stunned. A weight settled in my chest, and the world turned surreal. I had trouble concentrating on my work, but luckily a toddler and a deadline are great motivators. And while I will shed a few tears for Davy tonight, my thoughts are with those whose grief is deep and searing—his wife and his four daughters, Talia, Sarah, Jessica, and Annabel.

I never thought Davy would be the first to go. He was the youngest Monkee, and always seemed the most fit. His off-stage life with his horses kept him athletic and strong. A heart attack makes no sense, but then death rarely does.

Much of the public never considered the Monkees a “serious” band, even though they were astronomically popular. Many people who only knew Davy as a Monkee wave him off with a snort. They don’t know that he had serious bona fides—he was a rising Broadway star before the Monkees got him. Davy was nominated for a Tony award for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! He was on The Ed Sullivan Show the same day the Beatles were. You don’t get to those places without having something special.

Davy was my favorite Monkee. When my friends and I were in high school and college, we followed the Monkees as they toured. Whenever they came near, we were there—from New York to Virginia, from the wilds of New Jersey to the environs of Philadelphia. We called ourselves the Monkettes, made two halfway decent parody albums, and two completely cringeworthy videos. So, yes, we were groupies.

I got to be Davy because I was short and could do a passable English accent.

While the three Monkees who toured together (Mike Nesmith declined) treated their fans well, Davy always went the extra mile. He would stand outside the stage door until every fan got an autograph or picture, and never once look at his watch. In spite of the mass of fans around us, he had the talent of giving you his full attention for those few minutes he was with you. One time, my friends and I went to the hotel where the Monkees were staying after their concert. It had poured rain at the outdoor concert, and we were all soaked. When Davy noticed two particularly drenched girls shivering and shaking in the lobby, he had hot tea sent down to them.

A consummate performer, Davy never cancelled a show to my knowledge. One time, my friend Donna H. and I went to Long Island’s Jones Beach to see him do an open-air solo concert. He got about six songs in when a huge thunderstorm blew in from the ocean and caused a literal sandstorm before the deluge. To this day I firmly believe he would have stood there singing through it all if his band members hadn’t all disappeared when the lightning started.

When I was in college, my friend Donna L. and I went to WHYY studios to watch Davy tape the Don Kirschner Rock Awards infomercial. The filming dragged on and on and on. The audience wilted with fatigue. But Davy kept going. He joked with the audience during the down times, he stepped up whenever the cameras turned on, and he never wavered throughout that arduous filming session. He was a professional through and through, even though he had to be as exhausted as we all were.

Don Kirschner Rock Awards - May 22, 1990

Davy lived to be onstage. The audience jazzed him up, always, and he clearly gave us everything he had every time I saw him—which was too many times to count. He loved to interact with the audience, both onstage and off. He gloried in the spotlight.

Some people might have called this ego, or hubris. I never saw it that way. Davy Jones was supremely confident in who he was and what he did. Onstage he was magnetic and full of fun. Offstage he was warm and personable. Often irreverent, occasionally bawdy, he wore who he was right out there for all to see because he was secure in himself. He might have been only 5’4”, but he stood far taller than that in person.

Davy lived his life without apology and without regret. He made his living doing the things he loved most, and most people don’t get to do that. He was one of the lucky ones, and he knew it. I believe that was why he loved the stage so much, loved his fans so much. Because he understood that they were the reason he had risen from apprentice jockey to Monkee superstar.

Davy at Great Adventure 9-7-1987

Davy Jones didn’t need to be a daydream believer—he made all of his come true.

Curtains closed, Davy.

I hope you can hear the standing ovation.

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