(February 2014: Read my Open Letter to Eric Lefcowitz here)
Ok, Ok, my initial gobsmacked reaction on Tumblr, where I compared Davy Jones to Fredo Corleone, was a trifle overblown. But not much.
The new closing chapters of Eric Lefcowitz’s Monkee Business present a series of events that clarifies all the seeming contradictions and confusion in the demise of the final Threekees 1.0 tour in 2011, as well as the birth of Threekees 2.0 and the 2012 Gazpacho tour. There are two big bits of news here. I’ve been something of a cynic about Davy Jones for a good long time (read: 15-ish years), but the first of Lefcowitz’s claims damn near broke my heart. The second bombshell, while it may be startling, is completely of a piece with Davy’s behavior in the 80s, 90s, and beyond. Neither of these bits of news is terribly pretty, and I am left with something of a bad taste in my mouth. However, I decided long ago that I would accept and embrace the real story of my once and future favorite band, even the parts that make me queasy. Monkee fans, and especially Davy fans, you might want to grab your TUMS. This will be a long ride.
Revelation 1: Why the 2011 tour imploded.
To the extent that anyone thought all that deeply about the demise of the 2011 tour, I think we mostly chalked it up to Standard Monkee Tale of Woe A (Interpersonal squabbling, in this case possibly due to substance abuse or the newest Mrs. Jones), grumbled something about the guys being their own worst enemies, and moved on with our lives in that last golden summer before Davy died and the fandom changed forever. If Eric Lefcowitz can be trusted (and please read as if every sentence of this post is preceded by that disclaimer), then the guys were telling the truth about Financial Troubles scuttling the tour. Sort of.
As most know, Davy was the director of the 2011 tour, his first time in total control of the band’s activities. Per Lefcowitz he “chose the band, the set list, and oversaw every aspect of the production” up to and including the infamous Flamenco stylings of Jessica Pacheco. Then we are rather ominously introduced to Davy’s manager Joseph Pacheco, the brother of the much-maligned 3rd and final Mrs. Jones. The next passage in these types of stories is usually Standard Monkee Tale of Woe B (Financial shenanigans), where our Noble Heroes are bilked out of their money and/or artistic integrity. However, Lefcowitz claims something different, and if true, both nauseating and heartbreaking.
This is a long and slightly condensed passage from chapter 71 (starting Kindle location 3812 in the 2013 edition), but the, erm, money quotes need to be seen in full context.
…Without warning, the enterprise came to a screeching halt. On August 8, 2011, news broke: ten dates added to the tour had been cancelled. “I’m not really at liberty to get into detail about what happened,” Tork told Rolling Stone. “But there were some business affairs that couldn’t be coordinated correctly. We hit a glitch…I can’t say anything more without getting into the stuff we have to keep down.”
What was the “stuff we have to keep down?” Rumors circulated that Dolenz had been admitted to rehab. “Absolute horseshit,” was Dolenz’ response.
As for Jones, his explanation seemed vague at best. “The tour was only supposed to go until July. And it was great, the best time we’ve had because we’re all on the same page now. We gelled onstage and off. But then more dates were being added…and we were like, ‘Wait a second. This is turning into something more than a tour.’ ”
This was cagey logic (were more tour dates really a problem?) and it conspicuously avoided addressing the “business matter” that Tork and Dolenz had alluded to in interviews. And what exactly was that matter? A source privy to the ugly details spilled: Joseph Pacheco had been allegedly engaging in strong-arm tactics on Jones’ behalf, extracting cash payments from concert promoters in advance of the group’s appearance.
Bolding and underlining are mine. I don’t know about you, but I actually felt physically ill when I read that paragraph. Lefcowitz continues (bolding still mine):
Had Jones privately encouraged this alleged behavior at the expense of his band mates? Although the source could not be corroborated, and therefore the answer remains speculative, even a shred of truth about the suspected hanky-panky (the scheming duo had reportedly benefited from the arrangement to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars, all without the knowledge of Dolenz, Tork, or the tour managers) represented an unprecedented breach in trust and civility.
This news never reached the public. Once the chicanery was discovered, the tour was summarily canceled and Dolenz and Tork zipped their lips. Legal scrutiny hung in the balance, not to mention the reputations of everyone involved. But the damage was done…”We need to work on this stuff outside the public eye,” Tork told Rolling Stone.
In other words, Eric Lefcowitz claims that Davy Jones and Joseph Pacheco allegedly extorted 6 figures of kickbacks from concert promoters, all without the other guys’ knowledge. Also, note the wording above, kids. Eric Lefcowitz, our long-time purveyor of semi-trustworthy Monkee-related gossip, rampant oversimplification and gross hyperbole, is very, VERY cautious and conservative in his wording. There’s an “alleged” and a “reportedly” and a “speculative” in almost every sentence of this brutally short tale. These few paragraphs read like they were revised by a lawyer with a fine-toothed comb in one hand and a red ink pen in the other.
Again, I am WELL AWARE of Lefcowitz’s lax research skills and occasional tendency to leap to wild conclusions and portray his extrapolations as fact. But think about it–if we believe Lefcowitz’s source, then everything about the end of the 2011 tour suddenly makes a hell of a lot more sense. Nobody alive but Peter, Micky, and the other members of the inner circle will ever know for sure what happened. But as wild a speculator as Lefcowitz can be, I don’t recall him ever being accused of inventing a fact out of whole cloth. Correct me here if I’m mistaken. As of now, I believe that Joseph Pacheco was shaking down concert promoters—or at least that Lefcowitz was told that he was. If that’s what actually happened, it was in everyone’s best interests to keep it all quiet.
If anyone had blown the whistle, does anyone doubt it would have been the end of the Monkees? Whether or not anything actually criminal occurred, this is all obviously deeply unethical. A scandal or worse, a lawsuit, could well have shattered Micky and Peter’s reputations as well as Davy’s, even though, if the source is to be trusted, Micky and Peter didn’t know a damn thing about the kickbacks. If true, the whole Monkees “family” and reputation was put at risk so Joseph Pacheco and Davy Jones could make a few hundred thousand bucks. Now you can understand why in that first moment of shock, Fredo Corleone is the person who came to my mind.
This is the hardest Monkee-related post I’ve ever written for this site—Yes, harder even than Gazpacho, Grief, and Gratitude. I desperately want Lefcowitz’s story to be wrong. My inner ten year old probably NEEDS this story to be wrong. I would like nothing better than for one or more Monkees to come out in the upcoming pre-tour promotional interviews, debunk this whole mess loudly and clearly, and for me to have to post the mother of all retractions. That said, I keep looping back to one incontrovertible fact.
If this was all a lie, I can’t imagine the two of them letting their teams pass it along, or leaving it up now that the contents of the revisions have been made clear. And I can’t imagine them or a trusted lieutenant not vetting links set for release. Now, it’s possible that the story slipped through both their screening processes, as the article was mostly about the R&RHOF’s continuing snub, not the new chapters. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Micky and Peter knew exactly what was going on when those links went up the other day within 12 hours of each other, while they were together in rehearsals. (Suggestion: Watch their FB pages if the Lefcowitz story gains traction beyond us hardcore Monkee Nerds. If this was a mistake, I predict that one or both of them will quietly delete the links from their timelines. As of June 27th, 2 days later, they’re still the top link on both pages.)
Of course, even if we concede that both the source and Lefcowitz were telling the truth, was Davy really in on it? Or was he being used as a puppet by the brother of the woman who could give Kirshner a run for the money in the Worst Monkee Villain Ever competition? Broadly speaking, I see
two three possible explanations for what we are told occurred:
Possibility A. Davy was hoodwinked by Joseph too.
Given the available options I would be thrilled if this theory were true. Even given everything stated above it certainly isn’t beyond belief. We all know that Davy, rest his soul, did not exactly have the best track record in selecting trustworthy advisors. It also seems quite possible that Mr. Jones was not thinking clearly in matters Pacheco-related. However, Davy when taken advantage of was often swift and vicious in his retributions. (A legendary truckload of horse manure on an ex-manager’s doorstep comes screaming to mind). If I had been bamboozled in that way, I might have kept my silence publicly in the interest of the Greater Good, but I would have kicked that man (and possibly his sister) out of my house and life before you could say “China Clipper calling Alameda,” and made sure none of them would ever have access to a dime of my assets. That didn’t happen. Davy went back home, and Jessica withdrew the divorce she filed earlier in the summer. In fact, Joseph Pacheco gave Davy’s eulogy. The only thing that keeps me holding on to this hypothesis as my favorite in the wake of those facts is the following: Davy could well have been so devastated by the betrayal, and scared of being alone again, that he couldn’t find the strength to deal with Joseph’s perfidy and break free of the Pachecos. Alternately, he may have been blackmailed in some way and lacked the ability or will to fight back. In any case, stronger people have been broken by less.
Possibility B. Davy was in on the shakedowns.
In my reading of the above passages, Lefcowitz seems to come as humanly possible to saying this without saying it flat out. I want to be clear that if this was the case, I don’t believe (can’t believe?) that the scheme was Davy’s idea. My guess is that if this is what happened, Joseph Pacheco played on Davy’s well-known and long-held bitterness over (in his opinion) being the most financially shafted and commercially underachieving of the four. Joseph could have made a compelling argument that grabbing a few bucks from promoters was simply his long-awaited chance to make the same kind of money that the others had made and which Davy had been denied. Further, Joseph could have (with some justification) argued that a little gentle squeezing here and there was nothing compared to the high crimes and misdemeanors of Kirshner, Bob, Bert, and God knows how many of Davy’s sleazy managers and agents. Bless Davy’s soul, but if I search my feelings, I could see him buying that argument in a moment of weakness, and putting his own self-enrichment over the best interests of his closest collaborators in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. If possibility B is true, given everything the Threekees fought for and overcame to achieve legitimacy and success in recent years, such a betrayal seems like just about the only unpardonable sin a Monkee could commit against his comrades in arms.
Possibility C: Davy was Responsible…but not Guilty (Or, “Bluemoonalto’s Third Way“)
(As I was completing the edits of this post, Bluemoonalto mentioned in a vague way that she saw a “third way” to explain what went down, but that she didn’t want to post it till after this essay went live. It did, and then she posted a VERY intellectually and emotionally compelling argument that lies somewhere between my possibilities A and B, and I believe she is most likely the closest of us all to “the truth”. If you want to read her whole reply do so–I highly recommend her cautionary tale to anyone who has ever or might ever work with budgeting or accounts payable in any form–but the key part is below.)
So here’s the 3rd possible scenario, as I see it: Davy was in on it—on paper.
The extortion scheme—assuming there was one—was probably more subtle than Lefcowitz’s book would have us believe…Davy may have been “in charge” of the tour, but I seriously doubt that he had the accounting skills to manage the tour’s finances, much less audit the books. His understanding of Pacheco’s scheme may have been rudimentary at best; he may not have known the nature of the additional payments, or the magnitude of the amounts involved, or he may have believed that the money was a reasonable compensation for his additional responsibilities. He may even have believed that the money was going to benefit everybody on the tour, and not just himself and his manager. But whatever his level of understanding, the basic problem was that his signature was on the paperwork. And that made him responsible. For all of it.
Please note: When the shit hit the fan, Peter and Micky didn’t throw Davy under the bus. They cooperated in the abrupt cancellation of the tour and—this is significant—they kept their mouths shut. They dodged questions. They made plausible excuses. They maintained a low profile. They kept everything private. There were no pointed fingers, no public outbursts, no snide remarks. There was just a uniform, unison, unified silence. A stonewall as strong as a stone wall.
They were protecting Davy.
Because they knew that it wasn’t really his fault.
Everyone retreated to his own corner of the country and it all got turned over to the lawyers and the accountants. I doubt anyone ever made a criminal case out of it, or we would have heard about it by now. I think the lawyers—especially Davy’s lawyers—would have been working furiously behind the scenes to find a way to cut the damned Gordian Knot and set all the parties free from this god-awful mess. And in the middle of it all, Davy was still trying to salvage his relationship with Jessica. Whether their marriage was still viable or not—Lefcowitz claims that she was away on a cruise when he died [ed. note–I’ve read this in other sources and buy it]—a divorce in the middle of this financial/legal quagmire would have been a public-relations disaster.
So there’s my theory. Davy may have been any or all of the following: careless, naïve, incurious, trusting, ignorant, unobservant, even a little bit greedy. Or a lot greedy. But the bottom line was that he was responsible. Responsible for planning the tour, responsible for executing the tour, responsible for managing the tour, responsible for keeping an eye on the people working for him, and ultimately, responsible for fixing the mess.
Question: What could cause a healthy, physically active, 66-year-old vegetarian to have a heart attack?
One Possible Answer: Stress.
At the end of the day, Davy was either the most incompetent and naive tour director in the history of tour directing, or he betrayed two men he called his “brothers” and risked his band’s 45-year public image for a few hundred grand in kickbacks, knowing full well that only one whistleblowing promoter or venue could bring the whole Monkee Machine down around their heads, or, most likely, was responsible for a more “shades of Grey” scenario that lies between the two. Those are the only possible options I see other than Lefcowitz inventing this out of whole cloth, and frankly that’s not the most probable of these improbable explanations. The most damning bit of corroborating evidence is that Possibilities A, B, and C lead logically toward and lend credence to Revelation 2.
Revelation 2. The real Gazpacho recipe.
After that bombshell, Lefcowitz moves on to tell us of Andrew Sandoval’s eleventh-hour attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of the 2011 defeat. Back to another, and mercifully shorter passage from Monkee Business (kindle location 3835). This one pretty much speaks for itself.
Meanwhile Dolenz and Tork could only lick their wounds. It must have been doubly galling to have a financial transgression mar their moment of glory, especially now that the critics were in their corner. How could they capitalize on the good will? The answer arrived in the form of an idea proposed by Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval–a one-off performance of the group’s classic Headquarters album to be staged in Los Angeles in the spring of 2012.
Sandoval…received a quick endorsement from Dolenz and Tork. Astonishingly he also lassoed the “missing Monkee,” the one who had previously claimed the group’s 1997 UK tour was the “final chapter”: Michael Nesmith.
Jones however, would not be involved. This bit of intrigue–Nesmith In, Jones out–was never revealed to fans. Before the show could go into rehearsals a stunning event changed everyone’s plans.
The rest you know. The book proceeds to cover Leap Day 2012, Gazpacho, and everything that followed up to the end of the US Nez tour and the announcement of the summer dates. In this passage Lefcowitz is intriguingly mute on another key question: Did Davy decline an invitation to perform at the Headquarters concert
due to his long-standing grudge toward Nez after the 1997 debacle, or was he simply not invited to participate in the first place due to what took place in 2011? On my first reading I assumed the former, but the text leaves room for the possibility of the latter.
***REVISION 2, July 20 2013***
The Day Before yesterday (July 18), Peter was quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer verifying Revelation 2, and further stated that an invitation to a 2012 “Headquarters tour” was given but declined by Davy, though for a different stated reason than I proposed above:
Although Jones’ death was sudden, Tork said Jones had not planned to join this tour.
“Davy wasn’t interested in doing a reprise of ‘Headquarters,’ ” said Tork. “He didn’t feel like he participated in it very much, and Mike, Micky and I felt like it was our album.”
Also, related to the long-standing grudge issue, Nez went on the record last week in his awesome Rolling Stone interview stating that he and Davy did not have any problem with each other post-Justus, and broadly hinted that media misquoting and manipulation had created a “feud” that didn’t exist. I refuse not to take the word of the surviving party involved in this matter on general principle, and to pursue this issue much further anyway starts leading us out of evidence-based analysis and into outright speculation and celebrity gossip, which is NOT what this website is about. There are many other sources for that kind of thing, and I am not that. (In fact, if I ever turn into that, call me on it.)
Finally, while I didn’t put this in the original post, it seems more germane in the light of Peter’s most recent interview. There were several interviews around the time of Davy’s Death and again around the time of the fall 2012 tour, that (in the light of this confirmation that Davy, not Nez, was the missing link) suggest that Peter and/or Micky was still trying to get Davy on board at the time of his death. At least at the time those interviews were given, they didn’t really consider his “no” final. Whether or not Davy would have changed his mind, and if we would have seen a Threekees 2.0 tour if Davy had lived, is ultimately unknown and probably unknowable. I have stricken out the latter possible explanation for revelation 2, but have kept it in for the sake of completeness. Also, short of a truly major revelation (like a Monkee confirming the kickbacks story in their own words to the press), I will NOT be revising this essay or even revisiting this issue again.
***END REVISION 2***
In either case, if we take Revelation 2 as fact (and Lefcowitz seems to all but say it’s sourced from Sandoval) suddenly all the statements made about Nez being involved in the tour before Davy’s passing become 100% true. It also might well partially explain why Nez suddenly got those cataracts taken care of after almost 5 years of living with what must have been a nightmare–and suddenly opened up to us all on Facebook about his painfully literal Dark Night of the Soul a few weeks BEFORE Davy died. All indications are that Nez was indeed preparing to emerge from his self-imposed exile and perform as a Monkee while Davy was still alive. I am very happy to have my Moment of Gazpacho Rage forever rendered moot, but sad at the reason my wrath was misplaced.
So that’s it. If Lefcowitz can be trusted, the 2011 tour was torpedoed due to financial wrongdoing committed by a member of Davy’s camp, and possibly with the involvement of Davy himself. Nez was then finally convinced that the time was right to return to the fold, and Davy either refused or was not invited to take part in a climactic celebration of the album that truly started it all.There’s other, wilder bits of speculation I could add here, but after so many words of close reading and analysis, I’ve lost my heart for it for now.
Two final memories from the past few months flit through my head. The first is the experience of walking down the grubby streets of Manchester, only a mile or so from the neighborhood where Davy grew up, soaking in the visceral sights and sounds and smells of Davy’s childhood, in the same way I’ve been long acquainted with the hot sticky oppression of Nez’s hometown. Davy’s always been the hardest Monkee for me to wrap my head around (Extroverts in general are kind of hard for me to understand), but when I flew out of Manchester airport I could imagine a bit of the sense of escape he likely felt as he took flight for Broadway, and the kind of very un-British grit it likely took him to succeed at the level that he did.
The second memory is one I’ve related before, of singing along to Daydream Believer in Lakewood, Ohio. That night last November stands as the happiest two hours of Fandom in my entire life, and nothing said or hinted or suggested above could ever change that. At the end of the day, Rainbow Room Davy existed, just as the older and sadder Davy of 2011 and 2012 did. The same is true of all of us. All of us children and teens who sang along to that record while practicing their dance moves grew up, and we all had to make hard choices and compromises as we grew. Some were right, some were wrong, and none were clear. The surviving Monkees gave us several wonderful gifts in 2012, but above all they let us remember Davy as that innocent, puckish kid, and by extension invited us all to honor and embrace that side of ourselves one last time in those interludes. If even a tenth of what Lefkowitz said is true, then my already-deep respect for these three talented, strong, and forgiving men is raised to a whole new level.
While I think that it’s important for us all to be honest with ourselves about Davy’s merits and failings (otherwise this post would never have seen the light of day), at the end of the day, I keep coming back to the following quote, from one of Davy’s last interviews:
Remember me as you hoped I’d be.
We can remember both things–the way Davy made us laugh and cry and swoon, while also remembering the ways that gaining (and losing) fame and fortune damaged that generous and professional showman. One perspective on Davy’s life does not negate the other. By embracing both facets of Davy’s life, we gain a fuller understanding of the true complexity of humanity and celebrity. Given everything he gave me in terms of hope, laughter, and sanity, I always hoped Davy would be happy, and am sad beyond words that he may not have been in the end. But maybe by looking at the truth of Davy’s last years, we can learn more about true Joy, and how to find it. As Davy said in a message to fans around the same time as that interview:
…Time is Precious…life alone is not where anyone with dreams should find comfort.
You said it, Cowboy.
Author’s note: I really want to thank my perennial beta readers Cin and Mich, as well as the awesome Tumblr-ers Bluemoonalto, Cellomouse, Rose-of-Pollux, and Chaoskirin, all of whom volunteered to serve as extra voices of reason as I refined this essay for publication. (I owe all of y’all a Beta read and/or a cookie). I needed to write this to put my own thoughts in order, but I spent a possibly embarrassing amount of time this week agonizing over whether it needed to be published. These talented ladies convinced me that this post would be a helpful counterpoint to Lefcowitz that went beyone simply denial or discounting, and that it could also possibly be a catalyst for a needed intelligent public conversation. More than that, they helped me craft and hone my arguments, and helped me spot a few logical holes. That said, any errors of fact or logic within are mine. Also, it was not my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause anyone pain, and if I did I am truly, truly sorry.