Peter Tork, the doubting Monkee
By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic
St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000
Here they come, walking down the street . . .
Only, hey, hey, they're not the Monkees. They're four guys acting the part of the Monkees on Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story, VH1's original movie chronicling the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of America's beloved made-for-TV band.
Daydream Believers details the Monkees' on-set fun as well as the band's bickering and drug use. The movie also depicts the tension between the show's producers and its stars -- actors Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz and musicians Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork -- over the Monkees' desire to play their own music.
We chatted by phone with Tork, 58, the affably doofy banjo-picking Monkee, about humanity, hairdos and his secret crush on Davy Jones.
Times: You were my favorite Monkee. And I've been taking a poll with women today and you're getting lots of votes.
Tork (laughs) I wear well, I think. But I was way down in the pack in the early days. I was always, like, third.
Times: Because Davy got all the attention?
Tork Yeah, because he was cute then. He's not cute anymore.
Times: Have you seen Daydream Believer?
Tork I saw most of it, but I was on tour (with Tork's blues band Shoe Suede Blues) so I didn't catch the end. How does it turn out? Do they survive? Did they all live?
Times: They do. I have to ask, did you really punch Davy Jones?
Tork (quietly) Yeah, I really hit him once.
Times: You feel badly about this?
Tork I sure do. My conscience was stricken for years. (perks up) Of course, the little sucker hit me first.
Times: Really? they don't portray it like that in the movie. They have you cold-cocking him.
Tork What? He hit me in the jaw with his forehead. He did this thing called a nutter, which is a soccer hooligan maneuver. You use your forehead.
Times: In the movie they have Davy all innocent with these sweet little lamb eyes and you just belt him. Then you get all sad because you're so sweet and into Buddhism. Are you still into Eastern philosophy?
Tork Yeah, I think Buddhism is probably the most intelligent structure.
Times: Is the Monkees character something you came up with it? Or did they tell you to play him dumb?
Tork It's a character I came up with during the personality tests, those black and white bits we did. It was a character I created on the Greenwich Village folk stages basically to protect myself from the crushing silence of a bad joke.
Times: Peter, the drugs. The movie depicts you as a big pothead. Were you the big stoney of the Monkees?
Tork I was the first stoney. By the time we were done, everyone was as big a stoney as I was. To varying degrees. I turned Mickey on one night and put on a Ray Charles record. He came out of that a changed man.
Times: In all the party scenes they have you and the others toking up, except Davy. Davy looks like a little saint.
Tork Oh no, Davy's done everything we have. Actually beyond pot and acid, we hardly did anything else.
Times: Can we talk about those moccasins?
Tork I wore moccasins a lot. (Confessionally) I still do. i just took off my moccasin slippers.
Times: Do you still wear the crazy high ones up to your knees?
Tork No, I don't wear those. I wear regular cowboy boots now. My feet are not as resilient as they were.
Times: There's no support in moccasins.
Tork No, there really isn't.
Times: More important, your hair. It was like the precursor to the popular Dorothy Hammill cut in the 1970s. Did you influence her? You had such pretty hair for a boy.
Tork I know. Hair is interesting. The Monkees were on the road in the 1960s and we met this guy whose hair was just sort of awkward and he said to me, "How do you do it? You have the best hair." I talked to him for a long time and told him (adopts philosophical tone). "I don't have the best hair because I decide this is what my hair should look like and make it fall into place like that. This is the way my hair is. And if you really want the good hair, you have to check with your own hair. . . . " And I got back into the car and the other guys gave me so much s--. But the guy and I were talking very existentially. The others just didn't get it.
Times: Everyone says you can tell about a person based on which is their favorite Beatle. If the same goes for Monkees fans, describe the person who likes Peter Tork.
Tork I think people who preferred Peter Tork to the others were people who did not know if they belonged in life or not. The other three as characters were so self-assured, you believed that they didn't have a problem. If you saw yourself as having a problem with life, you probably went for the Peter Tork character. Offbeat. Not quite mainstream, somehow not quite in tune.
Times: Do you drink coffee?
Tork Not caffeinated coffee.
Times: I think half of society's problems are because everyone's jacked up on caffeine and edgy.
Tork That could be. I think cigarettes provide a barrier between people. I know one guy who used to light up and say he was safe behind his wall. I've found in my life I cannot safely have any alcohol. And it serves my sobriety not to do any pot or any coke or anything. So I don't.
Times: How long have you been clean?
Tork I have been absolutely clean and dry for over 19 years. It's amazing. I can't believe it. I say that number, and wow, I mean, nobody's car is that old.
Times: Have you bought any new music recently?
Tork I don't buy anything current anymore. I buy classical. I haven't had a Mendelssohn violin concerto in so long, so I bought one recently. And Dvorak's New World Symphony. I'm a great fan of Bach, but I don't like much recorded Bach. The other thing I buy is blues. John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon collections.
Times: Do you have any tattoos?
Tork Nope. And no pierced ears either. I don't know why.
Times: What about the other Monkees?
Tork After Mickey's mother died three or four years ago, he got a great big old-fashioned tattoo that says "Mom" on his bicep. (laughs) Mickey is a wonder in some ways. He has a totally conventional, completely trailer trash, biker quality of sophistication and it's completely heartfelt. It's ironic and heartfelt, both. It's Mickey's special gift.
Times: Which of the Monkees are you closest to?
Tork It's different with each. Mickey's the best pal, but my heart connection is biggest with Davy. Davy is capable of as much heart as anyone I've ever met. I kind of had a crush on Davy for a while.
Times: That's sweet. Maybe it will work out for you two some day.
Tork Maybe. We'd have to talk to our respective girlfriends about that.