The Curse of the Pop/Teen Idol
This past week, I was home and had more leisure time than normal. I got lots done in terms of sorting, unpacking, cooking, writing, wedding planning, picking out stuff for the new home etc, but I also had more hours to play and relax than is normal. (Which is why I am actually now sporting a pre-tan to head into summer!)
This extra time had me watching old movies and You Tube – which is actually my favorite channel of all. I love looking at nostalgic videos.
I dropped some of my blogs on sites and got a whole bunch of new readers and some wanted to dialog. Usually, I just write a cursory response due to time limitations, but this time I was really engaged in a fascinating back and forth on a few of my favorite nostalgic subjects. (By the way, a blogger has to constantly promote. Sigh.)
Which brings me to the topic at hand. One of the sites I dropped my blog on was a Monkees and Davy Jones site. With the Monkees 50th anniversary this year, along with a new record, (and listen to this great first single) and with me as an unashamed fan after all these years, it made sense to promote the stuff I wrote on them. Unbelievably, they are trending again, making this their third resurgence. It is the legend that won’t quit.
One of the most fascinating dialogs was with someone who, like me, was a rabid Davy Jones (of Blessed Memory) fan and could not understand why he floundered after the run of the show. Sure he stayed active on the nostalgia circuit, but if you read about him (and I researched for this blog and also read portions of his autobiography about his early showbiz years) he was an acclaimed Broadway star and actor before he was a Monkee.
He began as a young teen on the BBC, and got parts from there. When the musical Oliver first opened there, he was a runner up for the Artful Dodger, so he accepted another show part and then Oliver came calling a short time later. When the show moved to Broadway, Davy came to the U.S. and actually appeared on the Ed Sullivan show singing “Consider Yourself,” on the very same night that the Beatles made their first appearance on that show.
Davy was nominated for a Tony award, and was the toast of Broadway. After opening night, no less than Judy Garland took him aside and told him that NYC was his for the taking. He later was beckoned by television and movie producers on the west coast while in a traveling show Pickwick, where his reviews were that he eclipsed the main star in terms of performance.
In his autobiography, there are memorandums, telegrams etc, with Hollywood bigwigs vying to get their hands on this talented guy. His management felt that the Monkees TV show would be the best vehicle for him. Superstardom came next, a heady but short lived experience.
If you were a fan of that show, you knew that Davy was ALWAYS a song-and-dance man, one step away from Broadway in terms of his acting, and singing. They gave him several opportunities to dance too and he always impressed. (Remember Cuddly Toy? Actually, that bit of pop fluff was about a woman who was a bit used, and was written with a dark tone to it by Harry Nilsson)
As a matter of fact, a reader sent me this golden nugget of a video of Davy performing “Daddy’s Song” – another darkly toned number set to a peppy beat written by Harry Nilsson, in the movie Head, which I was too young to see (it was rated R) when I was a young Monkees fan. I later as an adult saw snippets of the movie but it did not interest me which is strange because I am still a big Monkees fan. It was weird and definitely not the right vehicle for the band – it was their downfall. (By the way, it is beyond quirky, which I love, and is just plain weird though some think it is brilliant.)
That notwithstanding, this unbelievable video with it’s technical genius of the black and white stages and costuming interspersed, would have gone unseen by me if it hadn’t been sent to me. To me, it displays Davy’s youthful appeal, his loud, brash Broadway singing tone, his energy, and enthusiasm. It is priceless and I watched it about twenty times because it thrilled me and reminded me what a star Davy was at the time.
I wondered why he wasn’t swooped right up after the Monkees run back to the Broadway stage? Or back to another television or movie vehicle, with his enormous talent? It is really puzzling and this is what I dialoged with another fan of his. Neither of us could understand why he had to be resigned to a nostalgia career.
The only thing I could figure was the curse of the Teen Idol – look how Ricky Nelson struggled in the 60’s when he was no longer relevant, and boy could he sing and act. (I am a huge fan even though I was too young to appreciate him in his heyday.) Look at how Elvis became a Vegas lounge act. Look at Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, Leif Garrett and so many other talented idols who could sing and act, and who went nowhere after their time in the limelight was used up. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Maybe, like Davy, who is considered one of the greatest teen idols of all time, once a star reaches the pinnacle, there is nowhere to go but down. It’s kind of sad, but very true. Very few of these idols continue in stardom beyond their time in the sun. It’s like a curse on them, a cross they have to bear from then on, consigning them to be a nostalgia act.
It is unbelievable to me how much talent has been wasted by tossing these once great acts aside. I mean aside from their cute looks, some of these acts were really, really talented. What do you think?