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Opinion

Fifty years ago, Monkee mayhem on the streets of Cleveland

3/16/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

Peter Tork of the legendary band the Monkees is one of the celebrities who’ll be in Cleveland for Wizard World Comic Con. The event, taking place March 17-19 at the Huntington Convention Center, will also feature Gene Simmons of Kiss, fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz and other big names from the world of entertainment.

There’s more about Wizard World on Page 20, but right now, let’s hear Tork, 75, recount an earlier Cleveland trip he took with his bandmates — Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones. (Jones passed away in 2012. Nesmith retired from the band last year, performing one last concert with Tork and Dolenz Sept. 16 in Los Angeles.)

Fifty years ago, the TV show “The Monkees” was a smash and songs like “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer” were topping the charts. The band, which started out as a TV creation but would become a real musical entity, was sent out on the road.

An early Monkees concert took place at Cleveland Public Hall on Jan. 15, 1967. At first, Tork, speaking by phone, had no memories of the show. But as he spoke about the band’s first gig, a December 1966 concert in Hawaii (“We were all nervous as hell”), it suddenly came back to him.

“Oh, Cleveland, yes, I do remember Cleveland!” he said.

“In Cleveland, as it happens, the four of us were being led down the stairs of an employee section of a hotel,” said Tork. “And somehow, our phalanx — the people around us, the guards and guides — went one way, and the four of us went another. And we walked right out a door to the outside. And there we were in the middle of the block, and we look up the block and there are a bunch of young women. We turn, and the door does not open from the outside. We had locked ourselves out.”

Anyone who has seen the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night” might guess what happened next.

“And the girls go, ‘AAAAAAAHHH’ and run at us, and we jump into a cop car,” said Tork. “There were two cops in the car and the four of us in the back seat, and we can’t get out because the doors don’t open up. And the four of us are saying, ‘We’re being chased!’”

For the policemen, it was not exactly another day on the beat.

“I don’t know if they knew who the Monkees were or what was going on,” said Tork. “It was certainly out of their comfort zone to have four moptops flying into their car and say ‘Take us to our leader.’”

The experience, reminiscent of the mishaps of a certain fictional heavy metal band (“Spinal Tap was not a joke, you know,” said Tork), had a happy ending. The show did go on.

“We figured out we could go through a back entrance, and we would be all right,” he said, chuckling. “That was Cleveland.”

For more information on Wizard World, including dates Tork and the other celebrities will be appearing, go to www.wizardworld.com.

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