Eulogy for an Old Friend *EXPLORED*

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    Whenever a celebrity dies, there’s a ton of media hoopla. Like most people, I’m reminded about life’s brevity and saddened by the loss of a unique and irreplaceable talent. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock I got on Wednesday afternoon, when I logged onto Facebook and discovered that, at the far-too-young age of 66, Davy Jones had died that morning at his home in Florida from a massive heart attack. At the news of Davy’s death, my own heart broke into a million pieces. This wasn’t just another celebrity. This was different. This was Davy, and this was intensely personal.

    You see, in my thirteenth year, Davy Jones was the Great Love of My Life. Like a million other teenage girls in those days, I was going to be the one to grow up and marry Davy. The walls of my bedroom were papered with his face, pictures culled from album covers and from TV Guide, 16, and Tiger Beat magazines. Every week, I was glued to the television when The Monkees came on the old black-and-white TV set. My friend Jean and I played our Monkees records until we wore them out. We begged her mother to take us to see them when they played a concert in Boston (she didn’t). And everything in my young girl’s world was colored with Davy.

    I can’t tell you what I ate for lunch three days ago, but I can tell you, without any hesitation, that David Thomas Jones was born on December 30, 1945, in Manchester, England, to Thomas and Doris Jones. He had three sisters named Hazel, Beryl, and Lynda. His mother died when he was young, and Davy, who loved horses and was five-foot-three with his boots on, left home as a teenager to become a jockey. Instead, he ended up on the London stage, playing the Artful Dodger in a stage production of Oliver!, a role he reprised on Broadway. In his late teens, he released an album of show tunes, and around the age of twenty he was the first actor chosen to play a member of the fictional rock band known as The Monkees.

    The Monkees have gotten a bad rap over the years, a reputation I believe is undeserved. They were what they were, a bunch of kids who sang wonderful, catchy little pop songs, written by some of the legends of the music industry: Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilssen, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, John Stewart, and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. More than four decades later, the music is still as fresh and wonderful as it was back then. Those songs have stood the test of time, and the four young boys who sang them have never received the respect they were due.

    Eventually, inevitably, as time passed, my passion for Davy faded. By the time I was fourteen, the show had been cancelled and the boys were no longer making weekly visits to my living room. The records were still being released, but with increasingly lengthy interims between releases. The day came when I took down Davy’s pictures and replaced him with Bobby Sherman. Bobby was more of a standard schoolgirl crush, a mild flirtation, nothing in comparison to the passionate love affair I’d had with Davy.

    Time marched on, and eventually Bobby Sherman left my walls, too. I moved on to real boys. I got married, divorced, remarried, had a couple of kids. Life happened. When I was 30, I saw the Monkees live at the Cumberland County Civic Center during one of their reunion tours. But the magic was gone. I was too old to still be in love with Davy, and too young to appreciate the significance of what it had all meant. Too caught up in real life to recognize and appreciate that, for a brief couple of hours, Davy Jones and I were in the same place at the same time, breathing the same air.

    But he always held a special place in my heart. My husband has probably heard me say a hundred times over the years, with warmth and nostalgia, “Aw, it’s Davy,” whenever I heard our local oldies station playing “Daydream Believer” (which, regrettably, seems to be the only Monkees song they ever play). I’d listen to the song with a sort of reverence, and when it was over, I’d put Davy back where he belonged, in the distant reaches of my memory.

    It was all so very long ago. So why, after so many years, did his death feel like I’d taken a hot poker to the heart? Why was it that, 45 years after the fact, when I heard he’d died, this 57-year-old grandmother cried for four days straight?

    I had to look for an explanation, so I took a journey into my past, via YouTube, where I watched clips from that silly, silly TV show, listened to the old songs (I still remember all the words to all of them), and spent hours looking at videos and photos of Davy. I found the screen test he did for the TV show, and songs from the album he released pre-Monkees, which I bought at LaVerdiere’s drugstore for $2.99 in mono ($3.99 for stereo, but who cared, because most of us had portable mono record players and didn’t need stereo anyway) and played until it was no longer playable. And I was struck by a couple of things.

    The first was how terribly young he was. Just a little boy really, who, at nineteen or twenty, hadn’t yet begun to grow facial hair. He emanated an incomparable sweetness, an innocence, a niceness that was irresistible. And that face! That beautiful young face. How could any thirteen-year-old girl have looked at that face and not fallen in love? I’ve never been attracted to bad boys; the boys (and men) I’ve loved were nice guys, sweet guys. I’ve been married to one of them for nearly thirty years. And Davy was one of the sweet ones.

    The second revelation was that, despite all the intervening years, my feelings hadn’t changed. Despite the fact that at my advanced age, I’m old enough to be the grandmother of that sweet-faced young boy I loved when I was thirteen, when I look at him, I’m thirteen years old again, and the feelings are still there, as strong as ever.

    In the annals of literature and movies, a lot has been said about men’s coming-of-age. Women’s has been largely ignored. I find this unutterably sad, and I’m not ashamed to say that Davy was my coming-of-age, the last bastion of innocence in those halcyon days when I hovered on the cusp between childhood and adolescence.

    It was a different world back then. Or perhaps it was just my perception of it that was different. Halfway around the world, there was a terrible war raging. Back home, a different war raged, on the streets of Montgomery and Selma and Los Angeles. The free love generation was in full swing, and on college campuses, kids were dropping acid. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were gunned down by madmen determined to put an end to their visions. But for those of us who lived quiet lives in small towns, untouched by this turbulence, it was an amazing and marvelous time to grow up. And for young girls like me, who were just starting to spread our wings in preparation for flying, nice boys like Davy Jones were a safe place to experiment with those wonderful but terrifying emotions we were beginning to feel. It wasn’t about sex; at thirteen, that wasn’t even on my radar. I never heard Davy referred to as the sexy one. Davy was the cute one, the sweet one, and the kind of love that young girls like me felt for him was pure and untainted by the reality that would inevitably come with growing up.

    I’ve tried to explain some of this to my husband, but he doesn’t get it. He told our dinner companions on Friday night, “Laurie is freaking out over Davy Jones.” It wasn’t true. I wasn’t freaking out, I was grieving. Quietly, solitarily, and very painfully. What told me that he truly didn’t understand was when he said, from his relatively youthful fifty-one years, “The Monkees were before my time.” Nope. He didn’t get it at all. And he never will. How can I ever explain to the man I’ve loved for thirty years that, even though I was just thirteen, the love I felt for Davy was every bit as real, every bit as deep, as the love I felt for him when we got together a dozen years later? Every woman remembers her first love. For me, that first love was Davy.

    I’ve tried to watch the videos of his recent performances, but I can’t watch them. It’s too painful. That’s not the Davy I’m grieving for, that 66-year-old man, with his graying hair and his slight paunch, his baggy old-man pants and his third wife, a decade younger than his eldest daughter. That’s not my Davy. My Davy will always be that sweet young boy with an angel’s face who sang songs of love and innocence in that charming British accent.

    As I watched YouTube videos and news report after news report about his death, I read many comments from the public, and I was surprised by the outpouring of love and grief. In spite of the snark, the nastiness, the negativity that abounds on the internet, most of the comments I’ve read were positive. There were a few of the expected trolls, but what I discovered, as I read, was how many people are truly grieving his death. Not just the middle-aged women who were young girls during the late sixties, but people—both male and female—of all ages. I’m not alone. Everybody loved Davy. And the comment that I kept seeing, over and over again, says it all in a nutshell: a piece of my childhood just died.

    Yes! That’s it, exactly. How do so many people know what’s inside my head and my heart?

    Which is why on Sunday, I made a pilgrimage, driving eighty miles alone, to a deserted strip of beach at low tide, to say good-bye to Davy. With “Daydream Believer” playing on my iPod, a lump in my throat and tears blurring my vision, I pulled a quarter from my pocket and scratched these words in the wet sand:

    RIP Davy
    1945-2012
    Heaven has a new angel.

    I’m not a religious person. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife. But if there is, I’d like to think that Davy is up there wearing a straw hat and a striped jacket and carrying a cane, doing one of his goofy soft-shoe routines. And if by chance heaven is real, all I can say is they’d better be taking good care of my Davy.

    Tom 1962, halloweve1977, arrow734, and 3 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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    1. Laurie Breton 38 months ago | reply

      Graceful, thanks for commenting. Nice to hear from others who feel the way I do. If you haven't seen Davy's screen test (available on YouTube), you should watch it. All I could think as I watched it was that the minute that kid walked into the room, that producer's cash register mind must have been going ka-ching! ka-ching! ka-ching! Davy was something else.

    2. gracefulvintage 38 months ago | reply

      Laurie,

      Thanks for the tip...I hadn't seen any so I just watched the first longest one that came up. What an adorable baby face! Of course he was our first love! He's always had that cute funny way about him, even the sense of humor. He even danced the same way! A treasured part of my childhood, He will be in our hearts forever..........

      Thank You again for your very eloquent Eulogy/Article/Post. I thought something was wrong with me...I'm 55 years old woman behaving like a 10 year old. Obsessively googling his name to find out more info, news etc, dreaming about this man every night for the past week since he died. Putting all the Monkee albums on my Ipod last Friday (my husband doesn't get it either) so I can secretly listen to it all weekend while I gardened (I'm in So Cal we garden all year round) . I even broke down crying yesterday at the grocery store when I saw that there was not a single magazine or tabloid with even a mention of his name. I felt he was not being remembered properly. Poor cashier, I couldn't stop blubbering, she most have thought she did something wrong!

      I feel a little more sane now thanks to you!

      Grace

    3. Laurie Breton 38 months ago | reply

      You're welcome! Take comfort in knowing that you're not the only one who's been slightly insane for the last week. :)

    4. perryr53 - Very Very Busy, but trying. 38 months ago | reply

      I am so sorry. I did not know much about him but what hit home the he and were born only a few days apart - me Dec 27 and him on the 30th.

    5. Laurie Breton 38 months ago | reply

      Thank you, Vino. Remember when we thought anything past 60 was ancient? How time changes our perspective!

    6. perryr53 - Very Very Busy, but trying. 38 months ago | reply

      The way I look at it Laurie is this - "old" is 20 years older than what you are

    7. Laurie Breton 38 months ago | reply

      I like that philosophy! ;-)

    8. arrow734 37 months ago | reply

      I was looking for Davy tributes here on Flickr, and came across yours, and I just wanted to say "thank you" for putting into words everything I've been feeling lately. There was something so special about Davy, and the world will be a bit more empty now, with him gone. Anyone who didn't experience these feelings will never understand, and it is wonderful to hear from someone who did, and does, and to know that he was so loved...he will be forever missed ~

    9. Laurie Breton 37 months ago | reply

      Thanks, arrow. I believe there are a lot of us out here who feel the same way. He was one of a kind.

    10. Jazzyblue TR 37 months ago | reply

      This was one of the best tributes I've read my friend...
      Hope you are recovery is going well Laurie...
      Have a great week my dear...
      Take care...

    11. Mr is Me 37 months ago | reply

      a great, fitting tribute to a very special person.

    12. Laurie Breton 37 months ago | reply

      Thanks, Tim and Mr Mr. :)

    13. Roadduck99 37 months ago | reply

      This is a terrific essay, Laurie. RIP, Davy.

    14. Laurie Breton 37 months ago | reply

      Thanks, Joe! :) :) :)

    15. rowland-w 37 months ago | reply

      This is an eloquent and heartfelt encomium for a formative figure in your history, who just happens to be in the public domain. It is amazing how powerfully and durably experiences and associations can carry forward from our youth. No doubt an occurrence like this feels like a part of one's youth and history has died, too. Thank-you for composing and sharing your articulate post in this forum.

    16. Laurie Breton 37 months ago | reply

      Thank you, Rowland!

    17. just joani 36 months ago | reply

      What a beautifully written narrative Laurie. Whether triggered by the passing of a pop culture icon or a life event, most of us have been made acutely aware of the significance of such an event. You've captured the essence of what so many of us have experienced at some point but so few have expressed so eloquently. Lovely piece.

    18. Laurie Breton 36 months ago | reply

      Thanks so much, Joani!

    19. ToriaRay 36 months ago | reply

      Oh this is so sweet!! I enjoyed reaading this. You write so well!!

    20. brooksbos 35 months ago | reply

      Laurie, your reminiscences and heartfelt sorrow are like poetry, eloquent is an understatement. You are one very compassionate and expressive lady and I feel honored that you shared this with us. I remember his appearance on The Brady Bunch...you're right he came across as genuinely sweet and self-effacing. I'm sorry for your loss, that part of your life that you remember so fondly. You tell Paul that he just needs to get with it and dig all that neat stuff that so many of us remember so fondly! As Austin Powers liked to say, Groovy, baby, groovy!" :)

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