Monkees Vs. Macheen: “Alias Micky Dolenz”

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“They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike”

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David Jones was absent for “Alias Micky Dolenz” and the balance of the episode falls squarely on Micky, who really put his skills to the test in this episode, playing Micky, Baby Face, and Micky as Baby Face. He spends more time pretending to be “Baby Face” than he does as himself. Similar to “The Prince and the Paupers,” Micky takes on the identity of his doppelganger to help someone else (in this case, the police.) This is the first episode where Micky’s actions really drive the plot. He’s been the one to save the day a couple of times (“The Chaperone”, “I’ve Got a Little Song Here”), but up to this point, Davy Jones has been the focus of the series, with occasional nods to Peter and Mike. “Alias Micky Dolenz” was directed by Bruce Kessler and written by Gerald Gardner & Dee Caruso and Dave Evans.

The storylines launches right in with a case of mistaken identity. Micky parks his car in a lot (over the line, I might add) when he’s approached by a man in sunglasses who declares with awe, “It’s you!” He wants to know when Micky got out. This is the gangster we find out later is “Tony.” Micky touches him in a friendly way, Tony freaks out and starts beating him with the newspaper.

After the credits, Mike takes Micky to the police station, insisting he report the assault. When they enter, the police all freak out and duck. Micky and Mike have no idea what’s going on. Micky tries to report the beating to the Police Captain who asks, “Did you kill him?” Mike straightens it out by introducing Micky. The Captain pulls out a picture of Micky Dolenz in “gangster-wear” and explains that it’s Baby Face Morales, “the most vicious killer in America,” who is currently serving time. They arrested him but did not arrest his gang, nor did they recover the stolen property. The Captain, out of nowhere, says the police want Micky to help them get the “goods and the hoods.” There’s a long, rambling joke where Micky and Mike pretend to misunderstand what the Captain wants and “goods and hoods” is repeated many times. What the Captain needs of course is for Micky to impersonate Baby Face. Micky says he can’t impersonate a gangster. To which I say, “You must be joking!” What about “Monkees in a Ghost Town?” “Monkees a la Carte?” etc.? But Micky and Mike don’t want to get involved.

Two great sight gags follow. As Micky leaves, we see a cop hand-cuffing a man with a “Peace” sign to the bench. They only occasionally did topical or political jokes during the first season. This is a subversive jab at treatment of war protesters. Also, a meta-comment considering the level of violence is higher in this episode compared to others.

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The second joke is goofier but still funny. Believing that Micky and Mike are in a gang, the police duck every time Mike turns around with his guitar case (which they assume contains weapons). It’s even funnier because Mike is just trying to politely say goodbye, and he’s clueless about their terror. This doesn’t give me much confidence in the police in this town.

Also, it looks like the clip of Mike on the front steps of the police station happily clapping his hands that was used in the opening theme sequence for season two might have been shot and not used from this episode. The costume and set-up look like they’re from these scenes.

As soon as Micky steps outside, he’s the target of a drive-by shooting. He dashes back into the station. Accompanied by a frantic version of the theme song, Micky scrambles all over the office, jumping on the file cabinet and mimes the shooters. Once he stops running around, he agrees to help the cops. The Captain sends him to learn all Baby Face’s mannerisms.

Micky goes to Baby Face’s cell. Dolenz does a fine job giving Baby Face a different voice, walk, and demeanor. He adopts a very cool, slow way of talking. I keep reading these little bits online lately about how Micky auditioned to be the Fonz on Happy Days. After watching these scenes, I can picture that, Micky as the Fonz.

Micky tells Baby Face that he’s his cousin from Ohio. I actually believed him the first time I saw this episode. I thought maybe the writers were suggesting they’re look-alike cousins like The Patty Duke Show. At least there would be some genetic explanation of why they look alike. Then I realized Micky was just lying to Baby Face to justify his visit. Baby Face teaches him how to talk and walk like him [“I have a great walk.”  Fifty points to whoever gets that reference. – Editor], and what he says when he’s about to rough a guy up. Micky gets carried away and smacks the gangster, resulting in Baby Face trying to strangle him.

I guess the guard rescued him because in the next scene, the Captain shows Micky pictures of Baby Face’s gang and their rap sheets. (One of the gang has the surname of Fingerhead, reusing that from “Monkees à la Mode”). Micky goes to The Purple Pelican bar, now looking handsome disguised as Baby Face in a glorious gangster suit and hat. “Baby Face” is hoping to connect with the hoods. The first one to recognize him is a woman named Ruby who asks, “Aren’t you going to give your Ruby a great big kiss?”…and he kisses his ring. She tries to kiss him but he warns her to be careful of his porcelain crowns. “Baby Face” tells her he needs to find the boys and get his cut. Ruby updates him that Tony is in charge now, and he may not want to give it up. Tony and the boys come up from behind.

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Tony breaks a bottle to threaten Micky and launches a romp to “The Kind of Girl I Could Love” (Nesmith). Ruby kisses Micky and he falls down in front of the bar. The other gang members start fighting Tony. Everybody’s fighting, drinking, and breaking glass except Micky, so there’s really no Monkees in this romp at all. We see Ruby slumped down by the bar next to Micky. There’s this weird continuity error when Ruby stands next to a woman with the same exact hair and dress that she has. The other woman hits Ruby with a bottle and causes her to fall down next to Micky. But we’ve already seen her lying in that shot next to Micky several times. Ruby’s look-alike stays in the fight scene and smacks around several of the men. No damsels in distress in this episode, baby! Given the energy of the romp, I think they should have picked a more up-tempo song.

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At the end, Tony and his gang are beaten. Micky stands up and takes credit for it, even though he did zero fighting. The gang agree that “Baby Face” is the boss. Micky accidentally opens the ladies’ room on his way to the backroom, and girls run out screaming.

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In the back room, “Baby Face” tells the gang the plan for tomorrow night: They’ll pick up the diamonds, split up, and go under cover. He tells them he’ll bring a few “specialists” to help with the pick-up. Micky is hilarious in the scene because he seems very cool and in control while pretending to be Baby Face, but then he does things like fumble his gun or sputter and gag when he takes a drink of whisky. Because of these gaffs, Tony gets suspicious enough to tail him.

At the pad, Micky’s on the phone with the cops, confirming the specialists will meet him at the hideout. I thought the “specialists” were always meant to be Mike and Peter, but apparently there were cop-specialists that were supposed to go along. Mike and Peter are listening to Micky on the phone, and Peter offers to go with him. Peter! So nice to see you in this episode. Micky describes Tony as a sadistic killer, full of hate and malice as he wanders right into Tony and the gang, who’ve gotten in without knocking. Tony tells “Baby Face” they’re going tonight instead of tomorrow. Mike and Peter quickly go with them as the “specialists.” They miss the call from the Captain who wanted to tell Micky that the real Baby Face has busted out.

Here’s a fun fact about Robert Strauss, who plays the Captain. He guest starred in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. called “The Dippy Blonde Affair” along with frequent Monkees director, James Frawley. Check it out if you get the chance. Frawley’s a pretty good actor.

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Baby Face goes to the Purple Pelican and finds Ruby, giving her the same line about the porcelain crowns when she tries to kiss him. I’m only mentioning this because I’m wondering if it’s suggestive in some way, like her kiss would suck the crowns out of his head? Someone must have thought it was funny, because both “Baby Face” and Baby Face mention it. Anyway, Ruby inadvertently lets him know that the gang is off picking up the diamonds.

Micky, Peter, Mike, Tony, and his gang enter the house where the diamonds are hidden, which is the same place they were stolen from. “Baby Face” can’t “remember” where in the fireplace they hid the diamonds. Mike and Peter prepare to blow it up so all the stones will fall out. This involves a long sequence of Mike going into the fireplace to set up while talking on and on. Peter stands outside mutely with the plunger and equipment. Mike looks at the camera and says “This is for you, Dale” when he gets ready to set off the explosion. For Dale Evans of The Roy Rogers Show maybe? Of course Mike blows up the wrong thing, this time a piano in the back. The real crooks start chipping away at the stones. A policeman comes to the door, noting that the owners are on vacation and no one should be there. Instead of being suspicious of crime, he wants to sell tickets to the policeman’s ball. The policeman, by the way is played by Don Sherman who is in the season two Monkees episode, “Monkees Marooned.”

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They find the diamonds just as the real Baby Face pops up in the doorway. Tony says there’s only one Baby Face, so one must be an imposter. Each tries to prove he’s the real Baby Face by answering questions about former crime jobs. Who drove the getaway car in the Seamen’s Bank job? Baby Face and “Baby Face” answer “Steve Blauner.” (This is a reference to series consultant Steve Blauner, who went on to executive produce The New Monkees.) Peter accidentally reveals Micky, calling him by name. Someone hits the lights and the Monkees scramble around and subdue the crooks with sheets, as the cops arrive. Apparently, the patrolman figured out something was wrong from earlier. They reward The Monkees with jewelry, which seems unorthodox. In a joke that wouldn’t work during or after the 1980s, Micky makes a sad face and asks, “What am I going to do with an earring?”

Tag sequence in the police station as the Captain explains to Mike that there is one loose end. Now, we get two jabbering, hyperactive men claiming to be Micky, instead of two swaggering hoods claiming to be Baby Face. Mike and the Captain look at each other as if they’d rather lock up both “Mickys” than figure this out. [Kill us both, Spock!  I know I used that one before. – Editor]

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Tag sequence is performance footage of all the Monkees playing “Mary, Mary” (Nesmith) at their pad. I wanted to add this story about “Mary, Mary” with the “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” recap, but I ran out of room, so I’ll do it now. The first band to record “Mary Mary” was actually the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on their album East-West from 1966. The Monkees version was released in 1967. According to Glenn Baker’s Monkeemania book, Paul Butterfield’s record label used to get letters from fans who wouldn’t believe Mike Nesmith wrote the song and accused him of stealing credit. Elektra records created a form letter in response, clarifying that Mike did indeed write the song. The Paul Butterfield Blues version sure is different than the one I’m used to.

If you were really missing Davy, there’s an interview with him at the end. He explains he wasn’t in the episode because went to England for his sister’s wedding, which he missed anyway. He says he visits England frequently and never gets homesick even though he’s been travelling for six and half years. He also jokes with Bob that at the end of the day, everyone is tired and angry and they want to go home.

Interesting episode with more drinking and violence than usual, and very little of that action involved the title characters. The episode is solid and funny with some good acting. If you’re a Micky fan, this may be one of your favorites. I love his quick way with a line and knack for physical comedy. I prefer seeing them play off of each other, that’s one of the best things about the show. There isn’t much chance for them to do that here. And I’m always a bit bummed out when one of the Monkees is missing. But I have to admit, “Alias Micky Dolenz” is still entertaining and memorable.

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by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

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Vintage Cable Box: The Woman in Red, 1984

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“Come and get it, Cowboy.”

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The Woman in Red, 1984 (Gene Wilder), Orion Pictures

I had not planned to cover The Woman in Red until next year, but Gene Wilder’s passing prompted me to look at the movie again. As far as I know, the movie did not premiere on HBO until 1986 when we had already moved back to Philadelphia. We missed our HBO so much we bought a satellite dish (at a cost of $30 a month), and installed it on our rooftop (at a time when Philly did not have cable television below the Broad Street line). What I most remember about the movie was the heavy promotion it received during it’s initial release. The publicity and the advertisements thoroughly peddled Kelly Le Brock and the memorable (if tedious) music of Stevie Wonder.

San Francisco advertising executive Gene Wilder is negotiating a hi-rise ledge and wondering what he had done to find himself in this position.  He recalls that one day four weeks ago, he was sitting in his car in a parking lot when he spotted a woman in a red dress walking down the street.  She passes over a grate, which blows hot air up her dress, revealing her matching red panties.  She turns back, stands over the grate and starts dancing.  From then on, Gene is smitten.  He is immediately infatuated with her, and tries to set up a date with her, but mistakenly reaches co-worker Gilda Radner instead.  He seems happy yet unsatisfied in his marriage to Judith Ivey, recalling Tommy Noonan’s roving eye and boredom in The Seven Year Itch with Marilyn Monroe.

His friends are of no help to his burgeoning infidelity and thoughts of desertion.  They ogle women constantly and screw around behind their busy wives’ backs.  Joseph Bologna (fresh from Blame It on Rio) is a cad, and Charles Grodin plays a character he knows best: well-meaning and mild-mannered, but with a touch of hysteria.  All is not well as Bologna is informed his wife is divorcing him, so the central fear of loneliness is a preoccupation in Wilder’s character.  Evidently, men are all big talk until the shit hits the fan.  Interestingly, because Wilder refuses to discuss his feelings of ennui with his wife, he comes across as a gibbering idiot on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Ivey, livid over Bologna’s impending divorce, and all the terrible stories that accompany it, informs Wilder she is a violently jealous woman.  Her revelation horrifies Wilder.  Meanwhile, Gilda awaits her “date” with the clueless Wilder, who never arrives because he had no idea he was making a date with her.  In an unusual montage, we see Gilda sitting alone in an empty restaurant, Bologna sleeping and drinking alone next to pictures of his children, and Wilder unable to sleep next to his wife in the bed they share.  The next day, a furious Gilda keys his car and breaks his antenna.  When he discovers his mystery woman had a love of horseback riding, he arranges a meet-cute with the girl at the stables.

The two hit it off, and once Le Brock shows even the mildest of interest in Wilder, his life turns around.  He is happy and confident.  He buys new clothes, and tries to give himself a new hairstyle, to which his friend hilariously compares him to Robert Redford.  As with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in 10, Wilder manages to get Le Brock into bed, but before he can consummate his lust, her husband arrives home early, and he must escape, by climbing out on the aforementioned ledge.  Where Moore was turned off by Derek’s casual attitude regarding sex, Wilder’s screenplay and direction emphasize the loneliness of his character.  He photographs Le Brock as though she were a goddess just out of his reach.

With a charmingly dated appeal, this is a movie made for the PG-13 rating.  While PG-rated movies in the late 70s/early 80s treaded lightly when it came to certain kinds of violence and off-color language, the introduction of the PG-13 rating promised movies with adult humor and themes that could be watched and enjoyed by kids.  This was the promise, but it was not kept.  PG-13 movies were produced (starting in the early 90s) to guarantee as many asses in the seats as PG movies did twenty years before.  The Woman in Red is a rare example of a movie that would be rated R (restricted audiences) if released today.

Gene Wilder never set out to become a comedic actor.  It was only when collaborators such as Mel Brooks and Woody Allen discovered his gift for controlled mania, and an unerring capacity to stretch the imagined boundaries of sanity with every character he played, were we truly witness to the birth of that comedic legend.  His first film was 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde.  Brooks cast him as the neurotic accountant Leopold Bloom in The Producers.  He would appear in Start the Revolution Without Me and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but it wasn’t until 1972’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) that he began to make a name for himself as the reluctant comedian.  He would make Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles for Mel Brooks, as well as a series of successful comedies with Richard Pryor.  In addition to The Woman in Red, he would write and direct The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The World’s Greatest Lover, and Haunted Honeymoon.

I’m gonna miss him.

A very special thank you to Christopher Hasler for suggesting this title.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

 

Vintage Cable Box: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, 1982

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“Marriage, for me, is the death of hope.”

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A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, 1982 (Woody Allen), Orion Pictures

Born a little too late to appreciate Woody Allen’s early slapstick comedy, and then the easy transformation to the more thoughtful romantic comedy for which he would become synonymous, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy arrived on cable television at a time with which I would most identify: a middle period in his career that would introduce his new muse at the time – Mia Farrow. A brilliant but under-utilized actress in her own right, she would receive the lion’s share of attention for her work (and unfortunately, her personal life) with Allen. The movie was unfairly maligned as audience enthusiasm dipped after the autobiographical Stardust Memories (1980).

Allen plays a neurotic (of course) inventor, Andrew, married to the beautiful Adrian (Mary Steenburgen) whose cousin, college professor Leopold (José Ferrer) and his fiancée, Ariel (Farrow) are set to join them at their country home for the weekend. Among his startling inventions and flying machines, Andrew has created what he calls a “spirit ball” (a kind of magic lantern), which can communicate with ghosts. Andrew’s friend, Max (Tony Roberts) is also invited, and he brings his latest girlfriend, the youthful and sexually-active Dulcy (Julie Hagerty). Andrew’s sex life with his wife is waning. He keeps trying to initiate sex with her, but Adrian feels as though she might be frigid. Andrew discovers that Leopold’s fiancée was an old flame he never quite got over.

Andrew secretly covets Maxwell’s ease with women. He cries to him about his lack of sex drive. Maxwell recommends hypnosis. Leopold arrives with Ariel, and takes an immediate dislike to Maxwell, who starts to put the moves on Ariel. Adrian displays jealousy at the sight of her. When she confronts Andrew, he lies that he never loved her. Dulcy and Leopold develop a mutual attraction to each other, while Ariel and Andrew take baby-steps to rekindle their romance. Maxwell confesses his love for Ariel to Andrew. He wants Andrew to escort Ariel for a late-day rendezvous. Leopold tells Dulcy he is enamored of her and they arrange their own meeting time. Adrian seeks sexual advice from Dulcy, while Andrew consummates his desire for Ariel.

While Leopold is a worldly man of science who disbelieves notions of a spirit world, Ariel is earthy and bohemian, igniting the interest of both Maxwell and Andrew. Maxwell and Leopold nearly come to blows and Maxwell attempts suicide at the thought of their impending marriage. Before the weekend is over, Maxwell will be shot through the heart with an arrow intended for Andrew, and Leopold will die in the throes of passion and his spirit will take up residence in the woods. This contrived plot very much reminds me of Allen’s Manhattan (1979) wherein these dynamics (and soap-opera-style contrivances) are played against the backdrop of a perfect city, or a sumptuous wooded meadow, but lacking the epic qualities and instead embracing what Allen has referred to as “intermezzo.”

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This is an unusual period-piece (turn of the century) that, if anything else, demonstrates Allen’s skill at dialogue that needs no particular span of centuries in order to be worthwhile.  Images of sprites, spirits, and pixies are conjured by Allen’s characters in the midst of his typical sexual turmoil.  Gordon Willis’ photography is exceptional, and against the grain of his typically “darker” movies like The Godfather, Klute, and The Devil’s Own.  Lush fields and forestry, and gorgeous specimens of nature are given such a beautiful treatment that I was surprised he never received nominations for this work in this movie.  He would receive a much-deserved nomination a year later for Allen’s Zelig.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.