(I originally wrote this review of Micky Dolenz’s autobiography I’m a Believer for my old Angelfire site around 2004. I haven’t read the updated version which has since been published.)
Sure I’m biased, as a diehard Monkeemaniac since ’86, but the book is really fun to read (over and over again), funny, irreverent, at times serious, factual, entertaining, and captivating. Micky felt it were too soon to do an autobiography, at only 48, but he also admitted that more fun things were yet to come, and that his intention wasn’t to write some dry, lifeless book. A lot of it focuses on his time in The Monkees, but he also presents the other events in his life. Just because Monkeedom was a huge part of his life doesn’t make it the only thing of worth.
This book is peppered with hilarious anecdotes; flashbacks; and hilarious fantasy scenes in a screenplay-like style. Besides telling a lot about his days as a Monkee (as well as their mid/late-Eighties reunion), he also paints hilarious (and at times serious and reflective) portraits of the Seventies, his boyhood, his adolescence.
Micky’s father, George Dolenz, was a well-known actor in the Forties, and his mother, Janelle, also had a brief role as a film star. Like many women of her day and age, she had to give it up upon marriage, since her husband was a very traditional Italian man and didn’t want his wife to upstage him or to have her own career. Micky had a very close relationship growing up with his younger sister Gemma (whom he nicknamed Coco). When he was nearly a teenager, two more sisters, Deborah and Gina, came along.
During his childhood, Micky was the star of Circus Boy, a very popular television show. He loved how it was like living in a circus. Micky got to hang around with real circus performers and got his own elephant, whom he toured the country with. On this tour, he sang popular songs of the day. However, Micky had to pay a price for his child star fame.
The producers credited him as Micky Braddock, thinking the name Dolenz was too foreign. They claimed his dad was already well-known and that the same name might confuse people. Micky also had his brown hair dyed blonde, since at the time, brown hair wasn’t considered American enough. After Micky began to outgrow his childish cuteness, Circus Boy ended. His parents refused to let him act in any more television shows. He had a lot of catching up to do in school and, probably as a direct result, never finished college.
Micky lets it be known loud and clear that being a Monkee was not the be-all and end-all of his existence. He had a lot of fun, and scary, adventures in the Seventies, with a lot of famous people. While he was in England with Davy, doing a musical written by their friend Harry Nillson, The Point, they got into a huge fight and didn’t speak again till 1986.
Micky washed his hands of the entire relationship and ended up staying in England for 15 years, even though he’d only packed enough for three months. Far from being a miserable decision, it worked out very well for him and he became a successful, esteemed television producer. He also remarried (after being divorced by his first wife Samantha) and had three more daughters, Charlotte, Georgia, and Emily. (His oldest child Ami is now a successful actor.) He never tells us his new wife’s name (Trina), but later I found out that they were divorcing at the time, so maybe he was just depressed and didn’t want to talk too much about her.
This is a really fun book, and part of what makes it so special and funny is that Micky didn’t treat it like a dry presentation of facts. He encourages the reader not to take it too seriously, that maybe some things didn’t happen exactly as he remembers them (rush of years, drugs), and that his life is far from over. At the beginning, he also says that when you finish reading, get out and do something positive to help your community or improve the world. If only more autobiographies could be so irreverent and witty instead of self-absorbed and pretentious.