Peter Tork and the Joy of Being a Fan
Needless to say, being a fan is pretty central to my identity, my career and my life. I’m such a big fan, in fact, that whenever I have to make up a password I always choose Weird Al Fan #1. It’s a way of supporting one of my favorite musicians, American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic. You know, the “Eat It” guy.
Making all my passwords (and I’m talking ALL my passwords) Weird Al Fan #1 is my way of supporting “Weird Al” Yankovic although I guess since passwords are supposed to be private, that kind of defeats the purpose of a password like that. Also, to be brutally honest, people seem to guess my password constantly. I’ve seriously considered it changing it. In fact, I probably should not publicly disclosed my password in the first place. I should probably change it to something no one will ever be able to guess, like Weird Al Fan #2.
It’s not just Al who I very publicly and ostentatiously dig. I love bad movies. I love good movies. I love Hip Hop. I love comedy. I love satire. I love comedy podcasts. I love true crime podcasts. I love the children’s television program Sesame Street. I love Insane Clown Posse and the music and live performances of the jam band Phish.
I love a lot of things. I’ve been bitterly disillusioned over and over again yet I still somehow find the energy and the will to love things and love them deeply.
I’m a fan of being a fan. I love loving things even when it opens you up to being hurt, to getting your heart broken.
When I look back at my childhood and try to figure out where my love of loving things came from I gravitate towards a magical Summer in 1987, just before puberty hit like an atom bomb when I, and seemingly every other 11 year old in the universe, fell hopelessly in love with a weird sitcom from the 1960s filled with wonderful music and zany characters called The Monkees.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why I loved them. They were funny. They had huge personalities. Their music was fucking fantastic, perfect pop from some of the most brilliant songwriters and craftsmen of the day. Moreover, the Monkees were just fucking weird in a good way.
I didn’t know what post-modernism was when I found the Monkees, let alone that I would write a failed, extraordinarily unsuccessful column about television and post-modernism, but I sensed that these guys were doing something very different and new and fresh and clever that also resonated with other personal favorites of the time, like Batman and Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
I loved The Monkees so much that me and my friend Yotam Haber started a two-person Monkees Appreciation Society. As you might imagine, we were very popular and very cool.
My first concert was The Monkees, although I was there as much for the opening act as the main attraction. He was an American pop parodist named “Weird Al” Yankovic and holy fucking shit did his performance blow me away, to the point where I have a hard time even remembering what followed and I fucking lived for the Monkees at the time.
The Monkees. “Weird Al” Yankovic. It was an embarrassment of riches, everything a pop-culture crazed kid could ask for in one amazing double bill.
Needless to say, one of the acts on the bill would go on to play a central role in my future. The other I will always associate with some of the happiest memories of my childhood, although a few years back I had the honor of hosting a screening of a documentary about Boyce and Hart, the brilliant hit-making duo behind many of the Monkees’ best songs. Bobby Hart, the surviving member of the duo, was there for a Q&A and I fell in love with the music of the Monkees all over again watching the documentary and listening to Hart talk.
Boyce and Hart’s 1968 masterpiece I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight is as close as you can get to a perfect Monkees album without Davy, Michael, Mickey and Peter.
Now Peter Tork is gone. He’s left us at the ripe old age of 77. Another part of my childhood is gone. How much did I love The Monkees? Before the Beatles became my Beatles, The Monkees were my Beatles. It was through my Monkees fandom that I first fell in love with being a fan, with loving something unashamedly, with my whole soul, in a way I want to share with the world and other fans.
It’s weird the things you remember: when I think of Peter Tork my mind always goes back to a moment in Behind the Music, I believe, and Tork talking about the audition process. Tork talked about how a “suit” asked him if he smoked and he replied, “I don’t smoke…cigarettes” with a winking, meaningful pause between “smoke” and “cigarettes” that very loudly screams "but I do smoke a shit-ton of marijuana. In fact, I'm probably high right now."
RIP Peter Tork. Maybe someday we’ll all be up there in the big Happening up in the sky, and we can sit down and smoke some non-cigarettes together.
Thanks for helping show me just how much joy and pleasure and meaning can come with being a fan. I will always be grateful for that.
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