Where to begin? Probably like everybody else, when I was a young fan of the Monkees.
We all were inexplicably drawn to their crazy antics, screaming girls and pre-MTV-style concert footage. The music was infectious and it sure wasn’t the show’s plots that kept me engaged. His natural qualities as a human being transcended into his character.
I was fortunate to work with Davy on many occasions. Each time we got together, I was met with a warm embrace and his own impersonation of my Chic-ah-go style “How ya coin’?” He really loved coming back to Chicago, marveling at the deep-dish pizza and the sincere love his Midwest fans always showed him.
The first time I brought him to my theater, he fell in love with the city of St. Charles. He would ask me to bring him in a day or two early just so he could check out the town. Many times, he was spotted just walking down Main Street and chatting with the shop owners. He loved our former restaurant, The Onesti Dinner Club, that was built within a 160-year-old church. He had purchased an old church, but really did not know what to do with it. One look at our place and his face truly lit up. We would spend hours talking about ways of re-creating what we had done at his place.
Then there was the time I brought him back on stage after one of his fabulous concerts. As he genuinely thanked the standing ovation, he said, “Ron, this audience is tremendous! I would love to hug you all!” He then retreated to the dressing room. I walked in and reminded him of the meet-and-greet he was to do. He said, “Oh yeah. What have ya got, 15 or 20 folks?” I said, “Well my friend, you just told 900 fans that you wanted to hug them. I’ve got 900 people waiting in the theatre for their hug … nobody is leaving!” So for the next four hours, Davy smiled and posed and signed. Entertainers rarely do anything like that these days.
I was on the phone with my “big sister” Deana Martin, Dean Martin’s daughter, one day. I told her that Davy was coming to the theater and she told me that Davy actually only had one major girlfriend on the show … and it was her! She also said they had a little fling off screen, too. She promised to send me the clip from the show.
So the last time he was by me, I once again asked him to join me back on stage after another superb performance. I told him I had a little surprise for him. I brought our 40-foot screen down and played the clip from the show that he and Deana sat staring into each other’s eyes while stars were shooting out. The crowd roared and he somewhat embarrassingly smiled. I asked him who the girl was and he replied, “That was actually Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana. What a lovely girl she was.”
I asked him if he had kept in touch with the daughter of the legend. He said, “I haven’t seen her in 40 years. I would love to see her again.”
At that moment, the big screen was raised and there she stood, arms outstretched, with her gleaming smile. His jaw dropped and they rushed to hug each other. They then sang the Dean Martin classic “Everybody Loves Somebody” together. A truly incredible moment and one of the best memories I have in my 30-year career.
But that was Davy. Each moment spent with him — whether it was one-on one or part of the throngs of fans singing along with him — was special. Aside from the fact that I literally saw eye-to-eye with him, I always valued the time we spent driving to see Dick Biondi at the radio station, or going out to eat as much, if not more so, than his time on our stage.
Of course, his memory will live on in his music and on TV. The entertainment industry lost a small-frame giant when Davy passed away.
It was Davy who helped me realize that I am a good dad to my 7-year-old daughter. A Monkees song came on in the car and she said, “That’s Davy Jones!” If I have had anything to do with perpetuating his memory to the next generation, I have truly shown my appreciation for Davy.
What was most amazing to me was how warm he remained in a business that he felt kind of left him behind. He would tell me stories of the show making millions, but he and the guys each making $500 a week. It was the fans that really kept him going all those years. He loved giving back to his fans, knowing the jockey from Manchester made so many people happy.
Thank you, my friend. As you take your “last train,” remember that you have enlightened our lives, and you will be missed. Anytime anybody asks me “how ya coin’,” I’ll think of you.
Ron Onesti is the President/CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corporation and The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Send comments or celebrity questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.