Friday, March 28, 2014

The Monkees and The Motor City

In the fall of 1966, a phenomenon hit the country—four appealing young men known as The Monkees debuted on NBC.  They were often referred to as ‘America’s answer to the Beatles’, but that wasn’t exactly right.  They were simply actors cast in a television show, but adolescents didn’t care about that technicality.  Young girls everywhere were smitten with Davy, Mickey, Peter and Mike.  That demographic included me and my bestie, also named Debbie! 

Debbie and I lived down the street from each other on Detroit’s east side.  Every Monday night, we took turns watching The Monkees at each other’s house.  The moment their records were released, we were at the record shop.  We were also faithful followers of ‘Tiger Beat’ and ’16 Magazine’ because we just had to keep up with everything Monkee.  Debbie liked Davy best while I chose Mickey, but we both agreed that Mike’s green hat was the ‘grooviest’!   Debbie’s mother even knitted us identical green hats, which we removed when we were in school!  We knew we were all that and a bag of chips, as they say! 
When Debbie and I heard that The Monkees were taking a tour, we were beside ourselves with excitement—especially when we discovered they were stopping in Detroit.  We just knew we had to see them.  They were scheduled to appear at Olympia Stadium (Home of the Red Wings back then, but now just a memory) on July 29th.  Somehow, I talked my favorite aunt into taking us there.  Tickets were bought well in advance and then the unthinkable happened.  Six days before the concert, the Detroit Police raided a blind pig on the city’s west side.  For the next four days riots shook the Motor City leaving 43 dead, over 1,000 wounded and more than 7,000 arrested.

There was fighting and looting just a block away from where we lived.  By day, we watched looters running down the street toting stereos, radios, and televisions.  By night, the continuous sound of gunfire and sirens kept us up.   The surreal atmosphere was only enhanced when The National Guard and their tanks took up residence on our street.  The entire city was under a strict curfew due to the violence, and then our beloved Monkees cancelled their concert.

Once things calmed down and the city quieted, however, The Monkees rescheduled.  Finally, on August 13, 1967, Debbie and I entered Olympia Stadium joining thousands of other young teens who screamed like maniacs as our idols belted out the likes of I’m a Believer, Last Train to Clarksville and I Wanna Be Free.  And yes, we wore our green hats.

Hey Deb—do you still have yours?  I can’t seem to find mine.  Does your mom still knit???