Monday, April 15, 2013

Mickey Dolenz

In 2001 the USA network (or was it LIFETIME?) aired MALPRACTICE

directed by Mickey Dolenz of “Monkees” fame and starring Stephanie Zimbalist as attorney Beth Garrett. The role of Ackerman, the senior partner of Garrett’s law firm, was played by me.   According to the IMDB Dolenz has not directed any productions since MALPRACTICE but has made numerous guest appearances on talk shows and in 2003 through 2004 appeared on and toured with Elton John’s AIDA. As of this writing he was appearing in London’s HAIRSPRAY as Wilber Turnblad.

Dolenz was the most delightful and giving director I had ever worked with. (Hmmm, maybe this is why MALPRACTIVE was his last directing assignment) . Anyway, my role was rather substantial and I detested my character, Ackerman. As boss of the firm, Ackerman was a smug, self-serving A-hole jerk. I was no stranger to jerk portrayals, having played more than a dozen such characters in my non-too-stellar film acting career.

Stephanie was very delightful. You might remember her 1982-87 series, REMINGTON STEELE. We reminisced about her experiences in that series along with other favorites. I knew that her father was Ephrem Zimbalist Jr, an actor who I had always admired.   I told her that I thought that her dad exuded that same charm and appeal that I had always admired in Cary Grant. Thankful for that compliment, she said that I was not the first to compare her dad with Cary Grant. I should have stopped there, but I didn’t, unfortunately.   Like a real dumbass I asked “When did he pass away?” She looked at me in shock and said “He’s not dead. He’s simply living a very comfortable retirement.” Gulp! I apologized and admitted that when popular performers are no longer in the spotlight, the natural reaction is that they must be dead.   She said she understood, smiled and let me off the hook.

At the time of this shoot in 2000 Efrem Zimbalist Jr was 82.   He recently passed away.

Anyhow, I first became aware of Dolenz’s laid back, easy directing style on my first day of the shoot. Dolenz was struggling to block a scene in which I played a major part. Not often do I offer suggestions to a director, but with this particular scene I was so compelled and did offer a suggestion. Dolenz said “Yes, yes, that would work better. ” The rest of the shoot went pretty much the same way with his willingness to consider alternative blockings, a rare trait in a director.

A little known piece of trivia: In 1968 Mickey Dolenz and his band starred in their own feature film entitled “HEAD” which became a cult classic. And this little psychedelic romp was co-written by a young upcoming film legend named Jack Nicholson.


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