Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Naked Party House

Poet, TS Eliot popularized the "objective correlative;" the idea that in order for a work to gain value moving forward, emotional content must be non-specific. Here, as an example, is a scene from a cheesy melodrama: Fade in - a cemetery filled with weather-worn headstones, droplets of rain cascading down stone angel faces; a small congregation of people dressed in black holding umbrellas. An old woman raises a veil, takes off a ring, places it on a coffin; faint sobbing is audible. Slowly the clouds break and a shaft of sunlight shines on a single blooming yellow marigold. Credits. The viewer's emotional response, which starts off somber, ends with renewed hope, though the filmmaker provides nothing tangible to conjure this analysis. Sunlight induces joy as readily as it causes skin cancer; a marigold by itself is pretty, but one doesn’t necessarily sense optimism in its presence. The emotional response originates, not in a word, image, action or reaction, but in the combination of all; a sort of emotional algebra. The objective correlative is the formula for creating a specific emotional reaction merely by the juxtaposed presence of common words, objects, or items. The sum is greater than the parts. 

For our purposes in analyzing music, the theory maintains that the songwriter's itinerary cannot be so specific as to render the listener unable to respond without a backstory, indeed it may be better not to know anything at all. Throw all the Led Zeppelin plagiarism issues out the window and just listen; strip The Monkees from auditions and  TV shows and again, simply enjoy. Certainly one cannot listen to Lennon's "God" without backstory, but this is the exception, not the rule. And of course, Peter Tork didn’t write music, with but a handful of Monkee exceptions. Although he is many a fan's favorite Monkee, the cute, goofy, often shy one, Peter was to L.A. what Capote was to New York.

Peter's first big purchase, after the Monkees became a thing, was a house in the Hollywood Hills. When looking for the perfect bachelor pad, he had in mind "Hills and cool green." His place was the smallest of all of the Monkee mansions, and for most of 1967, he lived there with Joey Richards and Stephen Stills. Inside, the house was mainly orange (Peter's favorite color), with huge picture windows and Danish furniture. Along with Mama Cass's house and David Crosby's, Peter's was one of the biggest party houses in Laurel Canyon. Any day of the week you could find famous folks hanging about. Dave Clark stopped by when he came to America, as did Jimi Hendrix. 

By the end of 1967, Peter decided that he needed a bigger house, because "his house was too full of people!" Peter's second larger, more infamous home in the Hollywood Hills (3615 Shady Oak Road, Studio City), was the stuff wet dreams are made of, the legendary Naked Pool Party house. The home, on the Valley side of Laurel, had been owned by comedian Wally Cox and was built by bandleader, Carmen Dragon. It had 14 rooms, a sauna, a wet bar, a film room, and an Olympic Swimming Pool. In his master bedroom, the bed was eight feet by eight feet with a foam mattress six inches thick. He had a four person bathtub put in the master bathroom. The house had an uninterrupted view of the San Fernando Valley, and the living room had six by nine-foot picture windows. Since there weren't any pesky neighbors to worry about, the pool parties 
were usually skinny-dipping events. 

Linda Jones (Davy's first wife) explains: "Whenever we would go over to Peter's house, generally, by the pool, naturally, there were a lot of unclothed people. And since we had our clothes on all of the time, we felt out of place." Not only that, but people often dived into the pool naked from Peter's bathroom window. Peter explains: "I'd rather have nude swimming. It's much easier. There's a certain charge to bodies if they're covered up, and if you remove that, it takes a lot of that extra energy out of things." Like his previous residence, his Studio City place became a hippie haven and a haven for celebrities. When in town to promote Yellow Submarine, George Harrison and Ringo Starr dropped by. The Hollies were personal guests of Peter's when they came to town, as was The Who. Stephen Stills was always there hanging out, as was Buddy Miles, John Sebastian, and members of the Buffalo Springfield. Like most houses of debauchery, Tork's second house had a reputation talked about to this day.