Tuesday, May 4, 2010
My Life With Comic Books: Part # 90
Cast of characters:
Paul: age 38
Mal: my wife
Adam: my son
Cassy: my daughter
Davy Jones: formerly of The Monkees
MY LIFE WITH COMIC BOOKS: THE HISTORY OF A COMIC SHOP - Part 90
With all of the advance publicity done for Davy Jones’ guest appearance at the Worcester store, all that was left was the store preparation. My staff worked hard to clean up the displays of comic books, collectible toys, music CD’s, and sports cards. They swept the floors clean and did their best to make the bathroom presentable. I spent a few days selecting rare and valuable “Monkees” collectibles to have in a display behind the table where Davy Jones would be seated to meet and greet the customers, if anyone showed up.
Over the years I had accumulated an extensive collection of “Monkees” memorabilia, including all of the legitimately released records and almost every toy, jewelry, book, magazine, and clothing item ever produced! I tried to choose some of the most interesting-looking items for the display but I was nervous about having my own, personal collection out on display where there was a chance that these things could be damaged or stolen. I was always cautious and a little bit paranoid about shoplifting so my staff tried to be vigilant and aware of what was happening at all times. I decided to stand right next to Davy Jones behind the table. I set up an extra cash register on this table next to all of the merchandise that we were offering for sale so that customers could be tempted to buy a nice item to be autographed.
The night before Davy’s appearance, I barely slept. I was excited about meeting him but I was also very worried that no one would come to see him. By the time I left my house it was pouring rain. I thought that this was the beginning of a horrible day. I arrived at the store at seven o’clock and was disappointed to see that there was no one waiting in line to see Davy Jones. I kept myself busy by walking around the inside of the store, straightening out our shelves and displays, and listening to a cassette tape of music that featured Davy Jones as the lead vocalist from the days of “The Monkees.” This seemed to relax me as I realized that it probably didn’t matter that no one was interested in meeting him other than me. I’d certainly have fun with him!
By eight o’clock a few serious “die-hard” Monkee fans began to line up outside my store in the pouring rain. Because my staff wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another half-hour, I couldn’t let them into the store early to get out of the rain. That made me feel bad but I couldn’t help the customers and take care of all of the remaining details at the same time. As my employees and my wife and kids arrived they explained that there were probably lots of people just waiting in their cars for us to open the store so they wouldn’t get soaked in the rain. I had to leave at 8:45 am so I could get to the hotel where Davy and his road manager were staying by the pre-arranged 9:00 am pick-up time. I hated leaving the store when I had no real idea of the possible “turn-out” but I had to do it since I didn’t trust anyone else to pick him up and I was too cheap to send a limousine. I wanted to be in control of the situation in case Davy was too tired to wake up after his exhausting schedule. I have no idea what I would have done if that was the case but I knew I’d figure out something.
As it turned out, although he was indeed exhausted, Davy Jones was a complete professional. He was ready and waiting for me when I called his room from the hotel lobby. We arrived back at my store by 9:30 am, a full half-hour before the scheduled time of his appearance, and I was thrilled to see that we had a few hundred people waiting in line. My staff had all arrived and they opened the store early to get as many people out of the rain as possible. With “Monkee” music playing on our stereo system, the customers seemed to be having a good time talking to each other about “The Monkees” and excitedly anticipating Davy’s arrival. I brought Davy into the store through our side entrance and walked him to the back end of the store where we wanted him to sit. The cable news station and a local radio station were already waiting there for some quick and lively interviews and Davy handled them gracefully while his fans waited in line and listened to every word he said. As it neared the time for the ten o’clock autograph session to begin we positioned the uniformed police officer we had hired for security next to our guest table. My son, Adam, got behind the table with me to assist customers who wanted to buy any of the merchandise we had for autographing. A large pile of the five different “eight by ten” photographs that I had a local printer duplicate sat directly in front of Davy Jones. I priced them at $2.50 each or all five for ten dollars. I assumed that most customers would buy one or two but I guess the offer of all five for ten dollars, along with Davy’s neatly written autograph, was just too good to pass up. Hundreds of fans bought all five!
I had an agreement with Davy that he would sign autographs from 10:00 am to noon and then he’d get a two-hour lunch break and then he was to sign for two more hours. When noon approached, his road manager said, “Hey, let’s break for lunch.” Davy looked at the huge line that still went all through the store and out onto the sidewalk and said, “We certainly can’t have all of these fans just stand and wait while we go off to eat!” We sent out for tuna fish sandwiches while he continued to sign autographs and visit with the fans for almost five more hours. Davy posed for photographs with eager forty to fifty-year old women who couldn’t believe they were actually meeting him in-person! When a group of kids confined to wheelchairs came in, he gave them all free copies of his current music compact discs. I don’t think there was anyone who was unhappy with Davy Jones that day. Even though he was functioning on only two hours sleep, he was funny, friendly, full of enthusiasm, and eager to please everyone.
A little after five o’clock we decided that we needed to end the autograph line. Davy had performed “above and beyond” our original agreement. I felt as if I had taken advantage of his good nature. Davy never complained. At the end of the event when we went into the private “front-room” of the store and it was time for me to pay him I remarked about his kindness to all of the almost two thousand people who came to see him. Davy said, “Paul, it’s because of people like these that I can continue to make my living in the entertainment business. They are important to me.” It was refreshing for me to hear a celebrity really appreciated his fans. Although I had negotiated a fair contract with Davy, I decided that I would pay for his meals and his hotel for two nights. I also decided that since I sold over two thousand photographs at a very high profit, I would share some of this money with Davy. By the time we were done, Davy ended up with more than double the money he was expecting. He thanked me for the unexpected generosity and he said that he enjoyed the visit. When I brought him back to his hotel room he thanked me again and told me that I was one of the very few people in the past thirty years who didn’t try to take advantage of him. Davy must have believed that I was an honest man because he asked if I would be interested in becoming partners in his book publishing business. He was having trouble keeping his books “in print” because of his busy touring schedule and he wanted me to take over this aspect of his business. My wife and I discussed it but I eventually declined because I was intent on retiring from active work in the next two years and although I’d love to get to work with Davy Jones on a regular basis, I knew what my long-term goals were.
Besides setting a new one-day sales record at my Worcester store, this Davy Jones event was one of our best in terms of customer satisfaction and excitement. Very few of my regular store customers came to see him though. Almost two-thirds of the nearly two thousand people who came to our store that day were first time visitors and most of them were women. I’m sure that many of these “new” customers have continued to shop with us on a regular basis so the actual financial rewards have kept growing.
Next chapter: Terry Stewart, president of Marvel Comics, almost destroys the entire comic book industry.
Pictures: Davy Jones as a guest at our store.