The Talented Michael Nesmith Part Three
PopClips and MTV, Elephant Parts and Television Parts
During this time, Nesmith created a video-clip for “Rio” which helped spur Nesmith’s creation of a television program called PopClips for the Nickelodeon cable network. In 1980, PopClips was sold to the Time Warner/Amex consortium. Time Warner/Amex developed PopClips into the MTV network.
Nesmith won the first-ever Grammy Award given for (Long-form) Music-Video in 1982, for his hour-long Elephant Parts and also had a short-lived series on NBC inspired by the video called Michael Nesmith in Television Parts. Television Parts included many other artists who were unknown at the time but went on to become major stars in their own right. Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Whoopi Goldberg, and Arsenio Hall all became well-known artists after their appearances on Nesmith’s show. The concept of the show was to have comics render their stand-up routines into short comedy films much like the ones in Elephant Parts. Nesmith assembled writers Jack Handey, William Martin, John Levenstein, and Michael Kaplan, along with directors William Dear (who had directed Elephant Parts) and Alan Myerson, as well as producer Ward Sylvester to create the show. The half-hour show ran for eight episodes in the summer of 1985 on NBC Thursday nights in prime time.
Pacific Arts and legal dispute
Michael Nesmith formed the Pacific Arts Corporation, Inc. in 1974 to manage and develop media projects. Pacific Arts Video became a pioneer in the home video market, producing and distributing a wide variety of videotaped programs, although the company eventually ceased operations after an acrimonious contract dispute with PBS over home video licensing rights and payments for several series, including Ken Burns’ The Civil War. The dispute escalated into a lawsuit that went to jury trial in Federal Court in Los Angeles. On February 3, 1999, a jury awarded Nesmith and his company Pacific Arts $48.875 million in compensatory and punitive damages, prompting his widely quoted comment, “It’s like finding your grandmother stealing your stereo. You’re happy to get your stereo back, but it’s sad to find out your grandmother is a thief.” PBS appealed the ruling, but the appeal never reached court and a settlement was reached, with the amount paid to Pacific Arts and Nesmith kept confidential.
Nesmith’s current Pacific Arts project is Videoranch 3D, a virtual environment on the internet that hosts live performances at various virtual venues inside the Ranch. He performed live inside Videoranch 3D on May 25, 2009.
Movies and books
Nesmith was the executive producer for the films Repo Man, Tapeheads, and Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann, as well as his own solo recording and film projects.
In 1998, Nesmith published his first novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora. It was developed originally as an online project and was later published as a hard cover book by St Martin’s Press. Nesmith’s second novel The America Gene was released in July 2009 as an online download from Videoranch.com.
In the early 1980s, Nesmith teamed up with satirist P.J. O’Rourke to ride his vehicle Timerider in the annual Baja 1000 off-road race. This is chronicled in O’Rourke’s 2009 book Driving Like Crazy.
During the 1990s, Nesmith, as Trustee and President of the Gihon foundation, hosted the Council on Ideas, a gathering of intellectuals from different fields who were asked to identify the most important issues of their day and publish the result. The Gihon ceased the program in 2000 and started a new Program for the Performing Arts. Nesmith also spent a decade as a board of trustees member, nominating member and vice-chair of the American Film Institute.
In 1992, Nesmith undertook a concert tour of North America to promote the CD release of his RCA solo albums (although he included the song “Rio”, from the album From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing). The concert tour ended at the Britt Festival in Oregon. A video and CD, both entitled Live at the Britt Festival were released capturing the 1992 concert.
Michael Nesmith performing with Chris Scruggs in April 2013
Nesmith continues to record and release his own music. His last album, Rays, was released in 2006. In 2011, Nesmith returned to producing, working with blues singer/guitarist Carolyn Wonderland. Nesmith produced Wonderland’s version of Robert Johnson’s “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” on her album Peace Meal. Wonderland married writer-comedian A. Whitney Brown on March 4, 2011, in a ceremony officiated by Nesmith.
In 2012, Nesmith briefly toured Europe prior to re-joining The Monkees for their tours of the United States. Intermixing the Monkees concerts, Nesmith also launched solo tours of the U.S. Unlike his 1992 U.S. tour, which predominantly featured music from his RCA recordings, Nesmith stated his 2013 tour featured songs that he considers “thematic, chronological and most often requested by fans”. Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs, replaced the late Red Rhodes on the steel guitar. The tour was captured on a forthcoming live album, Movies Of The Mind.
In 2014, he guest-starred in Season 4, Episode 9 of the IFC comedy series “Portlandia” in the fictitious role of the father of the Mayor of Portland, Oregon.
Nesmith had a cameo appearance as a taxi driver in the Whoopi Goldberg film Burglar.
Nesmith had cameo appearances in his own films including Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (Race Official), Repo Man (Rabbi), and Tapeheads (Water Man).
In a promotional video to support Pacific Arts’s video release of Tapeheads, Nesmith was introduced with a voice-over making fun of his Monkees persona. The narration teases Nesmith, who approaches the camera to speak, poking fun at his “missing hat.”
An opportunistic lookalike from the U.S. cashed in on his similarity to Nesmith by appearing on talk shows and doing interviews in Australia during the 1980s. The scam was successful, the lookalike being far enough from America to avoid detection as a fraud (which was more likely in the U.S., where the real Nesmith had made many media and show-business acquaintances). An entertaining interviewee, the impersonator’s charade was not discovered until after he had vanished from the public eye. The imposter, Barry Faulkner, who had pulled various fraudulent scams for 40 years, was finally apprehended and sent to jail in 2009.
Credited as Monkees persona “Mike”
One-series spin-off from Elephant Parts
Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees
Father of the Mayor
Season 4, episode 9
Credited as Monkees persona “Mike”
Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann
Rio and Cruisin’
Released on DVD 1998 and again in 2003
The Television Parts Home Companion
Compilation from television series
Dr. Duck’s Super-Secret All-Purpose Sauce
Music and comedy segments
Live at the Britt Festival
Concert from 1991 concert
Music videos on DVD
(n.b. books proper – not including The Prison and The Garden)
* The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora (1998)
* The America Gene (2009)
* Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff (2017)
* The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora (2004) (with Nesmith reading the story)
* Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff (2017) (narrated by Nesmith)