“I Make My Living By Dying”
The Tale of Mr. Jones
by Jacob Sanders
As you look at the picture above, I know you are saying as you're snapping your fingers, 'Hey, that's the guy from... (snap, snap, snap).' And you probably all mentioned a different film or television show. That is okay. Like his website states, “To not know Mickey Jones by name is understandable, but to not recognize him is surprising.”
Born in 1941, Mickey is a good ol' boy out of Texas who has been entertaining us - and our parents - for nearly fifty years. If you have ever watched TV or movies, you've seen him. And if you have ever listened to any good music, you've heard him. Who hasn't heard 'Secret Agent Man'? From the Whiskey A Go-Go during that wonderful transition of music in the Sixties to Home Improvement in the Nineties, he was there, hands-on and full-throttle.
Mickey was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time to answer some question about his career.
JS: At what age did you begin playing music? What were some of your first gigs?
MJ: Oh, god. I was a sophomore, about 15, just a kid in Texas . I was able to play around with people in my town. One of whom was Jimmy Reed. I began playing gigs with him, making ten dollars a show. I felt bad for taking the money because I loved it so much. I was also in a band called The Catalinas in high school. My mom and Dad would go out dancing and they'd see they Trini Lopez. Well, Trini knew I was a drummer, so when his drummer got into a car wreck, he wanted me to play with them. From then on he never went back to the old drummer. For eight years, I'd go from Texas to LA and started in a night club called PJ's. I moved from LA to San Diego , and had the opportunity to play for another 8 years, then, I needed to get off the road, but Johnny Rivers offered me double the pay to play with him, so I took it. One night, Bob Dylan was at the Whiskey A Go-Go and seen us play. He called me over to him and told me that he was was going electric and he wanted me as the drummer. Bob and I chatted about it, and it took about a year to come to fruition. That was in '66. I would have stayed with Bob, but he broke his neck in an accident, so that's when I got into acting as an extra. But then, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition came along, and there I was on the road again for another 10 years...
Mickey has been credited for having the heaviest right foot in LA.
MJ: ...After 23 years of being on the road, in planes, I needed to stop and focus on acting. I was unemployed for three years, while my wife worked multiple jobs. I didn't want to get back on the road, I wanted to get into acting.
Mickey jokingly added, “I've seen the backs of a lot of famous people's heads.”
JS: What were some of your first film roles?
MJ: A Movie of the Week called The Dream Makers with James Franciscus. We (Kenny Rogers and The First Edition) played the band who got a record deal and ended up turning against the guy who started the record label. That's when I got the taste of it. I loved it, and pursued it.
JS: Throughout your career, you have appeared in countless number of films and television shows. What were some of your favorite?
MJ: It's hard to say. But I'll tell you that I killed 137 people and died 92 times. I like to say that I make my living by dying. See, in acting, there is a catch-22. You have to be in the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) to get a job, but the gates were shut of the SAG after about 165,00 members were involved. I was actually in the Screen Extra's Guild, and the two were combined. My advice to anyone out there who wants to get into acting is - don't come out to LA. There are about 175 people a day that move to LA, and if you take that through an entire year, you may have one single person that gets to deliver a line on screen. Stay where you are, do your local commercials and Indie films, then, if you are discovered, you may have a chance.
Mickey was supposed to play the role in Terminator 2 of the biker at the beginning who puts the cigar out on Arnold's chest, but he had to decline it because they were only offering him fifty dollars for the part. Fifty bucks?! I don't blame him a bit. It had to have been kind of an insult. I mean, that was a pretty big budgeted film. He even said that he would come down in price if they would go up some. They didn't, and Robert Winley won the role.
This would have been Mickey's second Arnold encounter. The first was in Total Recall, where he played the 'Burly Miner' who helped The Gov escape from the train. The scene was trimmed down, so we don't see the whole escape sequence.
JS: Okay. Personally, one of the best films I have ever seen. Sling Blade. I wonderful film in every aspect. What was your most memorable moment during production of the film?
MJ: I think it was having dinner with Billy Bob ( Thornton ) when he was telling about the first time we met on the film, “Hunter's Blood”. He remembered it like it was yesterday and I had no memory of it. We cut his head off in that film.
JS: What about since?
MJ: Billy Bob came to the Motion Picture Mothers Christmas luncheon and presented me with the Actor-of-the-Year award. Many stars were there, including Tom Selleck, but Billy Bob and Dwight Yoakum came on my behalf. I was pretty impressed and thrilled with that.
JS: You mentioned working with Billy Bob on Hunter's Blood, and I know you actually went up against him for a small part in 'Evening Shade'. Not much long after that, he began getting Sling Blade in the works. I heard that he had you in mind while writing the character “Johnson” (Doyle's Drummer). How did he approach you with this project?
MJ: Actually, when I first met Billy, he came up to me on Hunter's Blood and said, “Man, you are one of my favorite character actors.” When he was making Sling Blade into a feature, I was actually going to play Doyle Hardgraves, but after Miramax put a little more money into it, he went with Dwight (Yoakam) for the role, and I ended playing Johnson. You know, t turned out great. But man, I would've slaughtered that role.
JS: I don't doubt a bit. That would have been very interesting.
Clearly I could tell that Mickey had no hard feelings of this decision. I think this shows in itself what a good actor is actually capable of off-screen. By that I mean without arrogance. I bet this is a characteristic not commonly found in LA.
JS: You now have published your first book, That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor to Hollywood Actor. Can you tell me a little about the process of writing it, and why you chose to do so?
MJ: For years I was looking to find someone to write it for me, but after a while I knew that this could only be written by me. So I did it. I love being able to now say that I am an author as well. The book covers the 23 years I spent in the music business, along with some acting stories thrown in. On my website www.mickeyjones.com , you can read an excerpt from the book. And you can also send me a copy with a self-addressed stamped envelope/box, and I will personalize it for you and send it back. There were about ten copies that made it out that still had corrections to be made. I received one from a fan. It kinda made me mad that they got out there, but nevertheless, I signed it and sent it back. Writing this was a big accomplishment for me.
Mickey's book was published by AuthourHouse, which is based out of Indiana . I've live here for years and never knew we had the capability to publish books. Hell, I didn't think that half of the population here could even read.
JS: What is the most memorable moment you have had in your entire career?
MJ: I would have to say that when I first started and went from one line parts to the main guest star role on the “Incredible Hulk”. I jumped so high, I hit the ceiling.
JS: What is your favorite line that you delivered in any film or television show?
MJ: “All of it, boy!” from National Lampoon's Vacation.
I knew that answer to that question, but, damn it, I had to hear him say it.
JS: Who were some of you inspirations growing up? Or now even?
MJ: In music it would be Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Lightin' Hopkins, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. In acting, Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, Robert DeNiro and Lawrence Olivier.
JS: I know you do a lot of charity work now. Can you fill me in on some of the events that you are a part of?
MJ: For the past 8 years I started and hosted the Mickey Jones CHOC Ride. It is a motorcycle event for Children's Hospital of Orange County in Southern California . I also host a motorcycle ride and golf tournament in Daytona Beach , Florida for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital . I also do a number of celebrity golf tournaments around the country for numerous charities.
JS: Any current projects going on or future plans? Any more books?
MJ: I am waiting to hear about my involvement on several films at the moment. I just had a film called “Simple Things” released. We shot that in Brevard , NC . I also just released a film called “Penny Dreadful”.
JS: Now that you are an accomplished writer and have been in countless films and TV shows, would you ever lean towards screenwriting?
MJ: We will have to wait and see if the word “accomplished” ever comes to fruition with my book. Let's hope so. As far as screenwriting goes, I would never even attempt that. I can interoperate what is on the page but I don't think I could ever come up with what should be on the page.
JS: Well, Mickey, we al thank you for your time. We all wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing you in the future.
MJ: Thank you and God bless.
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