When I come off the road, Sunday is my relax day. I like to drive from my home in Calabasas into Beverly Hills and meet my pal Richie Palmer at his pizza joint on Canon Drive. Mulberry Street Pizza has been a ritual for me for the past 20 years. I’m from Jersey, and it’s a little slice of back-east Italian culture. My friends meet me there, and we spend hours catching up. You never know who’s going to show. Sometimes it’s James Caan. Sometimes it’s Mickey Rourke or Giuseppe Franco, who has a hair salon across the street. It’s a real hangout for me. Sometimes the restaurant even cues up my music when I walk in. Now that’s amore!
My woodworking shop is like my man cave. Always has been, even during the Monkees. That’s where I unwind and get away from this crazy business we call “show.” When I come home after hours on the road or on a set, I go in my shop and make sawdust. A couple of years ago my daughter Georgia and I were building a coffee table, and I joked, “We should start a business called Dolenz & Daughters Fine Furniture.” She ran with it, and now we get as many orders as we can handle. Every once in a while, though, she has to put up a notice on our Web site that says, “We can’t take any more orders because Daddy’s going on tour.”
When I’m not on the road, I paint and sculpt. I’ve been doing that for more than 45 years. Some of my bronze pieces are 14 to 18 feet high, and I paint in acrylics. It all started in the ’60s, when I was traveling with the Tijuana Brass, and wherever we were, I would go to the art museums. When I got home, I bought some paint, put a lot of colors on a canvas, and just started moving it all around with my fingers and brushes. I had no formal training, so this really all happened by accident. I also play the trumpet every day. I’ve been playing since I was eight. I get great pleasure out of it, and it’s good discipline.
Remember those great L.A. Polynesian restaurants like the Luau, Don the Beachcomber, and Trader Vic’s? Well, I recently built a tiki bar that pays homage to those legendary places that are no longer with us. I used to take my kids to the Luau at four-thirty in the afternoon, the minute they opened. I’d pick them up from school, and we’d do whatever we had to do—shopping, whatever—and then go straight there. The kids would order noodles and shrimp and a drink called a Volcano, made with dry ice. My bar reminds me of those times. To make room for it, we had to take out the entire backyard. We planted palm trees and put in fake grass, which I love because it looks so real, and my dogs love it. The bar has a corrugated metal roof that looks like it’s been there for 30 years. It could easily be on the beach. I make myself a drink, get into my little swing. I have a boom box playing all my favorites: Marvin Gaye, the Everly Brothers, Smokey Robinson. It’s a place I can go to be alone or with my friends. It feels like another world.
Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram