THE man refuelling his car in a blue sweater and baseball cap could pass for any one of millions of pensioners the world over.
But this particular driver, who goes unrecognised by even his own neighbours, is far from normal.
Most OAPs haven’t shifted 50 million records and amassed a personal fortune of more than £30million.
This one has – and if you look a little closer you might recognise the reclusive Mike Nesmith, the missing Monkee.
Nesmith, who quit as the band’s woolly hat wearing lead guitarist in 1970, was pottering about as normal this week after his old bandmates Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork announced a surprise reunion tour.
He now lives in Carmel, a small town buried in a valley between the hills of northern California, where he walks down the high street without attracting a second look from other residents.
In fact the musician, whose band outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined in 1967, is so secretive even his closest neighbours are oblivious to the superstar in their midst.
The hairdresser who trims his neat back and sides even offered the “nice old man” a discount on his recent cut.
Jodi Sherman, who runs a salon near Nesmith’s home, gasped as she saw a picture of the star.
Jodi, 58, says: “Oh my God, I cut his hair! I used to listen to them all the time. I would never have guessed… holy c**p!
“He was here a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know he had a dime. I was thinking he’s quite poor, so I cut him a break. I recently raised the price of our haircuts to $27 but I gave him his for $25. He’s paying $27 next time.” She rushed over to her appointments book, where “Michael” had been scrawled in between hair rinses for “Maggie” and “Peg”.
“You would never know he’s a multi-millionaire,” adds Jodi, who has lived nearby for 20 years. “We chat as I work but he’s never once mentioned being in The Monkees. He’s a real nice person, but nobody around here knows who he is.
“He doesn’t act like a celebrity. He wears normal clothes. He seems such a regular guy and he’s very modest. He absolutely does not flash his wealth about.”
The Monkees were formed in LA in 1966 and enjoyed a string of massive global hits including Daydream Believer. They also had a hugely successful TV show, whose theme tune Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees was instantly recognisable around the world.
But as tensions increased in the band, Tork left in 1969, followed a year later by Nesmith, who was forced to buy out the remaining three years of his contract to concentrate on his solo career.
Hearing about his decision to turn down The Monkees’ reunion offer, Jodi, 58, insists: “He should join them for sure. When he next comes in I’ll tell him, ‘You need to go on that tour, it’ll be fun’.”
Nesmith, 68, lives a five-minute drive away on a private gated community called Sleepy Hollow. According to a property website he bought his £1.7million home in 2001 – a year after he married his third wife Victoria Kennedy.
When the Mirror spoke to other locals they react with similar shock. Looking at his picture, Mary-Ann Goings, who is in her 50s and works at the grocery store, exclaims: “Oh yeah, I see him in here all the time. I didn’t know he was one of The Monkees. I hadn’t a clue that was him.
“I never knew I was serving groceries to a multi-millionaire Monkee and I’m a big fan. He comes in pretty regular with a younger woman.”
Trish Weber, 47, who works in the deli, says: “I’ve lived here all my life, I know exactly who Mike Nesmith was as I’m a huge Monkees fan, but I had no idea he lived right on our doorstep.”
Nesmith’s substantial personal fortune received a hefty cash injection in 1980 when he inherited the estate of his mother Bette. While Michael was a 13-year-old schoolboy, Bette invented the typewriter correction fluid which would later become the Liquid Paper empire, before her business was sold to Gillette for £30 million.
Nesmith received around £15million in cash when his mother died a few months after the sale. Despite his wealth, his favourite restaurant is still the local steakhouse, Wills Fargo, where he always has the £9.19 Cobb salad.
He may have refused to join the Monkees’ forthcoming reunion tour in May, but Nesmith keeps himself busy. He has run a media company since 1974 called the Pacific Arts Corporation. The company’s small studio in Sand City – around 20 miles from Nesmith’s home – allows local bands to record music and upload it to the web. He is also president of the Gihon Foundation – a charity set up by his mother in 1978, and which received the second half of her fortune.
According to their website, “the foundation produces live performances of emerging and established artists which it delivers free and open to the public”. One worker at the furniture warehouse next door to his studio, Eric Maximoff, 39, says: “He is still deeply passionate about the music business, but he doesn’t want to be in the limelight himself.”
His colleague Ana Warner, 42, adds: “He doesn’t flaunt his fame. If he did, people would constantly ask him about being that guy from The Monkees.”
That may be true – but they’re just trying to be friendly… - by Simon Boyle, Daily Mirror