Who can blame a performer for wanting to know how their audience perceives them, especially when that audience includes undercover FBI informants? Mickey Dolenz, the last surviving member of seminal ’60s rock outfit The Monkees, is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation for access to files the agency kept on the band during the J. Edgar Hoover era, RollingStone reports.
In 2011, the FBI publicly shared a report under the FOIA that confirmed at least one undercover FBI informant attended The Monkees’ inaugural 1967 tour. Per the observations of that informing, The Monkees’ were accused of using subliminal “left-wing” messaging during their show as a means to influence audience members.
“During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [informant’s name redacted], constituted ‘left wing intervention of a political nature,’ the report read. “These messages and pictures were flashed of riots, in Berkley, anti-US messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma, Alabama, and similar messages which had unfavorable response[s] from the audience.”
After seeing a portion of the suit made public, Dolenz filed an FOIA request for whatever else remains of the file—after the FBI did not comply, he moved forward with the suing option. The lawsuit states it is “designed to obtain any records the FBI created and/or possessed on the Monkees as well as its individual members (with all records concerning the deceased members processed pursuant to FOIA and with respect to Mr. Dolenz under both PA [the Privacy Act] and FOIA.”
Dolenz, who is 77 years old, had his attorney Mark S. Zaid file the suit on his behalf—Zaid is a FOIA expert whose previous credits include defending the government whistleblower on Donald Trump’s 2019 Ukraine foreign election intervention scandal. Perhaps even more paramount to his next case, Zaid has also been a self-professed Monkees fan since childhood. He recalls meeting Dolenz through mutual friends and suggesting (in good fun) finding out if the FBI had a file on the band. The tantalizing 2011 seven-page reveal from the Monkees’ FBI file proved Zaid’s hunch all too accurate.
“That just kind of reinforced for me that there was actually something here,” Zaid says of the portion of the FBI informant/Monkees’ concert attendee’s report that is available to the public. “It’s not just a fishing expedition. I mean, we’re still fishing, but we know there’s fish in the water.”
He continues: “The Monkees reflected, especially in their later years with projects like [their 1968 art house movie] Head, a counterculture from what institutional authority was at the time. And [J. Edgar] Hoover’s FBI, in the Sixties in particular, was infamous for monitoring the counterculture, whether they committed unlawful actions or not.”