The Final Interview

I’m not sure of the exact date, but this week marks the 20th anniversary of The Cars’ final interview.

From what I understand, Ben flew right from this interview in Atlanta, Georgia, to Palmer, Alaska, for his last performance, playing the August 25th show at the Alaska State Fair. If that’s the case, it is reasonable to assume that he flew out of Atlanta late on the 23rd and arrived on the 24th, allowing time to rest and prepare for their gig. It’s also possible that they did the interview on the 24th and then flew out that day; I’m just not sure.

Here are some things I do know:

  • The interview took place at Turner Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, where Ben was living with Julie Snider.
  • Well-known Boston writer Brett Milano moderated the event. 
  • Jeff Carlisi, Ben’s Big People band mate, was there at Ben’s request.
  • The footage was released on October 24, 2000, exactly three weeks after Ben’s death, by Rhino Home Video. It was a special feature on a DVD called The Cars Live. 
  • This reunion was the first time the members of The Cars had assembled in over a decade. 

full band final interview cleveland browns david ric ben elliot gregAs told in Joe Milliken’s book, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, everyone went out to dinner together the night before the interview and spent time reconnecting. Although David, Greg, Ric, and Elliot were all aware that Ben was sick before they arrived, each of them has since expressed that they were taken off guard when they first saw him, having to face the finality of the devastating progression of his illness. Still, the men fell back into step and determined to keep things light and positive. 

The fact that they were all together again touched a deep chord in the hearts of Cars fans. These five men had labored together to reach the highest heights of fame and fortune only to have their brotherly bond disintegrate. But this reunion brought peace. By all public accounts, amends were made.  

I mentioned that this interview was included on The Cars Live. That DVD is the official release of  The Cars’ performance for Germany’s pop music show, Musikladen (recorded in November of 1978 and aired in 1979). It is apparent that the band members watched that concert before the camera started rolling, as Milano opens by asking them how it felt to see that show 22 years later. Greg jumps in and the conversation starts rolling.

The guys cover some varied ground in the nearly 50 minutes of discussion. They talk about that European experience in 1978, go through the band’s history and early days, and reminisce on owning their own studio. They laugh over cover songs they used to do and share what they are most proud of when they look back at their time with The Cars. There are some obvious edits to the footage which leave you hanging a bit, most notably at 33:26, when I wish we could hear more of Ben’s thoughts on the duality of his life as a rock star vs. a regular guy.

Their interplay seems very much the way it always used to be, with Ric doing the lion’s share of the talking and Elliot right behind. David and Greg add their funny quips and Ben is largely silent, just like the old days. Ben’s illness does cast a pall, though, as you can see that he is very frail and tired. Still, he is attentive and involved, and chimes in when he wants to, and from time to time he flashes that gorgeous smile.  

I know this can be really, really hard to watch, as Benjamin is so physically altered, but I wanted to honor this important event in his history and in the history of The Cars.

One fan left a comment on YouTube sharing that she listened to the interview with earbuds while doing chores and she was better able to focus on the content of the discussion. I think that is a terrific idea for those that can’t get past the visual change in Ben. 

But let me also encourage you. Ben was strong right up to the end. He wanted things to continue on as normally as possible, until they couldn’t anymore. He didn’t want special treatment, he didn’t complain, he never faltered. He wasn’t ashamed of his appearance, he didn’t even fully conceal his eyes. He didn’t hide in the shadows. He desired peace, and he desired to give pleasure to his fans.

Though his body is ravaged, the strength of his incredible spirit shines beautifully in this final interview. I hope you can embrace it, too. ❤

A side note about Ben’s final performance:

I learned this past winter that there was a discrepancy over the date of the last show Ben performed. Joe Milliken and I wrote this clarification for the Let’s Go! Facebook page and published it on January 3, 2020.

On October 5, 2000, ABC News published an obituary for Ben that, among other details, claimed that he played his last show with Big People on September 27, 2000, in Alaska, less than a week before he passed away. Various other media outlets also picked up that information and it has been widely circulated – and relied upon by Ben/Cars’ fans – ever since.

Unfortunately, it recently came to our attention that this information is not accurate. Big People was actually booked to play at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, on August 25, 2000, not in late September. We have since clarified with Big People band member, Jeff Carlisi, that Ben’s last performance was indeed on that August 25 date. He also added that Big People did play one more show on September 27, however, it was in Texas and Ben was not there. It was the only show that he missed, which is indicated in the book.

Although we surely want to bring this correct information to light, we are also distressed, as pieces of the narrative in “Let’s Go!” relied upon the previously circulated news information, along with individual interviews, to describe Ben’s last days, including anchoring the date of his final interview with The Cars. We are continuing to flesh out more accurate details, and will also be working with our publisher to see what corrections can be made to the book moving forward.

We appreciate everyone’s understanding and of course, we continue to strive towards ultimately painting the clearest and most accurate picture of Ben’s amazing life. ~ Joe and Donna


20 thoughts on “The Final Interview

  1. Thank you Donna for elaborating on travel dates around this interview, and the tenderness with which you approach it.
    When I see photos of this interview my mind always goes back to what Joe tells in the book. That the night before they all went out to dinner and young Ben who was a month away from his 5th birthday was present. I love imagining about that.

    This month is the 1 year Anniversary of my fall into the atmosphere of the life and times of a most special, Electrically powerful Rock & Roller, regular dude, & most beautiful man, Benjamin Orr.

    I have not listened to Door to Door since last August in order to save a few songs for now.
    This may not have been the best album, and knowing there was extreme difficulty between Ben & Ric gives it a bitter taste. But these songs are Ben’s last gift to the Cars era. I treasure them. And I really love them, I think they are great!!

    I have yet to watch this video. As I have spent this year learning everything possible about Ben and The Cars and Ben after the cars, I feel like I have all the information I need to know the details of what they reminisced about. Thank you Donna for this nudge! It is the perfect time to watch.

    In honor of my Anniversary, I am going to re-read your blog starting from the beginning as I know I missed some things along the way. And re-reading with everything I know now, feels like it will be good for me.
    Looking forward to another year of joy and happiness (along with heartache and unrelenting angst) spending time, and very likely learning more.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. 20 years already! Wow! :O I’ve only known The Cars for ten years, well ‘officially’ since I had heard and seen them around before, but you know what I mean – my brothers and I ‘got into them’ in 2010. Thanks for sharing this, Donna. ~Alexandria 💜

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you dear Donna for this. I do feel the same way about this interview and Benjamin.
    BTW for some reason my computer does not let me add a like to your blog post but you know I always like and support your dedicated work.
    I remember having difficulties watching this final interview and broke down as I have seen that same sort of look on loved ones battling cancer and it broke my heart. Then I read Joe’s biography Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars and realized just what an incredibly strong, courageous statement this final interview makes by Benjamin. He went on doing what he loved until he no longer could and I feel he did this interview to be with his former band brothers and also to leave something behind for all his fans and I feel if he had the strength to do this, well, then I have no excuse but to honour Benjamin by watching this and I did. I saw how lovely his smile remained and how he summoned his charisma, his wit, his modesty moved me and to hear about how he felt about fame.
    I released an excerpt of this interview with audio only about this as I got so many fans telling me they could not bear to watch it and so perhaps those listen to this first and then do as another fan suggested listen to the whole interview , then perhaps they could at least hear this. But I would like to say to fans , please watch the interview if you can ❤
    I wonder why it was edited or cut off when Benjamin spoke about the duality of rock star versus real life ? Do you think he got too emotional , or did he say something that was deemed controversial? I always wondered about this as I would love to hear the whole unedited version.
    You are so right , his incredible spirit shines through and I find he is so beautiful as his courage is such an incredible thing to witness. Love you Benjamin ❤

    Warmest regards,

    Tia xx

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I too loved his comments about the rockstar life versus who he really was off stage. I really wanted to know more but it is what it is and I will take what I can get. Actually that whole comment that he made about that subject said a lot about him. Another awesome comment! 🙌🏼

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you Donna for this post. It is a hard to view the last video, but it is comforting to see amends were made and they were able to move past their prior issues.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I had seen this interview before and like many before me who have stated how hard this was to watch as Ben was obviously very ill and soon to pass on, I felt a similar way. I was living in Atlanta when Ben was there. I had been living in that city since 1973. In fact one of my first residences was literally down the street from the original Turner studios on W. Peachtree St. Back then WTBS was originally a small UHF station that Ted Turner purchased in an effort to build his own brand of television programming. He had made his first money in the family outdoor billboard advertising business. Turner was fatalistic about his own fortunes but everything he touched turned to gold. By the time Ben had moved to Atlanta with his girlfriend, Turner studios had moved a few blocks away and were far bigger. I had always wondered where Ben and his gf lived because I knew the inner city quite well. I spent my young adulthood there. Chances are our paths crossed at some venue. As fate would have it, we did share an ominous common point. I had my knees “scoped at Piedmont Hospital in Midtown. Ben died there. I remember reading about his passing in a local publication in 2000. . I wasn’t the fan then as I am now but it was still sad. I also remember reading someone’s account about being on a private plane around the time of Ben’s death. . .a bandmate I think. .with him. Ben was very sick and having a hard time sitting upright. His friend approached him and offered condolences on his condition. Encouragement. Ben responded that he “was extremely weak and didn’t expect to live much longer.” I remember the man saying back to Ben. . .”I’ll see you on the other side, my friend.” Ben passed on a few days, maybe a week later. That was the official end of the CARS as far as I was concerned But what a fun time they managed to have while they were together. All bands should be so blessed. Now, that Ric is gone, only the memories remain. I don’t think I’ll ever watch this again. It’s over.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ben, Ric and their other bandmates showed such class in this interview. I loved listening to them in this interview, and probably will again, as it helps keep the memories of Ben, Ric and the band alive. The level of class & talent of today’s bands do not even come close to that of Ben Orr, Ric Ocasek &The Cars.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This band and their songs were an important part of my youth. All of us experienced and loved them.
    I was not sad to see Ben. It was great to hear him express some thoughts about his life and the band.
    Cancer is terrible. Ben is awesome

    Liked by 1 person

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