It reminds me of him.

sting“…I wanted to play the bass and sing. There’s a special breed of people who can do something that is contra-punk. In other words, you can sing a song and strum a guitar along; it’s kind of easy. Whereas if you play the bass it’s a bit like, um, patting your head and making circles on your tummy. You’re doing something that involves two sides of your brain and not many people develop that skill, and it’s something that I was very proud of… I’ve always enjoyed having that particular skill set… I want to be the bass player who sings.”

— Sting, Upon Reflection

Five years and counting

5One of the things I neglected to write about during the craziness of 2021 was the fifth anniversary of this blog. I even made a graphic and everything, but then I got swept away with life again. So let’s go for it now!

May 1, 2021, marked the last time I could say, “I can count on ONE hand the number of years I’ve been writing about Benjamin.” (Not that I said that phrase a lot. Haha) I can hardly believe it. What started as an outlet for my personal obsession has grown beyond my wildest dreams, and has led me through more topsy-turvy adventures than even Bilbo Baggins could boast of.

And really, it’s the people that I’ve met over the years that have elevated this digital scribble pad to something more than just a place for me to gush.

  • I’ve had the privilege of interviewing family, friends, and musicians who knew Ben and who were willing to meander down memory lane with me.
  • Others have dug up rare photos, print media, interviews, music and videos for me, some of which had laid dormant for years and years.
  • Many people have been willing to “network” me, putting me in touch with contacts that have helped to fill in gaps, answer questions, and corroborate details.
  • Attentive music lovers have generously passed along tips that resulted in stories of cool and cute Ben encounters.
  • Longtime Cars fans have patiently and repeatedly allowed me to pick their brains for dates and names and obscure tidbits of the band’s history.
  • Encouragement from prominent musicians, including the surviving members of The Cars, has lent credibility and validity to the blog, and has given me confidence to stay the course.
  • Faithful readers have become true-blue friends, challenging me to go deeper, holding me accountable to the facts, and supporting me through the highs and lows of regular, everyday life.

I am sincerely grateful for every single one of you! I always get a thrill when I visit my blog dashboard and check the growing stats, evidence of your steadfast interest in Ben and The Cars. I love receiving comments and emails from new readers sharing their love for the band with me and relating the history of their fan experience. This feeling of community is one of the best things I have gained from this project.

The honeymoon isn’t anywhere near over between me and my little blog. I feel such a deep affection for what I’ve created, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done.  Reading through past articles gives me satisfaction because each word represents my passion for documenting Ben’s personal and musical legacy.

I flatter myself that there is true historical value to many of the pieces I’ve written. I care about illuminating the backstory, connecting the dots, documenting the details. I revel in the research and the fact-finding (the rabbit hole is my favorite place to be!).  I strive to create an accurate record, and if I’m wrong I’ll happily admit it and correct it. It is always more important to me to be accurate than it is to be ‘right.’ I’m not angling to be seen as an expert, I don’t approach the fandom as a competition, and I’m not seeking personal attention.

It’s all about Ben and The Cars for me; it always has been.

And in spite of publishing only 40 articles in 2021 (in contrast to the 160 I wrote in my first year), my devotion to writing about Benjamin and The Cars remains as steadfast as ever. I’ve got a handful of sparkly new things to share with you in the months to come, including endearing photos and personal stories of Ben, never-before-published video footage, and rare audio treasures galore. Let’s check in with the stats, and then we’ll kick off the year with something new down below.


All-time blog stats as of December 31, 2021:

Total posts (including this one): 488

Total views: 375,761

Total visitors: 122,846

Number of countries reached: 157

Total comments: 2,791

Top three “most viewed” posts:

  1. Thank God it’s free! (Rock Goes To College): 4,855 views
  2. In Other Words (Glen Burtnik): 4,780
  3. Behind the Scenes at Viele’s Planet: 4,598

Top three interview articles:

  1. Leo Yorkell: “Play ball, Ben!”: 2,574 views
  2. Joe Milliken: Signature move: 2,088 views
  3. AJ Wachtel: Friend first, fan second: 1,845 views

The post with the fewest views: Let’s Go (VH-1 Classic): 58

Most visitors in one day: September 16, 2019 (the day after Ric Ocasek passed away): 1,921 visitors


Alright, welcome to 2022! Let’s check out this brand new gem that I just uploaded.

To the best of my understanding, “Are You Ready” was originally part of The Cars’ 2011 album Move Like This, and was included on a handful of very early promo copies of the record. For some reason it didn’t make the final cut (obviously), but fortunately for us, a good friend of mine who collects lots of obscure music stuff had it and was happy to pass it on to me. I’m thrilled to discover and share this rare, previously unreleased track!

My $.02: Different than any other composition by The Cars, the song works on its own level. It has sort of a lovely Motown/”My Girl” vibe to it, accentuated by David’s light touch and skippy drum fills.  Greg offers a variety of delightful keyboard embellishments, and all are understated and perfectly suited to the sway. It lacks the punch of an Elliot Easton solo, though you can hear his gentle flourishes throughout. The lyrics are some of Ric’s best, and I can’t help but feel that they pave the way for the reception of this new album after the band’s 24-year absence. It’s a shame it was shelved. The whole thing is bright and lighthearted, and extremely catchy; I can’t get it out of my head.

Do you think it should have been cut from Move Like This? If not, what song would you trade it for? Personally, I would have sacrificed “Drag On Forever.” I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It reminds me of him.

ben-with-fans“Do you get that a lot? No one ever tries to pick me up.”

“I don’t believe that. To answer your question, it happens occasionally. I’m not often alone when I’m out so I think that limits it to the most brave. They don’t want me, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re attracted to the concept of me, but it’s a fantasy they’ve built. It doesn’t matter if they’re know who I am or not. It’s this.” He waves his hand at his face, then shrugs. “The fame helps. At least she didn’t recognize me. That would be a mess.”

I peer into his glass. “Did you get the ‘massive ego’ IPA?”

“I got the ‘realistic’ lager. My looks are an asset, fully monetized.”

I know he’s right. It’s Sam’s public persona, and the same is what Fong Lee said that first day about her fans. What kind of pressure does that create? To be on a pedestal that you never built, and that is a by-product of doing a job to the best of your abilities?

— Lily Chu, The Stand-In

It reminds me of him.

“I don’t know what it is you’ve got but it’s plain enough to see

Whatever it is it sure means a lot to me, oh yeah

I try to turn and walk away but it does no good, I’ve got to stay

This feeling that you give won’t let me be, oh no

You’ve really got a hold on me, yeah, yeah

I can’t live without your love…

I don’t know what it is you give but I can’t live without your love”

–Michael Bolotin (aka Michael Bolton), “Without Your Love” performed by Blackjack

The Michael Stanley ~ Benjamin Orr Connection

All of Cleveland was thrown into mourning with the recent death of local icon Michael Stanley. He passed away on March 5, 2021, after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.

michael
Image retrieved from the WMMS Cleveland Facebook page.

As a relentless rocker and a longstanding popular radio DJ, Stanley embodied all the dreams and passions of the people in his beloved hometown. He loved them, and they loved him. Author and music critic Holly Gleason wrote of Michael on variety.com, “He’d been produced by the biggest rock producers of the day in Don Gehman, Mutt Lange and Bill Szymczyk … and toured with the Eagles, REO Speedwagon, Fleetwood Mac. Living the rarest air of rock ‘n’ roll without ever forgetting the folks in Cleveland, he was ours.”

I’m afraid I am not well-versed on Michael’s extensive discography, but I definitely know his name. In fact, I had really hoped to meet him when I was in Cleveland in 2019 with Joe Milliken promoting Let’s Go!, but it didn’t work out. The familiarity for me came through Michael’s connection to Benjamin Orr. Born only 6 months apart, it seems like the two had the potential to be pretty deep friends. They had so much in common: they were both hardworking musicians, native sons of Cleveland; kindhearted, loyal, and generous with their time and talent.  It’s no surprise, then, that they collaborated on some very cool projects for their hometown.

  • The first one that I know of is the Cleveland C.A.R.E. project. Inspired by the groundbreaking record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” released at the end of 1984, radio executive John Gorman and media personality Denny Sanders (both legends in Cleveland) secured a roster of dozens of all-star Cleveland artists to create their own charity single. In addition to supporting the efforts to wipe out famine in Ethiopia, profits from the project would benefit the local food banks, too. They tapped Michael Stanley to write a song suited to all those voices, booked nearly two weeks of studio time in April of 1985, and hit the record stores in November with “The Eyes Of The Children.” Benjamin shows up in the music video at 0:58, with Michael right after him. This video also has an interview segment featuring Ben starting at 3:33.
  • From what I understand, sometime between 1987 and 1991, while Michael was co-hosting Cleveland’s evening program PM Magazine (later called Cleveland Tonight), Michael interviewed Ben. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the footage of that will surface for us to enjoy.
  • Michael and Ben crossed paths again for another Cleveland project some years later. The city’s football team, the Cleveland Browns, went dormant for a few years in the late 90s. When they were ready to get back in the game (literally) in 1998, Michael wrote “Here We Go Again” to celebrate their return, and recruited a pile of big names to perform on the recording and appear in the video for it. In the clip below, the first singer’s face we see is Michael’s, and he’s rocking the stage starting at 2:57. Of course, Ben, who seems to have been a devoted fan, was right there in the thick of it. You can see him in the music video at 2:43, 2:53, and 4:15.
  • When Benjamin passed away on October 3, 2000, Michael felt the loss. The very next night, during his concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on October 4, Michael paid tribute to Ben by sharing some fond memories, and then he dedicated a poignant acoustic ballad to him. Thanks to MS fan and historian Dave Wade, we have the honor of seeing this touching moment. You may want to grab a Kleenex.
  • Only a few short weeks later, on November 10, 2000, Michael would emcee Ben’s memorial celebration at the Hall, opening and closing the service for the family.

I like to think that Ben and Michael formed a solid friendship, bonding over music, the highs and the lows of the business, and over their mutual love and loyalty for Cleveland. I hope, too, that they are now rocking together in heaven.

Cleveland City Council has declared March 25th as Michael Stanley Day on what would have been his 73rd birthday. Sending a hug out to all of my grieving Cleveland friends. ❤

It reminds me of him.

If Ben Orr was a teen television star…

222330c912fe0c7261b914a7fd8722f1
Edd Byrnes, circa 1959. Image retrieved from Pinterest.

Recently, one of my sweet-talking friends thanked me by saying, “Baby, you’re the ginchiest!” Curious about a phrase I had never heard before, I had to go look it up. I’m so glad I did: According to the Urban Dictionary, ‘ginchiest’ means groovy, happenin’, kick-ass, or rockin’; “the pinnacle of cool.” What a great compliment!

The term was coined by the late Edd Byrnes who played heartthrob Kookie (pronounced ‘coo-key,’ not like cookie) in the 1950s television program, “77 Sunset Strip.” Anybody remember that show? It was on the air from 1958 to 1964, coming to an end about the time that Benjamin was climbing the ladder of local celebrity with The Grasshoppers in Cleveland.

Wikipedia does a great job of illuminating Edd Byrnes’ character:

The ‘breakout’ character, who had not been included in the pilot film, was Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson III (Edd Byrnes), the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing hipster and aspiring PI who initially worked as the valet parking attendant at Dino’s, the club next door to the detectives’ office. “Kookie” often found a way to get involved in the firm’s cases, and was eventually made a full partner in the firm with his own office.

The Kookie character became a cultural phenomenon, with his slang expressions such as “ginchy” (cool) and “piling up Zs” (sleeping). When Kookie helped the detectives on a case by singing a song, Edd Byrnes began a singing career with the novelty single, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” based on his frequent combing of his hair… Kookie was also used to provide product placement for Harley-Davidson, appearing on their Topper motor scooter in the show and in Harley-Davidson advertisements.

I had a lot of fun going down this little rabbit hole, searching for information and videos about the show. The more I watched, the more my mind could imagine Ben being such a character. My 15yo son went along for the ride, and he digs Kookie, too! We quote this clip all the time:

“And another cool cat bit the dust.”

Now, is it just me? Or do you think that Benjamin could have played that role to a T?

Check out Edd Byrnes and Connie Stevens performing “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)” on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show hosted by Dick Clark on April 4, 1959:

Swoon! Haha! I’m addicted. “You’re the maximum utmost!” ❤

It reminds me of him.

65b03df91b0946d0780aa301d720d47f“Marge Violette was bewitched by Scott, but she wasn’t in love with him; she soon realized that he would be emotionally dangerous. He was clearly not a one-woman man. Scott never promised fidelity and she never expected it. He would go off to his townhouse in Honolulu often. She had no illusions that he wasn’t dating other women. She simply enjoyed watching him, listening to him, hearing him play ‘Blackbird’ on his guitar. She studied his face in the firelight the way someone might watch a completely handsome actor in a movie. He was like quicksilver, impossible to trap or to hold.”

— Ann Rule, The End of the Dream