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

Miami Vice: Missed Opportunity

Miami Vice: Missed Opportunity

I love the way he says this:

Caller: “Have you ever considered going into acting, and if so, what kind of roles would you like to take part in?”  Benjamin: “I considered it… but nothing’s come my way…” (laughing) — Rockline interview, 1987

Well, we know of at least one opportunity he had, but it didn’t work out — dang it!

Miami Vice was a hugely popular television show from 1984 to 1989. It starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as undercover detectives whose job was to rid Miami of drug lords, sleazeballs, and other bad dudes. Unlike the normal fare in the ‘cops and robbers’ genre, Miami Vice skillfully threaded their episodes with cool clothing (starting a whole new fashion trend!) and cutting edge music.  The show often featured popular rock-and-rollers of the day, like Glenn Frey, Phil Collins, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Sheena Easton, Power Station (and plenty of great actors, too)… the list goes on and on. It is a great tragedy that Benjamin Orr’s name is not on that list.

1985-09-06theromenewsmiamivice

Apparently Benjamin was scheduled for a cameo appearance on Miami Vice in 1985, but the day set aside for him to film his part was the same day The Cars were to appear on stage at Live Aid. Since he later mentions Live Aid as his most memorable experience with the band, I’m SO glad they did it. And their performance there is EPIC, one of the best… but , oh, how I would have loved to see him act! Could you imagine? His incredible looks, that low voice, his stony facial expressions; maybe even featuring a song with his vocals (a la Glenn Frey and Smuggler’s Blues)… it all seems so perfect for him! It’s a shame he never got a second chance.

Benjamin was asked a few times what he thought about acting. Here are a couple of other clips of his responses…

 

What do you think? What kind of roles would have liked to see him play — leading man, action hero, villain? Comment below or find me on Facebook!

Quoting Benjamin

When asked if he thought of himself as the sexy one: “Hell no! Randy, maybe, but not the sexy one (laughing)… I’ve always kept my one foot on the ground. It’s just a show, an act, and you leave the stage and you’re somebody else, but nobody else sees that except these guys (motioning to the other band members) and the crew. And that was terrifying.” — The Cars Live DVD, final interview, 2000

waiting1

Photo bomb…

According to one of my sources, this is a recording of a rehearsal for a late 1978 performance at the Roxy in LA. The guys are being interviewed by Bob Harris from the British television music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, where they appeared shortly after this was filmed.

There is SO much I love about this video.

  1. Benjamin’s ‘photo bomb’ passes behind the interviewer
  2. Benjamin’s cool t-shirt – and that Greg is wearing one, too
  3. Benjamin’s badass bass move at 4:18 (am I allowed to say ‘badass’? hahaha)
  4. Benjamin’s every move
  5. Ric and David look great in the interview, and Elliot rocks his solo
  6. Did I mention Benjamin?

What was wrong with her???

How in the world could Martha Quinn control herself from grabbing his beautiful face and planting a big ol’ kiss on that gorgeous mouth??? Especially because he’s obviously a little tipsy, I’m sure she would have gotten away with it! I would have been in his lap by :56 (as soon as Mark Goodman stopped flapping his stupid gums… geez, enough with the ‘Led Zeppelin’ already).

Sweet, sweet, funny Ben! I’m so crazy about you!