On his early days in bands: “Even back then, people had attitude problems or girlfriend problems. If a guy met a girl he thought was special, he’d choose to stay home. And the guys who chose to stay home are still home now.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
Once upon a time, in the peaceful hamlet of Allston, Massachusetts, a diabolical plot was carried out: the murder of Michael Mackin! But who could be so evil? So cunning? And so sure that he… or she… could escape detection?
Okay, that’s not exactly what happened… er, at least not for real.
On August 8, 1987, Boston’s public access television station, WGBH, hosted a benefit as part of their annual fundraising events. The theme was “Murder at MYSTERY! Mansion” and those in attendance were charged with the task of solving a faux crime, specifically, figuring out who murdered Channel 7 reporter Michael Mackin. Other local celebrities and notable personalities were there, too, and, as witnesses to the ‘death’, were considered suspects.
One gentleman at the charity event was Massachusetts State Police (MSP) Corporal Bob McKeon. Bob was recruited as a volunteer by Carole Nash, owner of the Nash Modeling Agency in Boston, to play the part of the arresting officer at the end of the evening.
As best as Bob can recall from this night over thirty years ago, the excitement got underway while the volunteer actors were gathered on a stage and the guests were mingling nearby. The lights suddenly went out, and when they came up again, Mike Mackin was dead on the floor — the game was afoot! After his body was removed, guests had to interact with the suspects to try to determine who was responsible for the terrible tragedy.
Bob himself was downstairs in a private room, waiting for his cue for the grand finale. He wasn’t privy to all that was happening above so he isn’t sure how Vincent Price fit in, or if a dinner was served, or in what ways the guests obtained clues to solve the mystery. But he was far from bored: Mike Mackin was brought into the room from the stage, and the two had fun shooting the breeze while the event continued upstairs. A little later, Bob had the pleasure of chatting with Benjamin Orr and Diane Page for a bit when they stepped away from the action of the stage.
While Ben and Diane stayed close together most of the evening, Ben made his way down to the room for a short break. He and Bob conversed easily as they found they had obvious common interests. “Ben was a supporter of the MSP. He asked me about my career. Apparently he was friendly with some of the Troopers on the Mass Pike [located in Weston] and mentioned going to the shooting range with a couple of them. He spoke well of the Massachusetts State Police.”
Diane joined them shortly afterwards. Bob found Diane and Ben to be refreshingly genuine and open, and he enjoyed their quiet chat very much.
Eventually it was Bob’s turn to make his appearance in the drama. He headed back upstairs and prepared for his signal calling him to emerge through the curtain.
“When it came time to see who was responsible for Mackin’s murder, I walked onto the stage. I stood out like a sore thumb being dressed in two-tone blue and not black and white like everyone else,” Bob recalled. He played his part perfectly. “I slowly walked past all the alleged suspects and returned to Diane and arrested her for the murder. Then I surprised the crowd by arresting Ben as a co-conspirator before and after the fact.”
The evening was a success, and remains a wonderful memory for Bob.
“It was all in good fun and they raised a sizable sum of money during the event. I was happy they took a photo of myself with Carole, Diane, and Ben. It is a great memory of a fun event. I found Diane and Ben to just be normal folks when I was one-on-one with them. Ben was really nice and I felt sad when he passed.”
Of course, the ‘charges’ were dropped and no one’s permanent record was affected, though Ben did leave a favorable lasting impression on Bob McKeon.
Thank you so much for sharing your little bit of Ben history with us, Bob! ❤
“I was presented with the idea of doing a solo album. Being the bright, intelligent person I am, I said sure. Why let a chance go by? No reason not to.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
“I remember one of the happiest days of my life was when we did our first promotional tour for the album. We were in Cleveland and riding in the backseat of the promoter’s car when ‘Stay the Night’ came on the radio for the first time. We were so excited and yelling like kids!” — Diane Grey Page, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken
On writing lyrics for The Lace: “I didn’t have a lot of success. Lyrics are my weakest point. I don’t listen to a song for the first five or six times for the lyrics, I listen for the melody. Never really pay attention to the lyrics until after that point. [My desire was] to tell a story. Just something you would actually say to someone, rather than one line and then something clever to rhyme with it.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
On his bass rig: “I’m a big fan of Fender Precision basses. It’s got the brightness I need and the active electronics. I’ve used the Steinberger, but it’s a bit brassy for me. I don’t really pay attention to strings. My bass roadie does all that.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
“I’m real casual with the whole thing. It’s tough to be the best at anything, and I don’t really strive to be the best bassist in the world.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
“Our objective was to make a very radio-sounding pop record. And the songs dictated that direction. They weren’t the type of thing you’d want to superimpose some kind of quirky approach to, just to be interesting. Since it’s very pop-sounding, some people are just gonna turn off to it right away. But if people listen to it carefully, there’s some real interesting textural stuff going on there.” — Larry Klein, co-producer of The Lace, from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
Regarding The Cars’ stage presence: “We play the way we want to play. We concentrate on what we’re playing, so we don’t dance around. We did the acrobatics long before The Cars, so there’s no point in doing it again. We’re The Cars. So look at us. That’s what we’re here for.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
“We were searching for some sounds with some humor, because Ben’s writing is very quirky, with a lot of non sequiturs and strange juxtaposition of words. In that way, it’s similar to The Cars.” — Larry Klein, co-producer of The Lace, from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987
On meeting Ric Ocasek: “I thought he was very intelligent and very tall. The moment I laid eyes on him, I could talk to the guy. I don’t get that way with a lot of people. But Ric was like some guy I grew up with.” — from “Benjamin Orr: The Cars’ Mr. Casual Steps Out” by Rob Tannenbaum, Musician Magazine, March 1987