Bob McKeon: Ben Orr, under arrest?

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.

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The Boston Globe, August 6, 1987

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.

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L_R: Bob McKeon, Carole Nash, Diane Page, and Benjamin Orr, August 8, 1987. Photo courtesy of Bob McKeon, shared with permission.

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!  ❤

In other words:

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Photo courtesy of Judith Orr; shared with permission.

“Was this for real? Here was this incredible man I loved saying the most romantic words. He bent down on one knee and pulled out a stunning diamond ring. He brought me to Weston to propose on my birthday… Who could say no to that?

“We were only engaged for a month and we had the most spectacular tropical island wedding in the Fern Grotto in Kauai, Hawaii. Ben planned it all himself while I was working. It couldn’t have been more perfect.” — Judith Orr, excerpt from Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken

Lyrics: Moving In Stereo

“Moving In Stereo” by The Cars

Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereo

Life’s the same except for my shoes

Life’s the same, you’re shaking like tremolo

Life’s the same, it’s all inside of you

 

It’s so easy to blow up your problems, it’s so easy to play up your breakdown

It’s so easy to fly through a window, it’s so easy to fool with the sound

 

It’s so tough to get up, it’s so tough

It’s so tough to live up, it’s so tough on you

 

Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereo

Life’s the same except for my shoes

Life’s the same, you’re shaking like tremolo

Life’s the same, it’s all inside of you

 

Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereo

Life’s the same except for my shoes

Life’s the same, you’re shaking like tremolo

Life’s the same, it’s all inside of you

 

Quoting Benjamin

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

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Lyrics: Bye Bye Love

“Bye Bye Love” by The Cars

I can’t feel this way much longer expecting to survive

With all these hidden innuendos just waiting to arrive

It’s such a wavy midnight and you slip into insane

Electric angel rock-and-roller, I hear what you’re playing

 

It’s an orangy sky, always it’s some other guy

It’s just a broken lullaby

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

 

Substitution, mass confusion clouds inside your head

Involving all my energies until you visited

With your eyes of porcelain and of blue, they shock me into sense

You think you’re so illustrious you call yourself intense

 

It’s an orangy sky, always it’s some other guy

It’s just a broken lullaby

Bye bye love

Bye bye love (yeah)

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

 

Substitution, mass confusion clouds inside your head

Well, foggin’ all my energies until you visited

With your eyes of porcelain and of blue, they shock me into sense

You think you’re so illustrious you call yourself intense

 

It’s an orangy sky, always it’s some other guy

It’s just a broken lullaby

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

Bye bye love

Cool Happenings at the CNE

1984 gettyimages-1168829522-2048x2048About half way through their Heartbeat City tour, The Cars stopped in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and played at the CNE Grandstand (formally known as the Canadian National Exhibit Stadium). Though the band wasn’t in town for long, a couple of cool things took place at that August 8, 1984, show.

Before I get to those unique happenings, let me get a little bit of business out of the way. I don’t have a ton of background on the concert itself, simply because I just haven’t had time to do in-depth research, but I do believe that this was the second time the band performed at the CNE, having stopped there during the Panorama tour. They weren’t strangers to Toronto, though; the also played at the El Mocambo for the debut album, and at the Maple Leaf Gardens in support of Candy-O. And I know that the Canadian press wasn’t super impressed with this particular show, but then, they never really seemed to be in The Cars’ corner over the years (with the exception of writer Peter Goddard).

Wang Chung was the opening band, and then our band took the stage. I’m not positive that this is the actual set list played that night, but here is what The Cars worked through on August 6 and August 10 (both the same), so it’s gotta be close.

  1. Hello Again
  2. It’s Not the Night
  3. Touch and Go
  4. Candy-O
  5. Looking for Love
  6. Gimme Some Slack
  7. Jimmy Jimmy (Ric Ocasek song)
  8. Just What I Needed
  9. A Dream Away
  10. Cruiser
  11. Drive
  12. You Might Think
  13. My Best Friend’s Girl
  14. Magic
  15. Let’s Go
  16. Encore: Heartbeat City
  17. Encore: You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

And while though those two paragraphs above are a bit light on details, I DO have an excellent eyewitness account of the concert to share. Fellow Cars fan Doug Parsons was just 16 years old when he stumbled into the chance to see The Cars live. Rather than try to retell his experience in my own words, I’ll let you read his take on how The Cars rocked his world:

I was born and raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The Cars never played in Atlantic Canada when they toured, which was very frustrating to me, as they were my favourite band. It was only through a rather strange sequence of events that I got to see them in Toronto in the summer of 1984.

Earlier that year, I made a new friend and I spent a lot of time with him that spring. We really were an “odd couple” … we basically had nothing in common except that our older brothers knew each other. He lived with his father in Dartmouth, but his mother lived in Toronto. Sometime in June, he mentioned to me that he was going to visit his mother in the summer for three weeks and asked if I would like to go along. Having never been to Toronto, I was obviously excited to go. I didn’t expect that my parents would let me go, but they did, so I ended up going with him.

He had a girlfriend there, and I REALLY liked his girlfriend’s best friend (sounds almost like a Cars song, doesn’t it?). So one night we were over at his girlfriend’s house, and while I was unsuccessfully trying to chat up her friend, I heard over the radio that was on in the room that The Cars were going to be playing at the CNE Grandstand … and it was WHILE we were in Toronto! Needless to say, I immediately starting bugging my friend to go to the concert with me, which he unenthusiastically agreed to do.

So fast forward to the night of the concert. We got on the bus to the CNE, and after about 20 minutes my friend says, “I think we are going the wrong way.” So he asked the bus driver, and indeed we were going the wrong way. Fortunately, we made it to the CNE while Wang Chung were still on stage. I heard them play “Dance Hall Days” and they sounded great, but I was really only interested in seeing The Cars perform.

So, after what seemed like a LONG intermission … the lights went down, and the crowd started to roar … and then I heard “Hello…hello again!” And I was up on my feet and I didn’t sit down until the lights went back up. I had seen a few concerts in Dartmouth, but nothing of this magnitude. The stage layout was so futuristic with all of the TV screens playing exotic-looking videos. And song after song that I had played on my record player so many times … “Let’s Go” … “Cruiser” … “Just What I Needed” … and on and on. But the two songs that REALLY blew me away were “Good Times Roll” and “It’s Not the Night.” I was not expecting “Good Times Roll” to have such a cranked-up guitar sound, and as much as I liked the album version, I LOVED the live rendition. “It’s Not the Night” was just plain amazing, with all of the layered synthesizers and Ben’s incredible vocals. It really gave me chills.

This was my first outdoor concert, and the beautiful weather and the excellent acoustics of the CNE made it a truly sublime experience. To this day, it remains my all-time favourite concert.

And my friend? TOTALLY indifferent. Sat for the entire concert and said afterward that he found it boring. Like I said, we really were an odd couple. After we got home, we basically stopped talking to each other, which was probably for the best, as he started to associate with some rather unsavoury characters.

And my best friend’s girlfriend’s friend? Turned out that she liked my best friend’s little brother. Just like in a Cars song.

Oh man, I can just feel his heart start to race when he heard those opening lyrics, can’t you? I love that he shared his memories with us! And from his account we can determine that the set list that night did vary a bit. Good to know!

Okay… so the first cool thing. According to one review (from The Toronto Star, August 9, 1984, pictured below), there were only about 8,000 people in attendance. Interestingly, one of those people was none other than the actor, Rob Lowe!

Now, you all know who Rob Lowe is, right? Having made his acting debut at the age of fifteen in a short-lived sitcom in 1979, Rob burst into the 80s movie scene in the coming-of-age classic, The Outsiders. From there it was silver-screen sailing, as he starred in one Brat Pack classic after another, establishing himself as a teen idol and relentless heartthrob. A sex tape scandal in 1988 knocked his reputation for a loop for a bit, but he continued to work steadily, and in the 2000s, he reclaimed his status as an acting force to be reckoned with (and still just as handsome as ever!) on the set of The West Wing and beyond.

Well, rumor has it that Rob was a big fan of The Cars during his high school days. He’s alluded to it himself on Twitter, and actress Melissa Gilbert (among others) has reminisced about driving around and listening to The Cars with Rob. Coincidentally, The Cars used a little snippet of Rob’s appearance on Andy Warhol’s TV in their mini-documentary about the making of the video for “Hello Again.” Check it here at 1:50. Anyway, in 1984 Rob was in Toronto filming Youngblood with co-stars Patrick Swayze and Cynthia Gibb. On the night of the Cars’s show at the CNE Grandstand, photographers spotted him in the crowd enjoying himself. Awesome! I wonder if he got to visit backstage and meet the band?

Oh, and if you needed to see that photo of Ben from the article a little clearer… here it is. It’s very similar to the one by Philip Kamin in the Peter Goddard book; the one that Kurt Gaber uses for the memorial shirts. What a stunner!

1984 by John Mahler
In Toronto, 1984. Photo by John Mahler.

Now the second cool thing.

While The Cars were in the Toronto area, they were presented with an award for selling over 200,000 units of Heartbeat City — also known as ‘going double platinum’. A little blurb about it was printed in RPM Weekly on September 22, 1984, with a bit of a grainy photo. Luckily Louise Potts posted a clearer version of the picture on Facebook.

RPM Weekly
REM Weekly, September 22, 1984
1984 toronto double platinum
“Double platinum for Heartbeat City to The Cars at CNE Grandstand from WEA’s Larry Green, Kim Cooke, Randy Sharrard, Garry Newman and Roger Desjardins.” – RPM Weekly, September 22, 1984. Photo courtesy of Louise Potts.

Isn’t that great? I love when these little puzzle pieces fit together, and what a treat to get a glimpse of the other commitments that filled the band’s time while they were on the road. The obsession continues!

(Oh, and here’s an extra little factoid: Greg’s double platinum award sold at auction in March of 2019 for $400. Wowza!)

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In other words:

“Our personal relationship had its ups and downs, as Ben was a very complex person and could be moody. Plus, I was only in my twenties, but fortunately we did remain friends through it all. Ben was somewhat intense and seemed introverted, but he was really just taking time to get to know you, then he would open up a little more. He was quite a character once I got to know him, and he always had something fun or creative going on. The man never sat still!” — David Frangioni, recording engineer and producer, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken, p. 159

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L-R: Vocalists Charlie Farren and Brad Delp, engineer and co-producer David Frangioni, and Ben Orr, during the 1993 recording sessions for Ben’s second (unreleased) solo album. Photo courtesy of David Frangioni; used with permission.

Lyrics: Just What I Needed

“Just What I Needed” by The Cars 

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

‘Cause when you’re standing oh so near I kinda lose my mind

It’s not the perfume that you wear, it’s not the ribbons in your hair

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

 

I don’t mind you hanging out and talking in your sleep

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been as long as it was deep, yeah

You always knew to wear it well, and you look so fancy I can tell

I don’t mind you hanging out and talking in your sleep

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed

 

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time time

‘Cause when you’re standing oh so near I kinda lose my mind, yeah

It’s not the perfume that you wear, it’s not the ribbons in your hair

I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed

 

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to feed

I guess you’re just what I needed (just what I needed)

I needed someone to bleed… yeah yeah… so bleed me

 

You’re just what I needed

You’re just what I needed

You’re just what I needed, yeah yeah yeah