The Pleasure Fair–the band Michele Cochrane, Stephen Cohn, Robb Royer, and I were in–broke up more than forty years ago and sank into instantaneous obscurity.
We all got together for the first time in four decades a month or two ago, attended the premiere of a new concert piece written by Stephen, and then spent a long time over a somewhat dicey Indian meal, catching up.
We discovered that we remembered some things identically and other things quite differently, so everyone decided to write a few memories and send them to me, for me to slash and rearrange at will in my lifetime effort to place myself front and center in the broad sweep of history. Then, we agreed, I’d put the whole paste-up on this blog.
I’ll keep my personal disagreements with the others at a minimum, but for the sake of any law-enforcement officer who may read this, I deny that I was the member of the band who got all the others loaded for the first time. Other than that, all this is as truthful as anyone’s memories are.
Stephen: I have to start by thanking Cal State Northridge,where the people who turned out to be the Pleasure Fair found each other. I had completed my degree there with a major in music and had given my senior recital on classical guitar. This was a scary proposition as the music department had never allowed this before.
Robb: Stephen was a recent graduate of the music department. (With guitar his major instrument, I don’t know if you have any idea how complicated that is). They wouldn’t even let me in the music department.
Tim: Robb had an attitude problem, which I’m proud to say he’s done nothing at all to remedy. Faculty members in several departments were known to snarl and spray saliva in the halls at the mention of his name.
Michele: I came to CSUN as a lowly freshman and felt completely lost. I was majoring in drama and working from 5am – 9pm in some Beach Boy movie, then coming to school at 11pm.
I was in a scene from Eugene O’Neil’s “Ah! Wilderness,” directed by a sweet guy who looked a bit like Buddy Hackett, and I think it was though him that I met you and Robb. I was happily surprised when you asked me to join the group.
Tim: But this is all out of order. The story probably begins with Robb and me.
Robb: You may have seen enough in these exchanges to conclude that Tim and I quickly became friends but in fact we’d seen each other around for about a year before we actually talked.
We existed on different levels. I was this furtive, Nixonian figure, slinking around, arousing everyone’s distrust while Tim was a bright, outgoing, assertive young man with a resemblance to Lord Byron that he did nothing to disguise.
(Tim: I did all I could to hide my limp.)
Robb: He was also quite talented. Before we knew each other he’d had the lead in some of the theater department’s productions. Tim couldn’t actually act but he could speak very fast with amazing clarity which, for college theater, was more than enough.
Finally, when I began playing guitar, the scales tipped and Tim saw reason to talk to me. He liked to sing and I liked to play. I remember a particular evening at his apartment where we were trying to work up songs. I also seem to remember smoking my first joint that night, which probably helped because I only knew four chords at that point and Tim liked to sing sophisticated jazz things.
Tim: I remember all of this completely differently. While I won’t deny that Robb was Nixonian, he was a long way from furtive. He took up all of his space and then some. And note that he doesn’t say whose joint it was.
Robb: I understand your disclaimer. What could be more threatening than a fifty year old, single joint, non-transactional pot rap? Law officers ‘out there’ take note!
Tim: But it’s true that I was a terrible actor. Anyway, I looked at Robb, or more accurately, Robb’s guitar, and thought, “Hmmmm. Girls like guitars. Now I don’t have to learn to play one.”
Robb: We finally got a few songs worked up and began singing at various events as Robb and Tim. We wore matching yellow sweaters and tended to perform these epic comedy songs that lasted over five minutes. The peak of our career as a duo was reached when Doug Weston, legendary founder of the Troubador, heard ‘soul togetherness’ in our harmonies and began to manage us.
Tim: Doug had substance abuse problems so massive they had their own substance abuse problems. He probably liked the sweaters.
Robb: Alas, the big break simply meant we were occasionally thrust on stage when the club had a dead spot. We began looking for ways to expand. We decided to add a chick singer. Michelle Cochrane was a wonderful singer, slender and sprightly, found us (or, at least, Tim) amusing and joined the group. Michelle was a real trouper but she also had a regal air about her. In fact, she had the closest thing to a sedan bearer I ever saw in a modern setting. She had a boyfriend whom I’ll call Biff, who trailed after her carrying her bags and boxes as she swept in to rehearsals.
Tim: What I remember best about Michele was, first, that she could actually sing. I was just faking it, doing what I’ve done since I was born, an approach to life that begins with the words, “Act like you can –” In this case, it was sing. But Michele actually could; she had a glorious voice. What I remember next-most-vividly is how clean she was. Robb and I were scruffy, except for those sweaters, but Michele had a shine like good silver. To paraphrase the old line about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, we gave her scruff and she gave us vocal talent.
So that was the beginning of a group that was briefly called We Three. We pretty quickly became We Four when Stephen came along, and you’ll hear more from (and about him) next time.
And, yes, those are the same sweaters.