In the Beginning (1)

May 12th, 2011

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.

25 Responses to “In the Beginning (1)”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Good God, man! You call that scruffy? I haven’t seen THAT squeaky-clean since… since… hell, 45 YEARS ago!!!

    Love the stories, though. THANKS, all of you, for making the effort to write them (although I think you’re fools for letting TIM edit them and have the last word…)

  2. Crenna Aesegas Says:

    Roshomon (sp?) strikes! Memory is so weirdly fungible, and makes me realize we are all in some private creative writing program all the time! Quick, quick, where’s my Proust!

    What a pleasure…. Thanks!

  3. Malcolm Searles Says:

    Wonderful ! Need I say more …

  4. John Lindquist Says:

    What a present. Thank you!

  5. Suzanna Says:

    This is great! Love the photos and learning more about the Pleasure Faire experience. Look forward to the next installment.

  6. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Wonderful piece-it looks like you guys had a great time. The Pleasure Faire cover makes you all look like a British boy band with a beautiful blond lead singer-very cool.

  7. michael hallinan Says:

    I was fortunate enough to see the Pleasure Fair in concert. I was home from college for the summer. (San Jose State, the Harvard of the West). Tim and Robb had formed a band with Stephen who I’d met and Michelle who I didn’t know. There was a venue in the valley that featured theater in the round. I had never heard the term and was pleased to find out that it was exactly what I had expected. What a gift insight is. The concert was crowded, I’m pleased to report. The group performed well in a quiet folk rock way. Folk rock was hot and the audience ate it up. Our parents were there as proud as could be. I told everyone and anyone that Tim was my brother and I had lost my voice and Robb was filling in for me. That was well before I became the fifth Beatle, I was sure that stardom was just around the corner for the Pleasure Fair. And I was very proud of my brother and have remained very proud of my brother. Can you loan me some money? Mice

  8. Laren Bright Says:

    I get it now! We’re all in one of Tim’s stories and he’s writing this entire blog. In fact, he’s written this piece to throw you all off the scent.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Everett, we were scruffy off-camera, a couple of proto-hippies with incipient beards. I was probably scruffier than Robb, though he may remember it differently. And I’ve been meticulous about the editing, letting everyone else have most of their good lines and only appropriating one or two for myself.

    Crenna, Roshomon it is, although minus the crime, unless you call occasional off-key singing, mainly by me, a crime. One thing that emerged from putting this together was a sort of tender sense of how young we were and just how much fun we actually had together. It’s been kind of sweet, actually.

    Thank you, Malcolm — you really got us back together. (For those of you who don’t know, Malcolm is writing a book on Bread and he gave us all the contact info on Michele, whom we’d lost track of.) When’t the book coming out, Malcolm?

    John (the other great Bread chronicler) you’re more than welcome. You continue to run the best site on the net about Bread and its forerunners.

    Zanna, you were about four when all this was happening. (I was only 14, and Robb was 31.) I can’t believe it was all so long ago, back when pangolins ruled the earth.

    Hi, Lil – we did have a great time. We were young, we were in California, we liked each other, we were writing, playing, and singing music, and we even made a little money. In retrospect, we had no idea how lucky we were.

    Mice, do you remember that Sonny and Cher were on that bill? Cher kept asking where you were, but she had to be satisfied with me. Quite a letdown for her. The check is in the mail. The Valley Music Theater, where that show took place, shut down not long thereafter and eventually became a Pentacostal church. Don’t blame me.

    Laren, I was wondering when you’d figure that out. Now take a good look around and say goodbye to everything as I press the DELETE key.

  10. Michele Says:

    Now that I’ve had a moment to reflect, I’d like to ask Robb,in the spirit of this blog, to which sedan bearer is he refering?

  11. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Michele, Robb usually spends weekends out at the farm, which has no internet connectivity, so it might be Monday before he reads this and responds. (Tim)

  12. Robb Royer Says:

    C’mon Michele… you only had one boyfriend (that I remember) at the time. I’ll give you a hint. He attended all our rehearsals and claimed to be a French count… oh… excuse me, comte.

  13. Robb Royer Says:

    Although, admittedly, one does need four sedan bearers.

  14. Robert DeVere Says:

    So here y’all are! I wondered where everyone went. At least now I know where y’all live. You’ll be hearing more soon.

  15. Michele Says:

    It was a JOKE!

    But, as I now recall, I had a few more boyfriends, One who was an actor and another a writer. I think there was an agent too, Remember, we were together for almost five years. And I had alot of catching up to do.

  16. Usman Says:

    Great. Funny. Made me smile.
    Now, I can imagine all of you at a bar reminiscing, while Tim takes notes.

  17. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Unless I am mistaken, ze name was Robaire.

    And not Robert DeVere, although, Hi, Robert. Unless . . . alors!!! could it be? Has Robaire changed his name? When he had such a good one?

  18. Robb Royer Says:

    Damn, Michelle, you coulda pretty much started your own film studio there. All you needed to do was date a director and MGM look out!

    Obviously silent sopranos run deep. You always had an air of mystery. All I remember was Biff.

  19. Michele Says:

    OMG. Could that be the real “Biff?” The last I time saw him, he was a cruise director.

  20. Michele Says:

    Have you guys heard about the dumb blond who wanted to be in movies…and married a writer.

  21. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Michele, that’s what I was wondering. Robert — is that you?????

    And Michele, again — not one writer but two. But writers are always more interesting — they make up in intelligence and charm what they lack in clout.

  22. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Michele — Robert DeVere is in the navy. It’s tempting though, since “Vere” means “truth.”


    Come back, Robert, and clear this up for us.

  23. Michael Zimbert Says:

    I lived in a condo across from Robb and Tim… I was perhaps 14 or 15 at the time…. I heard voices coming out of the window below where I was skateboarding…. harmonies and words.. that really stuck… in my mind… even to this day “friends and lovers”… I was learning guitar at the time. .. (basic 3 chords)…. and I became really inspired just listening… in fact I would park myself…. and my skateboard beneath the window and I could hear.. the rehearsal of the songs.. and “other stuff to” (hey I was 13,14 or 15.. its all a blur to me now) I got enough guts to knock on the front door … I may have been with Marcy .. of Beaz… Anns younger sister… but I was invited in….. and I saw Steve with the guitar and Robb and Tim.. and Michelle….and the world of music for me… presented itself… I can remember being asked by Robb or Tim if I played an instrument and I replied… guitar…. … I was then asked if I wrote any songs and I said yes…..
    Avocado Head… and I sang it… they laughed….smiled….and made me feel like I was special for sharing….that song with them….. I never forgot that day…. the feeling of being so vulnerable….. I drifted… into jazz keyboard….left the guitar to those like Steve… (who made chords with fingerings that identified the “lost chord”…. and picking styles that blew me away) I always related to
    Robb differently cuz he saw me over the years.. in way that most did not,……. could not……. and have not….. I am truly blessed for the people in my life….. I can and do forget that from time to time… with one thought… I get back to center…. Pleasure Fair…. was a center for me.. and right NOW… it still is.
    thank you ALL

  24. Pat Browning Says:

    This yanks me right back to California and the Sixties, and lord, how I miss it and them. I’m playing catch-up here, Tim. Didn’t know you had been sick, but glad you recovered in good time.
    Your fan,
    Pat Browning

  25. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thank you, Derek — it’s really nice of you to remember all that and take the time to tell us about it. Much appreciated.

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