July 17th, 2011

Robb’s amazing recollections of the Condo and the Zimberts continues .  Parental discretion is advised.


When writing about the Zimberts, it seems a lot easier to make Suzanne likeable than her husband Dick (or Dickie as he was known to family and close friends) but when you met them you loved them both – which is not to imply that he was in any way a hail-fellow-well-met. Just the opposite. Dick was very dry, funny, wore tortoise shell glasses and smoked a pipe. The center of his upper lip pointed slightly downward making him seem at once slightly intimidating and at the same time, puckish. His nose was slightly bulbous, just enough to keep him from looking severe; he resembled a slimmer Barney Frank.

Dick spoke with a great sense of resignation and weltschmerz typical of a long suffering Jewish east coaster. A whine you could even call it. He was just a young lawyer at ABC when I met him but he rose steadily and ineluctably until he was vice president of Paramount pictures, head of legal affairs. He called the creative execs at the studio the geeeeeniuses. His genius was being able to call you an asshole and have you laughing along with him, apparently an indispensable trait in his line of work. He kept a cartoon on his desk that showed two little kids talking and one of them says ‘I don’t know what my dad does but it makes him sick’.

Although they were perfectly charming about it, I think the Zimberts must have looked with a jaundiced eye at the propensity of all the males next door to date sixteen year old girls. After all, the girls were just a few years older than Michael and apparently some of the in flagrante delicto sounds that drifted across the alley were a tad loud. Oops… too much information?

One time I took my girlfriend Anabel over to meet the Zimberts and she was quite intimidated by the prospect. You could tell she was thinking too hard about what she was going to say. Dick, upon meeting her, said with an impish grin, ‘so tell me Anabel, are you still playing the piano?’ she froze. She started to say that she never played the piano, then quickly decided she didn’t want to appear like she didn’t get the joke, so having no alternative possibility, she said nothing. Time was beginning to stretch out and the pressure building in Annie’s head was enormous. ‘ Yes’ was considered but she quickly cast that out as too sarcastic. Dick was boring in, his head cocking, like he was deliciously expecting the world’s most interesting answer.

Annie was beginning to break down. She started making affricatives and animal sounds, I had to get her out of there.

I had no doubt the demonstration was actually aimed at me. See what you give up when you cave in for youth and beauty, he seemed to say. But I didn’t care. I could talk to Annie.

For what we had here was a galactic collision. A peer group of high school girls from Panorama High collided with our mob of 22 and 23 year old dope smokin’ college hippies and the conflagration was atomic, it was existential. During the first microseconds of this big bang, conflicting elements tried to combine with each other only to be propelled by negative magnetism over to their chemically predetermined partners. A few more explosions were experienced before balance was achieved and we began to manufacture the good, leaden isotopes of stable relationships. God, I sound like a scientific Sarah Palin. For further reading consult Fred Hoyle.

Anyway back to Dickie. Professionally speaking, he was a guy who promised little but delivered much. If he liked your ideas, he’d always introduce you to the regime of whatever studio he was working for even though there was professional risk in that generosity.

But he could be tough. When Michael asked for money to go to law school, Dick repaired to his calculator.

How much do you need?

Ten Thousand dollars.

How long do you have to pay it?

‘Bout a year an a half.

Tap, tap, tap… Dick looked up from the calculator. ‘Well you can make eighteen bucks a day can’t you, Mike’?

Dick hated to part with a buck, but that was not the point. He knew that Michael was making good money teaching tennis and that if he paid for law school himself, he’d knock off all the partying and bear down.

He was right.


  1. Suzanna Says:

    Great job, once again, Robb! Don’t mean to sound greedy but after The Zimberts Part II I’m feeling like I could get used to this. More, more, more!

  2. EverettK Says:

    I’m getting the feeling, Robb, that there was a year or two back there in the Pleasure Faire that you could easily mine for a LOT of stories. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. Well, one that didn’t breathe too much, as it sounds like there might have been quite a fog in the condo.

    Well done, again, thanks for sharing!

  3. Annie Says:

    Thanks for displaying my utter mortification, Robb.
    That was one of the most supremely uncomfortable moments in my life.
    Also, it was Monroe High. The girls were from Panorama.
    Yeah, move along.

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    That was a loooonnnnggggg time ago, Annie, and you should realize that Dick made us ALL feel that way from time to time. It’s funny, I knew it wasn’t Panorama High but all I could think of was Van Nuys, and I knew that wasn’t right. I honestly think that your class at Monroe was one of the most beautiful bunch of girls ever to cluster together in defiance of all natural rules of distribution.

    Everett, there were volumes more, and much of it will go untold unless I get to review it first. We were having waaayyy too good a time.

    And I’s with you Suzanna — I could read a lot more of this (as long as I get to review it first). There are moments I’d just as soon remain in the past.

    But I’ve loved this series. Robb’s memory is much, much better than mine.

  5. Malcolm Searles Says:

    Robb – seriously now, have you EVER thought about a book ? The way you tell these tales could seriously make an hugely popular read and having just read a bunch of Bob Greene’s books (and I’m thinking “Be True To Your School” and “You Know You Should Be Glad”) I know people would lap up these stories … and you have a complete career to tell us about !
    Go away now, THINK about it !!

  6. Robb Royer Says:

    Okay, I’m in Dutch with the ex-wife. Annie, you always laughed about that situation so I thought you wouldn’t mind, but if I embarrassed you, I apologize. I thought the thrust of it was Dickie’s perverse sense of humor vs your extreme youth.

    Malcolm, as Jack Benny said (when a gunman demanded ‘your money or your life’)
    I’m thinking I’m thinking…

    Thanks to Everett and Suz for unending encouragement, ande as always, Tim.

  7. Annie Says:

    Naw, I’m not mad. It very well illustrated “Dickie’s perverse sense of humor” and my deer-in-the-headlights-sixteen-year-old-self.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Wonderful stories. So that’s what it really was like?!? You do seem to be a natural story teller-and I have “Bread” ringing in my ears…

  9. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: But I’ve loved this series. Robb’s memory is much, much better than mine.

    Well, maybe your pharmacological intake was at a more advanced level than Robb’s…??? 🙂

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This is so great — all this positive response, and I don’t have to do anything. I’m with Malcolm; Robb should write a book, although I’d hate it if it interfered with his songwriting. Robb, there’s an open invitation to do more of this — it’s gotten me thinking about that whole period, living in Silverlake with Rita and staying up all night and Dr. Shakem and his jar of pills and some of the places we played, and on and on. I’d pretty much forgotten most of it, but you’ve brought it back to me very vividly.

    Any time you want to do more, just let me know. And by all means, blog about the new song site.

  11. Robb Royer Says:

    I’ll have more response later, but one thing needs immediate clarification. Everett: NOBODY was out in front of me pharmacologically at the time. At least nobody in our immediate vicinity.

  12. munyin Says:

    Yes, yes, yes, a book by Robb!!!!!! Meanwhile, please blog more. Big hugs and big thanx.

  13. Michael Zimbert Says:

    Robb: My father was as you know… a man of his word…. his word was his bond… a handshake and a look in his eye… followed by ” I will take care of it” was followed by “actions” that did take care of it.

    In a business that words are just words and promises mean nothing and are very rarely followed by actions, he made a name that as I recall Warren Beatty gave a “shout out” to in his accepance speech during the Academy Awards, because in Hollywood.. being a person who kept his promise/word… needed to be acknowledged.

    My dads words and his ability to use his insight to others inability to talk when asked a question was a “blessing and a curse” to be around, especially when you didn’t “get” where he was going to take you on that “Socratic Journey”

    Annie… anyone.. and I mean anyone.. from Spelling, Katzenberg, Eisner and this list would go on ad infintum…. to you…. and me.. has had that as you put it ” supremely uncomfortable moment”
    let me share… as Robb did re: Law School..

    Age 10…. dinner table…. dad comes home from work…. sits down for dinner.. mom comes in….with…. I can not recall…. but better than pop tarts and t.v. dinners.. that filled my body back in the “years of the Condo”

    “so Michael… what did you do today?”

    (note Annie… I am 10)

    “nothing dad “….

    (that is the proverbial universal response by all ten year olds….. I could be wrong on this… but never in doubt)

    ” Michael.. you breath don’t you ? ”


    “So you did.. something… right”


    “So lets try again… shall we…

    What did you do today….. Michael ? ”

    Needless to say…. I excused myself from the table…… and over years and years…. I developed the awareness and understanding of his “style”.

    Became a criminal defense attorney… and thats what I have done for years and years…. and when an officer testifies: from a simple DUI to a mexican mafia shot caller “green light”…

    I ask questions…. for example…

    “I approached the suspect vehicle and detected an odor of alcohol….on your clients breath”

    “I noticed her eyes were blood shot and watery”

    I go into ….. cross examinatiion mode/Richard Zimbert mode…. (the true blessing of years and years of asking questions… to get to the truth… it goes like this

    “Officer… that odor of alcohol… significant to you determing my client was under the influence?”


    Officer… perhaps you can tell the jury from the alleged smell of that odor what my client was drinking?

    I can not

    Officer… please tell the jury… when my client started drinking…. from that odor….

    I can not

    Officer can you tell this jury when my client stopped drinking from that odor?

    I can not

    Officer… I am holding a vehicle code… are you familiar with the California Vehicle Code?


    Officer you have indicated that you can not tell when my client started to drink, when she stopped drinking, how much she had to drink.. or what in fact she was drinking correct?

    That is correct

    By the way officer…. the vehicle code that your holding…. is it against the law to have the odor of alcohol on your breath?


    Your said my clients eyes were bloodshot correct?


    Compared to who ? …. officer

    Of course the elevator ride down from the court to the street…. is not in the company of this officer.. (who like me back then… was seen with “sweat rings” underneath arms)

    I left the table…. and wondered to the Condo”s back then…. music from the Pleasure Fair floated out and I had the privilege to be

    My dad worked a deal for ABC that involved the Montery Pop Festival…. that year…we drove there… I sat in the third row.. he went and made deals…… and to this day have never forgot the Real Richard Zimbert… the scared… little boy…..who knew how to hide it well and I mean real well…… he loved his questions he loved music….books… my mom……bits of my “twisted perception”…. loved and really, really, respected people who could “go for it”… ( that be you Royer.. that be you….)…. He never heard ” Michael Song”….. I would have been interested to hear his comments though……

  14. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    What a beautiful tribute, Michael. I’ve met very few people in whom I immediately saw an absolutely solid core. It’s hard to explain, but I feel sometimes as though you could walk through most people like smoke, but if you tried it with one in a couple of hundred, you’d bump into something as solid as iron. I think it’s inborn, although it could just as well be learned. Your father had that, and I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of people I’ve met whose core was so evident and who, you knew immediately, was real all the way through.

    I’m so grateful to Robb for opening all this up. It’s been a great journey.

  15. EverettK Says:

    Thanks, Michael, that was a wonderfully enjoyable ‘tribute’ to your dad (and to YOU). Much appreciated.

    (And Robb: I guess this must be considered evidence that certain drugs can enhance long term memory retention…) 🙂

  16. Malcolm Searles Says:

    Tim, good to see you give Robb’s excellent new music blog a mention. For those who have yet to discover the delights, check out Plug over. Normal service will now be resumed …

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