September 1st, 2011

This heartbreakingly earnest young man with the ill-advised haircut is none other than Robb Royer as a high school senior. The way Robb has this series planned out, at the end you’ll be able to put all the portraits into a flip-book and watch him, ummm, mature.

Those of you who are waiting for scandalous rock and roll backstage stories will just have to park it for a while.  This part of Robb’s story happened years before I met him, but I went through something very much like it.


Soon after the solemn ceremony in my counselor’s office wherein Mr. Withers tapped me on the shoulder with his sword and created in me, a lawyer, the Junior Play occurred. It may seem that I refer too frequently to my junior year in high school, but that was the year that everything changed and events began spinning in directions that continue, even today.

With what I am about to tell you, I realize that I may come off looking like a bit of a schmuck, but I do so because (a) that impression is not entirely inaccurate and (b) the pure, aching honesty of these chronicles demands that I tell the whole story.

After Mr. Withers set me off in the direction of the law (and the Music teacher, Mr. Odell dismissed, for the moment, any possibility of a life in music) I was actually quite comfortable with my newfound destiny. Sixteen is an age where people begin asking what you are going to do with your life, and at last I had an answer. ‘Lawyer’ I would now say with a confident lopsided grin and it seemed to fit so well, people would almost reproach themselves for asking.

I had two main friends at Sierra Joint Union High School at Tollhouse (hereafter, Sierra): Buddy and Brian. Buddy was big, affable, red-headed and freckled, immensely popular, the center on the football team and president-of-everything (and always with a hot girlfriend I might add).

Here’s Buddy.

And here’s Buddy again.

I have more if three is a punch line

What he saw in me is unclear. He either thought I was funny or acted out of pure pity, probably a little of each, but his seal of approval saved me a world of grief. The people who had me on ‘shun’ moved me up to ‘tolerate’ and those who already tolerated me warmed up a bit.

Brian was like me: small, louche, darting. Also like me, a loudmouth, but his version had a sort of Three Musketeers bravura, the origin of which is mysterious to this day.

All official information at Sierra was conveyed through the morning announcements which were piped by loudspeaker into all the classrooms. The voice was that of Mr. Clifford Frantz, the prototype of the crusty but benign vice principal. These announcements were generally ignored by all, myself especially.

Apparently one day there was a call for tryouts for the Junior Play which had so little impact on me I don’t even remember it, but apparently Brian had been listening, for he went out and, utilizing his flair for the dramatic, secured the lead.

He really turned into Barrymore after that but I started to become interested in his descriptions of what was going on with the production. Brian would bring his car to school on occasion (which was a commitment because there was a sixty mile drive each way), and when he did I, not having a car yet and desperate for any opportunity to get off the bus, would usually ride with him. Now, because of rehearsals after school, he was driving all the time and I would sit around the rehearsals and watch. There were already some rumblings of discontent with one member of the cast, Steve, a shambling, soft spoken country boy was playing the part of Jackie, who was supposed to be the bratty younger brother of the main character, Willoughby, played by Brian. One day he didn’t make it to rehearsal and – you can see this coming right? – I stood in, read the part, and…

Face it, playing a wise cracking, smart mouth kid, for me was not much of a reach.

I swear I did nothing overt to grease the inevitable next events (just sat back, confident they would transpire) but the pressure on Steve from that moment on, from the cast, even from the faculty director, was tremendous. One day he came up to me in the hall, handed me the script, said ‘you’re Jackie’ and shambled away. Later that afternoon, I just showed up at rehearsal and started playing the part – not a word of surprise, no comment from anybody, no explanation offered by me – it was like I had had the role from moment one. The water closed and I was Jackie.

Here’s the cast of the play.  Spot me if you can, and identify me in your responses.  Tim has put aside $10,000 for each reader who succeeds.

The night of the production came, my first line got a laugh, second line got a laugh, and after that I was tap dancing. Everything worked. I was even ad libbing jokes from Boy’s Life Magazine which are, in today’s perspective, terrible. Still got a laugh. The audience decided I was funny and laughed at everything.

After the show when the cast members were milling around with the audience, I noticed my dad had a strange, star-struck look. I asked him how he liked it. He gave me a warm smile of discovery and approval. ‘You’re gonna be an actor’ he said.

I LOVE this piece.  And I knew Robb’s dad, and for him to have said this, the kid HAD to be good.


  1. EverettK Says:

    “ill-advised haircut” indeed!

    It seems perfectly clear to me, Robb, that in the picture of the cast, you’re the one in the front center with your skirt taking up half the stage.

    Where ELSE would you be???

  2. John Lindquist Says:

    $10,000! With that I’ll buy everyone a bucket. Robb, you’re the second person in the top row. You’ve already got your studio headphones on.

  3. Robb Royer Says:

    No Everett, that’s Darla Deavenport. By the way, that line about Tim putting aside $10,000 was added by Tim pretending to be me. Notice he didn’t say he’d give the money away, just put it aside. So keep guessing, folks. If enough of you can spot me, Tim can retire.

  4. munyin Says:

    Robb: I love your stories & I am amazed at your memory. I am impressed that you still have pictures of your buddies from back in those days. I remember meeting your dad in your Mandeville Canyon home many years ago but unfortunately I was too shy to even have a conversation with him. What a great guy he was to encourage you as an actor. Lucky you!

  5. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Robb

    Wow, I didn’t know that you were an actor too. Apparently you were a natural! Did you continue acting in college?

    Pretty sure you’re the one sitting next to the girl in the dark capri pants, right?

    Thanks for another installment of THE ROBB CHRONICLES. Keep ’em comin’!

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Do not look at the man behind the curtain. I can’t believe that Robb would suggest that I’d tamper with his copy.

    And you’re right, Suzanna — he is the one in the dark capri pants. And he’s still got those pants.

    I really love this post. He and I were going through so many similar experiences and never really talked about them until we were both old farts online.

    Munyin, I didn’t remember you’d met Robb’s dad. I’m very surprised by that.

  7. michele Says:


    This is excruciating and wonderful. Brings back many a personal memory from my schooldays. Wish I’d known you then… I think we could have been friends… I was the girl version of you. Then again maybe not.

    As for the photo, that’s easy. You’re the guy in the bowler with the key spot on his nose. Nope, you’re really the third from the left in the first row. Right! What was the name of the play?

    Looking forward to the next chapter.

  8. Michele Says:

    Robb, in case you know more than one Michele…It’s me from TPF

  9. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    You were destined for the stage. I really like your stories. I guessed right, but I am late so I don’t know if you’ll believe me. I do remember those haircuts. I had a crush on someone who looked exactly like Buddy a very long time ago. I look forward to more

  10. Robb Royer Says:

    No, John, the guy in the earphones is Mike Eliott, nowhere near as good looking as I. Suzanna has it right. I have my arm around Loretta Meharg who, I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, was a stunningly beautiful girl. By the way, I was a shitty actor. The only role I could play was Jackie. I’ll get into that in detail later in the story. Point of interest: the girl next to Loretta was Beth Peckinpah, whose uncle was Sam Peckinpah, renowned for bringing a new level of violence to movies with The Wild Bunch. Sam was a local boy (Oakhurst) but not famous yet at the point all this went down.

  11. Robb Royer Says:

    Hey Michele, of course I knew it was you. Similar, maybe, but I guarantee you were a better actor than I was. I’m sure we would have been friends then as we were later in college. Jeez, we were in a band together for years and I don’t remember a single unpleasant moment between us, that’s pretty rare. As I recall, the play was one of those made for high school things called The Perfect Idiot. We didn’t do real plays at Sierra.

    Hi Mun! I, too am surprised you met my dad. Funny, the things I do remember stay with me in molecular exactitude and other things I should remember are a complete blank. Thanks. for your sweet comments.
    Liz- I hope everyone had a ‘Buddy’ in their life, someone without a mean cell in their body. I will revisit him later in this story. Thanks for sharing.

  12. laurie Says:

    Rob what a haircut you needed me back then, But what a handsome duck you are now!

  13. michael hallinan Says:

    Robb, you are a born story teller. (I was a story teller too but they meant fibs) You have a gift for this;I can see why you can also write songs. Where was Sierra high school? I thought I knew all the schools in the Valley. Anyway I agree with the others – keep the stories coming. I hope you are keeping a journal but I think only girls do that.

  14. Robb Royer Says:

    Laurie, like all kids we thought what we were doin’ was cool, but, you’ll notice, I still had the guts to post it!

    Michael, that’s all right. A lot of this is fibs too. Sierra High, just in case you aren’t kidding, is in the Sierra foothills on the way to Yosemite between Fresno… (our local big town)((did you see American Graffiti? I swear I lived that entire movie which was written about Modesto which is about thirty miles from Fresno)) … and a small hill town named Oakhurst.

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