Let's Go To Boston! Author Event, Tribute Concert Celebrates Biography About The Cars’ Benjamin Orr

9 Wallis Hosts Book Release Celebration, Tribute Concert

BEVERLY, MASSACHUSETTS – Upon the publishing of my first book last November, a biography about the late musician Benjamin Orr titled Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, my initial goal was to host three author events; one where I reside in Bellows Falls, Vermont, one in Orr’s hometown of Cleveland, and one in Boston, where The Cars launched their illustrious career in music. The mission is now accomplished!

Article by * Photos: 1. Moderator Brett Milano and author Joe Milliken 2. Merchandise table offering "book swag" 3. Moving In Stereo, rocks onstage 4. Public Relations Coordinator extraordinaire, Donna Neale and Joe 5. The author signs a book for David Robinson of The Cars

After hosting the Vermont event upon the book’s release last November, followed by the Cleveland event in January, the stage was set for the third event held at 9 Wallis, an intimate venue located in the Boston suburb of Beverly. I was also lucky enough to be joined by the amazing Cars’ tribute band Moving In Stereo (MIS). Based in Ben’s hometown of Cleveland, MIS also performed at my Cleveland event, became long-distance friends, and were eager and gracious enough to join us in Boston and once again, knock our rock-and-roll socks off!

Upon entering the venue, our slideshow presentation of intimate photos documenting Orr’s life was looping on a screen in the foyer, as I signed books and my Public Relations Coordinator and event planner, Donna Neale, helped greet guests and keep everything organized. Copies of the book were made available by the local bookstore Cabot Street Books and Cards. We also offered a merchandise table featuring buttons, stickers, magnets and an event poster, and New Hampshire artist and friend, Kathy Sullivan, set up a display to make available her select art prints of many famous rock musicians.

After the initial book signing, it was time to address the house and talk to the fans and friends about the long journey in creating this biography about the late, legendary Car’s vocalist and bassist. I was also honored to have a special guest-moderator, Brett Milano, to join me onstage and discuss the book.

A Boston-based author and music journalist, Brett has written four books, penned the CD liner notes for The Cars’ Just What I Needed Anthology and the Deluxe Edition of the Cars' legendary, self-titled debut album, and also had the honor of conducting the final Cars’ band interview before Orr tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2000. Yes, Mr. Milano was very qualified.

Despite having just met Brett in person for the first time earlier that day – I had also interviewed him for my book several years ago – our conversation about Let’s Go! felt free and easy. After briefly talking about his relationship to Ben and The Cars, we discussed how I came about choosing Orr as the subject to write about, how I went about researching his life and writing the manuscript, the sometimes painstaking process of interviewing over 120 people who knew Ben, and briefly dissecting a couple anecdotes from the book. Following our discussion, we opened things up to the audience for a fun, question and answer session.

It felt like Brett and I had a relaxed, easy-going rapport and it truly felt like the audience was attentive, receptive, and engaged throughout the discussion. An audience that featured several special guests, including four of the most significant women in Ben’s life; his first wife, Kris Orr, and second wife, Judith Orr, who flew in from Los Angeles to share in the event, his longtime fiancé and solo album collaborator, Diane Page, who flew in from Florida, and the mother of his only child, Edita. It really means a lot to me that these wonderful ladies - who were also all interviewed for the book - would take part and support my efforts.

After the book discussion and question and answer session, it was time to rock out with Moving In Stereo, and did we ever! Donna and I had originally met MIS in 2018 when we visited Cleveland to witness The Cars get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and promote the book. We were so impressed with the way they captured The Cars’ unique sound when we saw them perform at a club, that we invited them to join us and perform at our Cleveland author event. It was a wise choice.

I’m sure many of us have seen some kind of “tribute band” along the way, and for as much as a group of musicians will try to sound like a particular band they admire, there is usually something lacking. However, this is absolutely not the case with MIS. They don’t attempt to “look" the part of The Cars, but rather, they intend to perfect the sound of The Cars... and they clearly know the songs inside and out!

As one can imagine, performing to a room full of high-spirited fans specifically celebrating Ben and the music of The Cars can add a little pressure and perhaps, open the door for scrutiny. However, MIS not only passed with flying colors at both our Cleveland and Boston events, but drew high praise from the fans and guests, who roared (and danced) their approval throughout.

Other significant attendees on this night included friends/musicians Hirsh Gardner (drummer of the band New England), Ralph Fatello (The Vinny Band), Boby Bear (The Atlantics), and solo artists Andy Pratt and Eric Barao. However, for me, the most significant person on hand for this special occasion was having Ben’s former Cars’ band mate, drummer David Robinson, in attendance.

I had interviewed David for the book several years ago, and it was truly an honor to have him join us for our celebration of the book and Ben’s legacy. David was also kind enough to meet the band in the green room - a truly memorable moment for the band and us - and stated later that he was impressed with the band’s musicianship and versatile set list.

Another memorable moment occurred when, after the band had gone offstage briefly before their encore, I went onstage to thank everyone for coming to our event and sharing in the celebration. However, what made this moment even better, was asking Donna to join me onstage so I could specifically thank her for all her efforts and present her with a surprise gift... a framed portrait of Benjamin commissioned by our artist-friend Kathy. It was a complete surprise to Donna and a moving moment for not only us, but for all who know how much she has contributed to my book being published and the success of these author events.

After the band's rockin' encore and then making our way back to the foyer, I will never in my life forget the moment when I signed a copy of my book for David Robinson, while my friends and Cars’ fans took photos as they surrounded David and I. In that moment, I somehow managed to reflect on all the years (12 to be exact) of hard work, dedication and “heart and soul” I had put into this project. To have one of Ben’s "band brothers" (as Ben liked to call them) join us and acknowledge my accomplishment, meant the world to me... it really was the icing on the cake.

The Let's Go! Boston author event was truly a memorable experience and from a moment early on in the night - when I sensed everyone’s happiness and was reminded that the festivities was successful because I had already delivered the real gift (the book) - all the pressures were now gone and I realized everyone was simply there to offer thanks and to celebrate the life and music of Benjamin Orr. It left me feeling joyful, proud, accomplished, and a very lucky man. Let’s Go!

Editor's note: There will soon be many more photos from the event to view, as well as exclusive merchandise from the event available for purchase, at our book website (www.benorrbook.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BenOrrBook).