Update: February 28, 2017: Since there seems to be some confusion around this post – I have nothing to do with FANSAGAINSTFRAUD. I have used links found on FANSAGAINSTFRAUD and similarly they have shared my experience. I also have no connection to Peter S. Beagle beyond working on the tour in 2014.
Further to this, I am not affiliated with Conlan Press or Connor Cochran in anyway. If you have issues with them or in receiving merchandise you have paid for but not received, I urge you to bring this up with Conlan Press directly. Connor Cochran has commented on this piece and left his personal cell phone number.
While I wish no further dealings with Conlan Press, I leave these posts up for those who may wish to try to get their undelivered merch.
I’ve debated posting this for a while now, and when I found this most recent article on the FANSAGAINSTFRAUD page and also now a VICE piece, I knew I could be silent no longer. I could not be silent because I’ve worked alongside Connor Cochran, and on The Last Unicorn 2014 tour, and I had been witness to Connor Cochran’s slimy behaviour and his broken promises.
For those not in the know – I’m a huge Last Unicorn fan. Huge as in, my father used to rent it for me every weekend on VHS until he finally bought me my very own copy that I still have. Huge as in, I paid $6 (a whole week’s allowance at the time) in loose change for a tattered copy of the book in the early 1990s, and still have that too. Huge as in, my first large tattoo is a giant sleeve that creeps down my arm and onto my back and chest of the characters from the movie. Huge as in, this sleeve was to be featured on the special edition Blu-Ray (from lionsgate) special features. The Last Unicorn shaped my whole life.
That was the story. This story of growth and grief and loss and friendship and love, and magick, real magick, the dangerous frightening life and death kind, the beautiful kind. It’s the only book where the movie was just as good.
It’s my favourite tattoo. When people recognize it, they get this excited look on their faces, and people do recognize it. From heavy metal bands in the middle of a Hell’s Angels bar in Austin, Texas, to tiny little Japanese girls at PAX Prime in Seattle, to flea markets in Vancouver, BC. People want to talk to me about the movie, tell me about the first time they saw it, tell me about how much it meant to them, about how much it means. We share these stories. We share in the magick that brings the fans together.
When it was announced that The Last Unicorn would screen in my town in 2014, I was, in short, completely over the fucking moon. The chance to see this movie on the big screen, the chance to meet the man who wrote this book, created these characters.. the chance to say, thank you. Miigwech. All my relations. The chance to express the tiniest bit of gratitude. It was amazing.
Early on, there was something of a casting call offering up volunteer positions otherwise known as “Roustabouts”, to help work the show. I had already bought tickets, so I didn’t require free entry, but I wanted to help in any way I could. I applied and both my partner and I were selected. We readied our costumes and began spreading the word:
The day of the show, my partner and I prepped our costumes, and got to the theatre to begin helping at 1630. No one was there. At 1715, a small van crammed with three people, Connor, a woman, and Peter Beagle rolled up, packed to the gills with boxes of merchandise. The trio seemed disorganized from the get go, and Peter Beagle was visibly tired. Immediately Cochran asked us if we knew of any places where the three of them could stay the night, hinting that perhaps they could stay with us. Uncomfortable and only having a one bedroom suite in a house, I politely declined. Watching Peter Beagle, he is an old man. He is not a doddering, muttering fool, but he is an old man. He reminded me of my German grandfather, same build, same smiling eyes, and I certainly would never allow my beloved grandfather to sleep on some shitty couch. This seemed odd at the time, and it didn’t sit well. I brushed it off at first and later it nagged at my mind. When I introduced myself to Peter, he was friendly, he admired my tattoo, and he said my name reminded him of a story and he told me about it. This is something I had heard as well, from friends who met him during the Vancouver stop, that he was always connecting names to stories and events, or little facts. He relayed them in his quiet voice. I read now that Connor Cochran claims that Peter’s mind was deteriorating during these stops, but I was never given any indication of such. Peter remembered my name, called me by it, and was very much “with it”.
For those who may doubt my credentials… I’m a care aide. It’s been my job for the last six years to work with people experiencing the cognitive changes associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s and acquired brain injuries. If I had to say anything about Peter’s mental state, I would have and still would list him as lucid, clear headed and far from the doddering old fool that Cochran would like to illustrate him as. But, what do I know?
As I spoke to Peter, Connor came over and snapped at him to “go sit down for a while” and again I was struck by how Connor spoke to Peter. Where I come from, in First Nations culture, you never ever speak to your elders that way. Peter Beagle is a grandfather, a wise man, this is simply not done. Peter sat at a table and pulled out a novel to read while we set up merchandise tables. Cochran went over and over again with us the importance of upselling merchandise and the spiels to recite, which again seemed strange given that much of the merchandise was pricey. I always assumed that people who wished to buy merch would buy what they wanted, and even when I worked retail I was never much for upselling. While fries is one thing, at an event like this, it was entirely another.
Scotty Floronic, my partner and best friend, is a great judge of character and within half an hour of working with Connor Cochran, was immediately annoyed. “This guy is a scumbag,” Scott said, as we took a small dinner break to eat some food before the showing. Scott didn’t much care for the spiels. Connor was constantly talking, like a salesman desperate to close a sale.
The show sold out, many movie goers were turned away and Connor wheedled with the staff of the Cineplex to try to let in standing room only, and was turned down due to this being a fire hazard of which Connor complained. The theatre was packed. As everyone filed in and took their seats, I introduced the film up front with Connor, who ranted endlessly to the crowd about merchandising, T-shirts, perfume, and went on and on. The show wasn’t about Peter or The Last Unicorn, it was about making money and it felt really really weird. Cochran went on at great length prior to the showing, as if he somehow was some kind of Last Unicorn expert, perhaps forgetting that the creator was present the whole time?
This is what Connor seems to forget – he might be the salesman in all this, but Peter is the creator. Peter wrought the magick, Connor did not.
I didn’t enjoy myself and I felt a lot of secondhand embarassment for Cochran who was essentially dancing around like a monkey to try to get paid. At one point he was running around and fell up a flight of stairs and the whole crowd started killing themselves laughing. It was one of the few times he was not talking.
The movie played.
Afterwards was when the real challenge began – merchandise sales in a busy theatre on cheap Tuesday night. The line was amazingly long, people waiting to buy books, meet Peter, have books signed.
Beautiful framed lithographs were available for sale and they tempted me. I saw Connor make sales of them, and it turns out they had to be mailed to the people who ordered them. Friends of Scott’s and mine ordered these pricey pieces and two years later have yet to receive anything. I didn’t like the sound of paying for something and then having it mailed to me, so I resisted ordering and I am glad of it.
As young teens and their mothers looked over goods, Connor was constantly yammering over them, upselling, wheeling, dealing. It was weird and creepy and I wished he would stop talking. Let people look and pick out goods. It’s like that guy at a yard sale that has to come up to you and tell you the story and worth of every knick knack you pick up, it was extremely offputting. Fans my age who had spent their whole life in thrall of the Unicorn waited to speak to Peter and Connor began rushing people through their talks, focussing more on making sales, forgetting of course that the fans who were waiting were not standing there for long periods, simply engaging in a chat with the author. Rushing people around and the non stop chatter of Cochran was noticed, and for a long time afterwards, I’ve heard comments about it. Don’t forget, for many people, this would be the only time they could experience this moment with Peter Beagle. To rob fans of it, is downright crappy. But then again, we are talking about someone who allegedly has no issues taking money for sales and not shipping the items so I doubt he cares much.
As sales wound down, and we began to pack up, I paid for the goods I picked out, and took my old VHS tape to Peter to be signed and he remembered my name, and we talked. Peter was gentle, obviously tired, and seemed glad that the event was winding down. As we packed up Connor promised Scott and myself Roustabout gifts for being part of the tour, T-shirts and slides, and other exclusives – none of which have ever arrived, and likely nor will they ever.
My partner and I worked from 1630 til midnight, and it was in short, one of the weirder experiences we’d ever had. We still talk about it. We were also expected, the both of us, to do all of the take down and work loading the van, which was no small feat.
Scott, a man of few words, said only this, “That Connor guy is FUCKED.” on the ride home.
When the original lawsuit news broke last fall, neither of us were surprised.
The allegations of elder abuse seemed to line up to what we had witnessed. An old man being paraded around for profit, tired, being snapped at, being rushed around by someone who cares only for money and little for magick, little for the unicorn.
When the original lawsuit broke, I tweeted briefly about this experience of which I have just written and Connor attempted to flimsily come to his own defence, by tweeting me his “response” but gave up after a few tweets and blocked me instead.
This is my experience. Nothing felt right, everything was weird and creepy, and it left a bad taste in my mouth that I have not been able to shake. And it seems like I’m not the only one feeling sour, Tour investors have sued Cochran for fraud over the Last Unicorn movie tour..
You can read Peter Beagle’s full complaint against Cochran here and be warned – it’s awful. The allegations of elder abuse make me see red, give me a bad taste in my mouth and overall.. make my heart hurt.
Why is the Last Unicorn just a magnet for drama? Why can’t it just be that magickal feeling? Why does it have to be upsetting and weird? There’s something I wish I could go back to, really. The magick of the whole thing, before the tours and resurgence in popularity, just that magickal part of my childhood that connected me to my father, to me as a frightened ten year old singing the theme song at a talent show and getting jeered at for the rest of middle school.
Something that should have felt wonderful just ended up feeling weird and Connor Cochran is to blame.
UPDATE: Within less than 6 hours of posting this article, I received a phone call from Connor Cochran, which I did not take.
It’s funny to me that he was able to dig up my phone number in old pages of volunteer applications from two years previous, but remains steadfast that the “Canadian paperwork was screwed up” causing many hundreds of fans to not receive orders they paid for.
Connor Cochran phoned me until he got my voicemail and left me a long winded ranting diatribe and several minutes later posted a comment on this article.
I have contacted the friends we know of who were swindled out of hundreds of dollars worth of goods and since they have been burned by Cochran, they wish no further discourse with him, and similarly, I will not engage conversation with him. I also find it amusing that when I contacted Connor with emails about when we could hope to get our volunteer merchandise, the emails went unanswered, but amazingly, he was able to dig up my phone number to call me and attempt in a very basic way to frighten me, or at least this is how this appears to me.
I am attaching the following voicemail which was left by Connor on my telephone..
With this in mind, Cochran has commented below this article to urge those who did not receive their goods from this tour to come forward. While I will not be doing so, and our friends who have been swindled that I know will not, either.. I have left the comment on this piece in order for those that do wish to, to come forward and try to receive their merch.
I like to follow one of those “fool me once” attitudes when it comes to having money stolen and being used for personal gain.