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When Not With The Papas, This Mama Sells Cars

June 10, 1987|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

SAN DIEGO — Throughout her six-month concert tour of the United States and Europe with the Mamas and the Papas, Laurie Beebe dreamed of buying a new car as soon as she was back in San Diego.

Half a year of traveling across two continents by plane, train and bus, Beebe said, sort of makes you anxious for your own set of wheels.

The road trip with the recently reunited folk-rock group, whose string of late-1960s hits includes " 'California Dreamin'," "Monday, Monday" and "'I Saw Her Again," ended in April.

But instead of spending the past couple of months shopping for cars, the newest Mama has been busy selling them. Each weekday, Beebe cuts deals on new Mustangs, Escorts and Thunderbirds on the sales lot of Pearson Ford in East San Diego.

"The realities of this business are when you stop touring, you stop getting paid," said the 32-year-old singer-keyboardist, a San Diego resident since the fall of 1985.

"And when you stop getting paid, your savings tend to dry up real fast--so you need to find some type of work to hold you over until you hit the road again."

This isn't the first time Beebe has sold cars for a living. Before joining the Mamas and the Papas in October as a temporary replacement for the pregnant MacKenzie Phillips, Beebe was a member of another 1960s pop band, the Buckinghams ("Kind of a Drag," "Don't You Care?")

She toured the country twice as part of the "Happy Together" oldies road show, and was prominently featured on the band's 1985 comeback album, "Matter of Time."

After leaving the group in the fall of 1985 and moving to San Diego to join her husband, Beebe decided that instead of trying to form her own band, she would put her musical career on hold and take a job with South Bay Chevrolet.

"I don't want to sound stuffy, but after touring around the world with a well-known rock group and playing in front of several thousand people each night, it's hard to go back to singing in lounges," Beebe said.

"I just couldn't deal with performing before four or five people drinking beer and yelling, 'Baby, take it off,' after every song. So I decided I would be better off if I fell back on something I knew I could do well.

"Besides, I've always considered myself a natural saleswoman."

Still, Beebe has never devoted all her energies to selling cars. After she left the Buckinghams, she played a series of concerts with the Monroes, a San Diego band that scored a national hit in 1982 with "What Do All the People Know?"

Today, when she's not selling cars, she's laying down vocal tracks in a Los Angeles recording studio for a solo album by Monroes leader Bob Davis.

Beebe has been rockin' and rollin' for much of her life. Born and raised in Saginaw, Mich., she formed her first rock band when she was just 13. Two years later, she was touring the Midwest with Bob Seger.

In 1974, Beebe moved to Chicago and for the next six years hit the Chicago nightclub circuit with a Dixieland jazz band. She returned to the road in 1980 as a backup singer for the Spinners and, in 1983, became a full-fledged member of the Buckinghams.

By midsummer, Beebe expects to be back on the road with the Mamas and the Papas. MacKenzie Phillips, the former star of television's "One Day at a Time" and the daughter of original "Papa" John Phillips, gave birth in February and recently rejoined the group.

But should any of several pending movie roles come through, Beebe said, Phillips will quit the band again, "and I'm ready and willing to step in a second time."

"I had such a great time on the road," Beebe said. "Everywhere we went, the reception was incredible. In England, the entire press corps met us at the airport, and we were interviewed by just about every big paper, magazine and television station in the country.

"In West Berlin, 200 people were waiting outside our hotel, asking for autographs. And in El Paso, Miss El Paso met us at the airport gate with a proclamation, from the mayor, that declared us honorary citizens.

"But even more important, to me, is that I had the chance to play with some of my idols. I grew up listening to groups like the Mamas and the Papas, and now I was actually in the band. Each night, I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't all a dream."

Despite the glamour, Beebe said, she doesn't intend to sing oldies for the rest of her life. Her long-range goal is to become a successful solo artist, singing and playing original material.

"Eventually, I want to have my own record deal so I can put out some of the things I write myself," she said. "I want to have hit records; I want to be known for my own music, not someone else's."

Beebe's immediate goal, however, is a lot less grandiose.

"Right now," she said with a laugh, "I just want to sell a lot of cars."

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