Some conversations stay with you for the rest of your life
I notice Ringo standing only 10 feet away from me. I instantly become 18 again, and a wave of adoration for The Beatles engulfs me. I consider walking over to introduce myself – and caress his talented hands – when maturity prevails, and I decide that would be tasteless. After all, this is an elegant reception and he's just another guest.
The Fab Four
The Beatles burst onto the world music scene when I was an 18-year-old university student. I loved dancing and listening to their fabulous music but was too “mature” to ever identify as a Beatlemaniac.
Then living in Montreal, I guess I could have gone to a Beatles concert, but somehow it never occurred to any of us to try to get tickets. I wonder how much a ticket cost in September 1964.
Beatle music has timeless appeal. I think every generation eventually falls for its unique combination of beat, lyrics, and creative arrangements. My kids certainly did. At the age of 14 my son dragged me to a movie with a script written by Paul McCartney.
Paul was front and centre and Ringo Starr played a minor role. "Give My Regards to Broad Street" and was not exactly a hit. More like a vanity project for a man with a big ego.
American School in England
Fast forward to June 6, 1986. My husband's job has moved our family to England the previous summer. I teach part-time at TASIS, the American private school my sons attend, and Ringo's stepdaughter is in the graduating class. Francesca Gregorini is stunningly beautiful, with long dark hair, and her mum is actress Barbara Bach.
The Friday evening before the high school graduation ceremony, we staff members attend a reception and dinner for the graduates and their parents. The celebrity family is just part of the scene. There are no fans pressing for autographs or crowding around Ringo and Barbara. (Nowadays, people might be clamoring to take selfies with him.)
I inhale a second glass of white wine. Then it occurs to me that I'm permanently moving back to Canada next week, and I decide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity must be acted upon – now.
My husband is already back in Canada, so I'm standing with Jim, another teacher without a date. We agree to approach Ringo together, and he cordially greets us. The three of us are now in a private conversation.
He’s wearing slightly tinted glasses over his piercing blue eyes. His salt-and-pepper beard is neatly trimmed. He wears one diamond earring set in a star-shape, with an identical diamond hanging from a white-gold chain about one inch long. His black suit jacket has a pink and white china Harlequin broach on the lapel. (I notice fine details during a peak experience like this.)
We shake hands and introduce ourselves. Ringo asks, “What do you teach?”
Jim says, “History” and I answer, “Physics and Algebra.”
“Wow! You two must be brains,” he remarks with a smile.
As The Beatles broke up 16 years earlier, it would have felt obsequious to talk about them. Instead, I decide to focus on the present and say, “I understand that you come to the many plays that Francesca’s acted in.”
“Yes. They’ve been great. I also come to all the school concerts. Once I was in the audience and some kid was playing ‘Norwegian Wood’ on the piano. Everyone looked at me for my reaction, but I didn’t even recognize the music!”
I ask, “Do you remember that movie you did a few years ago with Paul named ‘Give My Regards to Broad Street’?” He nods.
“My son was 14 when it came out. We saw it and loved it. In fact, he even bought the soundtrack and the script.”
“Really? You and your son are the only people in the world who loved that movie. It was dreadful!” We all laugh.
I continue, “Do you remember the scene where the band is practicing in an old warehouse, and you are wearing gloves with cutoff fingers? You say, ‘Why is it so cold in here? Are we practicing to be Canadians?’ I’m Canadian, surrounded by Americans at this school. We don’t get mentioned in movies very often and when we are mentioned, we love it!”
Ringo grins with genuine delight, “You liked that line? I wrote that line!” He beamed at the recollection.
The dinner bell rings and we part.
I am transformed by this ordinary conversation with an internationally famous musician and know that even the minor details will stay with me forever. Paul had previously been my favourite Beatle due to his incredible song-writing talent and gorgeous big brown eyes.
But now that I know first hand that Ringo is warm, engaging, and down-to-earth, I find his self-depreciating manner most appealing. After all, his strong, innovative drumbeat provided the foundation on which the other Beatles could build.