Pete Best, Ringo Starr and Me
When asked to write this, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to tell the story of how I met Ringo Starr!” But that never happened, though Ringo does play a part in this — that’s not a spoiler, but what we writers call foreshadowing.
I’ve always been a Beatles fan, and by that I mean that I never made any distinction between the Beatles as a group and their solo work. To me, it’s all “Beatles music,” all part of the same magical continuum. For a while, it was all I had, and my love of the Beatles got me through an adolescence that felt a lot more like eight years of gas pains and apologies than proms.
I used to write for an international Beatle fan magazine. Since I knew the publisher, whenever I made it to a Beatle convention, I got the backstage treatment.
Around this time Pete Best, the man who drummed for the Beatles only to be fired before they were famous, was making the convention circuit and telling riotous stories of the Beatles’ leather-clad, proto-punk, cellar-dwelling, pill-popping, stripper-backing days in Liverpool and Hamburg.
These were stories that may not be appropriate for The Sun, apart from the story Pete told about their “pet” vomit that they called, “The Thing,” but as I think about it, perhaps that’s not appropriate either. Well, appropriate perhaps, but certainly in poor taste.
The upside to all this backstage business was getting to talk to the guests in a more personal way than most fans. Pete Best was taking a backstage rest, and I ended up standing next to him. Figuring he’d been Beatled to death with questions, I asked him about his life back home in Liverpool, his kids and work.
Pete’s eyes lit up to realize that someone recognized that there was life after the Beatles. We had a lovely talk. The whole entourage went out to dinner shortly after, and Pete and I had hit it off well enough that we sat next to each other, which would have been a great story in and of itself ... the story of how I had dinner with Beatle drummer Pete Best.
Let’s fast forward through dinner to the next time I met Pete at a convention. Remembering me as the only person to ask about his life as a person, Pete sidled up to me just to get a break from being Beatled.
OK ... so here’s where I start to look like an idiot.
I had just bought a promotional life-size cardboard cut-out of Ringo, so there I stood with Pete Best to my left ... and between us a life-size Ringo Starr — costumed as a cop no less. Pete started talking amiably with me, but then he caught sight of Ringo between and a tad behind us.
In mid-sentence he shook his head, furrowed his brow and then looked back at me, doing his very best not to be too taken aback by the cardboard cut-out of the man who ruined his chance for fame and fortune.
I said nothing, unwilling to claim ownership of Officer Ringo, and kept talking to Pete, but again and again, he would sort of sniff the air as if something foul had just wafted up his nose, look back at Officer Ringo and stammer for a moment. To his credit, apart from a half-dozen glances back, Pete maintained his composure.
I wish that had been the worst of it, but Pete and I needed a ride back to the hotel from the convention center, so, you guessed it, the driver and Pete Best sat up front while me and Officer Ringo sat in the backseat ... and down the road we went like some horribly obtuse New Yorker cartoon.
I like to end my stories with a moral or lesson, but I doubt any lesson could top the image of me, Pete Best and a life-size cardboard cut-out of Officer Ringo cruising down the highway.
Well, I may have felt like an idiot, but I’ve been telling this story for years — hey, maybe that’s the lesson! If you want the good stories, sometimes you have to be the idiot sitting in the backseat with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Ringo dressed as a mustached Village People-style cop.
Photo courtesy www.LiverpoolTours.com