Monday, February 13, 2012

Meeting the Regular guy behind those Ringo Starr shades

Ken Sharp met and had a casual conversation with Ringo Starr during the first All Starr Band tour on July 11, 1989 in Los Angeles during a rehearsal. This story was published in issue #65 of Beatlefan magazine.

If you could meet Ringo Starr and talk to him about anything, what would you ask him about? I asked him about Felix the Cat!

It all happened at a closed rehearsal session I attended. On walking in, I noticed that Ringo was viewing slides to use in the tour book with Barbara, and he was wearing bifocals down on his nose! And I got a kick out of the fact he was wearing a red Felix the Cat shirt, since Felix has always been a favorite of mine.

The atmosphere was very casual and relaxed because there were very few people there - just the band; technicians; Barbara; Ringo's personal assistant, Hillary Gerard, tour promoter David Fishof; the road manager, etc. I watched them rehearse, with Ringo doing, "Honey Don't," teaching the band as they went along. For having had just a couple of days' rehearsal, they were fairly tight, showing their tremendous prowess as musicians.

They would stop and go over certain parts and most of the attention seemed directed at Ringo, but he definitely wasn't a dictator. He seemed to be a real good bandleader. Then they started working on "Act Naturally." But the highlight for me was to hear them do "Boys." And he must have done it five or six times.

There was a short break, for sandwiches, and then they came back and started doing some Billy Preston songs. Ringo would jump off the kit and come out and watch the band and ended up sitting to my left on a couch. It was such a relaxed atmosphere that I told him I loved Felix the Cat and we started talking about the shirt and Felix.

I'd heard that the night before he was at the L.A. premiere of "License to Kill," the James Bond film. And I knew that he was a big Bond fan. so I started asking him casually what he thought about the new film. He said it was really good, and that he especially loved all the special effects and the explosion. We started talking about the earlier Bonds and we both agreed Sean Connery was the best. He really liked "Dr. No" a lot and we talked about bit about that.

It wasn't one sided at all. It was a real conversation in which he would offer information and maintained eye contact. I started talking to him about the TV series "The Prisoner," because I knew The Beatles were fans of the show. And he said he loved it because there were so many meanings behind what Patrick McGoohan did. Then he brought up that The Beatles got together with McGoohanin the late '60s and were wanting to work on something with him, but it just never happened. And we talked about"The Avengers" and he said how much he liked Patrick Macnee and the girl before Diana Rigg (Honor Blackman)
. He couldn't think of her name.

Continuing along those lines, I asked about "Doctor Who" and he said he liked the earlier stuff and doesn't keep up with it as much now. Another guy brought up "Shining Time Station" and Ringo talked about how little kids will go up to him and say, "It's Mr. Conductor!" and he gets a kick out of that.

I told him that I was really happy to see him rehearsing "Boys" because that's one of my favorite Ringo songs, and he said, "Me, too!" Then they did a version of "You're a Friend of Mine," and Ringo was watching and when he saw me rocking along to it, he started smiling.

I had interviewed him once a couple of years ago, but this was much better because I felt that I actually tapped what very few fans do, getting a sense of the real person. I didn't feel the need to talk about The Beatles and I think it was great that I didn't because I got a glimpse behind the glamor, glitter and the mystique. I saw the private Richard Starkey, a real down to earth person. It was just like I was talking to a friend of mine.

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