Thursday, August 23, 2012

Barb at Cavendish revisited

One of the first "fan stories" posted on Meet the Beatles for Real was one of my top 5 favorites.  It was when Barb Fenick and her friends Becki and Wayne were invited into Paul's London home in 1973.    I put up a story from Beatlefan that Barb wrote way back in 2009.    There is a lot of stuff on silly blog now and you might have missed it.    Besides, I found a much more detailed account of Barb's time (again written by Barb) inside #7 Cavendish Avenue in the February 1974 issue of a Fanzine called "The Mess." 

Original Version #2
From “The Mess” February 1974
By Barb Fenick

When I left London on August 12, 1969, I confidently expected to return in a year.  Hard as it was to leave at that time, with Paul still going to EMI every day, it would have been unbearable if I wouldn’t have already been planning to see him again in 1970.    Instead it was August 29, 1973 when I saw him next.  Only fateful circumstances, plus Becki’s intervention, and very rare luck made it possible.  It certainly was not preplanned on my part.

Besides my well-known obsession with Paul, I am also stricken with the Wanderlust.  I must travel or go insane.  I chose the former (no comments now) and therefore went to Europe in 1971 and 1972.  Seeing Paul was always in the back of my mind, but watching him unlock his gate rom a half a block away was as close as I came.  By then I’d been to London three times, and my main purpose in going to Europe in 1973 was to see those parts of southern Germany and Austria that have always fascinated my imagination.  It looked as if London would not be on my route this time.  Five weeks later in Vienna, Becki wrote to me from London that Paul and family would probably be home by the end of the month and that I should really think about coming.  There was a student charter leaving in two days and I decided to take it.  I wasn’t able to reach Becki and Wayne from Austria, so my arrival was a surprise to them.  Circumstances were working for them too; my sudden appearance kept them from leaving London on the 29th as they’d planned.

That afternoon (August 28th), the three of us discussed going to Paul’s house and actually ringing the bell (as opposed to merely loitering on his sidewalk).  The hard part was in thinking of some intelligent opening.  “Hi, we’re your fans, let us in,” just wouldn’t wash.  The right words always flee just when you need them.  Then I remembered how in ’69 at Rich’s house, Richie and I had begun our conversation with him by wishing Mo a happy birthday, and we’d brought a card, so that led right into other things.  Speaking of birthdays reminded Becki that this was Mary McCartney’s birthday (Paul’s little one was 4!).  Becki even had presents she’d brought from America for the kids and we collected some of the things and set off, not knowing what to expect.  We didn’t even know if they were back in London yet. 

 It was at least 8pm, when we rounded the corner onto Cavendish Avenue.  We told ourselves that if his light was on then we’d assume he was home; while in the pit of my stomach, I wished that we wouldn’t see the light, and be spared the confrontation.  But by the most incredible luck it was to turn out that the McCartney’s would be at their London home only 2 days in all of three months!  And we showed up on exactly those two days!

Half way down his block we could see that the lights were shining in #7.  Alone, I never, never would have had the guts to ring his bell, but Wayne was with us, and he was unanimously chosen to have the honour of disturbing the peaceful serenity of the McC household. He ran the bell; 2 or 3 long seconds past and then a woman’s voice came over the intercom.  It was Linda’ Wayne told her we’d come to celebrate Mary’s birthday.  She laughed over that, “Mary’s birthday, huh?” but even thought she could guess at our real motives, she seemed amused enough by our explanation to pleasantly accept it.  Wayne added that we had birthday presents and things to give her, and she said, Mary’s asleep, but she’d come to the gate.  In a minute she was holding the gate open and smiling, and looking as happy and friendly as I’ve ever seen her. 

Heather stood beside her in a nightgown.  Linda was in a cheerful mood, and said conversationally, “We’ve just been stuffing ourselves with birthday cake.”  She remembered (with a few hints) meeting Becki and her Mom back in 1969, when she had coveted Becki’s scrapbook and autographed it (Becki had since painstakingly enlivened it with her own art work and was now making it a gift to them).  She didn’t remember me from 1969, saying how hard it was to remember all the fans they’ve met.  Heather chimed in, “We remember the BAD ones,” and her mom added, “And the good ones.”  She also told us that they had just come back from Liverpool the night before, and that they were really tired, but that they had to leave again on Thursday for Lagos, Nigeria to record.  Wayne asked if there was any chance that we could talk to Paul.  About this point, she mentioned that she would have to get back in or the kids would get out of bed and a minute or two later little Mary and baby Stella (2 years) were running around the yard behind their mom, giggling and squealing.  I wonder what Paul was doing during this time, with his whole family out by the gate.

Fortunately for us, Linda didn’t just brush us off with a curt thanks for the presents, good-bye, don’t come back; instead she suggested that we come back the next day and maybe we’d get to talk to Paul.  She played it down a bit, by adding that it might only be a quick hello-goodbye type thing, but we could come back.  With the kids finally clambering around her legs we made our goodbyes, with our thoughts already turned towards the morrow.

Linda is not the type who tells everyone to come back, believe me! She has met enough Beatle fans to know that it would have taken an earthquake, a flood and a holocaust combined to keep as away after almost assuring us that we would see Paul.

We talked over our good fortune and our plans for the next day at an 11pm dinner near Piccadilly.  We were so confident about the next day, our optimism was sky high and we literally skipped down the streets that night.

August 29th was certainly the most hectic day of our lives, what with changing hotels, buying presents for the kids, wrapping them, then stopping again to buy flowers and a bottle of wine.  We were carrying about as much as humanly possible so we had to refrain from bringing a cake, a three-course dinner, or the Taj Mahal!  It was 4 o’clock before we made it to Cavendish again. 
Three girls were waiting directly across the street.  So we put on a brave front and looked only straight ahead.  Don’t hesitate; just push the bell as if we were expected.  The little pin that busted our bubble was that no one answered.  What should we do?  We didn’t want to be found just standing, loitering in their driveway upon their return.  We decided to come back later, until a young neighbor girl came up to us with Paul’s golden retriever in tow and informed us that they had all gone to get their vaccination shots, but would be home any minute.  No sooner said, than we looked up and there was that bright red Lamborghini sports car of his racing down the quiet street, and us in his driveway yet!

The whole family was in the car, the three girls wiggling in the back seat.  Paul bounced out of the car with a cheery hello, looking handsome, fair, and clean shaven.  It was such a shock, I can’t even remember what he said as he unlocked the front gate and let Linda drive the car inside.  Before he could say goodbye and close the gate, Wayne made some fast introductions, and told him how we’d been there the night before and had some things to give them.

He looked at me with those big penetrating eyes of his and asked me if I was Becki, and I just dumbly shook my head and pointed to Becki, so I’m sure he was wondering, “then who the hell are you?”  When he motioned us to come inside, I thought I might be left on the sidewalk, but the three of us slipped in as he closed the gate on the three girls (German) who were now calling his name.  What a weird feeling to be on the inside.

We grouped around their car, very near to the front steps.  The two little ones were chasing each other around, and Paul was waiting to see what we had to show them what was so important.  Wayne called Heather and Mary over to the other side of the car and privately showed them the painting Becki had worked late in to the night to finish.  They giggled and oohed and awed, and said, “It’s mommy and daddy!”  Paul was muttering under his breath, (but I was standing right next to him) “really playing it up” and then gave into the inevitable and invited us into the house, for the official unveiling of the painting, saying “this better be good!”  Becki mentioned that I’d brought wine and Linda seemed enthused and just as friendly as she’d been the night before.

All my sense were foggy and fuddled by now, here we were walking up their front steps into their home with Paul and Linda leading the way, trying to make polite conversation with us, and who knew what was going to happen next?

Down the red-carpeted hallway into the dining room, where Wayne put up the painting against a vase on a table.  Paul and Linda stood back and admired it and commented that it was a good likeness.  Then he turned to Wayne and asked him how long he’d been married and added, “Still love her?”  We seemed to drift into the kitchen to put down all our packages and distributed them to the kids.  It was such a small kitchen and we were all in there so close together.  With tiny blond Stella plopped in the middle of the floor unsuccessfully trying to unwrap her package, and Mary sitting on top of the side counter excited and busy with hers.  Paul and Heather were by the refrigerator talking quietly and then he came over next to Mary, and less than a yard away from me.  As we watched the kids unwrap, I made small talk about the books I’d bought for them to read on the plane, one was a pop-up book of African animals, and they thought that was appropriate.  I demonstrated how the animals unfolded with Paul looking over my shoulder and both exclaiming over it.  Paul and Linda were smiling at us all the time, trying to put us at ease.  Heather was happy that she hadn’t been forgotten, and I helped put the necklace with her initial on her, then I bent down to help Stella get her package unwrapped.  Mary had unwrapped the coveralls that Becki had bought for Stella, but Linda held them up to Mary and said, “They’ll fit Mary now, and Stella in two years.”  Paul, leaning against the counter, asked Wayne where they were from and chatted with us very comfortably.  He turned towards me and asked, “and who are you?”  I was numb and dumbstruck, but I blurted out, “I’m their neighbor!”  as if that had anything to do with the tea in China.  Oh, for the chance to say something more meaningful!  I can only guess that I was trying to communicate in a roundabout way that I was not just some stranger Becki and Wayne had never seen before.  It’s easy now to think of intelligent replies, but at the time it was difficult just to retain reason enough to remain standing on two feet.

Heather wanted to leave, and she wanted us to leave too, but we weren’t leaving til Paul and Linda said we had to.  We followed them back into the dining room, with Linda saying how tired they were from the vaccination shots.  Then Wayne spoke up and asked if we could take some pictures before we went.  “Pictures?”  Paul questioned nervously (did he think we wanted the ones on the walls?).  Photographs of us together we explained.  Paul mumbled, “No rest for the wicked,” but led us thru the back of the house out onto the back steps.  Six big dogs jumped all over us until Paul appeared and then they all disappeared, I know not where.  Paul was still muttering, and Wayne said, yes he realized that it can be a hassle, but we really didn’t want to be a nuisance to them.  Paul said, yes you do.  Wayne said again, no really, we don’t want to seem a bother to them.  Becki looked up at him and very freely told him, “It means a lot to us.”  That seemed to change his perspective and he immediately softened, “yeah, it means a lot to you,” he said very sweetly.  He relaxed and started telling us about some group he used to wait around backstage to meet when he was a teenager in Liverpool and he reminded Linda of some similar experiences of hers.  It was as if he had put himself in our position and remembered being a fan himself once and now he wanted to make up for any peevishness on his part.  As Wayne adjusted his camera, Paul began to joke with Becki.  He asked her if Wayne was a good husband.  I said, “Just so he’s a good photographer!”  Paul laughed, “yeah, who cares if he’s a good husband right now…”

Linda had him by the arm, with Stella on her hip, with Becki next to him and me next to her.  For the third picture Paul moved down a step and put his arm around Becki’s shoulder.  He has a silly, fool-on-the –hill type expression on his face.  Then I moved down to take some pictures, nervously trying to adjust all the settings on the camera.  It was such a dark overcast day, I was afraid none of them would turn out.  I told Paul that, and he said, they’d better, or you’ll be kicked out of the neighborhood!  Luckily I got three very nice slides of them, worth a thousand words each.  The first one was blurry, with Paul and Becki laughing so hard they moved.  When we first got the pictures back from the shop, and were able to hold reality in our hands, we saw for the first time what they were really wearing that day.

After the photo session we went back thru the house, noticing little things (framed photos of Heather and Mary on the wall, children’s crayon drawings and newspaper clippings of Paul also on the wall, a fireplace with greeting cards on top of it), impressions just flitting across our consciousness.
In their front hallway we stood saying our goodbyes, the hardest part of all.  I thanks Linda for being so nice and having us in, and then Becki emotionally hugged her.  Paul was standing by the door, waiting, and I could only shake his hand.  Shaking hands is so neutral, and I really wanted to show more feeling than that, but again I was paralyzed into inactions, and the brief moment was lost.  He had such a Mona Lisa smile on his face that seemed to say, I know what you really want to do.  I’ll bet he did!  Becki had to follow my example and shake Paul’s outstretched hand as well.  We both wanted to hug him or kiss him, but you have to be able to grasp opportunity in the split second it is offered, but we hesitated and then Linda was holding his arm again and it was too late.
They followed us out the door, and thanked us again for all the gifts, and then waved to us from the steps as we let ourselves out the gate.  Once outside we didn’t know whether to cry or jump for joy.  It was a strange happy-sad feeling.

The parts of that day that I have been able to put into words are as real as the memories themselves, but they are of a different substance and the photographs lend a tangible reality to what otherwise could fade into a dream.