Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Charles meets Paul in 2000

I love it when readers submit a Beatle meeting to me!   Charles shared this story of briefly meeting Paul during a book signing in December 2000.   He is looking for anyone who has a photo of him with Paul that he knows was taken that day by press photographers.    If you have seen a photo of him and Paul please let me know!

 I had enjoyed the music of The Beatles, and John Lennon & Paul McCartney solo, for as long as I have a memory. So when I saw a full page advertisement of a McCartney book signing to be held the following day, I instantly knew that I would attend.

After work, I went to Waterstones bookshop in Piccadilly, London. There were already a few people in the line. I went home, had an early supper, and dressed warmly. I arrived at the bookstore at about 9pm, and the line had already lengthened quite a lot. I walked to a phone booth around the corner, and phoned in "sick" for the next day at work.  At about 10 pm, a Waterstones staff member came out with a clipboard, and took our names, in order. I was number 33 in line. The night passed slowly, and we lay along the wall of the store. I was lucky, as I was in the door of a Boots chemist, and the recess of the door brought some shelter from what was to be a very cold night. We found some large sheets of cardboard from the shops nearby, and lay under those. I decorated mine with a little note : "Will work for food and shelter."  There was a coffee shop near to the famous Eros statue, and it was open all night long. We took it in turns to go and get hot tea or coffee. I got along well with the people near me in the line. A friendly man, Tim. Two brothers, Stefan and Luigi.They were from Wales.  A lovely girl from Canada. The time passed, having people to talk to. I managed to get a little sleep under my cardboard shelter. It was cold, but at 3am, the clouds above cleared, and the temperature plunged. My feet were now numb, and I thought of going home to a warm bed. Then I thought, "You will regret it if you leave."  This was Paul McCartney's first ever book signing, and we had no way of knowing if he would do more in the future.  People may find it strange, spending a December night on a freezing pavement, just to meet someone for a few minutes. I didn't find it strange. Why not endure a little discomfort, to have a memory forever ?

The night dragged on. It is surprising how much activity takes place in a busy city like London. The street cleaning machines drove by. 5 am. A Boots delivery truck arrived, and the delivery man looked alarmed to find the normally bare pavement so crowded. The temperature was so low, that our breath came out in clouds of vapour. I made a trip to the coffee shop at about 7am. By now, the streets were getting busier, and the sunlight started creeping over the grand old buildings. The 7am to midday time moved so slowly. By now, the crowd went back as far as we could see. Hundreds of people were lined up.  The crowds of passersby grew as well, to see what was going on. By 12.30, Piccadilly was jammed with traffic brought to a standstill.  A large black car pulled up, and there was Paul McCartney. He had on a heavy jacket, and a lot of security with him. He was rushed into the bookshop , through the crowd.

At 1pm, a few Waterstones staff were at the entrance, and we were to be admitted in groups of 5 at a time. My turn came. Five of us were let into the door, which was then locked again. Our names were checked against the list. A security man said: "If any of you even think of doing anything funny, we will be on you in a second. Understood?"   We walked down to a screened off area. Each of us were handed one book of "Paintings." Paul had published a book of his recent artwork. Then, to my dismay, all our cameras were taken away. There was no time to argue.  I rounded the corner into the signing area. A woman ahead of me was getting very emotional, telling Paul all about her Beatles record collection.  Then he looked up, and I was next. I approached, and shook his hand. It was a moment that felt dreamlike. Here I was right up close to Paul McCartney. Suddenly the chilly night all seemed so worth it.   He opened the book, and I asked if he could sign it To Charles. "To Charles. " he repeated as he wrote.  I said to him:" I am so glad to hear that you have found some happiness again, after the sadness you have had." He stopped writing, looked up, and said: "Oh, thank you very much." The photographers there must have seen something, as the cameras went wild. Dozens of flashes went off.  The moment was over too soon. I shook his hand again, he said :"Take care." in that wonderful Liverpool accent, and off I walked. I had probably been at the table one minute. A minute I will never forget. I paid for the book, got my camera back,and looked across at the line of people waiting, and tried to get a picture with him behind me. The Canadian girl took it. When I had the film developed, the result was not good. Anyway, what an experience.   People were crying. I had never seen anything like this before. Truly a strange experience.

 I got the underground tube home, and was exhausted, but too hyped to sleep. I phoned home and told my brother and mother about it. They were astounded. I can honestly say that 13 December 2000 is a day that  I will often think about. Over the years, I have tried so hard to track down photos of myself at the signing table, but with no luck. Many photographers did not keep their negatives of that event. Also, many picture agencies are not bothered to even search their archives for such an old event. The following year, I saw Paul at a poetry event at the Queen's theatre in Soho. It was mayhem at the stage door. People were hanging out of windows, were up light poles, anywhere to get a look.  I imagine that any event to do with The Beatles will attract a huge crowd, for many years to come. That is the price of true greatness, I suppose.


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