Crash Landing for the Super Starr
‘Teen February 1975
Mrs. Starkey’s son, Richard was in a peeve – I swear he all but pouted. Now, it’s not the most unusual occurrence in the world to see a star in a petulant huff. What fun is there after all, in being famous if one can’t publicly drum one’s little heels on the floor in order to stand the world to attention?
But from Richard Starkey, possibly better-known as Ringo Starr, this was odd behavior indeed.
I mean, isn’t his image that of being the jolliest in the land? The another-for-peace ex-Beatle? Naïve of us to assume that image and reality are all of a piece.
Oh and it all started out as a splendidly silly Hollywood happening. In order to publicize his new album, “Good Night Vienna” Ringo was, we were informed, going to have his effigy placed atop the Capitol Tower (Capitol’s the company that distributes his records) along with that of his favorite science fiction character, Gort the robot, and a spaceship. Well, fun, fun, fun. Except it didn’t quite work out that way. Here’s what, in fact, transpired.
We arrived as we’d been bidden, at the Tower at about midday of a fine California Saturday and congregated in one of the studios where sandwiches could be scoffed and Ringo’s album blasted from some speakers. “Ringo will be arriving in a few minutes,” said one flunkey in the awed tones one should reserve for the Second Coming. “He will answer questions for 20 minutes and then leave.” Okay, in a few minutes Ringo did indeed arrive, looking – let it be said – like an English rocker straight out of good old ’64. Hair greased back in a pompadour, dark shades, a general air of sulky insouciance.
Sulky, as it turned out, was the motif for the day. Still, he was pleasant enough as he stepped up on the dais sporting his “beware. I’m manic depressive” button. But wouldn’t you know, the very first question as a zinger?
A girl from a TV station, desperately earnest (you could tell she was earnest by the way she hauled her eyebrows together) wondered aloud, “Isn’t this all a bunch of hype” or slighting words to that effect.
Now, come on. Agreed, agreed, it’s not the most tactful question in the world. It’s perhaps somewhat on the level of attending a party, stuffing your face on the grub, drinking the booze then challenging your hostess, “Just who’re you trying to impress?”
But still. Maybe Ringo’s response was, shall we say, the teeniest bit overdone. Like, he glared. (Ringo glare? You ask astonished. Ringo glared). In very prickly tones he ticked off the reporter to the effect that it was all just a party, where the heck was the hype, and if she didn’t like it…
She was an irritating reporter, it’s true, but she sure had the courage of her convictions. She persisted. What was the point, she asked, of spending all this money, time, media stroking simply to promote an album?
Ringo got angrier. Even quite insulting. By now we were firmly on the side of the questioner, mainly because the sycophants that cluster around stars had decided to display their solidarity and were urging him on with all manner of nonsense rah-rah-rah’s.
One man, with an actual sob in his voice, even ventured to say how incredibly honored we all felt (speak for yourself, we muttered) at the fact that Ringo was actually standing before us that day.
The pits. He’s talking about a drummer in a one-time great, but now de-funct, rock band who can sing other people’s songs okay but not terrific, and he’s got a sob in his throat, yet. Has the world gone totally crazed, we wondered? Because he wasn’t alone in his worship. No way. Adults long past, one assumes, the first blush of adolescence actually cheered his speech. There are times one’s ashamed to be a so-called grownup.
More questions followed: had he and his wife, Maureen split? Well, not exactly. But she was in England with their three children and he was in Los Angeles with and we quote “a lady who takes good care of me.” Howzzat for tasteful? To which other Beatle was he closest? John. Would he settle in the U.S.? Not really, because although the tax situation is pretty grim in Britain right now, it was his home. And there were things that money couldn’t buy.
He was wearing an earring. Some clod wondered what was its significance. We can’t blame his at this point for getting tetchy, because it was truly a silly question. And tetchy is precisely what he got.
“Why does everything have to have significance?” he huffed. “I mean, it’s an earring, that’s all. What’s the significance of this jacket? It’s a jacket.” Did the manic-depressive mean anything, asked one reporter taking his life in his hands. “Yes” admitted our star. “It means I’m manic-depressive.” Why did he call his album “Goodnight Vienna? “It’s the name of a song John Lennon wrote for the album, plus it’s the name of an old song Ringo likes, plus it’s the way the people in the north of England have of saying that they’re about to split. “and,” he informed us, “after you finish an album, that just how you feel. Like you want to take a trip to Mars just to get away.”
Then he bade us all a “Goodnight Vienna” and left.
Later, we were told, his effigy was indeed hoisted to the top of the Capitol Tower. He and buddy Harry Nilsson then retreated to an executive’s office and toasted each other in brandy.