Mr. Starr is a very likeable guy, indeed! He always struck me as very down to earth. A man you could have fun with, have a drink with, completely forgetting that he was in the biggest group in history while you were at it.
There probably should be more people like Mr. Starr in this world!
NMExclusive in depth film location interview with RINGO
We`re not mop tops any more
he tells Nick Logan
A DESERTED Centurion tank and a “dummy” tree up-turned in a ditch provide the first bizarre indications that we’ve arrived. A viciously cold wind sweeps in across the common, buffeting the white tent in the distance and the group of moving figures that together form an oasis of life amid the unfriendly sea of bracken and stubbly brown grass.
Out there on Chobham Common in wildest Surrey they are on location filming a Beatle and an ex-Goon in “The Magic Christian.”
As the only route out to the film unit is not so much a road as a switchback over a mudbath, the wisest move is to adjourn to the mobile press office parked among a cluster of vehicles off the road while a courier with a walkie-talkie is dispatched to relay our presence to Mr Starr.
The press room is inside what looks from the outside like a much travelled furniture truck and in fact is, except that inside it is plushly furnished with heater, phone link, desk, leather settee and well-stocked bar. “First in the world — ingeniously incognito” gloat the publicity people with justifiable pride.
When, eventually, the familiar Beatle face appears grinning at the rear it is a Ringo attired in tweedy plus fours and deeerstalker and accompanied by the sound of stomping feet shaking mud from a hefty pair of labourer’s boots.
“You’ve never done, me before,” says Ringo as welcome, begging a few minutes grace to get his circulation on the move.
If John is the Beatle the public has singled out for the brunt of ridicule and contempt, then Ringo is the Beatle they cling to for reassurance as the flack of shattered images falls about their heads.
Ringo is the cosy Beatle, the good-old-moptop-Beatle-boy who is nearing his thirtieth year — as everyone keeps reminding him.
“I think maybe people think they are safe with me,” says the least objectionable or the most lovable Beatle, whichever way you look at him. “I am married. I am a family man. There is nothing bad — bad from the public’s view — to publish about me.
“I try to keep two lives going. One is only to do with me and mine and the other is to do with thous and thine.
“I agree to give them the Beatle, the Ringo. But the Ritchie I prefer to keep for my family.”
And John? “John has just had a divorce and been busted so of course he is sorted out for it. People forget that divorce is happening all over the world. But Mrs Smith, she never gets a mention.
“I don’t know what people think of John at the moment. Maureen was in Liverpool and I know a lot of people there are saying that he has gone a bit crazy. But all he is doing is not keeping up with the image they have created and they think he has gone off his head.
“All we are is nice people. I’m not being smart saying that. We are just nice people.”
To the action
Ringo’s services were required back on the common so we piled into a crowded Land Rover, collected Peter Sellers, and with a warning “Mind your heads in the back” and a cry of “All the fun of the fair” from Mr Starr we made our bumpy way to where the action was.
Sellers, playing the richest man in the world, and Ringo, his adopted son, were supposed to be on a grouse shoot in which the army intervenes. The two are required to stroll side by side, guns in hand, down a slope. No dialogue needed. It is over in five minutes. “No need for Orson Welles to worry there,” cracks Ringo, as we make our way back.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, it is lunchtime and with Mr Starr and Mr Sellers in the rear of Mr Starr’s silver-grey Mercedes it is off to the village pub where a table and steaks have been booked.
While Ringo reaches for the wine and attacks his steak, we discuss the Beatles’ bad press and he argues that it goes in cycles, and that what might be bad for the public to read is not necessarily bad press for them.
“One minute the press will be all over you saying good old Beatle boys. Next year it will be those dirty old scuffs.
“I prefer it when it is nice but the other doesn’t bother me any more.” A shrugging of Beetle shoulders is accompanied by morose Ringo expression.
Can he put his finger on the turning point of what was for a long time a good relationship with the press?
“Drugs,” he answered. “But there was a lot before that. It always has depended on the journalist or the paper, however they felt at the time. They can write a story good or they can write it bad.
“For instance when we were on tour you might find in one paper it was `Beatlemania In Bradford` and in another `Beatle Rioters Smash Up Bradford.’
“Perhaps the reporter came round and tried to get an interview and couldn’t get in, so he went off and wrote it badly. If they managed to get in and we gave them Scotch then it would be good old Beatles doing a grand job for Britain.”
Does he always understand the actions of his fellow Beatles?
“No, I don’t always understand, but then I am in a privileged position of being the person who is probably closest to them and I can go and ask.
“I read the paper like anyone else and I think what’s this, what’s going on? But then I can go and ask them what it’s all about.”
The lady who served our steaks came to tell Ringo that she had a daughter away at school who’d be ever so popular if she had his autograph. Ringo obliged.
What was his reaction to John and Paul’s weddings?
“Fantastic. I heard about Paul’s when he phoned me to tell me and I heard about John through the office. I knew why he went away, that he was going abroad somewhere to marry but I didn’t know where or when.”
On to the cheese and buscuits and talk about his son Zak, who is now nearly four and approaching the age where his schooling must be considered. Ringo expresses interest in Summerhill, the “freedom” school. “I hated my schooldays,” he says suddenly. No, he wouldn’t send his son to public school, unless he asked to go himself.
Time to die
Twenty-eight now Ringo enters his thirtieth year in July. When I was 18 I thought that was the time to die. But the old thing is true about being as old as you feel. I don’t feel old and I don’t think I look my age. It doesn’t worry me.”
His role in “Candy,” he feels, came off well but he adds that in that and in “Magic Christian” he is largely playing himself. His next film, he hopes, will see Ringo develop as an actor who can sustain a totally different character for 90 minutes.
He doesn’t find acting particularly difficult. “`Candy’ was the test and I thought it was easy, so I felt confident to accept this one.”
A film featuring all the Beatles is now closer than it’s been for a long while, he says, because for the first time all four have agreed that they should do one.
It is now just a question of the right script — which won’t be easy. “Everything that has come up has been ‘Hard Day’s Night’ or `Help’ and the casting was like in those films.
“It was just the four-lads-rags-to-riches thing in different forms. John would be witty, Paul would be pretty, I would be shy and George would be George.
“If we do one Paul and I should be baddies. Why? Because no one would expect Paul and I to be naughty.
“People really have tried to type cast us. They think we are still little mop tops and we are not.”
Current Beatle work involves the completion of their next LP and among the several tracks so far recorded is one by Ringo titled “In An Octopus’s Garden (Or I Would Like To Live Up A Tree).”
Virtually certain to be their next single is “Get Back,” which features organist Billy Preston.
What’s it like?
“Paul takes lead vocal and you can say it’s a lovely little toe-tapper.”
With an infectious beat that’ll get your feet tapping?
“Yes,” says Ringo grinning. If you can sit down when this one is on says Ringo Starr then you’re a stronger man than I am.
“Put that in. It`ll give me a smile when I read it. It’ll make me happy.”
Lovable shake of moptop head.