If you don’t know already, Mr. Ringo Starr, the former Beatles drummer, will be appearing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Auditorium on Nov. 11 and he will (here it comes) . . . get a little help from his friends!
OK, so now I’ve got that corny line out of the way, let’s, as Ringo would say, get down to brass tacks.
His “friends” are the All-Starr Band and include: song-writer musician Todd Rundgren, Santana’s Gregg Rolie, Toto’s Steve Lukather, Mr. Mister’s Richard Page, saxophonist and keyboardist Warren Ham and drummer Gregg Bissonette.
And I should like to make one thing perfectly clear: It is very shrewd of Mr. Starr to surround himself with such a talented pool of rock musicians. Let me be blunt. Even when I first met him and toured with Ringo and the other three fellows from Liverpool a mere 52 years ago, Ringo didn’t have a sensational voice. Paul and John, who tossed him a morsel or two of a song, (“I Wanna Be Your Man” ) liked to say that Ringo “delivered” a song.
Still, when he shows up, the crowd goes wild. They’ve come to see him. He gives them what they want — and then (believe it or not) he actually leaves the stage for a while, allowing his merry bandsmen to do their thing for a two-hour-plus show.
When Paul does his thing, it’s usually three hours plus — of McCartney, all the time and only McCartney.
So let’s talk more about Ringo (he was born Richard Starkey so his wife and lifelong pals call him Ritchie), who formed his touring All-Starrs in l989.
When I last saw him earlier this year in Paso Robles he looked pretty sensational for a 76-year-old geezer. Slim — positively skinny in fact, in black pants and a black sequined T-shirt — and so much more lean than I remember him as Ringo circa sixties. A personal trainer comes to his house in Beverly Hills every day. Ringo recently sold his homes in London and Monte Carlo and loves living in America.
Not long ago, Ringo showed up at the L.A. Grammy Museum when it opened the Ringo: Peace and Love exhibit, containing drums and personal mementos he donated to the museum. Most of the stuff came from his late mother Elsie’s attic. She was a secret Ringo souvenir hoarder!
At the museum, Steve Appleford of Rolling Stone asked him, when did he realize that interest in the Beatles would never fade. “Some days you wish it did, in all honesty,” Ringo replied. “You live with it. It’s gone on a long time. The music’s gone on, which is more important, because the music is great. . . . John said it would last four years. Paul thought he’d be writing, George was going to open a garage, and I thought I would open a hairdresser’s salon.”
Post-Beatles, Ringo also kicked a drinking habit that almost destroyed him. His heavy drinking, Ringo said, began in the mid-1970s. “I got involved with a lot of different medications and you can listen to my records go downhill as the amount of medication went up,” he said. “I’ve got photographs of me playing all over the world, but I’ve absolutely no memory of it. I played Washington with the Beach Boys — or so they tell me. But there’s only a photo to prove it.”
In l988 he stopped the alcoholic rot when both he and his wife, actress Barbara Bach, went through a rehab course in a clinic in Tucson, Arizona. Bach made her screen impact as KGB spy Anya Amasova, James Bond’s love interest in the l977 film The Spy Who Loved Me opposite Roger Moore. In l981 she starred opposite Ringo in Caveman, where their romance blossomed. In l984 Ringo and Barbara appeared with Paul and his wife Linda in the movie Give My Regards to Broad Street.
It was at Paul’s nudging that Ringo last year, deservedly, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Friends tell me that Paul is also campaigning quietly to get Ringo another long-overdue award: a knighthood from the Queen of England. If Elton John, Tom Jones and Mick Jagger are Sirs, why not Ringo?
Sir Paul and his former bandmate are very close. The other day Paul recalled, “I was having dinner with him recently in L.A. with Dave Grohl and our wives. I know Ringo has been sober for years, so I joked, ‘C’mon, Ringo, have a whiskey.’ Ringo looked at me for a second and says, ‘What . . . and end up looking like you?’ I deserved it.”
So before you head off to see Ringo step on stage, let me tell you a few things about him.
In l964 on that first historic American tour, Ringo recalled that because girls screamed nonstop from start to finish, he sometimes lost his way — and wasn’t sure what song the Beatles were singing. So to catch up he learned to pay attention to the Beatles’ body language and read lips.
He told me he learned to play the drums while he was a kid in the hospital, two years recovering from tuberculosis, using hospital pots and pans as drums.
Ringo’s favorite breakfast on the road: baked beans on toast. Today he is positively meticulous about the food that passes his lips, mostly juices, veggies and broiled spuds. His weak spot? Coconut ice cream.
Ringo refuses to sign autographs, saying, “They end up a day later on eBay with people asking ridiculous prices.”
He won’t shake your hand — but he will bump elbows!
He doesn’t want to write his memoir and is constantly rejecting all book offers, although in 2013 he came out with an e-book, Photograph, of never-before-seen photos.
Ringo appears to have it all together — more than ever in his legendary life. He told Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times: “Being on this quest for a long time, it’s all about finding yourself. For me, God is in my life. I don’t hide from that. . . . I think the search has been on since the ’60s. . . . I stepped off the path there for many years and found my way [back] onto it, thank God.”
Ringo still tours as if tomorrow will be his last day on earth. And for those who show up in Thousand Oaks, expect a delightful evening: He does not hog the spotlight. Cast members all get their moment in the sun.
“I just love playing with these musicians,” Starr said of the All-Starrs. “We started all this in l989 and so this is the 12th All-Starr. We all know what to do. . . . We’re getting longevity as a band now. It’s so far out. The band has worked so well and is so supportive. It’s added up to a new exciting chapter in my life — a dream for me. I need to play and it’s not for the money. We have a lot of fun together on and off stage. That’s about it. Peace and love.”
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band appear on Friday, Nov. 11, at the Fred Kavli Theater at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets and more information, call 449-2100 or visit www.civicartsplaza.com.