Ms. Barbara Bach and Mr. Richard Starkey sit still in their chairs at the Plaza looking like little dolls, the kind one sees in the windown displays at Christmas time. She, perfectly made-up, ravishing, not a smudge on her, a set of cheekbones rising into the clouds. He buttoned way up, in his baby's-in-black clothes, the suit, the shirt, bow tie, the sneakers.
And maybe, it's the way she calls him, Ritchie.
And maybe it's the way they hold hands so tightly, each the other's life jacket, like the tide is high and they are holding on.
And maybe it's just that we were all so much younger then -- how long ago was it when we first saw HIM, when we first saw THEM, was it really 17 years?
But he seems to much different now. So thin. Almost tiny. And, at 40, dtBut he seems to much different now. So thin. Almost tiny. And, at 40, so, so, contentedly middle-aged.
"I'm Richard Starkey, who was a member of this band called the Beatles," he says. " . . . I'd like to be judged on what I do now, but everyone still relates everything back to then."
And how does he feel about that?
"There's nothing I can do about it."
He shrugs. And smiles.
"It's completely out of my control." . . . John was already cultivating his rebellion and his anger ; Paul was making his Decision for Pop ; George was making his Decision for Krishna ; And Ringo was having his house painted . -- Greil Marcus, writing about the breakup of the Beatles.
There was never any critical rush to single him out for praise. Talent, vision, they were ascribed to the others. He had his rings, his sad, shy smile, his basset-hound eyes and the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time when they told Pete Best to take his drum and beat it. Ringo started along for the ride, like C.W. Moss, driving the car for Bonnie and Clyde. And if it was just dumb luck, at least he wore it well. And all he had to do was act naturally.
It is Ringo who should be moost grateful for the Beathes. Without them, what would he have been? How many Hurricanes (rory Storm and the) can you name?
That he retains celebrity now depends more, far more, on who he was. What is he now, after all, but a Former Beatle? A few hit records, a few pats in a few trendy movies, like this new one with Barbara Bach called "Caveman," a prehistoric comedy, a literal grunter destined for drive-ins in a marriage made in Soundtrack Heaven. The cover of People magazine with his lady, Barbara Bach. How is he any different now than, say, David Cassidy? Or Shaun Cassidy? Or, even, Hopalong Cassidy? Hi, remember me . . .
He got by with a little help from his friends.
And yet, within the context of the group, he was just as important as the others, maybe even the glue that held it together. They already had incipient arrogance, commercialism and mysticism; he added vulnerability. And in the beginning, before it was chic to look beyond the hairlines, he was their Starr. If he was in on a pass, well, he was always a nice guy, and he was never pretentious. You never heard Ringo say -- Sure, this Beatles stuff is "Othello." He doesn't say it now either. Ringo still brings his lunch in a bag.
So, what would you do if he sang out of tune?
Q.Ringo, why do you always wear black?
A. "It's easy, it all matches."
Q. Don't you think it makes you look sinister?
A. "Only because I dye me hair."
Q. Ringo, what do you consider yourself now, a drummer? A singer? An actor?
A. "A human being."
Q. But you've done more acting than the others.
A. "Well, I've been in more movies."
Q. When you were 20, what did you think it would be like when you were 40?
A. "I don't think I though about it. I remember telling my mom that people should be shot when they got to 60. She reminds me of that now. She says 'You don't think that now, do you?' Teen-age madness, you know?"
Q. How do you feel when you see the pictures and movies of you as a Beatle? Do you see a change?
A. "It's lke watching another person. It's like playing that old parlor game holding up your high-school yearbook and saying 'Guess which one is me?' . . . It's 17 years ago. It's the same for me as it is for you."
Q. Barbara Bach calls you Ritchie?
A. "Barbara, my family. I chose the name Ringo Staff. The family never did. My mother never calls me up and says -- 'Is that you Ring?'"
Q. But if you're awakened from a deep sleep, when someone asks you who you are, what do you say?
A. "I always say 'I love you, darling.'"
They seem very much at ease and very much in love, the 33-year-old Ms. Bach, and the 40-year-old Mr. Starkey. Except when they reach for cigarettes they appear to be joined at the wrists. They have on similar outfits and matching sneakers, and they are wearing identical star-shaped lapel pins fashioned from the shattered windshield of the Mercedes they were riding in last year in London, the Mercedes that flipped twice, shearing off two light posts, in what Ringo calls, "not anear-fatal, but a very-near-fatal" crash.
They met while filming "Caveman," and have been live-ins since. She is divorced, the mother of two, the daughter of a New York City policeman, Howard Goldback. She has been a model, a starlet, and, as she says, "a James Bond girl." He has been A Beatle, which is a straight flush compaired to her pair of fives.
Ostensibly, Saturday's press conference at the Plaza was called to promote their film, but when a Former Beatle speaks, anyone sitting close -- even anyone as lovely as Barbara Bach -- may as well be sitting on the moon, so she says little and looks great, a role that being a starlet prepares one for.
But what about this match? Isn't it pretty heady stuff? Even for a James Bond girl, to be romantically involved with A Former Beatle?
Isn't it, well, doesn't it, I mean, aren't you . . .
She says, no.
"In reality, there aren't any Beatles -- all there are ex-Beatles," she says. "I never really dealt with Ritchie as a Beatle. The legend never carried me away. When I met the others. I met them as Ritchie's friends. It was like that when I met Paul and George and John, bless his soul."
" . . . John, bless his soul . . .
The reporters tiptoe up to the subject of John Lennon's murder as quietly and respectfully as they can, but even before hius name is mentioned, his is a palpable presence in that room. The Plaza provided special security in the hallway and Ringo, himself, has taken to traveling with three bodyguards. "Since the Lennon shooting, Ringo is scared to death he'll be killed," said a publicity aside.
Q. Ringo, have you felt the need for more security?
A. "There's no need for MORE security -- there's a need for SECURITY. Before it happened we never gave it a thought."
Q. Ringo, have you had a chance to walk around New York?
A. "No, when I leave the hotel, I get in the limo . . . I mean, I don't do any less walking than I did before; I've never been a great walker." d
Q. Barbara, are you frightened?
A. "I'm petrified of crowds anyway. I'm not used to them. When we went to the Dakota to pay our respects to Yoko, well, people were grabbing Ritchie. They were shouting, 'We Love You, Ringo.' Well, they were hurting him. I said 'If you love him, have some respect' . . . It's running and pushing and screaming -- it's madness."
Ringo sits listening, nodding his head.
Sure, sure it is. Been that way for 17 years now.
(Marilyn Monroe to Joe DiMaggio: "You should have heard the cheers, Joe. You've never heard anything like it.")
(Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe: "Yes, I have.")
And Ringo sits, nodding.
Ringo isn't the one who wrote his autobiography, not does he plan to. It is enough for him to know that his name and the names of the other lads from Liverpool have made their way into the schoolbooks. Quite sincerely he says, "I'm real pleased to know that. I always said I'd love to be in the schoolbooks."
Ringo hasn't watched any made-for-TV movies about the Beatles, nor has he seen the show "Beatlemania." Ringo thinks this whole Beatle revivalism is rubbish. "It's someone else's idea of what it was," he says.
"I was there. I have my own ideas of what it was."
Q. Ringo, about John? I know you've been asked this before, but how to you . . . you know, how do you feel?
Ringo has been sincere and witty and charming, and now that the time has come to talk specifically about John Lennon, he faces it graciously and this is what he says:
"There's nothing more I can say, he was a good friend. I loved John like a brother, I lost a very good friend, and we all lost a great musician and a great human being."
Then, after lowering his head, he raises up, and there is a tear in his right eye, and he says, "And every time you think about it, it still blows you away."