February 12, 2014 A Few Days In The Lives Of… A personal retrospective of The Beatles (Part two)
Written by Jon D’Amore – author of ‘The Boss Always Sits In The Back’, several screenplays, and countless articles.
As mentioned in the first part of this article, I’ve been very fortunate to have crossed paths with two Beatles along with having friends who were equally (and sometimes more) lucky to have done the same. Here are a few more stories for your pleasure and enjoyment…
Throughout the 1970s, Barbara Leigh was a model. You’ve seen her. And when you did, you most certainly commented on her beauty and the quality of the photographer’s work. Barbara was one of Hollywood’s favorite models at that time, and over the following years her pictures would become staples in the pages of Playboy.
It was in the early spring of 1974 when she met John Lennon at Jack Haley Jr’s mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Jack’s dad was the Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz (1939), and during the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jack Jr made a successful name for himself as a film producer. At the time, he was dating Barbara’s friend, the actress, Skye Aubrey.
“One evening, Skye invited me to a get-together at Jack’s house, but she didn’t say who would be there. She probably wasn’t sure herself. It was a great time in Hollywood, and because of who we were and who we were either dating or hanging out with, famous people were pretty much everywhere we went.”
When Barbara arrived, she was shuttled onto the patio that overlooked L.A., and mingled with a crowd of people, made up mostly of women. “There were always plenty of gorgeous women at Jack’s. I eventually made my way through the house and into the pool room. This was where the men hung out.”
Standing in the middle of the room was John Lennon.
“Now, I had been with a lot of famous people by that time. But meeting a Beatle, or in this case, an ex-Beatle, it didn’t matter, it was a bit too much to take without some advance notice.”
This was during the time referred to as “John’s lost weekend in L.A. that lasted more than a year.” He was temporarily separated from Yoko, though Barbara remembers that his then-companion, May Pang, was nowhere around.
“John noticed me right away. I could see him giving me the more-than-occasional glance, and it made me more-than-a-little-nervous knowing that eventually I was going to converse with one of the greatest minds and composers of the Twentieth Century. So in order to calm down, I grabbed the next joint that passed my way and hit it a few times. The problem then became the weed’s potency. It was outstanding. Let’s just say a little too outstanding. I got buzzed. Maybe a bit too buzzed to maintain an intelligent conversation with John Lennon.”
“Of course, that’s when he approached and held out his hand. All I could see were those thick wire-rimmed glasses, not the great man behind them, and I ran into another room.” A few minutes later, he approached her again. “Once again I focused on his glasses, then started giggling and bolted away. I think he tried at least once more before he gave up. I don’t blame him.”
“So there I was, a Playboy and later Helmut Newton model, all alone. Every girl at the party wanted to be with him, but he wanted to talk to me. He probably thought I was weird because I kept running away from him. I bet he didn’t get that too often.”
“Of course, the next morning I wanted to kill myself. I had the chance to talk one-on-one with one of the greatest people of our time, and I didn’t take it. Who knows what else might have happened had I stopped to smell those roses.”
When people like The Beatles traveled and hung out, it was usually in circles privy to fame, culture, wealth and artistic interests, though not always with musicians.
Such meetings occurred with John Phillip Law and Michal Butler.
John Phillip Law lived in the Hollywood home where he was born and died, only a couple of blocks from the corner of Sunset and LaCienga Boulevards. You couldn’t get much closer to the action than that during the 1960s and ‘70s. He is most remembered as the tall, handsome lead in The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966), The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad (1974), Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine (1971), Barbarella (1968) (remember Pygar, the blonde, blind, winged angel that carries Jane Fonda in his arms as they fly through space?), and roughly another 75 films.
John always mixed and mingled with those the rest of the world only dream of meeting. So when he met George Harrison, it was just another day. But because of it, John had a fond remembrance that stayed with him for the rest of his life.
The actor went to see his longtime friend, Michael Butler, in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara. As John recalled the late 1970s afternoon visit, “I walked in and there was George. He was with his business manager to discuss a possible project with Michael. Of course, I knew who George was, and he knew who I was, so we quickly got down to chatting. About what? I have no idea. We had a lot of mutual friends, so we probably spoke about them. But what I remember most was being impressed with what a sensitive and soft spoken person he was. I think he was different than the other Beatles in the sense that he was so spiritual and very much of a seeker.”
“At some point, we discussed the book he had just finished writing called I, Me, Mine, which originally was a song he had written and recorded with The Beatles during the Let It Be sessions. The lyrics are very biting, yet tongue-in-cheek, seeing as they refer to the lawsuits they were involved in at the time, and everyone seemed to be using the same words: ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘mine.’ George told me that he wanted the book to express his insights of Beatlemania and the people he shared it all with.”
Michael Butler is a Chicago native who has lived all over the world. He now keeps residences in Los Angeles and New York, and is best known as the producer of the original Broadway production, and subsequent productions throughout the world, of Hair, one of the theaters’ most commercially successful musicals ever.
Michael first met George in 1969, and they quickly developed a long friendship. Both of them, in their own right, were major components of monumentally creative entities responsible for changing America’s culture and counter-culture during the 1960s and throughout the remainder of the century. That was the common bond Michael felt brought them together.
Michael recalls a weekend in 1972 when George came to stay at Warfield Hall, Michael’s British estate at the time. “George was with his then-wife Pattie, and at some point we had a group from India show up to perform right there in this huge parlor especially for us. They were called The Bauls Of Bengal. It was a beautiful time. Just beautiful. I really liked George immensely. He was very much my type of guy. A wonderful person.”
“The last time I saw him was around 1980. We ran into one another in a restaurant up in that little mall on Beverly Glen, near Mulholland Drive. We sat for a while and chatted about so many things. Even after all of those years, we had a lot in common. We felt politically and spiritually in the same place. He was just so pleasant to be around. He truly is missed.”
In May of 1975, Harry Bluebond lived in Philadelphia and had a Friday evening he’s never forgotten.
John Lennon went down to Philly from New York City to do a benefit for multiple sclerosis and handicapped children that was being sponsored by the local ABC affiliate, WPVI-TV, and hosted by Larry Kane, a friend of The Beatles throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. John would be at the TV station to meet-and-greet fans from Friday evening to Sunday.
It wasn’t long after Harry got there before John stepped onto the sidewalk on City Line Avenue and began autographing WPVI beach towels for those who made donations.
“There was this one fellow who asked John to autograph a book or magazine,” recalls Harry. “John started rubbing his right thumb and first two fingers together, communicating that the autograph could be had simply by making a donation to the charity. At that instant, I went into my best ‘Lennon’ and began singing, ‘The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees,’ from Barrett Strong’s 1960 hit Money that The Beatles had covered and John performed on his 1969 Live Peace In Toronto album.”
“Suddenly, John lifted those great round wire-rimmed glasses to his forehead, turned around and said, ‘Hey, that sounds pretty good. Where’s that coming from?’ I was about fifteen feet away, and yelled out, ‘John, over here!’ He looked right at me, but before he could respond, I nervously yelled, ‘Hey John! When are you gonna tour?’ He laughed and replied, ‘I gotta get me green card first!’”
“The best response I could come back with was, ‘Well, please hurry, I can’t wait!’ Then the whole crowd started applauding. It was great.”
Since that day, Harry still recalls and embraces the feeling of John Lennon stopping what he was doing to acknowledge his imitation and non-professional singing. “It puts you in a special place. It was so apparent how well he got on with everyone there. John was ‘real people.’ There was no pretense on his part.”
Harry never made his way up to John. “Of course, looking back, it was a big mistake. But at that moment, because of the connection and the exchange that had just taken place between the two of us, it was an amazingly high feeling. It was brief, but it was one great time that will stay with me my entire life.”
While interviewing my friends for this article, one thing quickly became evident. It was the respect that everyone still has for these four men and the love of all the music they gave to each of us (even throughout their solo careers) that still stands up against the multitude of trends, fads and musical styles that have come and gone over the last four decades.
Oh…and then there was my second Beatle encounter. It took place during the late morning of May 2, 1983. I was on another of my countless trips to L.A., but this time I was with my first wife, the aforementioned blonde.
We had just landed at LAX and were on our way to see the remnants of my family’s famous Hollywood restaurant, Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri, which after 37 years, had closed a few months earlier.
As we sat in our rented Nissan Maxima at a red light where Holloway Drive and Horn Avenue meet Sunset Boulevard, my wife began laughing at the license plate on a gold Mercedes 350 convertible in front of us being driven by a very attractive woman. The plate read “EX-NUN.” Seeing as my wife’s family is heavy on the Catholic side, I told her to get the camera and take a picture of it.
While she rummaged through her overstuffed purse, something made me look at the car that had just pulled up on my left. At first, I was impressed by the vehicle itself. It was a black Lamborghini or a Maserati or a Ferrari. I really have no idea. But it was very sleek. Very low to the ground. And very cool.
Inevitably, as one does, I looked at the driver. My eyes bugged out. My mouth opened. It was Ringo looking very ‘Hollywood’ in a black silk shirt, gold sunglass, and with his hands on the steering wheel. A couple of his gold rings reflected the sunlight. Yeah. It was Ringo. There was a female in the passenger seat. It could have been Barbara Bach. I have no idea. It didn’t matter. I was looking at Ringo Starr.
“I’ve got it,” my wife excitedly yelled out.
“Got what?” I asked, without taking my eyes from one of my gods.
Ringo hadn’t noticed me. That was all right. I was 10 feet away from him. Sure, we were in two separate cars, but I was 10 feet from Ringo!
It was my second Beatle encounter where we were separated by only a sheet of glass.
Knowing the light would turn green any second, and with my head still facing him, I reached out to my wife and yelled, “Gimme! Quick!”
“No! I’ll do it!”
Click. She snapped a shot of the license plate.
“No!” I yelled. “Not the nun. I wanna take a picture of–”
That’s when the light changed. Before I could finish my sentence, Ringo glanced over and saw my awestruck expression. He smiled, gave me a quick wave, took his foot off the clutch and buzzed along Sunset Boulevard all before I could raise my hand to wave back.
But hey, I was just waved at by Ringo Starr. Life was good.
Oh, and even though the marriage didn’t last much longer, I still have the picture of the license plate.