It’s Thursday morning, and Ringo Starr is on the phone again. He seems to enjoy it. As a publicist connects calls from his Los Angeles home, the 75-year-old endures a series of brief chats with faceless strangers.
“Michael!” he declares enthusiastically. Yessir. Yet another journalist who can scarcely believe he’s speaking with a former member of The Beatles. “There’s always one more question,” Starr says, pretending to gripe while laughing.
Starr has plenty to talk about — and he’s thoroughly engaging while doing it.
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band are on tour; the group will perform Oct. 6 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
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There’s also the big auction in December. After combing over storage units, Starr and his wife, former model and actress Barbara Bach, recently announced that they will sell more than 800 items, including rare Beatles memorabilia. Some of the proceeds will go to The Lotus Foundation, a charity founded by the couple.
Fans with five-figure incomes might be more excited about the Sept. 21 mass release of “Photograph,” a book featuring more than 250 Beatles images. Starr published it after rediscovering long-forgotten negatives and pictures that had been stored for decades. On the book’s cover, a shaggy young Starr holds a camera while gazing into a mirror. He likes to call it the first selfie.
Something tells me you’re probably not that wild about the world’s infatuation with selfies when you’re out in public.
I take enough of my own, so I can’t complain.
Was it better in the ’60s when fans just walked up and fainted?
That was much easier. You just stepped over them and carried on. (Laughter)
Do you remember taking that photograph?
No. I’m in the mirror somewhere with curtains. I’m guessing it was a home we owned in those days. And so, I can’t really say, “Oh that was exactly the ...” — no. But I’m glad I found it.
All four Beatles took cameras out on tour, even relatively early in the band’s career. As young guys, did you really have that level of self-awareness that the experience needed to be captured?
That was the furthest thought from our mind. It was like, we had cameras, who else can we shoot? We’re hanging out together. A lot of the photos in the book are like in hotel rooms, because we did spend a lot of time in hotel rooms. And in cars. Going to and from the gig, hanging out in hotel rooms. We didn’t do a lot of sightseeing in those days, because we were sort of trapped in a way. They let us out to do the show.
When you were digging around doing research for the book, did you find any photos that were especially moving or memory-triggering?
They’re all memory-triggering. ... There’s like five people in the world who remember every day of their lives. But what was great about the photos — bar the one you asked me about (laughs) — they triggered great memories of the emotion of the time, you know?
I mean one of my favorites was I’ve taken a photo of John, and we’re in Paris, and there’s all these people around. And not one of them are looking at him. Or me taking the photo! That was before it got really, really big. Because after that, everybody was looking at John and I, you know.
And I don’t suppose you two were smart enough to appreciate that moment at the time.
No, no, at the time, it was just like him in a crowd of people. It was like a little arty shot, you know, in France: “Ooh, we’re in Paris!” And when I saw it this time, though, I thought, “Look at that. How far out is that?” Because of course we’d got quite big in England, and then we have to go to Europe. We have to go to France. We have to go to Denmark. We went to Spain, we went to Italy. We did that whole route, because that was the way you did it then. Maybe that’s still the way they do it, I don’t know. But anyway, that’s how we did it. We were just moving around and getting bigger and bigger everywhere we went. It didn’t happen overnight like people like to think. We worked really hard.
Speaking of digging through the past, did you and your lovely wife enjoy the process of cleaning out your closets for this upcoming charity auction?
We did. Only when you empty out, or put in one space, everything you’ve got — from, in my case, sort of 40, 50 years that were in storage ... you realize that you’re just holding on to stuff. And why? So I’ve come to that time in my life where I’m not going to hold on to all of this stuff anymore. I was tired of having things in a bank vault to protect it. I never saw it. There was no joy in it, really. Just having it was not the joy anymore.
So we decided a good way to get rid of all the furniture we can’t use anymore, and the dinner services — because we have eight of them we can’t use anymore, we don’t want anymore — was to put them in an auction. And Julien’s auction house in Beverly Hills, of course, helped us out with that. So we thought that would be a great way. We’ve closed down now. We live in L.A. This is our home. We’ve closed down some quite big properties. We don’t have the walls for the paintings. We’ve chosen paintings for the house, and we’ve chosen paintings we’re ready to let go of.
I think it’s great. I’ve got to ask you: To what do you attribute your energy? Publishing books, holding auctions, touring the globe with the All Starr Band ...
... And making records and having a good time. It’s hard. I have the energy when I need the energy. I like to sit ’round, too. Barb and I went the other night to the movies. I like to do that. And we went out to dinner. So it’s a regular life, really. And I keep myself ready to be on by — I have a trainer. I work out. And I watch what I eat.
Do you have enough energy left to film “Caveman 2”? Some of us have been waiting.
I do, I do! We’d be Atouk’s parents! (Laughter) I was Atouk in the movie. And now Barb and I, I’m afraid, would have to be the new Atouk’s parents.
I was afraid you were just going to grunt back the answer.
Oh, OK. Remember, Atouk alounda Lana. ... Peace and love, brother!
Tonight in ‘The Other Studio’
Join Tim Johnstone and I as we welcome guest Ryan Stevenson, a contemporary Christian singer from Boise who is on a national tour with Newsboys through the holidays. We’ll also spin music from Destroyer, DIIV, My Morning Jacket, Blues Traveler and more.
“The Other Studio” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.
In Scene Oct. 9
• Local arts collaborative LED makes its Morrison Center main stage debut with “This Side of Paradise.”
• Restaurant review of Siam Orchid Thai & Sushi Bar in Boise.
• Hugh Jackman stars in “Pan,” which arrives in Boise movie theaters.
Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene magazine and alternating Sundays in Explore. Twitter: @michaeldeeds