Written by Laurel Haberman
I love L.A. And so does Ringo Starr. Every year on July 7, Ringo, or Sir Richard Starkey as he is now properly known, celebrates his birthday in a different locale, such as Chicago, Hamburg or Nice, France. This year, he brought the celebration back home to Los Angeles, and the crowds gathered to celebrate the 11th annual Peace & Love party alongside the exclusive group of celebrity friends who joined him.
Nestled against the backdrop of the definitive Hollywood and Vine landmark, the towering Capitol Records building, I eagerly awaited the approach of Sir Richard and friends. Capitol Records has been host to many major recording artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Ringo’s former band the Beatles and, of course, Ringo Starr. There was a presence in the air, a lingering touch of greatness past and present, and I knew I was fortunate to be a part of the grand parade. As a spectator, I was humbled before my idols and their entourage. Ringo had arrived.
Upon the red carpet Ringo was flanked by his wife, actress Barbara Bach, and noted friends such as Don Was and David Lynch, whose foundation for consciousness-education and world peace was a supporter of the day’s events. Sir Richard gave us flashes of his ubiquitous smile and showered us with peace, love and jokes. Striking a lean and trim figure in a crisp white jacket and black skinny jeans, no one could argue that sobriety and a healthier lifestyle aren’t doing his 79-year-old body good. Charming and personable as his reputation, Ringo started down the line, stopping to talk to and answer questions for many of us close enough to gain his attention.
It was my turn next. He stepped before me, and I was struck by his small frame and stature – at a mere 5’ 6” – but there was something else equally as noticeable; his luminous greatness as the drummer of some of the most beloved and popular songs ever recorded, and the aura of his legend that loomed larger than the tower beside him. I returned his smile and felt a genuine warmth, as I brought up his appearance in the recently released “Echo in the Canyon,” a documentary film about the heady days of the 1960s and the musicians who lived and thrived in Laurel Canyon. It was a special place with which Ringo had fallen in love. “Are there any other places that have a special significance for you, that have been especially inspirational?” I asked him. “No,” Ringo insisted.“ L.A. is it! L.A. is the place for me.” Starr then joked, in his most perfect Beatles-esque manner, “I’m not going to tell you where I live!”
I had one more question to ask. David Lynch allowed me a moment, as I wondered “Do you have a message for anyone who is just starting out on their spiritual journey? How should they begin?” Lynch leaned in closer and said, “Transcendental meditation. Now.” It was more an urgent plea than a reply.
At 11:00 a.m., I and a legion of fans rallied around the front of the Capitol building to enjoy live performances of some Beatles’ favorites, including “Act Naturally,” by Ben Kyle from Romantica with Sara Watkins, and the Southern California band, the Jacks. Spirits were high as David Lynch took to the stage to motivate the crowd, preparing us to welcome the guest of honor and some very special friends, such as Jim Keltner, Gregg Bissonette, Nils Lofgren, Chad Smith, Don Was, Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, Edgar Winter and All-Star alum Sheila E. It was a love-fest of good vibes as Ringo spoke of global awareness and the celebration felt around the world. As instructed, we counted down the seconds ’til precisely noon, when chants of “Peace and love” rang out all the way from Sydney, Australia to the Hawaiian Islands. We did our part, singing happy birthday to Ringo, as he cut his birthday cake before our eyes. He and Sheila E. threw handfuls of commemorative wristbands to the eager crowd, who were all hoping to take home a remembrance of a rendezvous with greatness.
It was a perfect L.A. day in July, mild and cool and connected. Yes, Ringo, L.A. is the place.