MAY 12, 1998 - About one hour before "The Touch"
Blog # 2 - "I TOUCHED RINGO STARR" - Steve Ludwig
We Beatle fans are a unique bunch, I'll be the first to proudly admit. We pretty much go through life asking, "Yeah, but what's that got to do with the Beatles?"
On May 13, 1998, Ringo Starr (the best rock drummer ever from the best rock group ever) taped an episode of VH1's Storytellers, a TV show that presents musicians performing some of their best-known songs, along with a neat backstory explaining each song.
Well, a couple of weeks before the taping, word got out that the Super Starr would be performing a warm-up show the night before his VH1 taping at the great (but since closed) club, The Bottom Line, at West 4th St., NYC. Say no more...Beatle fans unite!!
The Bottom Line, an intimate club that seats, tops, 400 people. The possibilty of seeing a Beatle this close was almost too good to be true. I'd seen Ringo perform five times before this, in various incarnations of his All-Starr Band, since he decided to resume touring in 1989. But seeing him like this?? We're talkin' Beatle in the living room, close up...t-t-t-touchable!!
My friend Paul (no relation to Paul McCartney) called me.
No argument from me, my fellow Beatlemaniac. Tickets were already sold out; heck, at $30 each, they were gone in seconds! So we needed to score a couple from a, uh, "ticket broker."
Paul asked me how much we were willing to pay. Don't ask such silly questions, Paulie!! It's Ringo...It's a Beatle...GET US IN THE BOTTOM LINE, my good man!!! (OK, so maybe I had to go without food and gas for a month after paying the broker, but, hey...)
Seating at the Bottom Line was first-come, first-served. You hop on line early, you get a seat close to the stage. Ringo's set was to begin at 7:00PM. we were on line at 1:30. There were already about 30 fellow maniacs on line by the time Paul and I got there. Everyone took turns holding each other's place in line for bathroom breaks, pizza runs, etc. Couldn't let any Blue Meanies steal our place in line!
Six o'clock, the doors opened. I'd been to the Bottom Line many times before, but as I walked in this time, there was something extra special about it, almost like I had never been here before.
The front tables are set up perpendicular to the stage; we were about 3 tables to the left of where the great Ringo would be standing by the microphone. You can see by the picture how great our seats were.
At about 7:10 the lights went down. "Ladies and gentlemen, Ringo Starr and the Roundheads." The Roundheads?? That was the name Ringo chose for his backup band just before being introduced. My friend Paul and I looked at each other. We couldn't speak; we just smiled. Ringo!!!
As one of my four musical heroes bounded onto the stage, it was surreal to say the least. I remember thinking, I'm not supposed to be this close to a Beatle!!"
I looked around at the 400 of us in the club. Yeah, that's right, we ALL live in a yellow submarine tonight, with Captain Starr at the helm. We're all octopi in Ringo's garden!!
The incredible, fun, 75-minute set was over before we knew it. A second show (not Ringo) was scheduled for 9:00, so we were asked to kindly make our way out of the club.
I stood up. "Wow, great, huh?" I asked Paul.
Paul had an incredulous look on his face. "Where ya goin'?"
"We gotta leave so they can set up for the next show."
"We're goin' to the bar."
The bar at the Bottom Line was at the side. The only way for performers to get in or out of the club was, just like the patrons, through the front door. In order to get out, Ringo would have to pass by the bar...Ahh, I get it...
Quite a few of the Beatlemaniac family had the same idea. The bar area became crowded.
Paul and I got ourselves in prime position for Ringo's exit. Of course, after what happened to John Lennon in 1980, no one in his right mind would make any kind of silly, quick movements to frighten the ever-cautious remaining Fab Three. I simply wanted to be able to tell my friends I was right next to Ringo Starr.
Soon, a few people started, "Hey, Ringo! Ringo!" What goes on?
I turned around, and I was staring face-to-face with Joe Walsh! Joe was in Ringo's band for tonight's show (he's all the way on the left in the photo).
I was dumbfounded. I finally thought of something real clever to say:
"Hey," he replied. Then he grabbed my hand and shook it. Wow, cool!
I knew Ringo couldn't be far behind.
Now, the back of my Ringo Beatle bubblegum card lists him at 5' 7". Actually, I'll bet that's with his Cuban-heeled Beatle boots on. Moving really quickly past the bar was the top of a Beatle head. Here came the shortest Beatle. All of his guys had him quite secure, hustling him towards the front door. I could hear Ringo saying, "Hello, hello, hello," in his Liverpool accent. I knew I'd never get this chance again. Act naturally I told myself. I timed it perfectly. Just as Ringo whisked by, I gave him two gentle pats on the back.
I touched a Beatle!! My right hand touched the back of the man who drummed on Hey Jude!!
Before I knew it, they had Ringo out the front door, and he was gone.
"I touched him!" I proudly told Paul. His smile and nod told the story: A job well done.
Someday, I may even wash my hand...
Do you like pop culture? I love it! And I'm lucky enough to have my own radio show, called STEVE LUDWIG'S CLASSIC POP CULTURE at www.PlanetLudwig.com. Check out the archives ANYTIME AT ALL!
Hey, if you enjoyed reading my blog, you may also enjoy reading my first book, SEE YOU IN CCU - A LIGHTHEARTED TALE OF MY OPEN-HEART SURGERY. It's filled with more silliness like this.
You can get all the info here: www.ccubook.com .