Sunday, July 12, 2009
Finally Getting nto Meet McCartny...
This is the story of Barb Fenick (Hello Barb if you are out there!) who was the the fan responsible for the Beatles fanzine, The Write Thing in the 1970's-1980's (which joined forced with Beatlefan magzine in 1986). Barb's story of meeting Paul and Lind McCartney was published in the July/August 1998 issue of Beatlefan. I typed it up exactly as it was printed. In the photo, Barb is on the left and her friend Becky is next to her. I have never seen any other other photos from this day surface...
The summer of ’69 left us with wonderful memories. We got to see close-up, if not meet all The Beatles at EMI and Apple. And we did get to talk to Ringo and Maureen at their home in the country. Certainly it was all an unforgettable experience.
Afterwards, my fan club, Beatles Rule, took on new life – due to an infusion of enthusiasm, and new contacts all of England, Europe and the world even. We met fans from Germany, Brazil, London, California, Georgia and even made friends with a fan from my own hometown. All were eager to share their stories, fan encounters, photos and memories with us through the pages of our newsletter.
So despite The Beatles’ own troubles with Eastman vs. Klein and Yoko vs. everybody, the fan club scene was stronger than ever. Or maybe it was that we needed it more than ever. As news and information dried up from the “official” sources like Beatles Ltd., which folded soon after the Beatles broke up, the fans turned to the “independents” as their alternative.
The fans that were still interested by 1969-1970 were more hard-core and serious. They were not jus teeny-boppers waiting for the next concert tour, but fans of both sexes, knowledgeable about The Beatles careers and music as well as their personal lives.
Beatles Rule only lasted another year until January 1971, but by then had developed an extensive international fan base. And maybe it wasn’t totally dead, just turned down to simmer for awhile.
My main goal in life had not been forgotten, either, but was cooking on the back-burner. I hadn’t yet met Paul McCartney. Seeing him close-up was not good enough. I wanted to talk to him; I wanted to ask him questions. I wanted, really, to get to know him. But that would have to wait.
The opportunities to go back to England were elusive. I had to work. I started college. I traveled a bit. But without the fan club contacts, I was out of the information loop, not plugged into the Beatles fan network. I didn’t know when Paul was in England or in New York or on tour until it was too late. I missed his ’72 inaugural Wings tour of Europe.
But sometimes things come around for you. While traveling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland in August of 1973, my Beatles buddy form back home (the one I met at Abbey Road in 1969) sent a letter to Vienna that caught up with me finally and said, “Hurry, Paul is in town. Come quick!” Or something like that. I caught the urgency anyway. Suddenly six weeks of speaking German seemed like enough and I fancied some fish and chips and English accents instead. I was on a plane faster than you can say B-O-A-C.
My friend Becky, her husband Wayne and I hit the streets of St. John’s Wood, London N.W. 8, the next day ready to reconnaissance the area. We certainly didn’t expect success immediately. Becky had a painting of Paul she’d done that she wanted to give him. I only had my camera and my wits – the latter soon to desert me.
We were nervous as we rounded the corner of Cavendish Avenue. Last time we had been here, Bobbies had been patrolling his block, escorting fans away; Linda had been yelling, “…and don’t come back!” So what could we expect four year later?
We rang the doorbell with some trepidation, tensed and ready to take rejection. No answer, but the shock of a lifetime was right behind us. His car was pulling up to the gate! We were shocked, speechless! Well some of us. As Paul got out to open his driveway’s gates, with his whole family in the car waiting, our only brave soul in the bunch, Becky’s husband, Wayne, approached him. I was numb and dumb. I could only stare.
Wayne rattled on incomprehensibly (to me at least) about the painting that Becky had, how Paul just had to admire it from inside the house. What was he going on about? Did he think Paul would just invite us in? Yeah right! I was so stunned that Paul had arrived with such great timing that my mind was literally gone (It’s a terrible thing to waste). Paul was getting antsy; a few fans down the block had spotted his arrival, too. They were approaching fast.
He obviously did not want a mob scene in front of his family at his own front gate, so he opened the gate and waved our little three-some inside his yard. First, he looked at me and asked who I was. My moment of truth. Honest to God, I blanked, forgetting my name. I said, “I’m their neighbor.” I swear, that is what I said.
I must have figured I needed to assert that I was with the fast-talking Wayne and his artist wife, or otherwise be left behind closed gates with the other fans closing in on us. Becky and I were good friends, but I lived in St. Paul and she lived in Minneapolis. Oh well, close enough.
Now we’re standing in his front yard. Linda and all three kids are getting out of the car and quickly going into the house. Wayne was still hyping up the painting, saying the light would be much better for viewing in the house. I’m thinking, yeah, right. But who am I to be such a cynic? Paul invited us in!
I could hardly believe this was happening. When was the last time Paul had invited any fans into his home? Maybe 1967? ’68? And there we were walking up his steps. It was a good thing Wayne was doing all the babbling, ‘cause Becky and I were just two pathetic mutes.
If only the eye were a camera. I wanted so desperately to remember every single thing I saw there, to be able to tell about it later. But walking down his hallway, past the living room, into the kitchen at the back of the house, I could hardly focus on much. It was just a blur of dark rooms and dark furniture on a dark London afternoon.
On the walls of the hallway were framed photos of the kids: Heather, Mary and little Stella. Just as we were passing these, Wayne asked Paul if we could take some photos. Paul glanced over at his kids’ pictures and seemed confused. “Pictures?” he asked nervously. Wayne meant of us together because no one in a million years was ever going to believe this without them. Paul relaxed and said we could do that.
First we stood around the kitchen. Paul and Linda, the kids running around under foot, going in and out of the room. Linda was holding Stella. Wayne was showing Paul Becky’s painting. I was leaning on Paul’s kitchen counters still in a daze. I think I was talking to Linda. I have no idea what I said. They told us they’d all been out for the vaccination shots as they were leaving the country the next morning for Lagos, Nigeria (where as we all know, he recorded “Band on the Run”). Again, we marveled at our incredible luck in picking that day to ring his doorbell.
Paul was wearing a black and white patterned shirt with an unmatching brown and white stripped scarf around his neck underneath it and blue pants. He clashed. But who was I to talk? My purple and pink polyester ensemble, which I took to be the height of fashion at the time, was probably too garish for words.
I have no idea (what a surprise!) how long we talked in his kitchen. I got to stare at him close-up for a little without him running in or out of a building, dodging fans or the press and without any roads growling at me. It was heaven!
Paul suggested we take the pictures out on the back step. I lined up Paul and Linda still holding Stella and got Wayne and Becky in there. I was nervously fiddling with the camera because didn’t have flash and was worried that it was too dark even outside. Also, I could barely see to focus. Did I mention yet that I was a wreck? Mute and nearly blind as well. I mutter, “I hope these turn out,” Paul joked, “They’d better or you’ll be kicked out of the neighborhood!”
Then I got in the picture and Wayne took a few shots with his camera. Fortunately, they all turned out and we have our much needed proof!
I’m sure we thanked Paul and Linda for their graciousness in inviting us in and giving us some of their time out of their busy schedule. I don’t remember. Thank God we have those photos. It reminds me of one of my greatest days, when a dream came true – that otherwise would have seemed like just a dream.
It has been almost 25 years since that day (August 29, 1973) and now I’m married with a family of my own, a photographer husband and a golden-haired dimpled teenaged son who is a second-generation Beatlefan. And with a dark-haired, dark-eyed daughter who loved Leonardo DiCaprio (along with all the other pre-teens in America!). If I met Paul now, would I be able to talk to him person-to-person? Could I finally ask him all the questions I’ve wanted the answer to all these years (the ones even his new bio doesn’t address?) Or would I stutter and stare and forget my own name? Some things probably never change!