After coming to Atlanta in October 1986 for a few days to appear at a press conference to promote the London Brasserie, Ringo came back to Atlanta on Friday, September 25 for the much-heralded (or should I say hyped) opening festivities for the restaurant.
At this point I suppose some recounting of facts is in order. At the press conference last year I asked Ringo if he was coming back to Atlanta when the restaurant opened. He said he would and that it would be opening “in March or April” (just like Paul’s newest album will be out in February!). After several delays, it was finally announced that the restaurant would be opening in September and several celebrity guests had received invitations and accepted, including Elton John, Joan Collins, Roger Moore, and George Harrison.
Well, this was certainly enough to shake me out of my dog-days lethargy and on the phone trying to round up some press passes (I’m the features editor at the Georgia State University Signal). Through August and September, the hype grew. It was being billed as “the biggest celebrity guest list” – Phil Collins, Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Eric Clapton… There was talk of an English double-decker bus being used to ferry Ringo and the other celebrities off their chartered jet on September 25 (the day before the party) to take them to a pastoral English-style picnic in the countryside. We were getting excited.
About mid-September my friend and fellow Beatlemaniac, George Watts, and I finally got our press passes. On the same day we got that squared away, I called Pat up in Cleveland to keep her abreast of all that was brewing down here, and she passed on a fascinating little morsel of news. She said that Petra Zeitz had just written her saying she’d heard through the MPL grapevine that Paul and Linda would be in Atlanta on September 26 for the restaurant opening! Hearing this piece of information from someone removed from all the hoopla and rumors that were sweeping Atlanta was certainly encouraging!
Our hopes were raised even more the weekend before the party when George Watts, his brother Tim, and our other Beatlemaniac friend, Rick Glover, went to the trial-run opening of the Brasserie and they got to talk to Alan Lubin, the actual manager of the restaurant. He told them when the supposed British Caledonian flight full of celebs would be landing and casually mentioned that “a few of the Beatles and three of the Stones” would be getting off the plane. He also said the Beach Boys would be entertaining at the party and Ted Danson of “Cheers” would be behind the bar serving drinks.
After a crazy week, September 25th finally came (what we had joking been referring to as B Day number 1). I went over to the Marriott Marquis Hotel around 1:30 in the afternoon to greet Jennie Swenton and Patti Murawski and let them know what was going on. We left to greet the 4:30 flight at Hartsfield Airport around 2:45.
When we arrived at the international arrivals terminal, it was all very quiet, which we thought was fairly unusual given the fact that the airplane’s arrival time had been announced on some Atlanta radio stations. I didn’t really feel nervous about the entire thing until about 4:15 when officials with the British Consulate in Atlanta, managers and restaurant publicists, police and other members of the media descended on the terminal. Then the ol’ pulse went up a little bit. I really felt like I had to cement my feet into the ground to keep from pacing. When a voice came over the intercom system to announce that British Caledonian 231 had arrived, a silence seemed to blanket the entire area. I was braced not only to see Ringo but also George and/or Paul and any other celebrities.
Ringo and Barbara were the first off the jet, moving through the terminal fairly quickly. I was a little confused for split second, aside from the usual brainlessness that strikes all of us when a Beatle is in the room – I was wondering if I should stay put and see who else go off the jet, or take off after Ringo, which is what nearly everyone else was doing. I decided that I didn’t see any other Fabs .. or any other celebs for that matter, so I took off after Ringo. We followed up the escalator out to the 30-foot limousine parked immediately outside which he and Barb quickly got into. Bill Wyman followed soon after. But beyond them, there were no other rock stars in sight. There was an English double-decker bus, but a bunch of anonymous English folks piled in.
It was at this point that we began to smell some rotten eggs. We were still hoping that at least some guests they said were going to be there would actually show up.
Once inside the party on Saturday night, reports were still persisting that loads of celebrities would soon be in our midst. In fact, one waitress told us that George and Julian were in the city limits and would be arriving soon (she said the restaurant managers told her this). Soon after, we zipped outside to watch the arrival of the limos
Ringo and Barbara and Bill Wyman arrived to much cheering from the press and onlookers who had gathered outside, but beyond that a long succession of nobodies got out of the cars. Ted Lang, who used to play Isaac the bartender on The Love Boat, Bertie Higgins, a few members of the George Satellites and .38 Special. But no Paul. No George. Not even Joan Collins. Not one of the celebrities’ publicists and the restaurant managers were saying would be there showed up.
Ringo, Bill, and other “names” escaped to the V.I.P. lounge of the restaurant, leaving us with little to do but sit around, eat, and grumble about the deception that had been involved with this entire event.
Our mood definitely picked up, though, when Ringo got up on the stage with Jerry Lee Lewis and local band called Star Shower. They did two numbers together, an old blues standard and “Mony Mony” While Ringo was playing drums I managed to get up on the stage to take some photos of him in action and got within three feet or so from him while he was laying. Believe me, being that close to one of the Fabs while they were making music was something I won’t soon forget!
We did get to see Ringo, Barb and Bill Wyman at the Westin-Peachtree Plaza Hotel again on Sunday. Conveniently enough they came out around 2:40, directly before Jennie and Patti had to get to the airport for their flight back to Hartford. All three of them appeared to be in a good mood; more than willing to pose for photos and sign autographs for us.
It was a weekend of real joy and some disappointment. I felt a real sense of outrage that so much deception had been associated with the party, but since it’s so relatively rare that one of the Beatles comes through town, it was great to see Ringo here again!