THE BACK PAGES
books Steyn on Londonistan :50
The Price is htat P.53
film Frank Gehry, fellow elder p.54
arts Be nice to poets night p.57
stage Only in Winnipeg P58
taste Food fight simmers P.60
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL
He’s 64 and still the lovable one. But how will he manage without an unpopular wife to do all the dirty work?
So it's official: now he's 64. When the young Paul blithely penned his catchphrase in an era when the rock star's anthem was "I hope I die before
I get old,” he probably never thought he’d live that long. If he did, he had no reason to doubt that some lovely woman would be around to answer the call as he carolled “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” And whatever else he expected as the anniversary loomed, it can hardly have entailed becoming a new divorcee with a twoyear-old child, still less fighting the scandal of nuclear proportions currently engulfing his estranged wife. Yet Paul will come through, as he always has.
For he was always the lovable one. John was sly and unnerving with his narrow-eyed stare and cynical grin, George was solemn and deliberate, and Ringo was gormless, but Paul you could take anywhere, confident that he could charm bus drivers or baronets. Over the years, John lost his way and fell down the rabbit hole with Yoko,
George kept following the India hippie trail, and Ringo subsided into being Ringo. But Paul’s birthplace is now a monument cared for by the National Trust, and he’s pretty close to a Living National Monument himself.
How does he do it? A golden patina burnished for over half a century doesn’t happen by accident. Paul was always a canny mover in the quest to evolve from a working-class cheeky chappy to a figure of world class. Despite the wide-eyed look, he was adept at self-positioning, at staying on top of the game and advancing No. 1. England has a long tradition of entertainers making good: witness the success of one William Shakespeare centuries ago. But Shakespeare only wanted to make enough money to go back to Stratford and buy the best house in town. Paul wanted world fame and a voice of his own, a place in the sun and the approbation of the great and the good.
He’s been helped by having not one but two spectacularly unpopular wives. Why did the world hate Linda and Heather so? Partly it’s been simple anti-feminism, the fear engendered by determined and powerful women. Part of it, too, came from the resentment of the fans. It was the Beatles’ genius to grow and evolve with their followers from the early ’60s to the end of that magic decade, but in the end, the fans just wanted them to stay the same. Linda dealt with it by maintaining her reserve, Heather by getting in everyone’s face, but neither of them ever got it right.
And what was in it for Paul? A great deal. A man intent on being Mr. Nice Guy needs a wife to take care of all the nasty bits. Paul likes to seem easygoing, charming and cool, and it’s worked very well for him to convey the image of a decent, likeable man at the mercy of a woman who was a bit of a harridan. With his two unpopular wives, Paul provided himself with a lightning rod, someone to take the flak (as Linda did when he set up Wings) and divert hostility away from him.
So it was with the Clintons. By offering Hillary a political partnership, Bill very cleverly set her up to become the unpopular face of his presidency, devolving onto her all the less vote-catching aspects of his agenda. He also succeeded in persuading the world that she was the snooty intellectual, when he had been the Oxford University Rhodes Scholar and was known to have one of the best brains
in politics. So Hillary took the heat for Bill, as Paul’s two wives have done for him.
Marrying Linda on March 12,1969, was one of the smartest things Paul ever did. Through her, Paul succeeded in transcending his class origins, for Linda was a true American princess. The daughter of a lawyer who had made a fortune in the entertainment business, she was also a woman of achievement in her own right, launching her photographic career at the top by shooting the Rolling Stones and in 1987 being voted U.S. Photographer of the Year.
Linda was also older and more experienced than Paul, another strike against her for the fans, but a profound match for Paul, who had lost his mother at the age of 14. Paul became deeply in thrall to his wife, disarmed by her class and talent, and he revelled
in his uxoriousness, later declaring, “In over 30 years, Linda and I have never spent a night apart other than enforced absence. When people asked us, ‘Why not?’ we would reply, ‘What for?’ ”
Linda got Paul into vegetarianism and animal rights at a time when both were regarded by most Brits as killjoy nonsense, strictly for cranks. But at the same time, she kept his feet on the ground. Despite almost unimaginable wealth and fame, Linda and Paul created a normal English life, living modestly and sending their children to ordinary schools. Linda gave Paul the family life he had lost when his mother died. More than that, she gave him what he prized above all, a life beyond the Beatles.
But always he was the honcho. He created Wings, he insisted on incorporating Linda, and he made all the musical decisions that resulted in Wings being one of the worst bands ever. But Paul smiled his way through all the rotten eggs, and gave the critics one in the eye when Wings had a massive hit with the unfeasibly popular Mull ofKintyre.
How did he learn to negotiate his way through these minefields? John was his training ground. Paul said that he had learned to cover his feelings after his mother’s death, but John’s psychological history was plain to see as the hurt boy grew into an angry, hurtful man. At best, he was sardonic, witty and edgy, at worst, bitingly cruel. Working with John, Paul swiftly picked up the knack of being the likeable one, the balm to John’s innate wormwood and gall. His niceness neutralized John’s increasing acidity, and he kept the band looking normal and unthreatening when John was claiming they were “bigger than Jesus.” By contrast, with his round innocent eyes and kewpie-doll mouth, Paul learned how to do cute without ever making it look like an act. He became a genius at the unstudied, natural look. Look at the early footage now, and it’s clear that he was working the camera in ways the other Beatles simply weren’t. “Twinkle twinkle!” go the bright shiny eyes, “Wiggle-waggle!” the expressive eyebrows, and even his shoulders are enlisted as punctuation marks for the occasional telling shrug.
Psychologists call it the halo effect, the ability of some individuals to appear virtuous in comparison with others, no matter what they do. And in his heyday, Paul did plenty. A1972 bust for cannabis in Sweden was the first in a string of drug-related arrests. Arriving for a 198O tour of Japan, Paul
was arrested for possession of marijuana and imprisoned for nine days. Later he told the press that he and Linda intended to give up smoking grass, but holidaying in Barbados in 1984, he and Linda were done for possession again. A drug history like this would keep many out of the superhero league, but no one thinks of Paul as a user like Keith Richards or Jim Morrison. These were the days when Paul perfected his lifetime art of coming up roses. The deep-dyed delinquent was
always John. With John, Paul had a fantastic bond. When they met, John was 20 months older, a big gap to a young man of 15. Paul’s initial hero worship grew into comradeship from August i960 onwards, when the band had the first of a gruelling but rewarding series of gigs
in Hamburg, a bigger, crueller version of the Liverpool they had left. Then it was back to England, and soon fame was kicking down their door. As the creative heart of the band, John and Paul were named by the Times of London as the outstanding composers of the year in 1963. In August 1965 they played to some 55,000 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium, where you couldn’t hear the music for the screams. These were the glory days for the pair, and the links between them were
not only musical. Like Paul, John had also lost his mother as a young man, and Paul described this as one of their strongest bonds. With George and Ringo, they created the soundtrack for a generation. Then it was over, publicly and painfully. As the cracks appeared and the Beatles came apart, it was like watching a crash in slow motion. Now it was clear that George and Ringo had always been the foot soldiers of the quartet, definitely the lower orders, sec-
ond class. At the top, Paul and John were locked in a spiralling rivalry. The formation of Apple and the Beatles’ entry into the corporate world spelled the beginning of the end. The group could not contain the new lives Paul and John wanted to lead. As their blood brotherhood dissolved
into open conflict, the smart money would have been on John to walk away with the better solo career, the enhanced reputation, the international acclaim. But Paul won hands down. How? By a series of deft moves. His first step was throwing in his lot with Linda to break the bond with John. She convinced him he could be bigger than the Beatles on his own. Paul needed this if he was to get down and
dirty, dissolve Apple and murder the Famous Four. Linda not only supplied the motive, she provided the murderer as well. Paul’s little-known ally in this act of fratricide was Linda’s father, Lee Eastman, the New York entertainment lawyer. Under Eastman’s tutelage, Paul took the necessary steps to break up the Beatles. In December 1970, he
began proceedings in the British High Court to bring the partnership to a close. His life as a Beatle was over. Fast forward through another decade bitter legal wrangling and deteriorating relations between Paul and John, causing Yoko later to claim that Paul had hurt John more than any other person in the world. But while John hunkered down in the Dakota building in New York, lurking like a wounded animal in its lair, Paul stepped out into a different life, dabbling in any number of projects while fathering a brood of children every bit as photogenic as the Fab Four in their youth. He was here, there and everywhere. He had arrived, made it into a post-Beatles universe as none of the others ever truly did.
For John never recovered from Yoko, mired inexorably in the madness she called her art. Like Linda, Yoko had stepped into the gap left by the estrangement between the two men. Sadly, John had left his built-in phonydetector at home the day he met Yoko, and his long-drawn-out Calvary may well go down in history as her most substantial work. Then, in 1980, John was shot. “It’s a drag, man,” Paul said. This was later explained away as a remark under stress, but Paul correctly foresaw that John’s premature death would dog him for the rest of his life. When the dust had settled, Paul attempted another symbolic act of fratricide, saying he wanted to reverse the order of the names on those Beatles songs traditionally credited to LennonMcCartney which he had written solo. He had reckoned without the she-wolf Yoko Ono and her ferocious determination to defend John at all costs. She fought off Paul, and he limped away (although he did reverse the credit on songs included on his 2002 live double CD Back in the U.S.). But Paul’s Teflon effect came to his aid again. Determined to show that there was more to him than being a Beatle, by now he had written and starred in the music film Give My Regards to Broad Street, and composed a classical oratorio for Liverpool Cathedral. In 1996 he opened the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which had been founded with over £1 million of his own money. Every event was another stage in the journey out of Liverpool’s Cavern Club, culminating in the final accolade, a knighthood from the Queen. Paul had it all now, except for one thing. By the time he stepped into Buckingham
HOW DID PAUL LEARN TO NEGOTIATE HIS WAY THROUGH THESE MINEFIELDS? JOHN WAS HIS TRAINING GROUND.
Palace to receive his honour, Linda was too ill to accompany him. In a bitter irony, the international health campaigner had fallen victim to breast cancer, which lulled her in 1998. There was no doubting the depth of Paul’s loss.
But he was not alone for long. Barely a year after Linda’s death, Heather Mills burst on the British public as a social activist in the Linda mould, but the contrast could not have been more acute between the classy member of the U.S. aristocracy and a former topless model who had lost a leg in an accident with a police motorcycle. At first, the British press were upbeat. Ever loyal to their hero, they milked the story for all it was worth, dusting off their finest clichés when it led to wedding bells and the patter of tiny feet. But long before the romantic Irish wedding and the birth of Beatrice, lurid tales abounded of knock-down, dragout rows and Heather hurling her £25,000 engagement ring out of a hotel window.
In truth, Heather never stood a chance. When a sexy blonde thirtysomething looks at an old rocker with the face of a busted choirboy and untold wealth, the world wondered, what can she see but dollar signs, even if he is Sir Paul McCartney? This slur missed the point. What Heather wanted was remarkably close to Paul’s lifelong want-list, and cash doesn’t cut it. Like him, she longed to be loved: her website is awash with gushing tributes to how great she is. Like Paul again, she found her own voice and carved out a career that propelled her up the social scale. She wanted a place on
NEWS THAT HEATHER HAD WORKED AS A PORN STAR LED TO A WEEK OF PUNNING BEATLES HITS: ‘HEY NUDE,’ ‘ABBEY RUDE’
the A-list, many worlds away from the backrooms in Soho where she stripped for topless shots.
And like Paul again, once she’d arrived, she wanted more. Press and public alike yelped in disbelief as it seemed that Heather hoped to replace the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as Britain’s “Queen of Hearts.” Specifically, she wanted to step into Diana’s anti-land-mine shoes. With stunts like waving her prosthesis on Larry King Live, Heather achieved the impossible: she made Linda look good. Linda’s agenda was well-known, but she never promoted herself. She kept the focus on the cause and on Paul. But Heather was about Heather, and having been seen talking with bigwigs about land mines and world peace, she saw herself as Paul’s equal, if not more. Once again, Paul was trapped in an intimate but viciously
competitive relationship like the one with John, another slow torture, a daily drip, drip, drip of misery.
The relationship may have been doomed from the start, when Heather failed to win over his children. They detested her. Soon hostility to Heather was surrounding Paul wall-towall. Did he dump her because she was tarnishing his crown? For dump her he did. Once again, it had fallen to Paul to call time.
So what now for Paul, as his birthday draws near? Facing the inevitable wrangles about money and maintenance that will cloud his horizon for years, he must have asked himself, could things get any worse? Alas, last week Britain was reeling from the revelation that in 1988, Heather worked as a full-on porn star, pictured naked in sex acts with a male co-star, attended by all the apparatus of whips, handcuffs, edible underwear and baby oil. Britain’s biggest tabloid the Sun printed as much as they dared of the highly explicit pictures, all captioned with punning reference to Beatles hits, “Hey Nude,” “Abbey Rude,” and “Oil You Need Is Love.” The story is still breaking as Heather’s co-star came forward to claim that he had a “sex marathon” with her after the shoot, and pornographic magazines are reportedly falling over themselves to reprint the pix.
Once again sympathy for Paul overflows, and once again he has walked away from a nasty mess with his lustre undimmed. But is it as simple as that? He was either very prescient or almost unbelievably lucky to separate from Heather before a scandal of this magnitude set the front pages of Britain’s redtops on fire.
Why are pictures that date back to 1988 hitting the headlines in 2006? Has it become open season on Heather, now that she is no longer protected by the cordon sanitaire that surrounds Britain’s Greatest Living Beatle? Or did someone arrange to have them released to keep up Paul’s Nice Guy image, as he was the one who kicked his wife out, leaving his daughter to face the future as the child of a broken home?
Did someone release these pictures to black-
en Heather beyond recovery, to destroy her reputation with a view to demolishing her bargaining power in the divorce? “Lawyers for Sir Paul are bound to cite her porno-
graphic past as grounds for the payout to be reduced,” reported the Sun with glee. Will it, or won’t it? There was no pre-nup, and Paul has almost $1 billion of net worth. Is Heather entitled to half? There is talk in one newspaper article of a quickie $100 million for Heather to go away. But who is talking the talk? Is this another pre-emptive strike from Paul’s camp?
If so, he is likely to be disappointed. Heather is far more Yoko Ono than Linda, and has shown her determination to fight. There’s talk she’ll appear again on Larry King Live to tell her side of the story, rebuilding her life and career in the U.S. But whatever Heather does, she can’t rain on Paul’s parade. Sir Nice Guy is part of Britain’s secular royalty now, while remaining the good boy next door. Happy Birthday, Paul, the nation cries. We loved you when you were just a Liverpool lad, and we love you even more now that you’re 64. M