Ringo Starr and The Rooming House Pay Phone

ringoandfamily

Ringo and family.

SKF NOTE: During my three years as Managing Editor for Modern Drummer I was the go-between among MD, our writers and photographers. When we scheduled a feature interview, I had to make sure writer and drummer were meeting, and that we had photos for the interview. MD‘s first interview with Ringo Starr – a milestone – was no exception.

I lived in a Nutley, New Jersey rooming house: one room, no cooking privileges, no refrigerator, shared bathroom with the other tenants. I had a telephone, a land line. There was also a pay phone in the hallway outside my door. In those days it was possible to make a pay phone call by charging it to a different phone number. For example, Modern Drummer‘s phone number.

Ringo was in California where it is always three hours earlier than in New Jersey. And I was asked to call him, hours after MD‘s offices closed for the day, to set up a day/time/place when writer Robyn Flans could interview him.

At the appointed hour I stood in the rooming house hallway, picked up the pay phone receiver, dialed the Operator, and billed MD‘s phone number for this long distance call to Ringo Starr in Beverly Hills. A man answered – not Ringo. I introduced myself and asked for “Mr. Starr.”

Then Ringo came to the phone. I said, “Hello, Mr. Starr.” And went on to arrange for his feature interview. For a guy who remembered vividly first hearing The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand, first seeing him on The Ed Sullivan Show, my phone conversation was surreal.

The interview went off very well. Robyn Flans was disappointed, I remember, that Ringo was wearing sunglasses during their time together. At the end of the interview, when the photographer was taking cover shots of Ringo, Robyn asked if he would mind removing his sunglasses – even briefly. And Ringo obliged her. That moment was captured by the photographer and became the MD cover shot.

When the phone bill arrived at Modern Drummer, Isabel Spagnardi, founder/publisher Ron Spagnardi’s wife, asked me why I had called California at night from a pay phone. I explained I was setting up the Ringo Starr interview. Isabel said, “If Ringo Starr wants to be in our magazine, he can call our offices between 8 and 5 like everybody else.”

She was a hoot! I think of Is often.

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