If Ringo Wants to Be in Our Magazine

SKF NOTE: Memories of Modern Drummer magazine co-founder Isabel Spagnardi make me smile. Isabel was MD publisher Ron Spagnardi’s wife. I don’t, and didn’t, know the specifics of Isabel’s work at MD. My impression is, and was, that she, as wives often do, took care of the nuts-and-bolts of MD‘s business while Ron focused on creating each MD issue.

Isabel was something. I liked her very much. She, I think, liked me and my work. But I think I puzzled her. I was a bit of a riddle, even though I never meant to be. Isabel, in turn, sometimes surprised me with her reactions to my actions.

Take the night I set up the Dec. 1981/Jan. 1982 Modern Drummer interview with Ringo Starr.

My managing editor salary was $12,000 a year. I lived in one room with no cooking facilities in a New Jersey rooming house. The other tenants were mostly transients, guys working temporary jobs who needed a place to stay for their job’s duration.

I called Ringo at his Los Angeles home from the black wall payphone in the rooming house hallway. In those days I could charge after-hours business phone calls from that payphone to MD. This was the early 1980s. Pre-smartphones. I was calling Ringo at the time I was asked to call.

A gentleman answered the phone in LA. I identified myself and explained my reason for calling. The gentleman asked me to please hold.

A moment later Ringo came to the phone. I think I did okay trying to sound normal. In truth, I felt out-of-place speaking to the guy who, by his Ed Sullivan Show appearances and Beatles records, was a major influence on my life starting when I was age 12.

Ringo and I had a short, cordial talk. I focused on the task. I was just doing my managing editor job, making sure Robyn Flans would be all set for her exclusive Ringo interview.

Days later, when Isabel received MD‘s monthly phone bill, she asked me why I’d placed that night call to Los Angeles.

I explained I was arranging Ringo’s interview. After my explanation, I half expected some show of understanding, if not appreciation, for my initiative. After all, there was no overtime pay, no comp time. It was just me doing what needed doing to secure Ringo’s interview.

But, after I finished speaking, Isabel stared at me in silence, then said, “If Ringo Starr wants to be in our magazine he can call us during normal business hours.”

About Scott K Fish

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