You Can Leave Your Hat On: the First Time I Met Ringo Starr

June 1974, Atlanta GA

This photo ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following a press conference with Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson, under the caption: "Ringo Meets the Press". That's me on the front row in the hat, and to my left is my best friend Don Sylvester. That's Ringo in the satin Marilyn Monroe jacket, with Harry to his right in his trademarked driving beret. (photo will be up soon)

Note to Roger Pavey: On the table to the left of Ringo: the badges…yeah, I still have one.

Ringo and Harry were in Atlanta to premiere their movie, "Son of Dracula: The First Rock-and-Roll Dracula Movie". Yeah, long before Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt vamped it and Tim Curry tramped it, the world's most famous drummer and one of the greatest songwriters of all time played fast and loose with both the legends of Dracula and Merlin the Wizard in creating what Ringo called, "Not the best film ever made, but I've seen worse."

Looking back, the press conference was more fun than the movie. Ringo was in rare form and his answers to our questions had the ring of Beatle press conferences of ten years before:

"Why did you decide to open the film in Atlanta?"
Ringo: "Because nobody else would take it."

The movie– for those of you who never saw it (which is all of you, I'm guessing)– centers around Count Down (Nilsson), the son of Dracula, born a vampire and must glom neck for sustenance. But he's also "into just about every kind of music there is," and takes periodic breaks from the action to run downstairs and perform with his band, which includes Keith Moon on drums. Thus, the plot provides plenty of time for Harry to work nine songs into the film, including the minor hit "Daybreak".

So as Count Down is coming of age and inherits the gig as Overlord of the Underworld, Van Helsing– now Dracula's friend, not foe– proposes an operation that will remove Down's syndrome and replace vampirism with "love", basically. However, should he decide to go this route, it means giving up the throne. And Ringo plays, um, Merlin the Wizard from the Arthurian legend…but we don't know WHY.

Of greater importance to Beatle fans, we the media were able to elicit these responses from Ringo:

"Do you have the cooperation of the rest of the Beatles on your new album (self titled)?"
"The only one who's cooperated up to now is John, who says he's written a song for me. But, then, the last one was largely coincidental: I was recording for the first time in America, and some of them wound up helping, and they're still my mates, aren't they?"

For the fifty millionth time, Ringo answered my question whether or not the Beatles were planning an official reunion:
"I would like to say here and now– no." And then Ringo went on to address the lawsuits that dissolved the band, making a distinction between "the thing between the four of us" and "the thing against former manager Allen Klein", the first thing being the most important thing, "…and everybody knows it," said the drummer.

Autographs. The ten-year-old kid in me got autographs. And badges. 

Oh yeah: Harry Nilsson was there, too.

Want more great stories about your favorite rock'n rollers? The best of them is preserved in my memoirs, "When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama". Go there to get it. Your book report is due by the end of the semester, here and on Amazon.

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