9 minutes and 54 seconds with Ringo Starr

By Jamie Sotonoff, Daily Herald Staff Writer

Ringo Starr is going to be made into a cartoon superhero. He also has a new CD, book and art collection out.

But when the ex-Beatles drummer stopped at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan recently to tape a concert for the PBS series "Soundstage," (it's scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Aug. 25 on Channel 11), he didn't talk much about any of those things.

Instead, he used a 9-minute, 54-second press conference with reporters to showcase his trademark wit and charm.


Reporter: Are you going to make (your new artwork collection) into a book?

Starr: I don't think I'm going to do a book, but if I do, I will credit you, the blond lady.

Reporter: My dad says you are the luckiest man alive to be married to Barbara Bach.

Starr: That should make your mom feel good.

Reporter: Is it strange to be in Waukegan, Illinois?

Starr: No stranger than Liverpool, England.

Reporter: Have you heard of the band the Redwalls?

Starr: Who?

Reporter: The Redwalls. They're a Beatles-inspired band.

Starr: No. Are you their dad?

Reporter: How is touring now different than it was 30 years ago?

Starr: There'd be a lot more people here.

Nothing terribly enlightening. But whether he speaks for 10 minutes or 10 seconds, Ringo Starr is still one of biggest rock stars in the world. In the history of the world. So when he mentions that he's never watched "American Idol" or that he likes the band Oasis (his son, Zak Starkey, is the drummer), it all seems very newsworthy.

Starr is sometimes criticized as being the least-talented and least-successful Beatle, yet he seems quite busy and very happy with his life these days.
Now age 64 ("Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?") he is doing a lot more than just living off his Fab Four fame.

He co-wrote every song on his new CD, "Choose Love," with help from top musicians like Chrissie Hynde and Billy Preston. One track, "Oh My Lord," is a tribute to the late George Harrison. That helps explain why so many of the songs have a Beatles or Traveling Wilburys sound.

"It's a Ringo album. You have to play it and tell me what you think," Starr said. "Me, I love it. It's a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun making it. I enjoy hanging out with musicians."

Besides being a musical artist, Starr is also a computer artist. Last month, he debuted his collection of 14 computer-generated art pieces, most of which are colorful cartoon-like faces. Limited-edition prints of each piece were made, and they're selling like hotcakes at various galleries around the country (prices range from $1,000 and $4,000 per print). Starr donates his portion of the proceeds to The Lotus Foundation, a charity that supports far too many causes to list.
Then there's the cartoon deal. Starr is now working with Stan Lee - creator of "Spiderman," "The Hulk" and the "Fantastic Four" - to voice his own cartoon character, a superhero. It's not yet been determined whether it will be a TV series or a feature film.

The role should work for Starr, because in person, he has a superhero aura.

Even though he's much shorter than you might imagine, he dresses stylishly, wears sunglasses indoors and has a few silver earrings in one ear. He flashes the peace sign when he enters and exits the room.

Looking at him, it's hard to believe the Beatles' first hit, "Love Me Do," was on the charts 44 years ago.

The Beatles were - and still are - so popular, it's impossible to imagine that there will ever be another band like them. Starr, however, insists there will be.

"There'll be another something else. That's all. There'll be a monster of a band out there that will be on top of the world," he said. "The (Beatles) music carries on. That's the thing to be proud of. Not our haircuts."

Fans are anxious for Starr and Paul McCartney - the two surviving Beatles - to perform together. But Starr warns people not to hold their breath.
"I've got my band, he's got his, you know? It's never going to happen. We're doing other things now. We were in a band. It's not like we don't meet up and say hi, but we're not going to get together," Starr said. "The standard joke is that when I put the All Starrs together, I called him and I said, 'Oh, I'm putting a band together.' And he said, 'Oh I'm busy.'"

Starr laughs, and even though this joke is not particularly funny, everyone in the room laughs, too. Superheroes have that effect on people.

As we laugh, Ringo stands up and quickly exits the room, flashing the peace sign for what seems like the 100th time.

"God bless you," he says to everyone. "Peace and love, peace and love, peace and love."