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Chapter 1

'I once went out on a date, to some kind of pub, and I remember thinking, "This is so boring," and just sort of walking out and going home.'
Linda McCartney

            On the first Friday of summer in 1966, the SS Sea Panther set sail from a marina on New York's Hudson River shore. On board was a little gathering that would change some people's lives, and a good deal more, for the rest of the century. Linda McCartney (then Linda Eastman) had her mid-twenties epiphany that day. And because it's the day I met her (though I was stranded on the riverbank), I think of myself as having had a whopper of a time as well. So I feel conscience-free, perhaps entitled to use the first person in the telling of this story.
            The event itself was 'ultra' by definition - a press meet-and-greet with the Rolling Stones, aboard a yacht that went up and down the harbour for about two hours. Among the people invited were those of us who thought ourselves (here was the proof!) clearly A-list in the very tiny, alas, bunch that was known as the 'rock press'. Well, out of fourteen of us, twelve were invited - to make it look exclusive.
            The Rolling Stones!
            I cannot tell you how important that group was to a lot of us back then. I know there were not many bands to choose from, or many different 'formats' either, but the Stones were It. They were fierce, they were glamorous, they confirmed that behind the sublime glow the Beatles had sent us from England, there was a raging fire. Not 'behind' - 'along with' is better. They were number one in the charts that week with 'Paint It Black', an astonishing song for a Billboard chart-topper, if you think of it. After a two-week reign, they were chased back to third place (Sinatra's 'Strangers in the Night' was number two) by the Beatles' 'Paperback Writer', which was written by Paul McCartney about John Lennon.
            The press contingent included two women who worked at Town and Country magazine, a glossy periodical for the very rich, or for those who wanted to know more about the very rich than they could find out anywhere else. Not merely about the very rich, but the very rich who were also hanging in there as members of America's pathetically frayed WASP class. To the world's shock, the June issue of Town and Country showed a David Bailey photograph of the Rolling Stones on the front cover (still quite the absolute opposite of everything the magazine stood for, but such was the coming power of the rock and roll juggernaut) with young socialite Alexandra Chase in an evening gown. Brian Jones was smoking a cigarette. It was all quite revolutionary. The staff members of T&C on board the Sea Panther were Christina Berlin and Linda Eastman.
            Linda was not at all a Town and Country kind of girl. Born and raised in affluence, the second-born child and oldest daughter of a distinguished upper-middle-class Jewish family, she was a loner and a rebel who cared far more for horses (she was a champion rider) and photography (pictures of horses, for the most part) than about the social hierarchy celebrated in the magazine. Separated after a brief marriage, she was the mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and, in her blue gaberdine shirt, loafers, T-shirt and no make-up, looked vividly out of place in an office where hair could be weighed by the ton, false eyelashes by the kilo and face paint by the gallon. She was a natural woman in a workforce where artifice was the style. But she was very bright, well-mannered, had taken a typing course at her father's insistence and spoke with a nasal, lockjaw monotone that many aspiring debutantes spent years cultivating. She did her simple editorial assistant job well, and was encouraged to go to the Stones boat ride with Christina - actually, they were the only two at the magazine who wanted to go at all.
            A whole book could be written about Christina Berlin, Linda's best and only buddy at work. She's the daughter of the late Richard and Honey Berlin, he having been the president of the Hearst Corporation (which published Town and Country, making Christina the boss's daughter), and was William 'Rosebud' Randolph Hearst's choice, after he had looked exactingly at all his own sons, to take over the company when he was gone. Not actually blue-blood by birth, Richard and Honey learned very fast, lived in the 'best' building on Fifth Avenue and counted among their closest friends the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and J. Edgar Hoover. In other words, the Berlins were hardly lefties, and their three daughters rebelled, if not politically, then in every other way.
            The oldest Berlin daughter, Brigid, was Andy Warhol's best friend and confidante for many years, a star of the earth-shaking movie Chelsea Girls and a ferocious and brilliant woman, now doing theatre pieces so exclusive that you need a password to get in. Brigid has boasted of spiking her parents' punch with amphetamine, of which she had once been rather fond herself, and watching the Duchess and J. Edgar, once it hit, dancing on her family's dining-room table. She also spiked, literally, the buttocks of anyone within ten feet of her with a magical meth mixture, earning herself the alternative name, Brigid Polk.
            Christina, a few years after this narrative begins, engineered the defection of her lover, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world's greatest male ballet dancer, from the Soviet Union to the West. We're not bringing any boring people into this story.
            Christina had been the only genuine teenager in the VIP press area -courtesy of her father - when the Beatles arrived at JFK (then Idlewild) airport for their first visit to America in 1964. To explain her presence, her father's staff said she was a reporter for the New York Daily Mirror, a tabloid in the Hearst empire. She rode to the airport with Murray the K, the self-styled 'Fifth Beatle', and behaved herself so well ('I didn't faint at the sight of them') that she was in the Hearst entourage when the Stones arrived in New York for the first time - she was introduced to the band as 'the president of your first American fan club' and was instantly noted by Mick Jagger as Someone To Remember. And just the right person on the SS Sea Panther that June morning to introduce him to the blonde fox with the Pentax.
            So, this was the crowd into which Linda Eastman, single mother and reluctant apprentice at a magazine edited for nobody she could ever want to know, was beginning to drift - the Stones and their people, the Berlin girls, the Warhols (however tangentially, and Linda never liked them much anyhow), the avant-garde rock press (well, the legendary reporter Lillian Roxon, who would become Linda's best friend and bitterest enemy, and me). Perhaps 'drift' was not quite what Linda was doing; she was paddling away from the life she had been living, with no particular immediate goal, but with explosive enthusiasm once she saw how much fun New York, the whole world, in 1966, could be.
            Oh, 1966. I have to recycle those lines of Wordsworth from The Prelude: it's useful when talking about the glorious early-late 60s:

            Bliss was it in that time to be alive,
            But to be young was very Heaven!

            That was extravagantly true in the world of rock and roll - the 'British Invasion' was still in full force, and getting better all the time, while America was coming up with true gems of its own: the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, the Velvet Underground, the Pet Sounds Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead, Blonde on Blonde Dylan, the Mamas and Papas, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors. Every month there was an album that changed your life, that sounded like nothing you'd ever heard before. And those of us who were thrilled with the music soon discovered that happily there was no real 'rock and roll' scene already in place, that it was waiting to be invented and that you could just put yourself at the centre of it and say your name. Whatever other skills you might also have, like knowing which buttons to press on a handsome 35mm camera, counted for even more points. And Linda happened to be poised to introduce herself into this exciting new world at that very moment.
            She was very beautiful, with natural strawberry-blonde hair, classic features, perfect skin and the fullness of figure that men have always become excited about, no matter that the fashion press at the time was pushing the flat-chested, bony, brittle little bodies of Edie Sedgwick and Twiggy. Linda's bearing was classy, her smile atomic, her accent and her taste impeccable. That afternoon, her Pentax loaded, she shot half-a-dozen rolls of the group being honoured; her pictures, to this day, are perhaps the best of the Stones ever taken, certainly the best candid shots and probably the most famous photos of the band at the height of their youthful sexiness.
            What's more, while photographing Mick, and unbeknownst to anybody else on board except Christina, who watched the two of them mouth flirty little messages to each other, Linda Eastman accepted Mick Jagger's offer to meet her early the next week at the trendiest party in town, given by photographer Jerry Schatzberg (Stones in drag, 'Have You Seen Your Mother', etc.) in honour of Baby Jane Holzer (an ex-Warhol girl of the year and an ex-Mick flame) and the Rolling Stones, at Schatzberg's loft on lower Park Avenue. Mick asked Linda if she were going to be there, and although she was going with a date, David Dalton, her editor at Hullaballoo magazine and occasional boyfriend, she didn't tell Mick that, just that she'd see him at the party. As far as she was concerned, she now had a date with Mick Jagger for that party, and David was very nice, a gentleman (and a passionate Stones fan); he'd understand when the time came to tell him.
            So Linda got her first fabulous photographs and her first fabulous 'date' on that one day. It was one of the very few dates of any kind she'd had since leaving her husband and moving back to New York with her baby daughter. 'My father would have liked me to have married a commuter, drink martinis in the evening. He always wanted for me what everyone, I suppose, wants for his daughter,' Linda told me some years later. 'Singles' bars were happening, but I never even went to one. I once went out on a date, to some kind of pub, and I remember thinking, "This is so boring," and just sort of walking out and going home. My mind, my karma I suppose, was different from what it was supposed to be.' Though she was to make motherhood her first priority, always, Linda was able that day to leave a life that was creatively and sexually non-existent, leave it happily behind her. She entered the history books with all flags flying.
            But, before we get Linda dressed up for her first date with a true star, please allow me to introduce myself, as a witness to Linda's life, a friend and perhaps a minor player.
            I grew up in New York City too, the wrong part as it happens (Queens), but Linda reminded me of the girls I dated when I was a teenager: Manhattan girls from families richer than mine; strong, smart girls who always looked good and knew how to enter and leave restaurants. That sounds superficial, but it stands for a lot. When I met Linda, it was several years after I stopped dating girls at all, but I knew she was going to be a Best Friend. We had the same taste in music, art and guys. What more is there to bond about?
            Her father had graduated from Harvard Law School, from which I had dropped out after one year. I moved back to New York, to Greenwich Village; a series of weird jobs selling books and putting out magazines about liquor stores (no kidding) got me a job at Datebook, a 'teen' magazine that by 1966 was buying exclusive Beatles stuff from England and seeing its circulation rise dramatically. The publisher needed someone closer to what was happening, and I faked my way into the position of managing editor. I knew nothing about rock music or the bands or anything, but after a few months of hanging out and listening to the latest albums, I was as qualified as anyone who wasn't actually a practising musician to be in the hot centre of the scene. I would slide notes under dressing-room doors and get interviews with bands like the Byrds, the Rascals, the Mamas and Papas, groups with number one records. 'Faked', I think, is the operative word. The Beatles and the Stones I'd never met; they were Up There, and I was Not.
            Until the invitation came from Betsey Doster, who worked for Allen Klein (ironies will become apparent later in this story), to come aboard the Sea Panther to meet the Rolling Stones. I could bring a photographer.
            So I hired someone recommended by the publisher, and the jerk got to my office the morning of the boat ride with plenty of cameras but no film. We were late hi departing and it's a long ride from Washington Square, where Datebook's little office was, to the 79th Street Boat Basin, from which the Stones' boat would be leaving. 'No matter,' he said. 'We'll stop in Herald Square and get some film.' This guy was clearly a foreigner. You don't 'stop' in Herald Square and jump out to buy film; it's traffic hell - you circle the block at one mile an hour. Anyhow, we got to the dock just as the boat was pulling away. I fired the goddamn photographer on the spot and decided, if I wanted to keep my brand-new job in rock and roll publishing, that I'd better wait for the Sea Panther to come back, attack a disembarking photographer and offer him/her whatever it took to get some pictures of life on the river with the Rolling Stones.
            What luck! There was chic and devastatingly clever Christina Berlin, youngest sister of my dear friend Brigid, getting off the boat with a gorgeous, happy girl wearing a Pentax. (And a skirt and matching top, but I only noticed the Pentax.)
            'Christina, I MUST meet your friend,' I said cheerily. 'It looks like she's got some pictures.'
            'Sure, Danny, this is Linda Eastman. She works with me at Town and Country. We both hate it there, I'm sure you'll like each other.'
            'Nice to meet you, Linda. So listen,' I went on, 'got any pix to sell?'
            Well, Hullaballoo had the pick of the pack {T&C had already done all the Rolling Stones coverage it was ever about to do; Linda was moonlighting with her first freelance assignment from Hullaballoo, a genuine rock magazine), but she promised she'd show me what it didn't want.
            Great. I was covered.
            By the way, some accounts of this auspicious day say that Linda was the only photographer on the boat. We know this is not true; there were, first of all, 'official' photographers hired by the Stones' management office. You don't stage an event this glamorous without some tried and true professional photographers, 1940s movie variety. These pro-bozos barely knew who the Stones were, and you can tell that from then- pictures, which were sent out by the Stones organization. They were so dry and formal, almost nobody used them. They make Linda's pictures look all the more wonderful. The Stones, as seen in photographs by efficient older men in brown suits and white shirts, look thoroughly bored, as if they wished they were doing something else; in Linda's pictures, and in all Linda's work, the subjects are playing right into her lens, being cute, arrogant, beautiful, sexy, graceful, sensitive or all the above.
            Photo sessions are among the most despised things that musicians are required to do. They are one step less repulsive than meeting the staff of local radio stations. But working with Linda was fun: there was portraitist-subject content, and everyone understood what was going on. 'She took my favourite pictures of me' is something said to me often by people who had posed for Linda.
            Back at Datebook, I was making some mischief that would have national implications, and which resulted in pitting the Beatles against America's ever-vigilant fringe-right religious extremists, including such enchanting fellowships as the Ku Klux Klan.
            As managing editor of a magazine for teenagers, I was eager to stand out from the pack. The publisher wanted us to emulate the formula of the incredibly successful 16 magazine, the most widely circulated fan magazine ever, with newsstand sales of a million and a half copies and a readership of close to four million teenage girls. 16, under the inspired direction of its editor-in-chief and inventor, the great Gloria Stavers, was (even though Gloria was the lover of Lenny Bruce and adored dangerous men) cuddly and innocent. In 16, no one ever got laid; the readers were pre-sexual (they wouldn't be today at that age) and there was certainly no politics unless smuggled in under the disguise of a poetic obituary for Bobby Kennedy et al. Typical 16 cover lines (these from the October '66 issue) were 'beatles explode - those nasty lies we hate! 50 freaky new pics'; or, about members of Paul Revere and the Raiders (although never about 'Paul' himself): Fang - 'come home with me and meet my folks!' or Mark - 'the lonely years i'll never forget'. Despite what my publisher wanted, in my responsible new position, I was not about to follow that mushy line (by sociological, aesthetic and/or commercial standards, 16 was the most brilliant magazine of its era and for its audience, but what did I know?). Besides, you couldn't just rise up out of nowhere and compete with Gloria on her own turf. She ruled.
            For example, Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles, introduced his new American group, the Cyrkle, to the American media at a crowded press conference in a mid-town hotel. Very crowded - this was the man who controlled the Beatles (one thought) and, if I haven't yet made it clear, although my friends loved the Stones, the Beatles were alone atop the mountain of Fame Heaven on this planet. Being in the same room as Brian Epstein, even for the most cynical reporters, was an enormous thrill and an Important Thing to cover. Anyhow, Brian paraded the Cyrkle in front of the podium and answered a few questions, including, 'Mr Epstein, are you a millionaire?', which came most aggressively from Lillian Roxon. This was my first encounter with Australian journalism (i.e. the form of reportage that now dominates the world) in action. When the audience left, Gloria entered. She and the Cyrkle were ushered into a smaller room for her exclusive pix and '40 things you never knew'. She was getting solo time with Brian and the group; it was inconceivable that any other entertainment magazine editor would merit this acknowledgment of her power.
            Another Gloria story, this one tied in to the boat ride that began this chapter. As I watched weeping while the boat I'd missed sailed out into the river, a limousine pulled up and Gloria got out. She didn't say 'Hello' - I was too inconsequential for that - only 'Shit!' as she realized that the press event had put to sea without her. A man came up to us and offered, for twenty dollars, to ferry us out to the Sea Panther in his motorboat. I didn't have this great amount of cash on me, so I turned to Gloria and said (the first words I ever spoke to her; we would eventually become the closest of friends, as would she and Linda), 'Hey Gloria! Want to split it ten and ten and catch up to the boat?'
            'Fuck 'em,' she said, not to me but to the vanishing yacht. 'The Stones aren't worth ten dollars.' She got into her car, and sped away.
            I told this story when I was being interviewed for the 1992 BBC documentary about Linda McCartney, the excellent Behind the Lens. The me-and-Gloria moment wasn't really a story about Linda, but it made the final cut and was aired in the UK nearly un-bleeped; I knew Paul must have loved Gloria's line about the Stones, and that's why it stayed in the programme.
            As I was saying, it was time, I thought, to jump past all this teeny-bopper nonsense and put Datebook on the map as a magazine that reflected the rebellious wisdom-mongering that characterized our generation. We'd opened our minds with drugs that the older, boring, warring age group could not even comprehend; we were collectively the new improved rhythm section of the universe. Certainly its conscience, as Bob Dylan had demonstrated. Style was being reinvented in swinging London, stoned California and cool New York - it was up to you to mix the ingredients and give names to the new flavours of life. And we were so gorgeous. Girls were always supposed to be gorgeous, but now so were boys. You had to go to bed with everyone - you didn't really know someone until you'd got through the slurping and penetrating part of it, which was not a fate worse than death. What sex you were or what your old tastes and customs had been hardly mattered. We were free to do everything that had ever been forbidden - well, everything that was vic-timless. And I was free to make some trouble on the cover of a magazine for fourteen-year-old kids. I convinced the owner that it was a good idea, but my time of employment at Datebook was so short that I'd been fired long before my contribution to culture hit the newsstands.
            You see, Datebook had bought the American rights to a series of interviews the Beatles had done in England with Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Standard, published in March 1966, in which the boys caused a politely shocked little buzz, though not a lot more, much to the group's satisfaction. They were trying to move away from the 'adorable mop-top' phase as fast as their eight legs would carry them. The Beatles were, by this time and particularly in the UK, so exalted that the royal family was running a tired second to the loftiness of the Fab Four. They could do, say, wear, write anything, and command the attention of the nation. So with Ms Cleave they pulled no punches. At least Paul and John didn't.
            They were long interviews, and buried deep within them were such titbits as Paul saying (about America), 'It's a lousy country where anyone who is black is a dirty nigger.' And it was of course the same series of interviews in which John opined, 'We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know what will go first - rock and roll or Christianity.'
            Yummy! Such good quotes deserved better than the tiny typeface they were accorded in London. They ought to be on the front cover of a magazine. Especially the September Datebook, with a cover that featured a big, kissy, colour photograph of Paul McCartney.
            So we came up with the idea of a 'shout-out' issue, and I used the most incendiary quotes (i.e. the two in the last paragraph) on the cover (along with Timothy Leary's already tiresome 'Turn on, tune in, drop out!') and as the headlines of two separate stories, one about Paul and one about John. Both were essentially Maureen Cleave's interviews. Nothing substantive was changed, either on the cover or inside, nor were the quotes 'taken out of context', as it was later claimed, when trouble arose. Not at all. They'd just been pulled from the body of the interview, enlarged and placed elsewhere. They're called 'pull-quotes' in magazine-land, and of course they're commonly used. To say something was used 'out of context' implies that the meaning was changed by lifting the quotes from what came before and after. But the meaning had not been changed - John did say, 'We're more popular than Jesus now,' and he meant it, and it was true.
            There follows a quote from the very handy reference book, Rock Movers and Shakers, where careers are outlined in careful chronological order, from the section devoted to 'The Beatles', sub-section '1966', entry for 31 July of that year: '2 days after US Datebook magazine publishes Lennon's interview with Maureen Cleave, citizens of Birmingham, AL, publicly burn Beatles' records and memorabilia, amidst general anger in the Southern states.'
            The furore spread through America's Bible belt and hopped the Atlantic to South Africa, where the national broadcasting company banned all Beatles' music from that enlightened country's airwaves. In America, though, with the religious right aroused, the controversy had far more profound consequences for the group, then on the eve of their fourth American tour.
            In Memphis, outside the Mid-South Coliseum, where the Beatles were to perform on 19 August, a spokesperson for the Ku Klux Klan, in full hooded drag, told a television reporter that 'the Beatles had made a statement in all the newspapers that they're getting more better than Jesus'. He boasted, 'We're gonna try and stop it [the concert] any terror way we can, but it's gonna stop.' They didn't stop it, but they assembled 8,000 pro-Jesus supporters for an extremely ugly rally outside the venue. The Beatles were seriously rattled.
            A month earlier, they had barely got out of Manila alive, after First Lady Imelda Marcos announced that the Beatles had insulted her, and hence all Filipinos, by not showing up at a garden party she gave in their honour at the presidential palace. But that was a Third World country, and this was America. Wasn't the South, and Memphis in particular, the birthplace of rock and roll? Maybe, but for the Beatles, the South was now a cradle of hatred. Death threats started pouring in, and touring had become not merely no fun, but catastrophically scary. After playing San Francisco on 29 August, the Beatles decided they never wanted to perform publicly again, and they never did.
            I can't exactly claim that our little attempt to beef up poor Datebook magazine led directly to that decision, but it was one of the last nails in the coffin, so to speak. Over thirty years later, in an interview for the Beatles Anthology television series, talking about coming off the road once and for all, George Harrison said, 'I think the most important thing was the safety aspect... It was just becoming too difficult on the nervous system.' And the first time I met Paul, after he married my friend Linda, I told him that it was me who had put those quotes on a magazine cover in the summer of '66. 'Ah, so you're the one,' he said.
            (Postscript to this frenzied time in America's cultural history: they may or may not have been bigger than Jesus, but Somebody Up There was clearly rooting for the Beatles - the morning after a 'Beatles Bonfire' sponsored by radio station KLUE in Longview, Texas, a lightning bolt hit the station's transmitting tower, melting its equipment, knocking out the news director and leaving Longview KLUE-less until the damage was repaired.)
            The Beatles, Jesus, Linda, Datebook, Mick, Imelda, Memphis and the Hudson River on a day in June - what a summer! They don't have summers any more like they did in the still incomprehensible 60s, when it was all about great rock and roll groups, nice drugs, people who made and wore silly clothes, believed a new era was at hand, slept with everyone else under thirty and danced and dreamed to music such as had never been heard, before or since.
            Let's get off that cloud and watch Linda create a remarkable new life for herself. 'In that short hour and a half on that boat she was happier than I'd ever seen her,' Christina Berlin recalls. 'Everything started working for her, from that moment. I knew that she could pursue photography, and that she'd be very good. She read people very well, these people related to Linda and that made for great pictures. She had talent, looks and the personality to deal with rock stars. She'd been in the dumps before this, and it certainly wasn't where she wanted to be. Linda was just waiting for something to happen.'
            Well, it happened that day. A brilliant career as a photographer of rock stars had begun. Her pictures of the Rolling Stones were so good that Linda Eastman was soon one of the most celebrated photographers in the exploding universe of rock and roll. Two of the most exciting and liberating years of her life were now ahead of her; she and her work were recognized, admired, sought after. She produced some of the most memorable images of that era, and she travelled from New York to London to LA, assembling a portfolio that, in the year 1999, is the core of a show called 'Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era', exhibited at dozens of distinguished American museums, attracting big and eager audiences who had either seen Jimi Hendrix or wish they had, but are now getting the chance at least to see - once again - 'My favourite pictures of me'.
            The boredom of life behind a desk at Town and Country was at last behind her. Ironically, the relentless pressure from her father to do something worthwhile grew more severe when he learned that her new career centred on the world of rock and roll. 'He's always telling me it's going to get me in trouble, it's going to be gone overnight, and I'll be back being an office intern,' Linda would complain to me after a bout with Dad. 'I was miserable staying where I was, and that state of mind was worse to me than the possibility that this would all be over tomorrow, which of course I never believed. I love what I'm doing, but my family sure isn't making it easy for me to be who I want to be. Too bad.' She told another writer, 'I said to my father I wanted to quit my job and become a photographer and he shot me a look like, "If you do, you're finished." And I said, "C'est la vie."'
            Linda's family would shift radically from their disapproving mode when her new career brought her, two years later, into a relationship and then marriage with Paul McCartney, no doubt the world's most eligible bachelor. 'Linda suddenly became their favourite child,' says Nat Weiss, Brian Epstein's American partner and a close friend of Linda's since her first forays as a photographer.
            The marriage of Paul and Linda would make history, and lasted until death did them part. But let's stay in 1966 for a while. There's a big party coming up.

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