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Chapter 5

'In those days you could be on the make, have a wonderful time, and be gentle and peaceful and silly. I was just delighted that we were all being so nice.'
Derek Taylor

            The courtship of Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman was (almost) as extraordinary as their marriage. It lasted, by one reckoning, almost eighteen months - that's the amount of time between their first meeting and the day Linda moved in with Paul for good; they were married over four months later, which stretches the time to nearly two years between the first "Hello" and the only "I do" that either of them would ever say again.
            It was like a Jane Austen novel: hero and heroine, both of them fabulous (the degrees of perfection are varied), meet and are instantly in love, although one or both of them may not know it at the very first. Several hundred pages and many, many complications later, the smoke clears away, they become aware of the obvious it's-always-been-you and get married, with presumably nothing now to keep them from living happily ever after.
            Alas for the true story of the courtship, Linda told friends before she even met Paul that she wanted to marry a Beatle, preferably John but he was married (this was no obstacle for Yoko Ono), so then Paul. She did not mean to be taken totally seriously; she left no doubt that it was wishful thinking, although perhaps within the realm of possibility after all. Now, Linda's friends tended to be rather prominent people, usually journalists or rock stars, and the story has since been told around the world in countless different versions that she set her sights on Paul McCartney very early on, pursued (virtually to the point of stalking) him, and got the prize she was after. I've always thought it odd that Paul McCartney, the world's most wanted bachelor in the late 1960s, seems to have had no choice in the matter. Linda, with all her virtues, was not a sorceress; Paul must have wanted her to be his wife, unless you believe that he is/was a guy whose arm is easily twisted, which plainly isn't the case.
            Linda's announcement of her plan to marry Beatle Paul was an anecdote repeated at - of all places - her memorial ceremony in London, by - of all people - Pete Townshend. He told me,

            When Paul asked me to speak at the memorial, I told him that I was gonna tell the 'I'm gonna marry one of the Beatles' story, because I'm the one she said it to originally, and I'm responsible for starting the whole thing. It became a terrible story, completely distorted, and you see it was just a joke, and I wanted people to get it right.
            Paul was very emphatic about this. He said, 'Pete, if this is your story then it's wrong.'
            I said to him, 'Well, it's not my story. It's just that we were kidding around, and then she said that, and then you see what happens, that she ended up with you, and it looks like she set out to get you.' And he said, 'It's the other way around. I pursued her.'

            Pete's speech at the memorial did, as he predicted it would, make some people uncomfortable. Because even if you insist that something was originally just a joke, if it becomes true it seems in retrospect not to have been a joke after all. I think it's quite simple in reality: they pursued each other, and each was successful.
            But first Pete's story. The setting is New York's Navarro Hotel, at the time of the Who's first performances in America in the early spring of 1967, at Murray the K's Easter show at the RKO 58th Street Theater. Linda and I had met Pete together several months earlier when he was in New York on business and found himself alone and angry at a grand lunch in honour of Herman's Hermits. (Ironically, the story of how Linda and I met Pete was told in my own speech at Linda's New York memorial.) When the three of us had a backstage reunion, Linda caught the eye of the Who's manager, Chris Stamp, brother of Terence Stamp the actor, and even better looking; Linda and Chris became an item. Fast forward about a week into the 'item', and Pete's story begins:

            Linda and Chris came up to my hotel room, with people coming in and out, and Linda and I found ourselves together. I made some comment like, 'You're really lucky!' She asked, 'Why?' I answered, 'Because you've got the best-looking man in London.' And she said, 'Oh, really?' I think I said something like, 'You know, I'd like to shag him myself,' because I just adored him, and I was always so proud of being with him, proud of how beautiful he was, and when he was with me he just gave me his undivided attention.
            I guess I wanted to say something controversial, and maybe I thought Linda was being a bit blase about Chris, so I added, 'After him, you could have almost anybody in the world.' And she said, 'Oh well, maybe I'll marry one of the Beatles.' I asked, 'Which one?' and she answered, 'John Lennon?' So I told her, 'He's married,' and she said, 'Paul McCartney?', and that's how it went.

            So that's the tale that evolved into the story of Linda the Huntress. No wonder it angers Paul, for many reasons. It's rather disrespectful of her memory to portray her as a woman spending two years in a well-focused campaign to snag the Cute Beatle; it can't do Paul's ego any good to hear that people think of him as a prize snared by a wily American divorcee; and, above all, it's not true. It is true that she said what Pete says she said; she said it as well to her friend Lillian Roxon, again making fun of herself. But it was without doubt a two-way street. Bear in mind, when she first spoke of marrying Paul, she hadn't yet met him. When she did, she fell genuinely in love, and so did he. It just took a while for things to really happen.
            As Beatles press officer Derek Taylor said to me in London in 1987 when talking about the twentieth anniversary of Sergeant Pepper, 'In those days you could be on the make, have a wonderful time, and be gentle and peaceful and silly. I was just delighted that we were all being so nice.'
            The chronology will show that it was Linda's fantasy that became Linda's real wish; and that it was Linda whom Paul wanted from the start. In fact, the first time he proposed marriage, she turned him down - but we're jumping ahead.
            Linda's first trip to London as a professional photographer was in May 1967. Her closest friends at that time, in the higher echelons of British rock and roll, were the Animals, whom she'd photographed, with David Dalton as her mentor, about a year earlier.
            She had also met Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles and, some say, much more than that. He had been in New York many times in the early part of that year, mostly on Beatles business but also trying to get singer/songwriter Eric Andersen for a management deal. One of the most talented young men around at the tune, Eric suffered, as did so many other talented guys, because of the enormous shadow cast by Bob Dylan. Dylan was clearly 'in a class by himself, but he was not the only person hanging around MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village with a guitar and a suitcase full of songs. Joni Mitchell was another, along with the late great Phil Ochs, and of course Andersen, who was also the most gorgeous boy in New York, or certainly in the top ten. It was noted in Harper's magazine that 'At the age of 23, he is one of the mainsprings of the folk world. Tall, thin, with cheekbones like Rudolph Nureyev (the ballet dancer), he is what everyone who is eighteen in the Village wants to look like." Andersen wrote great songs, such as 'Thirsty Boots' and 'Violets of Dawn', had his first album released on the Vanguard label in 1965, had even made a cameo appearance in an early Andy Warhol movie, and Brian was in love with him.
            I have to admit it was me - along with one of New York's towering intellectuals, who shall remain nameless - who chased Eric down Bleecker Street one day and into the Cafe Figaro and asked the question, to which there was only one answer, 'Would you like to be in an Andy Warhol movie?' We brought Eric up to Andy's factory, and he was no less thrilled to be there than Andy was thrilled to have someone in his studio who had actually made a record album. The movie was called Space. It was the first film where Andy actually panned the camera, i.e. swivelled it on its tripod, thanks to the advice of Paul Morrissey, then paying his first visit to the factory, where he eventually became the director of some of Warhol's most brilliant movies - and a very good friend of Linda and Paul McCartney. These were very early times.
            Epstein, among the most impressive gentlemen I've ever known, knew me because of his friendship with a hunky young hustler named Richard Luger, who was 'staying' at my loft with his girlfriend, Patti D'Arbanville, now a successful actress. Richard was a very hot boy and Brian had something of a crush on him - this was in March 1967. Several times, at about three or four in the morning, a limousine would pull up outside my shabby building on West 20th Street and it would be Brian, looking for Richard. A few times, when Richard wasn't there, Brian would ask if he might come up and 'chat' for a while, which we did, far into the night... or until it became clear that Richard wasn't going to be back.
            Acting the proper John, Brian took Richard to Acapulco for a week, to stay at a villa he'd rented. When he came to my apartment to pick Richard up and take him to the airport, he told me he'd forgotten to bring any records with him; was there something he could borrow, maybe just one, and then he'd get some more in Mexico? I gave him The Velvet Underground and Nico, the 'banana' album, which had just been released, and said, 'This is the greatest music you will ever hear.' (I was a Velvet groupie, truth be known, and have never revised that opinion to this day.) A few days after they returned, I ran into Brian at Max's Kansas City and he said, 'Goddamn you,' with a most inscrutable smile.
            'Why?' I asked.
            'That fucking album you gave me - I couldn't get any other records at all down there, so it's the only one we had, and it was on the turntable twenty-four hours a day the whole time we were there. It's made a hole in my brain.'
            I told him I was glad he'd been exposed to some decent music at last (what a wag I was!), and he responded by saying, 'Mmm . . . yes,' and would I like a ride up to Ondine's in his car.
            Bingo! Lou Reed, chief songwriter of the Velvet Underground himself, was in Max's at the time, so I ran over and told him to drop everything, for I was going to introduce him to Brian Epstein who was 'crazy' about the VU's debut album and maybe could be their manager. Lou was reluctant, I was insistent. The three of us got into the back of Brian's limo, Brian on the left, me in the middle, Lou on the right. Brian and Lou were looking out of the left and right windows, respectively, and sullenly, while I gushed: 'Brian's been listening to your record, Lou! He adores it!'
            Lou grunted, 'Oh?'
            'Brian,' I said, 'didn't you LOVE the Velvet Underground album?'
            Brian mumbled, 'Most interesting.'
            There was silence for the rest of the ride uptown, two miles which seemed to last a lifetime. When we got to Ondine's, Lou jumped out and announced he was taking a taxi back to Max's. Matchmaking is my middle name, always has been, always will be.
            Much speculation has gone down the pike on the subject of the Beatles' awareness of Brian's gayness. It was not much of a secret in the early days of the band in Liverpool, although the subject in general was but dimly comprehended by that city's very conservative working- and lower-middle-class Irish population, whence the Beatles came. Nor was Brian's religious background comprehended all that well, either. 'Rich Jewish Liverpool', is Paul's description of Brian Epstein's ancestry. The gay thing can hardly have mattered much to the Beatles, after all the time they spent in the Reeperbahn area of Hamburg, the gay centre of Germany's gay capital. Meanwhile, we must deal with the ongoing speculation about Brian and John Lennon: did they or didn't they? Nat Weiss says, 'No, and Brian told me everything.'
            Paul, on the other hand, does not totally write off the story that Brian and John had a brief weekend-long affair in Barcelona. 'We'd always known Brian was gay,' Paul told me. 'I'd always credited the gay thing as a great entree. We were very lucky, I think, that Brian had such an entree in London showbiz, New York showbiz, any showbiz.'
            A good time here to revisit a conversation I had with Paul and Linda in the garden of their modest hillside home near East Hampton, on Long Island.

            Paul and I have been talking about Brian. Linda rejoins us with fresh drinks, starts to turn away.
            L: Oh!
            P: It's me, I'm your husband, sit down.
            D: Yeah, sit down, we're talking about the movie The Hours and Times, in which the John Lennon and Brian Epstein characters spend a weekend in Spain in 1963. And the premise is that Brian is in love with John and that they have sex. That's implied, it's not on screen or anything.
            P: Well, I'm sure Brian was in love with John, I'm sure that's absolutely right. I mean, everyone was in love with John; John was lovable, John was a very lovable guy. [According to Nat Weiss, 'There is no question in my mind that the Beatles happened because Brian fell in love with John. I mean, that was a motivating force for the whole thing.']
            D: That's not exactly what this is about.
            P: (to Linda) Hey, this is supposed to be your interview.
            L: Carry on.
            P: But this is relevant in a way. OK, Brian was a lovable guy. And John was sort of more, you know, very middle class, and Brian was middle class, and they could relate to each other.
            D: As opposed to working class - John, I mean?
            P: Yeah, as opposed to working class. So they would kind of know about this, what's expected of them, a little above people, a little superior. Then Brian invited him to come away to Spain. A couple of the guys whom we knew were sort of gay, with a bit of money, were going to Spain. I think the rest of us were a little peeved not to be invited, because somebody was getting a free holiday here.
            D: Did you think John was going to have a gay sexual experience, or might have?
            P: No, no, no, it didn't occur to us. And to this day I don't know. Now the gay bit, you tell me what you 've heard, because I don't know anything.
            D: It doesn't matter what I've heard. I want to know now, if you think it's possible that something happened between John and Brian?
            P: It's more than possible, it's more than possible, but, as I've said, 'Come on, this is the fucking Beatles, everyone wants to imagine everything.' I never got any clue of anything but total hetero. If I saw John doing something, it would be ass bobbing up and down, fucking some chick. There were no real clues whatsoever of John's possible gay encounter with Brian. There were other clues, there were what straight people might call sexual deviancies. I wouldn't call them that. I'd call it a bit of a lad on the loose. You've got to remember, we all got out of home, we got out on the loose, we got into the Reeperbahn, we got into London, it was all kind of there, and all possible.

            Why all this Brian Epstein stuff? As Paul said, 'This is relevant.' Brian died in the August of the year this chapter talks about, 1967. From that point on, it seems as if the Beatles were in freefall towards an inevitable dissolution.
            Also, Brian was always more visible in New York than any of the Beatles ever were, if they were at all, except looking down from hotel windows or walking through Central Park with thousands of fans in tow. In a 1998 BBC documentary The Brian Epstein Story: Tomorrow Never Knows, Paul was the only surviving Beatle to be interviewed. His take on Brian was upbeat, almost adulatory; Brian's friends have said that no matter what Paul and Brian may have gone through, and there certainly were ups and downs, Paul came through for Brian on this show in a big way. 'Without Brian, there would have been no Beatles,' he concludes.
            Besides, while some claim to know what happened in Barcelona, Paul leaves it deliberately ambiguous. It is also interesting to me, on a very personal level, that Linda was about to excuse herself from the conversation Paul and I were having about Brian's sexuality, when Paul told her to 'sit down'.
            So, back to Brian and Eric Andersen, about two months after we left them above. Also enamoured of Eric's talent and beauty was a prominent publicist named John Kurland, who had very important clients, was no fool and was locked in a struggle with Brian over Eric's future that was the sensation of New York's gossiping crowd. It was very catty, and great fun to watch these gay Titans battle it out for the artistic and professional control of a boy who could not have been more straight, more sweet, or more baffled by what was going on around him. To have the Beatles' manager wanting to guide your career was overwhelming in 1967, when the group was at the height of their importance, when they were indeed in that overworked 'class by themselves" of all the entertainers in the world. To have him fighting for you was beyond dreaming about. (From Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia: 'Beatle manager Brian Epstein was all set to sign him [Andersen] just before Epstein died in 1967.')
            Eric, not unaware that he was the 'boy Brian Epstein wanted to manage', dropped in at Steve Paul's Scene from time to time and basked in the attention he didn't quite get in the Village, even though he'd headlined at Town Hall and was, according to The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music, 'one of the foremost candidates for Dylan's folk mantle'. It was at the Scene one night that Brian invited a select little crowd, including Eric and me, back to his palatial suite at the Waldorf Towers, got us stoned on the best grass anyone had ever had and played 'A Day in the Life', from the as yet unreleased, most anticipated album in the history of recorded music, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think none of us had ever felt so 'in' as we did at that moment. And it was astonishing to hear that track, calculated as it was to amaze and the most ambitious production in the short history of rock - 'ambitious' becomes, perhaps, 'pretentious' with the passage of time, but I'm not a music critic, and I promise no more of that.
            Brian knew Linda Eastman - I had introduced her to him with glowing reviews, mentioning in particular her photographs of the Rolling Stones. He had seen the famous 'crotch shot' of Brian Jones and was delighted to be meeting the photographer. 'Oh, I can show you a really good print of that,' Linda volunteered, and Brian said he was most eager to see that picture and any others that were 'so interesting'. Linda was planning a trip to London at the time and Brian told her to get in touch with his personal assistant, Peter Brown, when she was there, to arrange a meeting. She was going to England to take photographs for the forthcoming book Rock and Other Four Letter Words, photographs by Linda Eastman, text by J. Marks.
            'You got me that job,' Linda reminded me in the summer of 1992, remembering Marks as not one of her favourite people. 'And I thought I was getting $10,000 for it, which was great, but it turned out that it was only $1,000. Still, I spent it all on travelling. I bought tickets to London and to the West Coast. My father advised me not to do it. I said, "Dad, I've got to do it. Don't tell me not to." I mainly wanted to get pictures of Stevie Winwood, and perhaps even the Beatles. My father said, "Don't go to England!" I said, "I've absolutely got to go," and he was very unhappy about it.' Linda was soon off on a journey that was going to have more significance for her than any other in her life.
            Paul McCartney, in May 1967, was the most glamorous young man in London, perhaps the world. There are currently 177 books about the Beatles, and twenty-three about Paul alone which provide ample descriptions of his lofty status at the time. Publicly, he was 'going steady' with actress Jane Asher, with whose utterly fabulous upper-middle-class London family he'd lived since 1963 and who was now in residence at his town house on Cavendish Avenue, in the St John's Wood area of London, a prosperous neighbourhood but by no means Mayfair or Belgravia. Although Paul and Jane would announce their engagement at Christmas, in May Jane was in a play that was touring America and Paul was on the town. On the night of 15 May, he was at a trendy Soho club called the Bag O'Nails, where his friends Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were performing.
            Linda Eastman was with the Animals in another booth. Paul claims she caught his attention right then and there, and it was her smile that did it. It most definitely wasn't what she was wearing, because whatever that was, it was probably not in fashion; but Linda always looked good, and was so unfashionable that she appeared to be making an anti-fashion statement at any given moment. When Linda got up to visit the loo, Paul blocked her way, introduced himself and asked, 'And who are you?' He was one month short of his twenty-fifth birthday; she was going to be twenty-six in September. He invited Linda to go with him and his friends to another nearby club, the Speakeasy.
            After the Speakeasy, Paul suggested that the little crowd, which included the singer Lulu and an artist friend of Paul's, Dudley Edwards, go back to his home to 'see the Magrittes'. Linda was enthusiastic. Paul had never met a girl in 'the clubs' who had ever heard of Magritte. 'They were very interested in each other,' Lulu recalls. Linda left Paul's home while the little gathering was still in progress, no doubt a shrewd move.
            A few days later, on 19 May, there was a press conference at Brian's house in Belgravia to celebrate the release of Sergeant Pepper. It was limited to the A+ press list of London, and Linda knew about it and wanted to go. Peter Brown, in The Love You Make, co-written with Steven Gaines, claims he'd been deluged for weeks by people wanting to attend. Peter says that, in return for one of Linda's pictures of Brian Jones (very sought after, those pictures were), he invited her to this most recherche event of the season.
            Photographs show Linda at the party looking very proper, nicely dressed in a striped jacket and medium-short skirt, wearing false eyelashes. Her friends at home would have fainted at the thought. Linda got her pictures of the Beatles and, what's more, got some quality time with Paul, chatting with him while he sat down to take a break from the madness. They didn't meet again until four days short of a year later.
            Flying back to New York the next week, after Linda had spent some time photographing Stevie Winwood and his band, Traffic, she found herself sitting next to Nat Weiss, who knew Linda (and her family). 'She told me then that she was in love with Paul,' Nat recalls. 'She said, "I've got to meet him again, I want to marry him." Well, lots of girls wanted to marry Paul; get in line. But I sensed this as a defining moment for her, she was in love, no doubt about it.'
            Linda called me the day she got off the plane, to tell me essentially what she'd been telling Nat Weiss, over and over he says, on the seven-hour transatlantic flight. 'I met the Beatles, and I got great pictures,' she began, establishing her professionalism, which was hardly necessary. I knew something else was coming. 'Listen,' she said, 'Paul McCartney is so wonderful, I really am in love with him.'
            'In love? After how long?' I was sceptical about the depth of this emotion.
            'You sound like you don't believe me. I don't know why I'm telling you this if you won't believe me,' she complained.
            'How much time did you spend with him?'
            'Maybe an hour or so altogether. That's between the night we met and the Sergeant Pepper press conference at Brian's. And we were never alone. You have to believe me, when did I ever say I was in love?'
            She had a point there. She never had said exactly that before. It was always, 'He's so cool/sweei/smart/talented/groovy/good-looking [pick one or more]. And I think he really likes me.'
            That was always the kicker: 'I think he really likes me,' as if she were still, every time, trying to convince herself that she was a desirable woman. Lillian Roxon used to do a great imitation of Linda saying that, and we'd laugh, but it was kind of sad in a way. Come to think of it, she never had been in love.
            'Darling, I believe you. You have said you wanted to marry him before this.'
            That wasn't real, Linda insisted, but now it was real. I asked her what she was going to do about it.
            'Well, what can I do? Camp out on his doorstep? I don't have his phone number and I don't even know how he feels. I guess I can't do anything for now.'
            Wow - no 'He really likes me.' This time was truly different. So was acknowledging that she was unable to do anything ... for now. Actually, it took a year before she 'did' something; by then she had reason to be encouraged. Between May 1967 and May 1968, Paul McCartney called Linda about four times. He must have really liked her.
            And that was despite the announcement of his engagement to Jane Asher at Christmas (rather a big surprise to the London crowd, as the Paul-Jane affair had clearly not been doing so well in the last few months); oddly, although Linda's friends expected her to be crushed by the news, she wasn't. Something was giving her reason to believe that Paul's engagement to his long-time girlfriend was not really something to worry about. What confidence she had.
            To repeat, Paul and Linda did not see each other again for a year, nor did she initiate any contacts between them. So much for the theory that she ran him down and eventually trapped her man.
            The remainder of 1967 saw Linda working hard at photography and motherhood. Celebrity portraits were her strong point and, as she said, 'It paid the rent.' New York was where Linda lived, but she was not crazy about the rock stars in residence. 'New York had no music scene group-wise,' she recalled. 'It had the Vagrants, the Blues Project, the Young Rascals. New York was where I did most of my work, so the great thing for me was when the English bands and the California bands came to town. They often didn't know many people in New York City, so it got to be hang-out time while I was getting the pictures. You know, just hanging out, sitting in a hotel room, dropping acid, looking at the television or going out and taking pictures and wandering, whatever one does.'
            Quite remarkably, Linda did not go to the Monterey Pop Festival that June, certainly a fertile place for meeting old friends (Jimi Hendrix, the Who) and making new ones (Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, etc.). The reason she missed this watershed event in rock history is very simple, according to Linda: 'I didn't have the money to go there. If someone had rung me and said, "We'd like to pay you to go to Monterey," I would have gone.'
            More work started coming in from magazines like Life and Mademoiselle and money ceased to be an overwhelming problem. In 1992, she reflected,

            You know, I was getting to the point where I had to get an agent. Remember, I didn't have an agent, I didn't have an assistant, I didn't have anything. I did it all myself on public transport. I guess that's what I'd still be doing if I hadn't married Paul. Taking pictures, but always on an art level, on a satisfying level. Satisfying to me. I'd always have my own integrity. I wouldn't, I think, have taken any advertising or done stuff I didn't believe in. I'd only take pictures I believed in.
            I'd be making a very good living, still having a pretty funky life, hanging out. I would have had my own horse, which is my favourite thing. I never would have lived in the city - but I don't know, I'd have to have lived somewhere I could work. It's hypothetical, isn't it?

            Actually, not so hypothetical, except for the part about having to make a living. For Linda got to live her funky life, albeit on a very high plane, she got to take pictures on a most satisfying level and she certainly got her horse(s).
            Because the next year, 1968, saw the stalled romance between Paul and Linda pick up momentum and indeed flower into the love of a lifetime for the two of them.

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