But since the group dissolved in 1970, one-time drummer Ringo Starr has emerged surprisingly as the most ubiquitous entertainment entrepreneur of the lot. While the others—George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney—were immersed in litigation and their own personal musical bags (see following pages), Ringo, 33, has branched out. In addition to cutting three solo albums, he has acted in four pictures, and now has tried his hand at producing, with the currently premiering Son of Dracula, an $800,000 horror-rock-musical.
There is a kind of Starr-quality to all these strivings. His albums have produced a string of artless but lucrative hits including You're Sixteen. His acting has ranged from winningly inept (see The Magic Christian) to just plain inept (don't see the hyperviolent Western, Blindman). Ringo himself says of Son of Dracula, "It's not the greatest movie in the world."
When Ringo says that, people laugh, even though he means it quite seriously. He still hasn't shaken the buffoon image, and in fact seems compulsively to cultivate it, mugging for photographers and traveling in a satin jacket patterned with portraits of Marilyn Monroe. In private, however, he is a devoted family man with a $360,000 house in Ascot, Scotland, a wife of nine years, Maureen, and three children.
Ringo easily relaxes into sophisticated discussion of recording techniques. And when he discusses Son of Dracula, he sounds like any big-time producer, grumbling about director Freddie Francis and a screenplay credit problem. "You reach a point," he has learned, "where you have to make a decision: either go on trying to improve something forever or stop and say, 'the next one will be better.' People say producers are rip-offs, but I found out it's a hell of a job."
Ringo is planning to produce another movie, also involving his Dracula star, composer-singer Harry Nilsson. But he denies that the Beatles will reunite for a U.S. tour this fall, press rumors notwithstanding. Slipping back into his Beatleish flip, Ringo says, "We all have our own fans now. Paul got the teenagers, John got the educated ones, George got the mystics and I got the mothers."
When he talks about his own career, Ringo is gently philosophic: "Who knows what makes a hit movie or record? It's hard enough for two people to say hello. To communicate to three or four is difficult; with more, you need magic. All I know is that once you've been No. 1, it's hard to accept being anything else."
Of those four revolutionary rock musicians, the Beatles, one was generally regarded as an appealingly homely, vulnerably funny and totally uninspired member of the troupe—a ringer, or more precisely, Ringo.