Ringo Starr loved boozy holiday lunches with Cilla Black but feels regret over final days of childhood pal
Ringo knew Cilla for far longer than his Beatles bandmates and has been left devastated by her death
BY CLEMMIE MOODIE
24 SEP 2015
Cilla Black and Ringo Starr were childhood friends and he has been left devastated by her death
They were two young working-class kids growing up together in Liverpool, Richie Starkey and Priscilla White.
Then he was a drummer in bands and she was the cloakroom girl who got up to sing at the Cavern Club.
Then suddenly he was Ringo Starr of the world-conquering Beatles and she was Cilla Black, chart-topping singer and TV personality.
Now Ringo, 75, who knew Cilla long before his bandmates John, Paul or George had ever met her, has spoken for the first time about the death of his old childhood friend.
“I was in LA when I found out she died, and actually found out via a news outlet rather than someone ringing me up to tell me,” he says.
Barbara Bach, Ringo Starr and Cilla Black, who remained close all their lives
She was three years younger than Ringo and he was shocked that she went so suddenly following a fall at her home in Spain on August 1.
They had always kept in touch and over the years went on lots of holidays together, particularly when they both had young children.
The Beatles with Cilla Black in 1968
“Cilla started at the same time we did,” Ringo recalls.
“She was important in Liverpool and so were we – and then we had to fight the rest of the world together!
Tommy Quickly, Billy J Kramer, Rolf Harris, Cilla Black (in pink dress), Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon - at 'The Beatles' Christmas Show'
“I remember her before she ever made it – she lived in a tenement. Her mother was a friend of my mother’s and we would just hang out.
"We didn’t think about it at the time, we never, ever thought. ‘Oh wow, we’re going to be a part of something so big’.”
With a stage name inspired by the collection of rings he wore, Ringo was the popular and flamboyant drummer with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes before he got his big break in The Beatles.
“With his Elvis hairdo and sideboards... he was a good mate,” Cilla wrote in her autobiography.
Ringo “She was in the Cavern doing the coats, and all the bands would call her on stage, saying ‘Come on, Cill, give us a song’,” Ringo remembers.
Ringo Starr being interviewed by Clemmie Moodie
“And she’d be ‘Oooh no, no, I couldn’t possibly’.”
With a find laugh, he adds: “But you couldn’t keep her back - she’d trample on you to get up on stage!”
It was later The Beatles manager Brian Epstein who gave Cilla her first recording contract.
From there Ringo and Cilla’s friendship continued as they took their separate paths - Ringo finding global fame with the Beatles and Cilla becoming first a chart-topping singer in her own right and then the beloved Saturday Night entertainer with Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date.
Young Beatle Ringo Starr
Now Ringo looks back with happiness on their numerous holidays abroad together, including a sailing holiday in the south of France.
And in his new hardback book, Photograph, showing scores of intimate, behind-the-scenes pictures of the Beatles, one photo shows the group partying with Cilla on her 21st birthday.
“We had a lot of fun together and she had some great New Year’s Eve parties when she moved to London,” he smiles.
“There were some crazy times, all very showbizzy, lots of champagne, and all of us leaving at dawn. Never been big on champagne – too much gas.
“We went to Cannes together; she was great to go on holiday with.
"If we got through the hours of lunch we’d be lucky because there’d be a lot of white wine and the kids would be in the pool whilst we were just sitting around, drinking.”
Ringo Starr is publishing a book of unpublished Beatles photographs
Ringo, now 75, is clearly thinking back with fondness, and admits that in the past few years they haven’t been able to see each other as much as he would have liked.
He was even more disappointed that work commitments made it impossible to fly back from the US for her funeral after her shock death.
“Sadly the last years we didn’t really hang out a lot,” he muses, poignantly. “We’d have the odd dinner, or go to parties, but we’d never do anything just the two of us really.”
Cilla Black back in the 1960s
Cilla’s death had come as a shock to Ringo as she still always the life of the party. But while she’d barely changed since their early days in the Cavern Club, Ringo, of course, has.
Sober for nearly thirty years, following two decades of “being lost in an alcoholic daze” - and a resultant stint in rehab - today he is meticulous about what goes into his body.
And that includes pizza, which he has never, ever touched.
Ringo Starr was upset he couldn't make Cilla Black's funeral
Slightly ironic for a man who, 15 years ago, was paid handsomely to film a Pizza Hut commercial.
And despite the Beatles being synonymous with India - thanks to their brief obsession with the Maharishi - he has never tried a curry.
Not surprisingly then, in the flesh he is whippet-thin, and largely avoids all sugar, meat and bread and, bizarrely, refuses to drink cow’s milk “because the molecules are too big.”
Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney on The Ed Sullivan Show
After quitting his 60-a-day cigarette habit, he could pass for a man a score younger.
He says: “I am really conscious of my diet, and really strict with myself – but only to be healthy.
“I don’t need a lot of food, and eat a lot of broccoli, berries, fruit. I’ll eat anything that comes out the ground, but won’t touch it if it lives on the ground.
Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon of The Beatles in 1967
“I don’t drink a lot of cow’s milk because the molecules are too big, meaning it’s harder to digest. I have goat’s cheese instead because that’s got smaller molecules. Goat molecules are more my size.
“I’ve also never eaten a pizza, or even tried one. I like to know what is in my food.”
Ringo - born Richard Starkey, and nicknamed for the various rings he wore in the sixties - was the last to join the band.
Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon of The Beatles
Coming on board in 1962, two years after their formation, he replaced Pete Best - and didn’t look back.
He may be worth an estimated £220 million, but Ringo remains seemingly grounded. He credits his family for helping keeping him sane in the wake of Beatlemania.
When I ask whether his wife of 34 years, former Bond girl Barbara Bach, calls him “Ringo” at home, he looks at me as if I am borderline certifiable.
“The family call me by my real name – the wife’s not going to be calling me ‘Ringo’, is she?”, he replies, shaking his head pityingly.
“And the kids call me ‘Dad’.
“I have a wonderful family, grandkids, a beautiful wife, great friends and a great life.
Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon of The Beatles in 1963
"I don’t understand it when people ask me ‘But what do you do?’ as if I do something different just because I was a pop star in the sixties. Certainly my family don’t care.
“It is a different time now and I am quite good at moving with the times... although sometimes there’s a bit of ‘in my day...’.
“I try to embrace what’s new although my son has a great line: I’ll ask him to help me set something up, and he’ll reply ‘RFM Dad’ – read the f****** manual!
“We have dinners, we watch TV, we go to the movies, we do lots of normal things.
“I even fill the dishwasher; I know how to do that and all my children learned from me how to fill it - rinse, then fill!”
Still in touch with the other last remaining Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney - he leaves our interview to meet him for lunch - Ringo still tours the world as a solo artist.
The Beatles return home with Brian Epstein, who also managed Cilla Black
So what does he think of the 21st century Young Pretender Beatles - One Direction?
Not a great deal, it would seem.
“They’re not the new Beatles,” he harrumphs.
“The only reason people say that is because kids scream at them.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the two remaining Beatles
“But they’re not even a band, do you know what I mean? They’re just singing boys.
“And that’s fine, and they’re very good at it. They are also huge and you have to give them credit for that.
“I’ve heard they’re having a year off now though and my only advice to them would be: ‘If you don’t love it, get out.’
“But if they do love it then they should keep going. But it’s a lot of hard work if you don’t love it.”
Ringo Starr thinks One Direction are good at what they do but that they aren't the new Beatles
While Ringo remains one of the most idolised musicians on the planet, he does not envy today’s pop stars.
One of the reason the foursome treasured their time in India - curries aside - was because they could go around largely unbothered.
Nowadays, he says, Harry Styles and co. cannot go anywhere without being recognised.
“We could go on holiday, and nobody would hassle us,” he explains.
The Beatles, from left to right Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon (1940 - 1980), and George Harrison (1943 - 2001), performing in front of a camera-shaped drum kit on the Ken Dodd show
“The kids today, the bands, the girl singers – there aren’t any holidays they can go on without someone there to catch them with the iphone or whatever. It’s so hard for them.
“At least we could go away – we had that freedom.
“When we were in the band, we’d just play and hang out - we’d play Monopoly, or whatever, and just keep ourselves busy.
“If we were together now, I suppose we’d all just be on social media.”
In 2008, Ringo famously posted a message on his website, asking fans to stop requesting autographs because he was too busy to sign them.
It is not a massive shock to learn, then, that he isn’t exactly a fan of today’s autograph: the selfie.
This, despite potentially taking what he likes to call “the world’s first selfie” - an image of a young Ringo taken in the mirror, and used on the front cover of his new tome.
“Everybody does it nowadays,” he says.
“I’ve got the iPhone and take them myself sometimes and people are always asking for selfies.
“But when they come up to me in a restaurant when I’m trying to eat and ask for one, well, I say ‘no’ in that situation. I don’t like it.”
Photograph by Ringo Starr is out now and is available at www.RingoPhotoBook.com.