'Those first few days in Paul's house, I lived in fear of going outside.'
What Linda and Paul did that October in 1968 is rather amazing.
At Paul's house in London, Linda is in love, but missing and feeling guilty about Heather. Paul does not want to see her torn between himself and her daughter, so he suggests that they go to New York together. He doesn't want it known that he's there.
'It was his idea,' Linda told me. 'I wasn't totally sure we could carry it off, but he was. He said he wanted to meet Heather, and to know about how I lived and where I lived. My God! He wanted to see New York. He really had never seen New York. He'd been there about six times, but always as a Beatle. Which meant as a prisoner. We figured it could be a disaster if he were recognized, and how could we make sure it would not get uncomfortable, so we did the disguise thing. He loved fooling people into thinking he was not him, that he was an ordinary bloke. Everyone in the world wanted to be him, and he wanted to be ordinary. For a few weeks. I still can't believe the press didn't find out -that's why I didn't call you guys.
'It's not as if I thought I couldn't trust you, but my friends all worked for magazines or newspapers, you know, and Paul just didn't want...'
'Oh Linda, I understand, yes sure, we would have betrayed you in a minute! Why should you have trusted us? You did the right thing.'
'Well, you know, it was all his idea.'
'Mmm . . .'
'How is Lillian?'
'She's not smiling wildly, but she's fine. Will you call her?'
'I don't think so, but send her my love. You'll explain, won't you? This is Paul's idea. I suppose he's right.'
That was the essence of the last conversation Linda and I had for well over a year. I called her, she didn't call me. She and Paul had been spotted strolling around New York, and her friends (hence the entire world?) knew they were in town together and that there was a reason she'd clammed up, but I couldn't resist poking around there. I was dying to tell her that Lillian was sure she was going to marry him, and Lillian was always right. I just said that I hoped it would all work out in whatever way she wanted it to, and see ya later.
'It was a dump, she dumped all her friends,' Blair Sabol said to me. And she did, and the consequences were very bad.
Linda took Paul hunting for anonymous fashions at the best thrift shops in her neighbourhood, and on 125th Street as well, an exotic destination, all things considered. They decided on a frankly hobo-ish old army uniform and a grubby, badly fitting herringbone overcoat. He had a beard, didn't shave and told Miles,'. . . it wasn't a couple of very rich people walking round New York, it was more the kind of people you'd want to avoid ... we were very free consequently.'
Linda said that Paul was recognized a few times, and if people started following them they'd find a handy subway station and escape. But it never became public knowledge, it wasn't in 'the columns', or anything that would bring the nuts and the press out in great numbers.
They did the whole 'on the town' routine, the Battery and Chinatown and Times Square, movies and neighbourhood restaurants, museums, the park, not much that was glaringly upscale (except the Metropolitan Opera, where they walked out on La Boheme) or trendy. I've read in accounts put together long after 1968 that they went to Ondine's, which was described as extremely 'hip', but it hadn't been a place one went to for quite a while, and one would think they would have avoided any place where they were likely to run into people Linda knew, especially famous ones. Although Paul did phone Bob Dylan (I do hope you're chortling mildly at this concept) and he and Linda took a subway to Greenwich Village, where Dylan owned a big beautiful house on MacDougal Street, and Linda took some pictures of Bob and his wife at the time, Sara, and their baby Jessie.
It was on this carefree trip that Paul impulsively proposed marriage to Linda for the first time, inspired by a storefront Buddhist temple that advertised quickie weddings (it would not have been a legal marriage according to New York State law), and Linda, claiming that her first marriage had given her a negative feeling for the institution of wedlock, refused. Quite obviously, she knew she would be asked again. I rather think it was not the memory of her first marriage, which ended quite amicably, but the impulsiveness of the proposal that elicited Linda's emphatic 'no'. She wanted it thought out very carefully. This was not to be a relationship jumped into on a giddy walk in Lower Manhattan.
They had dinner at Linda's father's apartment on Park Avenue, which was a cordial event - I don't imagine it was a riot of laughs, but quite friendly. Paul must have been impressed with Lee's and Monique's duplex apartment (she sold it five years after Lee died, for four and a half million dollars), their art collection and their style. Not to mention Lee's amazing mind and wit. At no time did Lee ask Paul if he was prepared to support his daughter in the style to which she had been accustomed. He did communicate to his daughter that this young man was probably not as bad as the rest of the people in 'that world' she belonged to.
Very importantly, Paul was impressed by Lee's knowledge of the music business, and music publishing businesses, especially the legalities involved. Legal issues were coming into Paul's life with some frequency in those days, and he naturally must have anticipated that things might become very complicated back there with the boys in London. Which they certainly did.
Music publishing was extremely intriguing to Paul, because the Lennon-McCartney team had been if not exactly swindled, then soft-talked out of the publishing of all the Beatles songs several years before, and the songwriting partners were never able to totally accept the fact they did not own the copyrights on the songs they had written. Lee had done well with song publishing himself, and in time he would guide Paul's acquisition of an immense catalogue, worth many hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, he was a good person to know and a prospective father-in-law into the bargain.
The most delicate and central matter to be resolved in the course of these two weeks was how Paul and Heather would get along together. In fact, they became great friends. Linda contrived some professional obligations that would take her away from her tiny apartment on the tenth floor of 140 East 83rd Street, leaving Paul and five-year-old Heather alone together. He cooked for her and they played games. He loved her, he loved New York, he loved Linda; on 31 October they all flew back to London, and a new life began for the three of them.
One supposes that there no longer exists any grouping of nutty fans quite like the Apple Scruffs, an amorphous collection of obsessed teenage girls, who inhabited - literally - the pavements around the Beatles' homes and their recording studio in Abbey Road. The composition of the group varied, and its ranks were often swelled by visiting fans and other hangers-on. The Scruffs tagged the name of their number one Beatle on to their own - becoming Peggy Paul or June John, for example - and they stayed at their posts in shifts, in all kinds of weather, waiting for just a glimpse of their particular favourite. A wave and a smile from a Beatle were extra treats; they had a newsletter, knew each other well, exchanged information on comings and goings and worked in relays so that nobody went in or came out, or took up residence, without the Scruffs knowing all about it. It all seemed quite innocent. The Beatles got to know some of the Scruffs by sight, and there were more of them devoted to Paul - the cutest, the bachelor and the most accessible since he had a well-known address in London that was not far from the Abbey Road studios - than to all the others put together. Had the put-down 'Get a life!' been in usage in the 1960s, it could have been addressed nowhere more appropriately than to this adorable, star-struck little bunch of busybodies.
For anyone to think that all these fanatics would be content just standing there would be to severely underestimate the mentality that drove them. Paul had a part-time housekeeper who was friendly and helpful to Paul's most dedicated followers - certainly she didn't have to sign a legal document that guaranteed she would tell nothing to anybody of what she knew was going on in Paul's life, as all of his employees must do today. There have been countless scenes in British films and television shows in which two 'lady's maids', or the equivalent, from different households, find themselves together and reveal all that they know about their mistresses; they serve the dual function of narrators and of characters who move the plot forward by putting information into circulation that their employers might have wanted kept behind closed doors. Paul's housekeeper appears to have been very much in the tradition of those indiscreet servants, enjoying a chat about the goings on of the Master within. Had the Scruffs been satisfied with that, they could have been kept at bay, but not all of them were.
Once Paul began to treat them as little members of his own organization, by letting one of them walk his dog, Martha, for example, there were those who gladly took the inch and started going for the mile. They found a vantage point from behind the house where they could see him sitting on the lavatory by standing on an overturned flower pot, told him about it, and even showed him how it was done when he expressed amused disbelief. More disturbingly, they found ways to get past the security system, an electric gate with an intercom, and by late 1968 they were sneaking into Paul's house when no one was home (who would know that better than they?) and taking little souvenirs.
They also gave themselves the privilege of approving or disapproving of Paul's live-in companions; they adored Jane Asher because she was a British celebrity with just the right amount of upper-middle-class hauteur to elicit their respect and deference - and they thought she was 'just right' for Paul, as did the London press and almost everyone else who had given up on becoming his wife or long-time companion themselves. They were a bit wary of Francie Schwartz, but not hostile – she was a 'wild' but ebullient American with a good sense of humour, and they kind of knew she wouldn't be around for a very long time. But they detested Linda, and terrified her.
They hated the way she dressed - it was as if she just threw something on, anything. Jane was a TV star, always immaculate and gorgeously groomed, as if for an important appearance on daytime television or a glamorous first-night in the West End. Linda was, let's face it, not gorgeously groomed. As she said in her own song, the light came from within, and it certainly was not visible to the Apple Scruffs. Mainly, they hated the fact that Paul appeared to be so happy with her. They wanted him to be happy, but not happy enough to dispense with their adoration. This time, he seemed to need nothing else but that 'arrogant American bitch'. Linda was not 'charming' with strangers, that was just not her. Paul was the charming one when they were together in public, while she always seemed as if she wanted to get away, with him. In any case, the Scruffs decided that they were going to hate her, and they had more than a few resources with which to demonstrate their aversion.
They shouted epithets at her, even when she was with Paul. They booed and hissed. He would say, 'Now there, girls, behave properly!' and smile and tell Linda it was nothing to worry about, that it was quite meaningless. But she had just given up her life in America and had moved into a new home in England with her child; this was virtually her first encounter with the natives, and it was very unsettling.
They would swarm around her when she went outside alone, calling her names, telling her to go back to America, trying to trip her so that she'd fall in the street. This is not harmless. Then she wouldn't leave the house on foot any more, so it was arranged that a car would pick her up within the gates, but once it was on the street, assorted Scruffs chased it, surrounded it and pounded on the roof with their fists, screaming words of hatred.
She'd return to the house and find revolting graffiti on the street wall in foot-high letters. When they broke into the house and stole her photographs and negatives, it was too much. What's more, Linda worried about Heather's safety and about the effect on her of this swarm of evil insects, for that is the way she saw them, and certainly she had done nothing to deserve this.
'Those first few days in Paul's house, I lived in fear of going outside,' she told me, a good while later. 'I thought of Paul telling me how the Beatles used to be prisoners in their hotels when they toured, because there were thousands of people out there who loved them so much that it was dangerous to be among them. Believe me, a dozen people who hate you and wait for you has to be just as bad. I was a prisoner in Paul's house. Heather was five, how could I explain this to her? "Oh, it's OK, they'd hate anyone who lived here with Paul." Please, you can't expect a child to know what that's about. Hate? It's a new life for her, and I have to tell her about hate, about why these people hate Mummy. It was very, very difficult.'
On 5 November Paul, Linda and Heather left London for Paul's farm in Scotland. Linda always preferred the country to the city - New Yorker though she was, the city was a place to get away from and the country was home. More than restorative, it was her natural habitat for her whole life.
By the middle of November they were back in London, with Linda feeling better about things. There was that farm up there, you just had to get in a car and you'd be there. I had a picture postcard from her with a two-word message: 'Very well.' It was one of those postcards they used to give on aeroplanes to first-class passengers. The 'PanAm' (now defunct) logo was stamped on the back, and on the front was a picture of the Taj Mahal, a memorial built by a great ruler for his beloved wife in the seventeenth century. It's funny how things come together, if you wait long enough.
Hunter Davies was the author of the first and only 'official' biography of the Beatles, commissioned in early 1968 and published by the end of that year. He was on holiday with his wife, the novelist Margaret Forster, at a rented house on the beach in Portugal when, very late on a night in mid-December, Paul, Linda and Heather appeared at his front door, 'banging and shouting'. The trip was a whim and had required the hiring of a private plane; Paul had taken advantage of an open invitation, offered to all of the Beatles via postcards and unlikely (so the Davies family thought) ever to be accepted.
Davies, who had become friendly with Jane Asher while doing his book, wrote in a 1985 Postscript that appeared in a subsequent edition that it seemed to him and his wife that Linda was 'overdoing her adoration for Paul, clinging on to him . . . hanging on his every word. We couldn't see it lasting. We couldn't see what she was giving Paul.'
She was giving him what he very much wanted: love and priority.
This was not a woman about to announce to the world that she would rather be known as an actress than as Paul McCartney's girlfriend, as Jane Asher had done. Paul wanted the woman in his life to want, above all, to please him and give him a family. Linda not only came already equipped with a daughter but was one month pregnant that December. Ironically, very close to the day on which Linda became pregnant with the first child conceived by her and Paul, Yoko Ono miscarried the first child conceived by her and John Lennon.
Paul called Linda's father from Portugal, requesting his daughter's hand in marriage, and then he proposed, or, rather, they set a definite date, because since October the couple had been acting as if they planned to be married someday. It was Christmas 1968, one year after he and Jane Asher had become engaged.
'Everything was going well for us, for the three of us, at the beginning,' Linda said to me twenty years later
Paul and Heather were becoming really close, and that was so important to me. And Paul and I loved each other. He told me he fell in love with me the first time we met, and that was so sweet of him to say, whether or not it was true. What really mattered so much to me was that he always would tell me that he was falling more and more in love with me as time went on. I mean, as the years went on, he would say that.
I was aware that I wasn't liked outside our home. At least the other Beatles had Yoko to compare me to, so I didn't come off all that badly with them. But some of those girls on the sidewalk! They told the housekeeper that I was acting as if I were jealous of them, that I clung to Paul to keep him to myself. I was scared of them. They really wished me harm. Some of them stole whole carousels of my colour slides. Some of them tried to physically hurt me - on the day we were married one girl pushed a flaming newspaper through the front door. Did they want us all to be burned alive? There was nothing I could do about the way they felt, but they made me feel awful, just the idea of them always lurking out there, plotting their next break-in or whatever.
Well, that was for starters. The people at Apple didn't like me because of the way I dressed, because I was American, divorced and - you know, Danny, I was unsure of myself in Paul's London world, and it came off like arrogance.
The papers knew nothing about me except that I was a photographer, divorced, American. They picked up that story about me being the Eastman Kodak heiress; so that's how I got spoiled and snotty, they figured out. It all fitted in for them. Paul was being asked about me all the time, and he said great things about my photographs, that he was with me and that he was very happy about it, but all they wanted to know was if we were getting married, and he kept denying there were any plans for that, or else they really would have come after me.
As far as 'hanging on every word' -1 did, I still do, I've been doing it for almost twenty-five years. His 'every word' happens to be brilliant, because he is. Or, he's telling me something or asking me something - am I supposed to not pay attention? You see, I couldn't do anything right. I wasn't going to change myself; anyhow, I don't know how I could, and I was confident at least that Paul wanted me to be who I was. No beauty make-overs; could you imagine me 'mod'? Well, it was rough, but there was always one person in England who was there for me, and it was enough.
A few people in New York received Christmas cards that year, and in January Linda sent me a postcard with a wire-haired terrier on the front and another cryptic message: 'Very very very.' I guessed I was supposed to fill in something positive, like 'much in love', or simply 'happy', or maybe not, maybe that was it, just a postcard with no deep meaning connecting two friends across the Atlantic Ocean. She couldn't very well have said 'Wish you were here', which could be read as an SOS, and she certainly wouldn't have wanted to imply that anything was less than fine. Linda never complained, she would never lay her own problems on her friends. She thought to do that was unspeakably selfish and, worse, pessimistic. Everything was going to be OK, somehow; or, if it was bad, it could be handled.
Linda's friends in New York were seething. Mainly, Lillian Roxon was seething, and Blair Sabol to a lesser extent, but Lillian was widely loved and never reluctant to express anger or disappointment; when she was hurt - uh oh, watch out. And Linda had really hurt her, especially with one postcard which was probably playful (I must say, Linda did not have a great sense of playfulness) but had the effect of pushing Lillian over the edge. Her anger at Linda for not having called since September (they used to be on the phone at least four or five times a day) turned to fury at this one: 'Keep your mouth shut.' Just those four words.
'How dare she? What the fuck does she mean? Keep my mouth shut about what? Does she think I'd stoop to her level of behaviour? She's run off with the most famous man in the world and now her friends are no longer useful, out with the garbage? She was just waiting to drop us all when something better came along! That little bitch!' Etc., etc.
It was more distressing for Linda's other friends in New York to see Lillian so upset than it was to have been 'dropped', if that indeed is what it was, by Linda. Lillian carried this wound, amplified it, went public with her scorn and never relented before her death in 1973.
Linda carried with her, for the rest of her life, profound regret.
It's the one thing I'm sorriest about in the whole world, that Lillian and I never made up. When I went to England, I was in this whirlwind. And people say that I 'cut them off. I can see now how they'd feel that way. But at the time, I had just gone from being this photographer in New York into a whole different world.
You can't know how hard it was. I was suddenly in the middle of a situation where the Beatles were breaking up, Paul was really upset, there was a whole business and legal thing happening which took everyone's energy and I hated it. I thought it was going to be all peace and love and music, and it was wartime. Plus, everyone hated me, those horrible groupies always in front of the house, calling me names, spitting at me. It was a terrible time; I didn't know what to expect, but not that, not that. Paul was so romantic, and I was wondering what I had to do to make it last, and we were trying so hard to understand each other. This whole thing was going on, it took up my life. I didn't write, I didn't communicate, I was living what was going on in front of me. I thought about getting in touch . .. isn't it ridiculous that I didn't communicate with you guys? I didn't call you, I didn't speak to you. I'm so sorry about it, about Lillian. I'm so sad. I'm so sad about it, really. God, I loved her, she must have thought I totally un-friended her. I didn't keep our friendship up. It was sad, I tell you. But I didn't know she was going to die! If she hadn't died, I'm sure we would have gotten together again, been friends again.
It was certainly a very sad business; I guess Linda and Lillian have made up by now. But what was it really all about? Why did Linda ignore her best friends back home for over a year? (Especially when she had to know that we were dying to know what was going on. It was kind of embarrassing to be asked, 'So, what do you hear from your friend Linda who married Beatle Paul?' and have to answer, 'Well, not much.') It was very confusing - the Linda we knew, the Linda we thought we knew, would not do that, she would not 'drop' us all merely because she'd made the match of the century. When she resurfaced in 1970, it was as if (as has been noted elsewhere) nothing had been wrong, there had been no lapse, we were just picking up where we left off. Has it been a year and a half? My my, time flies.
Well, it can't always have been terrible. There were certainly blissful interludes. That trip to Portugal doesn't sound like such a nightmare, for example. Except that, with their host and hostess trying to figure out what Paul saw in her, wondering who this new girl was who had taken Jane's place in his life, Linda had to be uncomfortable under their judging scrutiny.
Then again, when it's all wine and roses, what do you do? 'Excuse me Paul, I've got to call all my friends and tell them what fun we're having here on the beach.' No, that doesn't work. Or, to tell her friends that it wasn't all peachy, that it was very difficult, that it was not at all what they thought, or what she had thought it would be - that would be complaining and, as I have said, Linda didn't complain.
I can only speculate that there was another reason besides the 'whirlwind' one: early in 1969, Linda's father and brother were hired by Apple to advise the Beatles on legal matters. As the group split further apart, it was John, George and Ringo in one camp, Paul and the Eastmans in the other. It is all so very complicated, and thoroughly described in virtually every book about the Beatles. But I strongly suspect that Lee Eastman told Linda not to talk to her friends in New York while all this was going on. We were all in one way or another connected to the media, and Lee might surely have suspected that once we had Linda on the phone, we'd be digging for news. So it was safer just not to speak to anyone outside the family, especially friends who might want to pry. When it was all settled, Linda could pick up where she left off... which is what happened. However, this is pure speculation, and no one has ever told me that Linda was so advised. If I were Lee Eastman, though, I would have told Linda not to talk to me, or Lillian, or Blair, or Robin. It was harsh, but it seems all this time later as if it would have been excellent advice.
On 11 March 1969, Derek Taylor stopped denying the rumours and wrote a short press release from the Apple offices announcing that Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman would be married the next day, at the Marylebone Registry Office in London. Paul was in the recording studio that day, while Linda was taking care of the paperwork. That night, he managed to find a jeweller who'd just closed his shop, but would open it up so that Paul could buy a wedding ring for £12.
Why such a modest venue? They had wanted a quiet wedding, they said later. Obviously, this event was going to be anything but quiet. On a cold rainy day, with Paul in a grey suit and yellow tie and Linda in a pale yellow coat over a beige dress, the couple (with Heather) entered the registry office through the rear door, went through the necessary ritual, and emerged to find thousands of screaming, chanting, singing, hysterical girls - and, naturally, dozens of representatives from the world's press. The fans were not happy; Heather had to be rescued from the crush by a policeman. Back at Paul's house, where the couple went before going through a ceremony at St John's Wood church, the crowd had become nasty; kicking, swarming and actually trying to burn Paul's house down. Police had to come and disperse the angry fans before their little display of jealousy and frustration turned into a riot.
'Just write that the bride wore a big smile,' Linda told Ray Connolly of the Daily Mail outside the registry office.
The wedding was front-page news all over the world, and the thousands of disappointed fans in London had millions of counterparts elsewhere. Girls wore the black of mourning for weeks afterwards, and, like an answering move in a chess game, John and Yoko were married in Gibraltar eight days later; the adorable mop-top stage of the Beatles existence was no more by the middle of March 1969.
The newlyweds left soon after to visit Paul's father in Liverpool, and from Manchester they flew to New York for three weeks to be with Linda's family and to wrap up the loose odds and ends of her life at her $180-a-month apartment on East 83rd Street.
'She married me, and this is something you mustn't do,' Paul said, sitting alongside Linda for the filming of the BBC documentary, Behind the Lens.
You're going to have a lot of criticism, whoever you are. People said, 'Who does she think she is?' Oh, she thinks she's my wife, that's all. I said that maybe we should go on a talk show and sort of explain who I've married, and show them that you're a nice person, you know, because I think they think you're a pushy American broad ... In fact, you're the dead opposite of that, so maybe we should have gone on a chat show, but we just thought, 'No.' You know, what can I do? Go on to justify ourselves to the whole bloody world? Sod 'em. We ended up just thinking if they don't find out about us, then they don't find out about us, big deal. We'll know, our kids will know, our friends will know. If our image goes elsewhere, then too bad.
I suppose I can find it within me to forgive Linda for not sitting down and writing me a long and chatty letter. She had just moved from one country to another, was setting up a new family in a new home with a new Daddy for Heather, was now married to the erstwhile catch of the decade, whose child she was carrying, and was instantly notorious, misread and widely loathed, because she ruined a fantasy that had become an obsession with vast numbers of young women. Who did she think she was? And, as she was starting to realize with great dismay, she was right on time to witness her new husband live and suffer through the worst crisis of his adult life, as the Beatles flew apart. It was to be one of the most public and gripping split-ups in the history of showbusiness unpleasantness.
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