Paul McCartney, Corey Levitan and his friend, Eric, pose outside Sir Paul's London home in 1984. James McCartney, then 7, is behind his dad.
BY COREY LEVITAN
Eric wouldn't get out of bed that early, so we left him at the hotel. (Later, he would hog most of the Paul photos, capitalizing on the important groundwork we laid.)
Phil signs the Abbey Road sign bolted down due to fan theft. (Yes, we tried removing it. They did a good job bolting!)
After taking our photo on the crosswalk, we managed to sneak onto the front steps of Abbey Road Studios. Every Beatles album (with the exception of "Let It Be") was recorded here. Immediately after this photo was taken, we were asked to leave.
Paul McCartney and I met in 1984. And I believe it’s safe to say that we were pals for a time -- that time being 10 minutes.
I was 19 and, shall we say, not a winner in the game of life. (Observe the mullet haircut and Just Shirts outfit from the mall. Even McCartney, who rocked a mullet for 10 years, knew enough to ditch it by 1984.)
It was my first trip to England and my sightseeing priorities were straight. Stonehenge, schmonehenge. I needed to cross Abbey Road,
The thwacker and her broom guard Paul's house that morning.
Mark (the fake Paul) and his friend Sally (the Abbey Road photographer) wait across from the real Paul's house at 6:45 p.m.
As we look out for a green Mercedes, we see something else.
Paul McCartney grabs his afternoon paper. (Afternoon paper? Yes, this WAS a long time ago.)
No caption required.
like the album cover. I was a Beatles nut.
I convinced my not-exactly-winner friends to dress as George Harrison and Ringo Starr to my John Lennon. And it had to be fate because sitting on a curb at Abbey Road when we arrived was a guy ressed like Paul, wearing a suit and no shoes; waiting for a John, George and Ringo to complete his own Beatles nut fantasy.
Paul's name was Mark Harrison, he was from Toronto, and he even brought a female friend to snap the photo. (Harrison now actually plays Paul in a Canadian Beatles cover band: http://www.thefabfourlive.com/gallery3.htm )
Creating a Kodak moment on Abbey Road is not easy. You have to stay exactly in step, stare straight ahead and, most importantly, not get run over. This is a major intersection gridlocked for 40 years by visiting morons such as us. The lines painted on the street indicate a crosswalk, but some drivers are so fed up, they use them as a bull's eye, speeding up to mow down the regular processions of inconvenience.
After what I thought would be the Beatles highlight of the trip, the fake Paul asked if we wanted to see the real Paul's old house, the one he owned before moving to Scotland in 1969. It was walking distance.
Dozens of Beatles classics were penned at 7 Cavendish Ave., including “Penny Lane,” “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.” Often, Lennon would stop by to help with a spare lyric before they drove to Abbey Road Studios together.
The house -- which Macca purchased for £40,000 in 1965 -- was not impressive. At least the top of it wasn’t. A high wall needed scaling if a photograph of the whole thing was to be taken. And it was to be taken. This was an important thing to me, to have a picture of the whole house Paul McCartney didn't live in anymore.
Earlier that day at the British Museum, the Rosetta Stone –- part of a more important kind of rock history, translating hieroglyphics into Greek and unlocking the mysteries of ancient Egypt -- held my attention for 30 seconds before I yawned.
As I pulled myself up Paul’s former wall, my hands were met by the thwack of a broomstick. A woman was at the other end, alerted by our noise. She threatened to thwack again. I dropped four feet to the pavement.
The front gate cracked to reveal my assailant. She wore a housekeeper’s uniform. She saw that we were kids, apparently harmless. And she felt bad for tenderizing my knuckles.
Paul would return at 7 p.m., she said.
“But don’t say I told you!”
The gate slammed.
This was a crazy person, we thought, or someone playing a joke. Paul hadn’t owned this house in years. Besides, John had just been killed three years earlier by a Beatles nut who appeared just as harmless as we did.
Of course, none of us trusted our Beatles knowledge enough to chance it. Whatever it was we had planned for that evening was replaced by stalking.
At 6:45 p.m., we reconvened. The fake Paul announced that the real Paul drove a green Mercedes. So we scanned up and down Cavendish. Twenty minutes later, one finally appeared to be en route when a familiar voice interrupted our stakeout.
“You looking for me?” it asked.
Paul McCartney had opened his front gate to grab his newspaper. (We weren’t watching the house.) He waved us across the street for a chat. This was not his former house.
Calling this moment surreal does no justice to its surrealism. When I planned this tour of Beatle landmarks, I had no idea one of them would be a Beatle.
What transpired was like a Paul McCartney interview, only in reverse.
"Where you from?" he asked us.
In person, the world's most successful living entertainer seemed shorter than he should be, which I suppose all legends under seven feet do. But he exuded two things that were no surprise: a charm so warm it bordered on flakiness, and the distinct aroma of recently burned marijuana.
"Hummina-hummina, Long Island," I replied, like Ralph Kramden shooting a TV commercial.
"Oh, me and Linda summer out there, you know," McCartney said.
Hummina-hummina, I knew.
All my young life I had dreamed about meeting a Beatle but I couldn't think of anything to say while it was happening. ("We're not worthy" hadn’t been invented yet.)
"Is this your first time in England?" our new best friend asked. Relaxed, he leaned on the high wall I was thwacked off of. His son, James, then 7, crawled all over his back.
"You visiting anywhere else?" he continued.
Why the hell Paul McCartney was talking to us, I couldn’t say. But he seemed bent on uncovering every tidbit possible to know about Corey Levitan and his pals.
Eric mentioned that we were headed to Europe, apparently not realizing that we were already in it. He asked Paul if he had a message for Europe.
"Just tell them, 'peace, man,'" he replied, flashing the sign.
Years later, Eric would become a Kabbalah devotee, by the way. I suppose the only way to top meeting a Beatle is by meeting God (and/or Madonna).
We started snapping before the question, “Do you want photos?” entirely left McCartney’s lips.
“No, not that way,” he said, smiling.
Paul directed a photo session, making sure we all got at least one frame proving to our friends and families that we weren’t the biggest liars of all time.
Every picture looked exactly the same: Paul McCartney, all cool and stoned, with his arm around a different deer in the headlights.
I was so busy photographing, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t taken a turn. Paul motioned for me to jump into the shot he had just posed Eric for.
After that, each of us got an autograph.
Our meeting ended when a female voice –- perhaps Linda's or the thwacker's -– called out from the house and McCartney turned around.
"Gotta go!" he told us, waving and winking, as though announcing the final song of a rock concert to his audience.
"Enjoy the rest of your holiday!"
The gate closed.
When the flight home hit turbulence, I was convinced that meeting a Beatle was God's way of throwing me a bone before the airplane crash.
Obviously, I survived the flight. But, even though I went on to seek and find thrills as an adventure columnist, the biggest one of my life had nothing to do with my job.
PROOF WE ARE NOT THE BIGGEST LIARS OF ALL TIME
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