The Day I Met Paul McCartney (spaghetti is involved), April 23, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
“Paul McCartney is downstairs and will do a quick meet-and-greet with photos, if you hurry.”
That’s what I heard one day when I worked for a famous record company in Hollywood.
Paul McCartney? No one was a bigger Beatles fan than I was. I knew the canon —Beatles and Wings and the solo career. I knew every lyric from “Love Me Do” to “Monkberry Moon Delight” to “Mrs. Vanderbilt.” I knew all the melodies and harmonies and could sing the backup vocals, too. So, yes, I’ll hurry. Damn right, I’ll get down there. After all, Paul was my favorite Beatle. The cute one. I’d been waiting for this day since I first heard of the four lads from Liverpool.
Then I remembered an incident at lunch. I’d gone around the corner to a place called Martoni’s where I sometimes got a small plate of spaghetti. Of all days, an errant meatball had fallen from my fork and hit my beige top, a veritable blank canvas waiting for the first daub of paint, on its downward journey. That day, the marinara sauce had been particularly tomato-y, leaving an indelible spot that wouldn’t budge. What would Paul think?
There was no time to dwell on it. I took the elevator—the same one I heard The Beatles rode when they first signed to the label back in the day. Someone informed me that John, in particular, loved pushing the buttons and riding it up and down, laughing and pretending to be the elevator operator. The doors opened, and I walked into the room where Paul and his then-wife, Linda, stood in the back.
One of the label guys gave us instructions before meeting them. “Look, don’t touch Paul or Linda or shake their hands unless they extend theirs first, got it? One of you on the outer side of each of them when it’s time to take the photo, OK? Let’s go.”
The line moved quickly, what with label execs making sure nobody lingered too long, regaling one of the most famous people in the world with what The Beatles had meant to them from childhood to the present (that would be me).
As I inched closer, I soon found myself face to face with the iconic figure. All the books I had read, my two English degrees, my Phi Beta Kappa key were useless in my forming words to tell this extraordinary artist the effect he'd had on my life. And I had but 30 seconds.
“Oh, Paul, my God, I love you so much.”
To which Linda said, “Aw, you’ve got good taste,” pronouncing it “tie-ist” with a half-English, half-American accent.
I continued to blabber: “And, and, Paul, I adore your music. The Beatles. Oh my God. There you are. Right in front of me.”
Beatle Paul was sweet, not snobby, smiling while he indulged the millionth person who’d said those very unoriginal words to him. He seemed slightly shorter than I, with a flawless pale complexion, that Cupid-bow mouth, those distinctively arched eyebrows, those big brown Beatle eyes that never wandered to the spaghetti stain on my blouse.
“Thank you very much,” he told me.
Then he did what I was warned not to do first: He extended his hand! I shook a Beatle’s hand! And not just any Beatle. Paul’s hand! A hand that had played the frets of his bass on songs as timeless as “We Can Work It Out” and as decadent as “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”
Yeah, that hand.
“Time for the photo,” a suit boomed. “One person on either side.”
Someone from the recording studio ran to Paul’s side, the pricier real estate of the two, leaving me to stand beside Linda. I wanted Paul to encircle my waist so I could embellish the intimate connection in later conversations with friends, but, alas, ‘twas not to be. I’d have to be satisfied with having held Paul’s paw in mine for a fleeting second.
Linda, too, was friendly, unpretentious, sky-blue eye shadow highlighting her eyes of the same color. She immediately put her arm around me and pulled me in closer so we all fit in the shot. I remember her making little guttural noises, little half laughs, waiting for the photo to be snapped.
For the actual staging of the photo, Paul placed his hands outward in a typical showman’s pose. I was tempted to reach out and grab his right one, screaming, “I wanna hold your hand—again!,” but thought better of it.
And like everything else good in life, the moment was over too soon. My meeting Paul McCartney was now a memory.
Working at a record company meant coming into contact with other stars, notably Tina Turner, who was petite and gracious, and Grace Jones, who was fun and outrageous, and seeing others traipse through—Duran Duran, Donny Osmond, Bonnie Raitt, Poison, Dave Mustaine and Megadeth, and many more.
But Paul McCartney. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, and when the photo was developed, and we got copies (if and only if Paul had approved them), I cropped most of myself out of it. The spaghetti smudge and all. But there’s enough of me to say, “That’s me, hanging out with Paul and Linda one day in Hollywood.”
And for all of three minutes, I'd be spot on (in a manner of speaking).