Conan O’Brien, a self-professed Beatles fan, was the perfect choice to interview Ringo Starr for a discussion about Starr’s new book, Photograph. From the very beginning of the live conversation at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on September 25, the jokes started flying.
Ringo seemed extremely relaxed with Conan, an obvious result of the friendly rapport they have built over the years from the many times Starr has appeared on O’Brien’s late night talk show. The conversation centered around a slideshow of photos from Ringo’s personal collection featured in his new book. Conan and Ringo sat on the corner of the stage facing each other with a huge screen in the background.
Laughter set the tone of the evening. Conan started off by saying: “I think I’m here to book you an airline flight, Ringo. Would you like an aisle seat?”
As the slideshow began, the audience reacted fondly to early photos of Ringo with his mother, including one when he was 7 years old in the hospital with tuberculosis. Ringo shared stories of what his early childhood was like as pictures of him with one of his first drum kits was shown.
When Conan pointed out the streak of gray on the right side of Ringo’s hair noticeable in some early pictures, Ringo revealed that he had alopecia at age 18. He said the doctors told him it would either eventually cover his whole head or it would go away altogether. Luckily for Ringo, the gray went away by the time he was a Beatle.
In one photo on page 62 of the book, Ringo, pictured with his mother, Elsie, and stepdad, Harry, is showing off his shoes which happen to be Birkenstocks.
“I was ahead of my time,” Ringo responded.
Ringo described how The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, called him on a Wednesday in 1962 asking him to join the Beatles and play a gig with them that night. However, Ringo had already committed to a gig with Rory Storm at Butlins Camp so Ringo explained that he’d join the band on Saturday.
“I’ll join the Beatles, but on my schedule,” Conan joked.
On page 82 is a photo of Ringo with George Harrison and Paul McCartney before he had joined The Beatles. A girl on the right side is staring at Paul. “The best part of this photo for me,” Ringo observed, “is the chick looking at Paul… She’s like, ‘I’m ready.'”
Pointing out his picture of John Lennon sitting in a hotel room, Ringo said, “What the hell is he doing… nobody can do this!” Ringo and Conan both remarked how Lennon’s leg was extremely flexible to sit up so high on his lap. “Cirque du Soleil was calling,” Ringo quipped.
Moving through The Beatles’ years, there was a shot of Ringo and Peter Sellers, who The Beatles were big fans of. In 1969, Ringo starred with Sellers in the film, The Magic Christian. Ringo revealed that in addition to money, Sellers gave him his house as payment for being in the film.
“What?” Conan exclaimed. “That’s fantastic, you had a great agent,” he continued. “I’m calling my agent tomorrow and firing him.”
During the hour-long conversation, Ringo stated his hopes for a future project. Since all four of The Beatles had their own cameras during Beatlemania, Ringo hopes that a second photo book can be done in collaboration with the photos of John, Paul and George. “Then I’ll be in more of the photos,” Ringo concluded.