Ringo Starr is no longer mobbed by screaming packs of fans. But, by no means is the world famous drummer hanging in the background. He's busy laying down tracks for a new album, and about to embark on another tour of his All-Starr Band; he's publishing books -- and he's still making the case for peace and love wherever he goes.
Beatles, but you'd never know it. At age 73, he could easily pass for someone 20 years younger. His rock-star DNA has kept him fighting trim. His skin is taut without looking stretched, and his gait is assured, even springy.
At a fundraising concert Jan. 20 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, where he was honored by the David Lynch Foundation with the Lifetime of Peace and Love Award, Ringo bounded about the stage like Peter Pan. He appeared boyish compared with the musicians surrounding him -- among them Peter Frampton and the Eagles' Joe Walsh -- who are several years his junior.
"Everybody loves Ringo!" declared Lynch at the start of the show, and by the end, all his pals came up onstage, including such luminaries as Jim Carrey and Jeff Lynne, joining for the sing-along of "With a Little Help From My Friends." The El Rey love-in was just one part of a perfect storm of Beatles-related activity that has occurred over the past year in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's first visit to the U.S. -- their historic appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Paul McCartney and Ringo, who remain friends, accepted the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys on Jan. 26. The following day, they were saluted at "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles," taped at the Los Angeles Convention Center and airing Feb. 9 on CBS, a half century to the day after the Beatles touched down in New York, greeted by thousands of frenzied fans.
"It was such an incredible moment," recalls Ringo. "Americans won't understand, but we're English and we came to America, and that's where all the music I love came from. A couple of years before that, I tried to immigrate to America, to Houston, Texas, to be near my blues hero, Lightnin' Hopkins. But the paperwork was too much for an 18-year-old."
Ringo has been a fixture in the City of Angels since 1976, when he bought his first home here.
"You ask anybody who's ever met me: I love L.A.," he says. "I love the relaxed atmosphere here, and I have a lot of good friends here, a lot of musicians. It just suits my makeup."
In a city overpopulated with celebrities, admirers keep a respectful distance.
"I can wander around L.A., wander around Monte Carlo, wander around London," says Ringo of the three residences he alternately calls home. "London's always interesting because taxi drivers always say, 'Hey, what are you doing here?' If I'm hassled now, they know I don't sign autographs. I'd rather say, 'Hi, how ya doing?' and move on. I'm shopping. I'm going to movies. I'm doing whatever's going on at the time."
Ringo loves movies, and goes often with his wife of 33 years, the actress formerly known as Barbara Bach. They prefer venturing out to theaters rather than holing up in private screening rooms like so many superstar untouchables. So far this awards season, "Lone Survivor" is his favorite. "And then a weird one called 'Prisoners,' he adds, "that was really strange. Of course we saw 'American Hustle' and we laughed and we loved it. And no one's going to beat DiCaprio in 'The Wolf of Wall Street.'â"
Waving the peace sign at every opportunity, Ringo is effectively the poster boy for peace and love; it's the signature of his official website and an essential part of his brand.
If "the love you take is equal to the love you make," then Ringo has generated enough karma to last another lifetime. He attributes his good health to being a vegetarian. "I believe that helps," he says during an interview at Sir, a studio instrument rental shop in Hollywood. "I also work out most days." He employs a trainer three times a week. And he meditates daily, a practice that dates back to the Summer of Love in 1967 when the Beatles were introduced to the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, also an avatar to the Lynch Foundation, which teaches the restorative powers of transcendental meditation to school kids and war vets alike.
"If you listen to the last three CDs, the theme is peace and love," Ringo says. It's a message from which he rarely veers, dating back to his first solo works. If there's any doubt, the opening track on his last studio effort, "Ringo 2012," kicks off with the lyrics, "This is an anthem/ For peace and love/ We've got to keep trying/ We can't give up."
Ringo's well-being is all the more miraculous given his sickly childhood, with his formal education severely hampered by life-threatening illnesses. Later plagued by alcohol and substance abuse, he became clean and sober in 1989 (and has remained so ever since). He was approached around that time about touring, an idea he eventually embraced.