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ROBIN ABCARIAN

The Cutest Former Beatle Still Makes a Girl Swoon

October 12, 1994|ROBIN ABCARIAN

Twenty-five years ago I would have given a kidney to meet this man, this rock star, this cultural icon. I used to dream about him. And so, in all likelihood, did you.

And here I am, improbably, three decades after an entire generation's first stirrings of adoration, sitting on a couch in a plush hotel suite with him. Contrary to all my adolescent instincts, my inner adult prevents me from falling to the floor and wailing: "I'm not worthy!"

We sit for perhaps an hour, chatting not about music or fame, but about the most pedestrian, profound issues a man and woman can face: marriage, parenthood, morality.

He has been the center of attention for more than 30 years, yet it was his wife's business that brought him to town; it was she who was occupied with a news conference and business matters. He had come, he said, merely in a supporting role.

But let's be honest: People came to see her in hopes of seeing him. That's just how it is when you are Linda McCartney and your husband is the cutest former Beatle.

Inevitably, in 25 years of marriage and four children, they have struck an accommodation.

"At home," Paul says, "my fame doesn't count for nothing. I am just Dad and she is just Mom and it's as simple as that."

Sigh.

If that's the simple life, where can I sign up?

*

Linda McCartney, in true rock fashion, is late to the news conference she called on Friday to introduce her line of frozen vegetarian entrees, featuring such dishes as Chili Non-Carne.

The event, in an anteroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom, draws an odd assemblage: A local TV station, a couple of newspapers and rock radio stations, fanzines and the vegetarian media, including the host of a radio show called "Vegetarian Lifestyles." There is also a smattering of star-struck fans, some of whom appear to be doubling as reporters.

Linda gives a mini-lecture on why everyone should stop eating meat--it's a matter of morality; killing animals is wrong. Just as reporters begin asking questions, the cutest former Beatle bounds up from the back of the room, grabs a mike and, as he has done in similar news conferences in Seattle and Detroit, says: "I wanna know what your husband feels about this."

It's goofy, it's loopy, and who cares if it's contrived? We are rapt.

The McCartneys' commitment to vegetarianism, Paul says, springs from an epiphany 20 years ago during a leg-of-lamb dinner when he happened to notice a flock of lambs gamboling at their farm.

Later, when we are chatting, he seems a bit miffed when I say the story sounds pat.

"What do you want me to do, make something up that sounds hip?" he asks.

"Lambs gang up at a certain point of the day, and they go for a run together and it really is cool. It's a very positive sight to see. They were running back and forth shouting, 'Paul! Linda! Help us! Don't eat us!' Then the lead lamb jumped up and said, 'Hey man, we need you!' And I said, 'Larry, we're gonna do this for you! ' . . . Hey, so is the story getting better? Not so pat?"

The couple can spew statistics about the correlations between rain forest destruction and beef production, but in the end, as Paul says, "I know about compassion fatigue. It's not like we can't see it. It's not like any time anyone brings out something to do with the rain forest, we don't know 100 people yawn."

So they tend to resort to more simplistic explanations, sounding like kids who have just made the ungroovy discovery that filets and roasts are dead animals.

"Did you know that meat stays in your stomach for two weeks?" Paul asks. "I was saying to Linda the other day, one of the reasons I am glad to be vegetarian is if something got stuck in my stomach, I'd rather it was a carrot than a bit of dead animal."

I smile.

"No, seriously, think about it! You know a dead animal, when you leave it out, my God, that thing stinks. I have been a woodsman for a good many years now and if there is a dead animal around, I know that smell."

Paul is also a sheep farmer, although his sheep are raised for wool, spun into rugs by Welsh weavers.

"Our sheep die of old age," he says. "I walk past that field in the mornings, and I think, there is a field of souls. I say, 'You lucky guys. The luckiest sheep in the world, our sheep."

Lucky, lucky sheep.

*

Paul and Linda are 52, old enough (and quite willing, he says) to be grandparents. Their four children are grown or nearly so: Heather, 31 (from Linda's first marriage), is a potter; Mary, 25, is her mother's personal assistant; Stella, 23, is a third-year fashion student, and James, 17, is still in high school.

Paul can still make a girl swoon, but mostly it is because nowadays he seems like every overworked woman's fantasy helpmate.

One of the best things about superstardom, he says, is the freedom it has given him to be with his children.

"We never sent them off to schools," he says. "They have always lived with us. We would have missed them too much. They're really beautiful kids, and they've got hearts as big as mountains."

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