Ringo Starr just celebrated his 80th birthday by hosting a livestream concert benefiting Black Lives Matter and other causes. The concert featured performances by Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Steve Earle, Keb Mo and others, with Ringo opening the show performing It Don’t Come Easy. The Beatles drummer once found himself at the receiving end of a very scary threat, which led him to say, “I’m not Jewish.” What was the frightening event?
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A. The Beatles were scheduled to perform in Israel in 1965 thanks to the effort of their manager, Brian Epstein. The concert never took place, however, because of threats from the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel who opposed the playing of rock and roll music. The Chief Rabbi of B’nei Brak, a religious community only a short distance from the concert venue in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, condemned Epstein, who was Jewish, saying “If the band of Mr. Epstein plays here, it will be a chillul hashem.” When Ringo was told that this meant “a desecration of the name of God,” he replied, “Then let Brian stay home and let me go and play. After all, I’m not Jewish.”
B. When the Beatles performed a concert in Belfast in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of IRA terrorists who believed that Ringo was Jewish because they thought that Starkey, Ringo’s real last name, was a Jewish name. Many in the IRA believed that there was a Jewish conspiracy behind the British government’s opposition to their cause. British military accompanied the Beatles throughout their time in Belfast, and audience members were frisked before being allowed into the auditorium. Ringo later said, “It made no sense. After all, I’m not Jewish. But still, I had the cymbals up towards the audience to give me a bit of protection. I usually had them flat.”
C. When the Beatles performed concerts in Montreal in 1964, authorities learned of a threat to the drummer by a group of radical French-Canadian separatists who believed that Ringo was Jewish, apparently because of his big nose. A plainclothes policeman sat with Ringo throughout both shows, and stayed with him during the entire time the Beatles were in Montreal. Ringo later described the event, saying, “Some people decided to make an example of me, as an English Jew. The one major fault is, I’m not Jewish.” Referring to the policeman sitting with him, Ringo said, “What is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?”
D. The Beatles were in New York in August 1965, about to perform at Shea Stadium. Word had gotten out that Ringo was planning to propose to his girlfriend Maureen Cox, and as a result, the concert at Shea almost didn’t happen. Throngs of Chassidic Jews from the Diamond District in Midtown Manhattan appeared outside the Plaza Hotel where the Beatles were staying. They all had brought inventory of diamond rings, hoping that the most famous ring wearer in the world would choose one of their products as an engagement ring for Miss Cox, thinking it would be great publicity if their ring was selected. The jewelry salesmen all jockeyed for position at the hotel’s exit, hoping to get the attention of the drummer as the Beatles headed toward their limo. The crowd surged toward Ringo in a near-stampede, causing the security staff to turn the Beatles around to return to the safety of the hotel. Luckily, the Beatles were able to sneak out through a rear door of the hotel. When interviewed later, Ringo said, “I don't really understand why all those old bearded men thought I would buy a ring from them. I’ve got my own collection, as everyone knows. And besides, I’m not Jewish.”
E. Ringo appeared in the film Caveman in 1981, where he played Atouk, a scrawny caveman who lusted after a beautiful cavewoman, Lana, played by Barbara Bach, who Ringo went on to marry. Lana was the mate of bullying tribe leader Tonda, played by John Matuszak. The dialogue was almost entirely in cave language, including such words as bobo (friend), zug zug (mate), macha (monster), and caca (you figure it out). Ultimately, Atouk overcame the threats and power of Tonda and won Lana’s heart. But when Lana’s parents Shirley and Murray met Atouk, they asked him what shul he belonged to. He replied, “I’m not Jewish,” leading them to break up the relationship, saying “No goyishe macha will be a zug zug of our daughter.”
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