Cedar Mill novelist hopes to share her highs and lows as a Beatles fan with Ringo Starr
How big of a Beatles fan in 1964 was Priscilla Casey?
Let's put it this way: The members of The Dave Clark Five should thank their lucky stars they never crossed paths with this particular 12-year-old girl and her mop top-obsessed sisters in arms.
Sure, you may know the lyrics of every song from 'She Loves You' to 'The Long and Winding Road.' But if you were never hauled into Juvenile Hall after leading 200 Beatles fans down the street in a frenzied 'Down with the Dave Clark Five!' rally, well - compared to Casey, at least - you're a real nowhere man.
As depicted in Cedar Mill resident Barbara Guardino's novel, 'How I Met the Beatles (And How They Broke My Heart),' Casey and her plucky, hormone-fueled friends - when it came to protecting John, Paul, George and Ringo's collective eminence from rival startups like Herman's Hermits and the dreaded Dave Clark Five - were strictly scorched earth.
As a fledgling adolescent in rural California, Guardino started what she calls her '1960s coming of age novel' in 1964 with the title of 'I, the Beatle Fan.' The draft, which she sent to the Beatles 'Fan Mail' address, likely never reached its intended target: Ringo Starr on his 24th birthday.
With the beloved drummer set to play McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale with his All-Starr Band on July 15, she plans to try again - this time with a complete, published paperback version.
'I spent about two months on the draft,' she recalls from her Cedar Mill apartment. 'We moved out in the country, and there was nothing to do. My goal was to get it to Ringo for his birthday, which of course never happened. That is why I'm trying to get it to him 48 years later - (one week past) his 72nd birthday.'
The logistics of the handoff have yet to be finalized, but Guardino - a former newspaper reporter who now works as a freelancer and political activist - draws faith from a Troutdale couple who gifted her the concert ticket. The pair, who hail from Great Britain, had a son who died of a brain tumor. The couple felt a kinship with Starr when they heard his daughter Lee, was diagnosed with the same condition. Following extensive medical treatment, Starr's daughter, now 42, survived her ordeal.
'They're hoping to go see Ringo and talk to him,' Guardino says of the friends she knows from church. 'We were standing there last week reminiscing about the Beatles, giggling like 12-year-olds. They're pretty big fans.'
At 60, Guardino, who fashioned her Priscilla Casey character as a thinly veiled version of her young self, is still a Beatles fan, and keeps much of her treasured memorabilia in good condition.
There's the initial draft of her book, a glossy photo 'signed' by John, Paul, George and Ringo in curiously similar handwriting. There's a handwritten draft of the 'How I Met ...' book she first published in 2009, along with a strikingly affectionate sketch of a mop-topped, pouty Starr.
As indicated by the ('And How They Broke My Heart') subtitle, however, Guardino's fandom had limitations. As the four Beatles gradually morphed from lovable Liverpudlian lads to longhaired ragamuffins enamored of marijuana, LSD and Eastern religion, Guardino chose not to follow.
'It was a loss of innocence,' she says. 'I was real disillusioned, because they weren't the innocent little characters they made themselves out to be. That was the whole society: We had this awakening, but it was backwards, from the innocence of childhood to the ugliness of the world.'
A practicing Christian, who contrary to the book title, has yet to meet any Beatles, sees the book as a fun, yet thoughtful meditation on growing up amid rapidly changing times as well as idol worship in the entertainment industry.
That may sound heavy, but Guardino takes a light touch in her Beatles book. The tale traces Casey, her family and friends as they navigate the ever-evolving pop-culture landscape of the mid-1960s. As the girls deal with friendship, family and terrors of teendom, their British pop idols segue from the playful exuberance of 'I Feel Fine' to the disorienting experimentation of 'I Am the Walrus,' all in the space of a few years.
In the book and in real life, the closest Guardino came to actually meeting her favorite band was on Aug. 22, 1965. Guardino and her friend Kathy Ross took a bus trip from home in Eugene to Portland, where the Beatles performed at Memorial Coliseum.
Brightening on the memory as if it were last week, Guardino proudly displays the 11-song set list she scrawled on a scrap of paper.
'It was fabulous. I got my $4 worth. People couldn't scream like that for two hours,' she says, referring to the ticket price and the band's relatively brief time on stage. 'I was in the nosebleed section. Of course, it was before big-screen TVs. They were about as big as beetles, but I could tell who was who by where they were standing.'
Not too long after that peak of youthful euphoria, it dawns on Priscilla that her elder idols - around the time they started singing about strawberry fields and skyward, diamond-encircled gals named Lucy - have traveled on to a world she no longer recognizes.
Moving from California to the Eugene area in her teen years, Guardino says she also noticed the changing of the cultural guard in her friends and schoolmates.
'All of a sudden in eighth grade, I started smelling funny stuff in the hallways, and people started acting weird,' she says of her first whiffs of marijuana smoke. 'Everything I knew to be true was kind of turned upside down.'
At one point, a girlfriend of hers tried to share some LSD with her.
'I hadn't heard of anything like that in my life,' Guardino admits. 'She explained how it was going to make me feel. I thought, 'This doesn't sound like a good thing.''
Nearly 20 years later, Guardino felt she'd been prescient when the same friend confessed of being a recovering addict.
'And I wasn't,' she says.
Glad to be there
Despite her misgivings about the era, Guardino says she enjoyed her adolescent and early adult years and much of the '60s pop and rock music. As a University of Oregon student, she even joined in a peace march or two.
'A lot of good came out of the '60s,' she says.
And Guardino doesn't really blame The Beatles for the liberalization of drug use or the cultural upheavals of the decade they helped define.
'They didn't start it,' she says. 'But they certainly joined in.'
Guardino was nonetheless pleased when, in 2009, after she'd finished the final draft of 'How I Met the Beatles,' learned Starr had found Christianity.
'I have a new appreciation for him since I found out he'd become a Christian. I think it's been a long time coming,' she says. 'I know a lot of people who lose their way do find it.'
Guardino is more resigned about the Baby Boomer generation from which she was sprung.
'Our parents lavished us with everything they never had,' she says. 'And we turned out to be a bunch of spoiled brats. And on and on it goes. The beat goes on.'
About the author
Who: Barbara Guardino, a Cedar Mill novelist, freelance journalist, political activist and banquet server at the Oregon Convention Center.
What: She hopes to deliver her self-published book, "How I Met the Beatles 9and How They Broke My Heart)" to Ringo Starr when he performs this summer at McMenamins Edgefield. To buy her book and learn more, visit www.GuardinosWrite.com .