orillia - on an 8 am bus from bayand Dundas to Casino Rama. Passengers for Orillia must stay on the bus as we pass that town en route to Rama, then switch to another bus that takes them back. Gamblers come first.
Mr. "Hot Enough For Ya" driver of the air-conditioned bus loses his jovial veneer when I accidentally try to breach security by getting off the vehicle before being counted by a casino employee. All of this to see ex-Beatles drummer Ringo, along with his band of ex-stars.
Inside the gambling room, there's a horrible, loud, ascending hum that must be somebody's idea of a going-to- heaven soundtrack that, naturally, sounds like pure hell to me. Bars, restaurants, zombies poking coins into machines, dream catchers in the gift shop - I can't find the way out again. I stop at the backlit turtle covered with the Seven Grandfathers' Teachings such as "To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom." The teaching of Kenny Rogers would be more apropos: "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
"I identify myself to the woman at the entertainment complex box office who is recommending Three Dog Night to a customer. She points me to a lineup of people who don't look like press but have their names on a list. These are members of the public here to fill up Ringo's mini-show and press conference at his request.
Producer David Fishof says hello from Rama, Ontario,to thosemonitoring via Yahoo and points out posters dating back to 1989 that prove that Mr. Starr consistently takes bad pictures. This is the seventh group of All Starrs "personally chosen by Ringo." All Starrs "must have their own hits and play an instrument.
"He proceeds to introduce the players - Sheila E, Roger Hodgson, Ian Hunter, Greg Lake, Howard Jones and Mark Rivera - and to list exactly which hits they will be reprising on this tour sponsored by Century 21 Real Estate.
A stubble-faced Ringo Starr in a sparkly.T-shirt kicks off this pre-noon medley with a warm "Let's get it over with." Ringo does something I can appreciate when he sings. He enunciates. Good thing, because there's barely time to Name That Tune. Something about "Don't go where the road don't go." Then, "That's enough of that!" and he takes a seat behind his drum kit next to Sheila E's. Ringo plays sticks while Mr. Jones makes a synthesizer sound that is too close to the casino noise for me.
Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer garners a strong rating on the "Hey, I know that one" scale with a seemingly unjaded Oooh What A Lucky Man He Was.
I'm fascinated by the bloodstain pattern on Sheila E's pantsuit. Interestingly, Ringo has chosen a drummer to be the first woman to join his tour. She moves up front to micro-jam with Billy Joel's sax player and solo through one of the two songs she'll be repeating all summer. Afroed Ian "Mott the Hoople" Hunter, who recently released Rant ("The best thing I ever did - but that's besides the point") has the most mock star attitude. Roger Hodgson looks too young to be the voice of Supertramp that was blasting from cars everywhere when I was a kid. I don't believe Dreamer was mentioned among his three scheduled tunes. Ringo promises to try not to sing out of key on With A Little Help From My Friends, which ends with "Do you - I don't need anybody.
"Photos. George Harrison is "recup'ing." Burning questions like "Who played the Spanish guitar interludes on the White Album?" "Let's say I did." A woman from the Barrie rock station quizzes them on their knowledge of local tourism. Nil. Ian Hunter credits sax man Rivera with nagging them into a polished stage show. No one brings up the $1 million the casino paid to Faith Hill for one show. (I wonder what the Smothers Brothers will get?)
The response to "How do you find people for your band?" ("First we go to skid row") must hurt just a little.
J.P. of J.P. Public Relations, who's rented a stretch limo to park out front, asks Ringo Starr, "What's your fondest memory of all time?" and "What's your favourite song of all time?" Mr. Starr politely explains that his memories and musical fancies are many.
A Ringo look-alike seems to be part of the entourage and poses for photos. The real Ringo is saving his one-on-ones for the U.S. media.