Linda Louise Eastman Lady McCartney
Photographer, Musician, Activist
I only met Linda a few times, in the old days.
Three or four times in the 60’s, when we were both single rock chicks–photographer and editor–at press parties, or when she’d schlep up to the Jazz & Pop offices with pictures, and just like everybody else we used some of those famous Stones ones she’d taken on the boat cruise. The first time we met, I was twenty-one, I had just started work at the magazine. She was five years older, very confident, and for a girl from Westchester she had really hip clothes–I was impressed. (Got over that as soon as she and Paul started making records: personally, I thought they were adorable, as a critic I wasn’t knocked out…)
Two or three times in the 70’s, when we were both rock wives–at parties or events, and at CBS Records, where I was the writer on some of the Wings ad campaigns, and very little impressed me any more.
(Well, okay, she was a LOT more public a rock wife than I was–or am, for that matter. But still.)
Only met Paul once, the last time. It was in an ad meeting at CBS, I think for the first Wings album on Columbia, we were all in head honcho Bruce Lundvall’s office, Linda and Bruce sitting on one couch across from Paul and me on the other couch, the art director I worked with and the department creative director in facing chairs.
Linda and I had a bit of a natter about the old days, but I doubt if she really remembered me specifically, though she did remember Jazz & Pop–or at least she was nice enough to say she recalled not only it but me, and was very warm about saying so, especially in telling Paul about it. (I didn’t mention Jim, of course; I would have done if we’d been alone, but the CBS people present didn’t know about Jim and me, and I didn’t want them to.)
But Linda hadn’t changed: she was still a New York girl, only with this really charming semi-Liverpudlian accent overlay. You could see she and Paul were each other’s sweeties, but they didn’t make a big deal of it. And she certainly wasn’t slow to zing him–in a most affectionate way, of course.
The meeting was going very well, the art director and I were talking about maybe going to England to work with them on the ads, when all of a sudden, for some bizarro reason, Paul, who up till then had been behaving like a perfectly normal person, started running his little cute Paulie number–inching closer to me on the couch, being soooo adorable, teasing, smiling, batting his eyelashes over those big wide baby-blues, just incredibly annoying.
And as God is my witness, he was this close to doing that little Hard Day’s Night move where he’d shake his hair from side to side and go `WOOOOOO’.
Yeah, sure, okay, he was a Beatle–the cute Beatle–but I so completely did not care: little college girl Patty Kennely hadn’t cared ten or twelve years earlier (John was her favorite Beatle) and rock widow Patricia Morrison didn’t care then (her dead husband was the only one she’d put up with this sort of thing from–and not even him for very long)… So the more Paul was being annoyingly Paulie the more annoyed I got, and the more I ignored him and addressed myself to Linda, who was also ignoring him.
Finally he leaned forward and got in my face and said, laughing, “I’m just trying to embarrass you, is it working?,” to which I replied, turning to look him straight in the eye, “Why Paul, why on earth would you want to embarrass someone you don’t even know?” which actually shut him up. Linda only snorted–that “Men!” snort–and rolled her eyes, and kept right on talking.
They liked our ideas, and we did some nice ads, and that was it.
I think the McCartneys managed brilliantly, both in life and now in death. It simply thrilled me to hear that the family had lied about their whereabouts so they could actually have some privacy in farewell–good for them!–though I also think maybe it was more like they’d been in Santa Barbara and then she got really sick really fast so they decided to go to Tucson instead of trying to get home to England, where I would have thought she would have preferred to die. I have no idea if that’s the case, of course–it may have been exactly the way it was reported, and the nasty speculation about possible assisted suicide (which I don’t believe for a minute) may have been avoidable–but still they did just fine.
And it was matchlessly brave and spectacularly generous of Paul to have shared with us those last words and moments; it was by no means pandering to voyeuristic tabloid mentality, but supplying people with a wondrous example, the kind of thing they really need to hear, to maybe take away some of their own fear and pain at the idea of dying and death.
Even I cannot imagine what Paul must now be feeling; or to be more accurate, what he will be feeling, six months, or three years, or twenty-seven years, down the road. For some people it gets better, for others it only hurts more; I hope Yoko gave him some wise counsel. But he is a strong lad, and he is an artist; his best work seems to come in times of trouble, and out of pain–as it does with most artists, that’s where we put it… And though it may sound crass to say so now, perhaps another “Yesterday” will be born out of this.
But even if it’s only another “Maybe I’m Amazed”, that would be just fine too, and way more than most people get. The album Paul does, not next, but a year and a half, two years from now, could very well be his masterpiece. Or it could be “The Lovely Linda” to the nth, which would not be. Whatever.
They did splendidly, both of them, to have kept that soulmate relationship alive for thirty years, in the face of not only all the celebrity garbage but the wear and tear of living we all go through, to do nice work, to raise good kids (and we know they’re good because we don’t hear about them, and when we do it’s not for getting busted for smashing through somebody’s window in Beverly Hills while driving drunk but for having a smashing couture collection in Milan).
It really was a charmed life, and I bet they worked really hard to have it: and then after all that she died in his arms, after a beautiful last few days, and she didn’t have to linger and suffer those last few horrible months, and he talked her over. I don’t think death can come in a much better or more fitting way than that–except of course it shouldn’t have come for many years yet, when she was 64, or 84, or 104. But there it is. And for all his fame and wealth and success, I know he’d give up every bit of it in a nanosecond to have her back.
In those pre-movie, pre-Strange Days days, whenever I felt sorry for myself because nobody knew I was the Lizard King’s rightful queen and only wedded wife, all I had to do to climb back into reality was look at Macca’s Linda and John’s Yoko. And I deliberately define the three of us here as roles, not women, because back then, that was the only choice women had–or at least the only choice open to the few strong, creative, independent women who happened to have fallen in love with rock stars.
You could be public, and get slapped with all the nastiness. Or you could be private, and have nobody know about you and diss you and tell lies. Either way, you got it a lot worse than the pretty, simpering, brainless pie-faced trinkets, because you were smart and talented, because you didn’t see your life as being mere consort to a rock god, but viewed yourself as a goddess in her own right who had made this alliance out of her own love and choice.
You were trashed without mercy and without end: for “interfering”, for “breaking up the group,” for even existing–but in the end you were savaged for being the “homewrecker,” the WOMAN who “stole” the rock god away from the pie-faced trinket the public thought he should have, the GIRL they thought deserved him. (As if anyone could make a rock god, any rock god, do anything at all he didn’t want to do…)
But Paul and John and Jim, three damn smart men, thought they deserved better than trinkets and girls, they thought they deserved equals and soulmates and women; they knew what they wanted, and to their everlasting credit they each went out and got her, and kept her…
And in the years to follow, every time I looked over at Linda and Paul, and Yoko and John, I always came to the same conclusion that Jim and I had originally come to: in our lives, the lives we had, the lives we wanted, this was the right way for us. It wasn’t any easier. Maybe it was a lot harder. Or maybe not. But it was right. And it was nobody’s business but ours.
Or so we thought. Looking back now, I’m not so sure. Why should Linda have had to take the crap people threw at her just because she was in the public eye with Paul and played keyboards in Wings and everybody knew about her? Why should I have to take the crap people throw at me now because I kept out of the public eye with Jim and didn’t play violin or bass or something in the Doors and hardly anybody knew about me?
Whose business is it anyway? Why should Linda have quit Wings just because evil jealous pigdogs wanted her to? (And she didn’t quit!) Why should I quit talking about Jim just because evil jealous pigdogs want me to? (And I won’t quit!) Even now, every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I still look at Linda and Yoko: they actually made it work, they stayed real, and for that I give them and those lads of theirs all praise and honor. I’m only sorry that Dame Morrison and Lady McCartney never got to talk (in case you’re wondering, I’d have precedence, being a woman knighted in her own right as opposed to being a knight’s wife)…
(Okay, that no meat/no leather/no fur thing always annoyed me–I’m a big fan of all three. But it was her thing, and Paul made it his thing and they stuck to it, and I’m a big fan of principle too. So never mind.)
Linda, go well. You were cool and cute and strong and honest. You raised fine kids. You took good pictures. You loved your guy and he loved you, and you went out in his arms with him talking you over to the other side. You were true to you. May your journey thrive.
(Oh, and I know you’re kind of busy right now, but when you have a minute to spare, do me a little favor, please? When you see Jim, smack him upside the head for me, would you? Give him a good one, girlfriend, and tell him where it came from! Well, actually, he’ll probably know who sent the message… And then sit him down and have a nice long talk with him about rock&roll marriage. Just so he knows. Cheers!)
© 1998 Patricia Kennealy Morrison for Lizard Queen Productions.