For years, Ringo Starr has used the occasion of his birthday to urge fans to flash the peace symbol and say the words “Peace and love” at noon wherever they happen to be in the world.
The former Beatle upped the ante for his 74th birthday party this year, telling a few hundred fans gathered in front of the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood on Monday that “I’ve become a male model” as the face of designer John Varvatos’ 2014 “Peace Rocks” fall fashion collection. The effort is the central part of a philanthropic campaign to raise money to benefit the David Lynch Foundation, which promotes the use of transcendental meditation in public schools and for military veterans.
Varvatos took a moment at the microphone to praise Starr’s long history of “promoting peace and love and understanding and compassion” in announcing the “Peace Rocks” effort: For each person who tweets a selfie while flashing the “V” peace symbol using the #peacerocks hashtag, Varvatos’ company will donate $1 to the Ringo Starr Peace & Love Fund, supporting the Lynch Foundation.
“It’s kind of like a mad circus, really,” Starr said shortly before stepping to the stage to exhortations of “Ringo!” from fans looking to capture his attention.
“It’s amazing how this thing has grown from when I started seven years ago on the streets of New York, just asking people to say ‘Peace and love,’” he said, looking fit in tight black jeans, a black T-shirt and suit jacket and omnipresent sunglasses.
Starr has been involved in several fundraisers for the David Lynch Foundation, and Lynch turned out for Starr’s birthday and described him to the crowd as “the coolest guy on the planet” before turning the microphone over to him.
The Varvatos campaign also includes a short film created by photographer Danny Clinch with Starr at his drum kit talking about his youth as an aspiring rock musician — “You were lucky in those days,” he says in the film. “If you had the instrument, you were in the band.”
In the film, other celebrities take turns behind his kit, among them Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Green Day drummer Tre Cool, studio drummer Jim Keltner and even late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel.
A Beatle never travels anywhere without an entourage, and on Monday Starr’s included his wife (actress Barbara Bach), his brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Keltner, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist-producer Don Was, and several members of Starr’s touring All-Starr Band, among them singer-songwriter-producer Todd Rundgren, saxophonist-keyboardist Edgar Winter, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather and Santana keyboardist Gregg Rolie.
The group’s tour reaches the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on July 19, and Starr said he made a conscious effort when booking to leave room to attend his birthday observance in Los Angeles for the first time since he began the “peace and love” effort.
All of Starr’s musician pals took to the stage and sang a round of “Happy Birthday” — rather than the Beatles’ own “Birthday” song — led by Walsh as Starr flung handfuls of black-and-white John Varvatos wristbands into the crowd to promote the #peacerocks effort.
He took a moment at a private reception following the birthday celebration in Capitol’s recording Studio A to voice his approval for the recent restoration of the Beatles’ first feature film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” which is currently in more than 150 theaters across North America on behalf of the 50th anniversary of its London premiere July 6, 1964.
“It holds up pretty well,” he said, “just as our songs hold up pretty well. All those things Dick [Lester, the director] did to capture a bunch of young guys just having fun is still pretty fun to watch,” Starr said.
Varvatos has featured high-profile members of the pop music community in previous fashion spreads, among them KISS, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, country star Willie Nelson, Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top and others. In February, he unveiled his own record label, John Varvatos Records.
In addition to the $1 donations to be generated by “peace and love” selfies, Varvatos will institute “peace shops” at various locations with “peace rocks tees” from which 100% of proceeds will benefit Lynch’s foundation.
As for landing in fashion shoots at 74, Starr quipped, “At home, I’ve always been a male model.”