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Ringo Starr: Gay Manager's Sexuality 'Didn't Matter' to The Beatles

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He suggests that they were “lads ahead of our time” for accepting manager Brian Epstein.

 

Don't worry, everyone: The Beatles are OK with gay people.

Asked by Parade magazine about their manager, Brian Epstein, Ringo had nothing but supportive things to say. "I had known a lot of gay men," he told the magazine. "It didn't matter to us. We were lads of the time. Or maybe, OK then, lads ahead of our time."

Epstein was known for his ability to spot talent and famously declared of the seminal Liverpool band, "They're going to be bigger than Elvis!" He discovered The Beatles playing at a small club in 1961, and it was thanks to him that they adopted their trademark clean-cut look and that the band shed their first drummer, Pete Best, in favor of Starr.

Epstein's homosexuality was an open secret for most of his career. When he was a young clerk in the British Army, he had a fake officer's uniform made that he would wear when cruising. When the Army learned what he was doing, he was forced to see a psychiatrist, which led to his dismissal as "emotionally and mentally unfit."

Later, as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he was arrested for "persistent importuning" outside restrooms in parks. This was a time when LGBTQ+ people had few options for socializing and faced arrest no matter where they congregated.

As their manager, The Beatles reliably stood by Epstein. At one point, a friend of John Lennon's teased them, "Which one of you [Beatles] does he fancy?" The friend was served with an angry letter within two days demanding an apology, and Paul McCartney told the friend never to contact them again.

In the 1960s, rumors swirled that Epstein and John Lennon had an affair in Barcelona, which Lennon denied. He told Playboy, "Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated ... but we did have a pretty intense relationship." Those close to Lennon maintained for years that their relationship was platonic.

Epstein passed away in August of 1967 at the age of 32, just one month after the U.K. decriminalized homosexuality.

Starr has expressed support for the queer community in the past. He is stepfather to the wealthy lesbian heiress Countess Francesca McKnight Donatella Romana Gregorini di Savignano di Romagna, who dated Portia de Rossi in the early 2000s. In 2016, he cancelled a concert in North Carolina in protest of the state's recently-passed homophobic legislation.

It's fitting that Starr would speak with Parade, as they're approximately the same age: Ringo was born in 1940, and Parade was founded a year later in 1941. Both have miraculously endured from a bygone century, enduringing into contemporary life to maintain a claim of relevance.

RELATED | Remembering Brian Epstein: The Late, Great Manager of the Beatles

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Matt Baume