A Beatlefan has paid $2100 for a 30-second meeting with Ringo Starr.
Melbourne woman Briar Gunther purchased one of Starr's pricey artworks expecting a two minute chat and photo with Ringo.However Gunther said she and her father were bundled in and out of Armadale's Silver K Gallery in seconds after a quick photograph."If I hadn't have been told I would meet Ringo Starr, I wouldn't have bought the piece," Gunther said.
"I got to meet him for a maximum of 30 seconds. I got in a hug, my dad shook his hand, two photos were taken by a photographer and we were then moved on very quickly. They were trying to kick me out of the room before I had retrieved my handbag. There were quite a few people in the room, and a lot more there than what it was described to me at the time I bought the piece." Colin Kaye, owner of Silver K Gallery, said nearly all of the 100 people who paid between $1600 and $5200 for Starr's artwork were happy with their experience with the Beatle."When you do something like this you're never going to please everyone," Kaye said. "There were art agents, tour managers, security and minders there. The minders took control so to some degree it became a bit rushed which was very disappointing. Some clients got prime (access), but Ringo was only at the gallery for an hour and a quarter so it tightened the whole thing up. The time wasn't allocated as well as it should have been unfortunately."
Starr's proceeds go to charity the Lotus Foundation, who offer money for family and child welfare, women's issues, animal protection and addiction recovery and education.
"Ringo's only made five or six appearances worldwide for his art," Kaye said. "It's very rare. All the money we pay Ringo goes to the Lotus Foundation, we're giving half our entrance fee to the foundation as well. I had to put some (major) money on the table to make this thing happen, I'm not sure if I'll make any money from this or not. It initially was only exposed to our client base, if it was open to the general public it would have been an impossible situation."
Gunther said many Beatles fans were happy to pay thousands just to be in the same room as Starr.
"There was a definite comradeship amongst the crowd because we were hardcore enough to spend that much money just to meet Ringo and we'd all been dying to do that for years. I did not get to talk to Ringo and we were told in advance no personal photos were to be taken with him and that we could buy the professional photograph at a later date. If we had have been warned at the door that the plans had changed and we were only getting a photo with Ringo I wouldn't have been as miffed as I was."
Kaye said fans were told upfront Starr would not sign any memorabilia, however he signed each artwork sold at the gallery.
Canny fans who managed to meet Ringo at his Melbourne hotel were told flatly by the Beatle he would not sign their albums - echoing a message he posted on You Tube signifying his retirement from autographs.
"Ringo doesn't sign anything anymore," Kaye said. "The only thing he signs is his artwork, so you're getting a genuine Beatle signature, everyone got genuine hand signed work by Ringo Starr."
Starr's artwork, designed on a computer, has divided many.
"My sister is a prep teacher and she said her five year olds can draw better than Ringo's work," Gunther said. "I tend to agree, although I have grown quite fond of mine. It's by Ringo, after all!"
Kaye, who compared Starr's work to "Andy Warhol pop art", took the drummer upstairs to the gallery to look at his Beatles exhibition. "I had to pinch myself, Ringo's upstairs telling me about these photos in our Beatles exhibition. It was surreal. It was the most amazing experience I've had at the gallery. It was an electric atmosphere."
Ringo and his All Starr band play Adelaide today and Perth on Thursday after a East Coast shows.