Gary James' Interview With Paul McCartney's Step-sister
She's a songwriter. She's a producer. She's a singer. She's a C.E.O. She is Ruth McCartney. And did we mention she is Paul McCartney's Step-sister?
Q - Ruth, with all of the talents you possess and the things you've done in your life, shouldn't you be involved with American Idol?
A - I would love to be, yeah.
Q - The performers on that show, whether they be winners or losers, could benefit from your experience.
A - Well, that would be nice. I don't know anybody over at 19 Entertainment, but... actually I do. That's not true. I just haven't been in touch with him in years. Nigel Lythgoe, who is one of the producers of the show, was one of my dance teachers and choreographers when I was a kid in England. When I was studying choreography, I took lessons from Nigel. Isn't it funny? So, yeah, I should get in touch with him. I'm so damn busy with McCartney multimedia and iFanz, that time just seems to zip by.
Q - You both run and develop websites for top recording artists?
A - Yeah. Recording artists. Comedians. Small to medium to large businesses. Casinos. All kinds of stuff. You don't just have to be a musician to come to us. We have clients from, oh gosh, Delta Airlines to the MGM Grand, Las Vegas to John Cleese. We developed the original Clint Black site, Lee Ann Rimes and Country World. We have our ifanz.com software site, which allows anybody to manage their own fan club and communications and streaming MP3 files. It tracks where in the world people are downloading your song and shows it on a Google map so that you can plan your tours and your in-stores and your marketing and so on. We're a full service digital agency.
Q - Ruth, you wear so many different hats, I just have to ask, are you a naturally curious person?
A - (laughs) I guess that would be a polite way of putting it, but I'm a control freak is the way my friends would describe me.
Q - A control freak?
A - Absolutely. My way or the highway, you know. I just sort of get involved with lots of creative stuff. I'm sort of a real dichotomy. I'm a bit left-brain, 'cause I really enjoy playing with Excel spread sheets and book keeping, but I also love cooking and painting and photography and song writing. I'm sort of all over the map, but I enjoy creative, but I also like bringing these ideas into being by having the practical sort of mathematics inside of me too. A bit of a weirdo.
Q - At one point you were working as a sales girl weren't you?
A - That's right. I worked for Estee Lauder cosmetics, way back in the day when I was about 17 or 18 in England. I got into the whole fashion and cosmetics world through my dancing, when I was 15 or 16. There was a store in New York called Gimbals', which is now called Macy's. They hired me to choreograph their fashion shows. In the old days, models used to glide down the runway. They didn't move. They didn't crease the clothes. They didn't do anything. So, I thought how much fun it would be to set fashion shows to music. It was all glimmer and glam rock and Slade and T-Rex. How much fun would it would be to dance down the catwalk and back? So, I got involved with that and I got involved with Estee Lauder and Cover Girl cosmetics. I used to travel around and do make-overs and demonstrate stuff for them, in order to help them sell their product. So, that was kind of a fun deal.
Q - When you would apply for a job, would people ask; are you any relation to...
A - Yeah. I would say probably every time I give my credit card at a store or say my name and make a reservation. I'd say eight times out of ten they ask that question.
Q - And what do you tell them?
A - I just tell 'em he's my step-brother and the answers then are divided between, "Oh, you're liar. Bet you wish he was." or "Oh, really! What's he like?" I mean, do you have four hours? I'll sit down and discuss a very multi-faceted, complex, talented human individual. What a stupid question, what's he like? What am I supposed to say? People ask some silly questions. You get used to it.
Q - Where did your mother meet Jim McCartney? (Paul's father)
A - She met him on the door step of his own house in August of 1964. She was introduced by Jim's niece, Bette Robins. She was friends with his niece. He was a widower and she was a widow. Bette did a bit of match-making and it worked.
Q - How much of an age difference was there?
A - 28 years. Similar to Paul and his soon to be ex-wife (Heather Mills) I guess.
Q - What kind of a guy was Jim McCartney? I hope you don't regard this as a stupid question. But, was he strict? Was he funny? Was he serious? Was he musical?
A - He was all of the above. Very well put. I mean, he was strict with me as a four year old 'cause he wanted me to understand please and thank-you manners and etiquette, just fit into society. Mind my Ps and Qs and say "thank-you" and "May I leave the table?" and put your knife and fork together. Then, he'd sit and play the piano and tell a few jokes and have a cigar on Christmas Day and a glass of cheri and just let loose and have fun. But, he was also very shy. He really wasn't ready for the whole publicity thing that happened to him. We'd wake up in the morning and there'd be fans in the driveway of the house trying to stare through the windows. It kind of freaked him out. (laughs)
Q - That would freak anybody out!
A - Yeah. I loved it. I don't mind it. It doesn't bother me.
Q - Growing up, did you attend a public school or a private school?
A - I went to a free, state school. Got on a bus, took my cheese sandwich and off I went. Same as Paul's kids. We all did the same as everyone else. No special treatment or anything.
Q - I cannot imagine what that would've been like. That had to have been rough on you.
A - Yes, it was. We used to wear uniforms and you had to have your name stitched into it, on a piece of paper. Your Wellington boots had to have your name written inside them, in a sharpie. I would lose more books and coats and hats. People would steal them for souvenirs just 'cause they had the name McCartney in 'em. One older girl one time tried to cut a piece of my hair off 'cause she wanted a McCartney souvenir. People would steal my lunch. I'd open my little Tupperware for lunch and I'd have cheese and crackers and an orange and a banana and they'd steal the orange in case Paul had touched it this morning.
Q - Wow...
A - I got beaten up by a girl who hated The Beatles. She was a Rolling Stones fan. Her name was Linda Bailey and she hit me about the head with two Bibles. I'll never forget it. (laughs)
Q - Did you hit her back?
A - No. I actually thought my eardrums had collapsed.
Q - Did you go home and tell your step-father about it.
A - Yeah. The police were called and they took me home in a cop car. It was a big deal. (laughs) I got over it.
Q - You're alright today?
A - Absolutely.
Q - You write, "Is it stranger than fiction that the Beatles' Stuart Sutcliffe, born in Edinburgh, Scotland and Pete Best, born in Madras, India, who undoubtedly had an impact on both the group's look and sound, didn't stay the course." Pete Best has always been involved in music. The Beatles fired him. Stuart Sutcliffe died at 21.
A - Right.
Q - He didn't have a chance to make a name for himself. So, what did you mean by that statement?
A - Well, I just think it was because of that close-knit Liverpool sensibility. Pete had a Liverpool mother and grew up there, but he was of Indian birth. It just occurred to me that the four Beatles who sort of stuck together and made it were true, born and bred Liverpool lads and the two that didn't, weren't. It's just a trivia thought more than anything.
Q - Was there any one time in your life when you realized that having the last name McCartney was special? I know you sort of answered this before, but I'm looking for that very first incident.
A - Well, I knew the first night I met Paul. I was just four years old I think, four and a half. I recognized him instantly because my cousin Geraldine had The Beatles on her wall paper. In those days you could buy Beatle wall paper. And so, the morning that Ang (Ruth's mother) and Jim (Paul's father) went to get married and came back married, I had to do all the change of name deeds and Jim adopted me. I had a passport with my own name on it. It was really sort of a gradual thing, but I pretty much knew it was gonna be a big deal right off the bat. I knew who the Beatles were at four and a half. I mean it was 1964. You really couldn't miss it.
Q - You visited The Beatles set in the Bahamas. Do you remember anything about that?
A - Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Ted Kennedy was there. He had just had a light plane crash. His neck was in a brace. He would come visit and hang out at the bungalow every night, which is kind of weird. You look back at it now, hanging out with The Beatles and Ted Kennedy. (laughs) I went around on a bike with Paul. It was fun. It was great fun. We were there about four or five weeks. I had a birthday celebration out there. George Harrison had a birthday similar. The chef was German, so he made us this joint birthday cake, a big chocolate cake with a big beetle on it. He wrote "Happy Birthday, Ja, Ja, Ja, Ya, Ya, Ya." (laughs) I have a picture of that somewhere. I have no idea (where). It was a fun trip. It was really a fun trip.
Q - Ruth...time to put a photo book together.
A - Yeah. You never know.
Q - You write on your web site about a time John and Paul were in your attic, arguing about a song. What song would that have been? Do you remember?
A - There's so many. They just didn't sit down and write one song at a time. They'd have twenty in the works at a time. Some would get finished and some would just get abandoned. So, I really couldn't remember off the top of my head. They were always creating something.
Q - Did Paul ever attempt to help you in your career in any way?
A - No. He always wants people to stand on their own two feet, which is the right decision. It seems like tough love, but if you want to make it, you want to know that the success was yours and you'll never ask the question "I wonder if I made it without so and so." You'd never really know if you did it on your own or not.
Q - I can understand Paul's philosophy.
A - Nobody helped them (The Beatles). They made it by themselves. That's life.
Q - As a singer / dancer, you were very successful in Europe, but we never heard much about you in the States.
A - No. I never actually had a State-side release. Never got a contract in this country. Just a different kind of sensibility. Some artists who are huge here don't translate over seas. We didn't have the World Wide Web back then, so it wasn't as global as it is now. But, it was great because I used to be able to go to all of these places and have a body-double and a decoy and my own helicopter and bodyguards and limousines and all of that stuff. Then I used to be able to come home to North Hollywood and go to the laundromat and get gas and go to the supermarket and nobody cared.
Q - Have you seen a lot of your step-brother of late?
A - No. I don't mind talking about things that are common knowledge, but in interviews we don't get into where anybody is or what they're doing. "A" - he lives such a public life he needs as much privacy as he can get and "B" - he's going through a real tough time right now and it's a matter of security and all those things, so we don't generally get into that.
Q - Well, you know, I just had to ask.
A - Yeah, that was fun. People ask, but there's so much else to chat about.
Q - So, what's your next project?
A - Well, my husband is working on this iconzofrock.com, which I'm helping him with international distribution in Australia and Europe and so on. Then we run McCartney.com, which is our creative digital agency. We've got seventeen employees and ifanz.com, which is our fan club management company. We have 3 1/2 million users in the system which belong to our 1,200 clients. That's on-going, constantly, daily software development. And doing jobs for Lexus and the U.S. Navy. We just built a piece of software for them. Lots and lots of stuff! We sell music for all kinds of artists from re-records of Edgar Winter, thru itunes, The Knack. If you go on itunes and buy "My Sharona", it's our label. We're helping re-launch the digital side of the promotion for REO Speedwagon. They have a great new record coming out, which is just some of the best music I've heard in twenty years. We're working with Irving Azhoff's management company, who manages REO. But he also manages Seal, The Eagles, Paris Hilton, Christina Aguilera. So we're always doing something, that's for darn sure.