This month I have a post up at Vanity Fair’s site about the extraordinary and improbably inspiring story of how George Harrison mentally and spiritually endured the horrific attack upon his person in 1999, its details courtesy of his engaging widow, Olivia. It is a companion piece to the brief spotlight I wrote in V.F.’s October issue about the new Martin Scorsese-directed HBO documentary about Harrison.
I can’t bring myself to engage in the “favorite Beatle” game—the whole thing wouldn’t have come off without all four of them—but I must confess to an abiding interest in George, who seemed the most intellectually curious and the best prepared for a life outside of Beatledom. Eleven years ago, as Vanity Fair prepared its first music issue, I was given carte blanche to pursue my dream of writing a profile of George. After months of petitioning, going through (glass?) onion-like layers of intermediaries, I received a call one August morning in 2000 from a publicist who’d been deputized to handle me, and he was delivering happy news: “George is quite keen to do it.” I was instructed to sit tight the following day, when I would receive a second call laying out the logistics and details of how I was going to meet Mr. Harrison at his estate, Friar Park.
The call never came. I waited one day by the telephone, then half of another, before an apologetic call came from the same publicist, informing me that Harrison was compelled to give a deposition or attend to some other kind of business regarding the legal case against the intruder who had invaded his and Olivia’s home. I was told that the matter of my Vanity Fair profile of George would be revisited in due time. But, sadly, that time never came. Shortly thereafter, George fell ill again with cancer, too ill to do a lengthy interview. He died in November of 2001.
While I’m Beatle-linking, here is a link to one of the few pieces of writing I’ve ever done that I am unequivocally pleased with, a thingy that ran on V.F.’s Web site last year called “Lennon at 70!” Reaction to it was sharply divided, but it was written, if I can go all Yoko on you, with love.
Like a lot of mere civilians, I cannot get enough of the Beatles’ story. To me, it was the best narrative of the twentieth century, in fiction or nonfiction. The four of them were at once a blank screen upon which all the fads and morés of their era were projected—teenybopper-ism, Indian mysticism, psychedelia, anti-war activism, postwar materialism, etc.—and four very strong, fully formed, sui generis personalities. No writerly embellishment can better the stories that they gave us.