She’d had 20 lovers in two years. Now Linda was out to snare Paul McCartney - no matter who stood in her way
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Even in her youth, Linda Eastman was never a true beauty. A tall, strawberry blonde, she had a long face that could appear handsome one moment and plain the next.
What she did have, though, was a full figure and a flirtatious manner that men found hard to resist. Indeed, over a period of just two years, while working as a freelance photographer, she notched up approximately 20 lovers - most of whom were household names.
Her preference was for the rock stars she frequently persuaded to pose, including Mick Jagger, Tim Buckley and Jim Morrison - and she wasn't averse to a handsome Hollywood actor.
Danny Fields, who bought her pictures for a teen magazine he edited called Datebook, recalls going to interview Warren Beatty with Linda in tow.
'She was taking pictures like a little kitty-cat, on the rug or on the sofa. All you could hear was the click of the shutter. And the next day she said: "Guess who I spent the night with?" '
It's because of this period in her life - 1966-68 - that Linda came to be tagged a groupie. Or, as a former friend put it, 'a groping groupie who was into photographing stars with little or no film in her camera'.
However much she may have enjoyed her fleeting romances, though, she was also a single mother on the look-out for something more permanent.
What she really wanted was a rich, groovy guy who could look after her and her small daughter, Heather, the legacy of a failed marriage. And her number one target, it turned out, was a Beatle.
She liked the look of the baby-faced one. Indeed, even before she'd met any of The Beatles, she told Nat Weiss, the American business partner of The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, that she was going to marry Paul McCartney
It seemed highly unlikely. After all, Linda lived in near-obscurity in new York while Paul - already world-famous - lived in London with his beautiful, redhaired girlfriend, the actress Jane Asher.
Yet Weiss had a premonition that the determined American would one day land her Beatle . . .
Everyone in the band's entourage liked Jane Asher. She'd met Paul in April 1963 when she reviewed a Beatles concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
At the time, Jane was at least as famous as The Beatles. Still two weeks shy of her 17th birthday, she'd been acting since the age of five and appeared regularly on the TV show Juke Box Jury.
The Beatles immediately clustered around her, kidding, flirting, and asking i f she'd marry them.
Later, Jane joined them at a private party in a Chelsea flat, where the boys proceeded to pop pills and drink all the wine. Embarrassingly, John Lennon was in one of his lethal moods and made some crude sexual remarks to the young actress.
But Paul rescued her from his boorish mate, taking her into the bedroom, where they talked about what sort of food they liked. So began the most significant romance of his life to date. Even as a teenager, Jane was more interested in Beethoven than The Beatles.
Home was a tall, 18th-century house in Wimpole Street, where she lived with her siblings; her aristocratic mother, Margaret, a professional oboeist; and her father, Richard, head of the psychiatric department at the Central Middlesex Hospital.
In short, the Ashers were an upper-middle-class family with sophisticated interests - a world apart from Paul's working-class Liverpool background.
Sitting at their elegant dining-room table, he began to receive the education he'd missed out on at college by becoming a pop star - though there was also, some say, an element of social- climbing involved.
That year, after turning 21 and seeing the latest Beatles single, She Loves You, shoot straight to number one, Paul took Jane off to Greece with The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and his Liverpool girlfriend, Maureen Cox.
For Jane, of course, a trip to Greece had to involve culture, so they all trooped up to the Parthenon. 'I remember going around the Parthenon three times - I think to keep Jane happy - and it was really tiring,' grumbled Ringo.
Back home, Britain was soon to be in the grip of Beatlemania. The hardcore fans who tracked Paul everywhere quickly discovered that he'd moved into a boxroom at the top of the Ashers' home - and stood sentry at their front door.
To help Paul avoid them, Dr Asher worked out an arrangement with his neighbours: the Beatle would climb out of his bedroom window, four storeys above the street, climb back into the apartment of a retired colonel next door, and exit the building
courtesy of the people in the basement flat, whose back door opened on to a mews.
Life with the Ashers suited Paul so well that he lodged there for the next three years, long after he had become a millionaire and the other Beatles had bought big country
But he found it impossible to resist all the temptations on offer. The following year, while The Beatles were on tour in America, he met a beautiful 19-year-old actress
called Peggy Lipton at a party in Beverly Hills.
After summoning her to where he was staying that night, he played her some tunes on a piano.
‘The next thing I knew we were on our way upstairs. He took me in his arms and kissed me,’ Peggy recalls.
‘I took a shower to slow things down and when I came out wrapped in a towel, he caressed me and let the towel fall to the floor.’
There was one more encounter, but he seems subsequently to have put her out of his mind. Instead, he took Jane shopping for a house on his return. They chose a £40,000
property in St John’s Wood — which is still his London base.
While renovations were being made to the house, Paul celebrated Jane’s birthday by giving her a diamond pendant. But he still had a roving eye.
Again, during a break in The Beatles second US tour, he slept with Peggy. Nor was she his only slip.
He told his cousin, Mike Robbins, that in the U.S. girls had been laid on by the film studios. ‘He said to me: “Have you ever tried four in the bed?” I said: “Four in a bed?”
He said: “Yes.” Three gorgeous blondes and him.’ To which Mike could only exclaim:
It was 1965, and The Beatles were soaring, with five U.S. number ones — the fourth of which was Paul’s Yesterday, the most successful Beatles song of all.
In a few short years, he had become one of the most famous people in the Western
world — as recognisable as the Queen.
Meanwhile, Jane was growing up. When they’d first met, she happily allowed Paul to decide what they did, where they holidayed, even what clothes she wore.
Now, however, almost three years had passed, and she was no longer quite as biddable.
After Christmas, she went into a Bristol Old Vic production of The Happiest Days Of Your Life, which kept her down in the West Country.
During this period, she and Paul had a row and separated briefly, before patching things up.
Even though his own mother had worked as a midwife, he didn’t want Jane to have a career — ‘I wanted her to give up work completely,’ he confessed later. ‘I know now I was just being silly.’
And so he found himself in London on his own, where he started seeing an attractive nanny, Maggie McGivern, who claims they had a three-year affair behind Jane’s back.
They met surreptitiously in auction rooms, where Paul was buying antique furniture for his new house, and in Regent’s Park where he walked his Old English sheepdog.
While Jane was away, Paul and Maggie even slipped over to Europe for illicit holidays.
‘They saw each other on and off for quite a few years,’ says his friend, the writer Barry Miles, confirming that Maggie was ‘only one of many’.
By 1966, Paul was being drawn into a moneyed, druggy, fast-paced set of aristocrats, bohemians and beautiful girls.
Now reunited and living together in St John’s Wood, Paul and Jane became increasingly aware of their differences. Paul liked to go clubbing, often bringing a gang of musicians and other bohemians back home late at night. Jane didn’t like clubs.
She’d only ever had a polite interest in pop, and wasn’t into drugs. And she had her own circle of theatrical friends who didn’t mesh with Paul’s crowd.
On Friday, January 13, 1967, she flew to the United States with the Bristol Old Vic for a four-and-a-half-month tour. Paul was not at Heathrow to see her off.
Even if he’d liked his own company, there was no way he was going to spend all that time alone.
He was going to have his mates round, pick girls up, drink, take drugs, leave his clothes where he dropped them and the dishes unwashed.
Two pals moved in to keep him company — the artist Dudley Edwards and Prince Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, the playboy son of the French painter Balthus.