The Beatles, like winter, seem to be hanging around far longer than anyone might have anticipated. Still, I am skeptical when readers assure me that Ringo's daily presence in the suburbs has been set in stone for almost half a century.
"We live in Rolling Meadows and have been runners for years," begins the email from Len and Pam Laughland. On one of their routes near Rolling Meadows High School, "there are two adjoining sections of concrete with inscriptions about a love for The Beatles" as well as a personal shoutout to Ringo dated 1966, they say.
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Really? Somewhere, under all of our snow and ice is 48-year-old graffiti? Who knew that sidewalks could last as long as Beatlemania?
"That's a testament to the city, right?" says Steve Liszewski, 60, who has lived in the neighborhood since he was a toddler. Liszewski confirms that he sees the sidewalk homage to Ringo and The Beatles when he walks his dogs, and he's been walking dogs for a couple of decades. The sidewalk legend is just part of the landscape.
"I don't think I've even mentioned it," Liszewski says in responding to my odd, rambling voice mail. With his help, I find the spot under the snow and see the miracle in concrete for myself.
It's a little worn, but the word "Beatles" is clearly readable, as are the words "Ringo Love." It appears to have been written in the wet cement in 1966 by Joanne and Jean, who had a crush on Ringo.
Often regarded as the least-handsome, least-talented, and least-crush-worthy Beatle, Ringo always had his fans in the suburbs. And still does.
"I've never met a nicer person," says Debbie Frontier Kouvelis, 58, an Antioch grandmother who was 18 when she and her 19-year-old sister spent some quality time with Ringo Starr in 1975.
"I'll never forget the day they called," Kouvelis says, recalling how her mom, Jeanette Frontier, screamed when radio host John Doremus phoned their home on the West Side of Chicago to say she had won the contest to share a meal with Ringo.
"I gave the prize to my daughters," says the mom, now 80 and living in Roselle. "The prize was unbelievable."
Limo rides, first-class airline tickets and an all-expenses-paid weekend at the historic Beverly Wilshire luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., included an intimate dinner with Ringo Starr, Linda Thompson and a couple of Capitol Records producers, Kouvelis says.
"Ringo was laughing the whole time he was with us," she recalls, explaining how her gracious host kept them amused through dinner and well beyond. "It was a fantasy. It really was."
As a mother of four and grandmother of seven, Kouvelis says the thought of sending two teenagers to California for a weekend with a rock star seems dangerous to her now. "But back then, it was so innocent," she says.
In addition to hanging with Ringo, the sisters saw stars such as Paul Newman, Deborah Kerr and Ben Gazzara.
"We kept telling ourselves, 'Don't act like kids. Don't act hysterical,'" Kouvelis remembers. "And then, when they'd leave, our mouths would drop open."
She and her sister even enjoyed room-service breakfast at the luxury hotel.
"We called home first," remembers Kouvelis, who needed assurance from her mother that all meals were included in the prize package. "I think we ordered $100 worth of breakfast."
A photo of her sister and her chatting with Ringo still hangs in her living room, Kouvelis says.
Whether it survives in memories or in the concrete of a frozen sidewalk, the love for Ringo and The Beatles still has a home in the suburbs.