Linda Eastman & Alligators in the Sewers

Last week in Florida, a nine foot alligator emerged from a sewer, which only fueled the longstanding urban legend that there are alligators in the New York City sewers. An equally false urban legend of the same magnitude is that Linda Eastman McCartney was from the Eastman family of Eastman Kodak. This myth can still be heard in all corners of the globe. Linda McCartney, who was married to Paul from 1969 until her tragic death from breast cancer in 1998 at age 56, was not from the famous Eastman clan. In fact, her father, a Bronx native named Lee Epstein, changed his name from Epstein to Eastman after graduating from law school.

The public does not realize that Lee Eastman, the late father-in-law of Paul McCartney had a pivotal role in the final years of The Beatles, as well as advising his son-in-law so that he would earn more during his years with Wings than he did with in his Beatle years.

Lee Eastman came into this world as Leopold Vail Epstein on January 12, 1910. He was the son of Russian immigrants Louis Eastman and Stella Freyer. He graduated from Harvard Law School at a time in which that famed institution did not have many Jewish-Americans. Shortly after earning his Harvard law degree, Leopold Epstein changed his named to Lee Eastman. He married Louise Linder, the heiress to the Linder Department store chain. They had four children, including the future Mrs. Linda McCartney and John Eastman, an entertainment lawyer who would also figure prominently in Paul’s Beatles and post-Beatles business dealings.

In the magazine Women’s Own, Linda Eastman McCartney said of her family background, “My father’s parents – they’re dead now – were Russian immigrants, very warm, down-to-earth, working-class people. My dad just happened to be born intelligent and worked his way through Harvard Law School.”

Attorney Lee Eastman had numerous clients of prominence in his distinguished career. Some of them were Willem de Koonig and Robert Motherwell. He began to invest heavily in music publishing copyrights, owning such songs as “Never on Sunday” and “Young at Heart”.

After Linda Eastman had established a relationship with boyfriend Paul McCartney, it just so happened that in late 1968, the Beatles bass player felt the band needed advice to straighten out the mess at their new company Apple Corps. He turned to Linda’s father, Lee Eastman, who recommended to Paul that his son John would be the best person to straighten out the “Apple mess”. John Eastman, an entertainment lawyer, graduated from Stanford and then went on to NYU Law School. Prior to entering private practice, he was a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, the colorful Texas Democrat who served in the Senate from 1957-1971.

A full examination of the difficult business and legal issues engulfing The Beatles at that time is too detailed to cover in a blog post. As is well-known, Paul McCartney wanted Lee Eastman to straighten out the mess, while the other three Beatles chose Allen Klein. In 1984, Paul expounded on how his father-in-law and brother-in-law so successfully managed his solo career after leaving The Beatles. He mentioned one piece of advice that Lee Eastman gave him:

“The music publishing business I own is fabulous. Beautiful. I owe it all to Linda’s dad Lee Eastman and her brother John. Linda’s dad is a great business brain. He said originally, ‘If you are going to invest, do it in something you know. If you invest in building computers or something, you can lose a fortune. Wouldn’t you rather be in music? Stay in music. I said, “Yeah, I’d much rather do that. So he asked me what kind of music I liked. And the first name I said was Buddy Holly. Lee got on to the man who owned Buddy Holly’s stuff and bought that for me. So I was into publishing now.”

Paul also added that at that point in his career, half of his income came from recording, while the other half from his music publishing business.

Paul’s controversial 1984 film project Give My Regards to Broad Street has an interesting history. When funding was sought, Lee Eastman took ten minutes of sample footage which was filmed on a simple 35mm camera to 20th Century Fox; he successfully persuaded them to bankroll the film project.

Lee Eastman died on July 31, 1991, leaving behind a legacy as both a top tax attorney and a philanthropist in addition to having spawned an accomplished family.

The opposite end of the spectrum of Beatles fame

With last weekend being the 50th anniversary of the launch of American Beatlemania, the U.S. public should remember that Beatlemania had taken a foothold in the UK over a year previously and was in full swing even prior to the band’s first UK chart-topper, “Please Please Me”, which hit number one on January 11, 1963.

Beginning with Beatlemania in Great Britain in late 1962 that spiraled out of control by the time of the worldwide Beatlemania craze that started with their arrival in the U.S., The Beatles became celebrities overnight.

A lifelong friend of mine who I know from the beach graduated from Tufts University in the 1970’s. While a student at the Boston-area university, he had a part-time job as a security guard at the Boston Garden, giving him the opportunity to witness great rock concerts as well as games of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics. My friend John is now a marketing research executive and has a story about Beatle fame he will never forget in his lifetime.

In November 1974, John was working an Elton John concert at Boston Garden. Before the concert started a couple came up to him and said they were friends of Elton John and wanted to go backstage. My friend John asked the couple, a Caucasian man and an Asian woman, if they had backstage passes and they said no. John told them that they could not go backstage if they did not have the proper backstage passes. Once again, they said they were friends of Elton John and once again my friend told them in no uncertain terms that they could not go backstage. The couple turned around and walked away.

A Boston police officer came over to my friend John and in a voice of shocked disbelief said, “Do you know what you just did?”

John answered, “No….. what?”

The Boston cop said, “That was John Lennon! You just kicked John Lennon out of the backstage area. You’re going to get in big trouble for this …….. all of us are probably going to get in trouble.”

My friend John could not believe what he had done and expected to get fired that night.

After the concert, my friend John was standing outside the door of the backstage area, thinking that his days at the Boston Garden would soon be over. When the after-concert party ended the people started filing out of the backstage area. As they gradually filed out of the door, they all were silent and made eye contact with John. It was obvious that John Lennon had told everyone about the security guard who had refused to let him backstage. The people glared at my friend John, including Elton John himself. When John Lennon and his companion May Pang walked out and made eye contact with him, a smile appeared on Lennon’s face as he walked past them. Finally, Elton John’s manager was the last out and confronted my friend. He asked him, “Are you the person who kicked John Lennon out from backstage?

My friend John began to apologize, but Elton John’s manager said, “Do you know what you did? You kicked him out from backstage……… he was thrilled! He said that it was the only time since becoming famous as a Beatle that anyone ever treated him like a regular person ….. he wouldn’t shut up about it……. he was raving about it …… we had to hear the whole thing a hundred times.”

They Don’t Know How Paul Ended Up in Video

Tracey Ullman was introduced to the U.S. audience in the early summer of 1984 when the video to her song “They Don’t Know” received a fair amount of airplay on MTV. The consensus at the time was that people wondered how an unknown like Ullman was able to get Paul McCartney to appear in the video. I, for one, was definitely intrigued. Of course, back then I was unable to Google her name!

“They Don’t Know” was Ullman’s only song in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at # 8 in May.

A few months later, people in the U.S. would realize that Ullman was able to get Paul to appear in the video because she had a role in the McCartney movie Give My Regards to Broad Street,  which was released in the U.S. in late October 1984. The video to “They Don’t Know” was shot while the movie was being filmed.

Tracey Ullman, who was born in 1959, became popular in England doing sketch comedies on the BBC. She then embarked on a recording career, having a couple of hit records and a total of six songs in the British Top 100 in less than a two year period.

American fans remember her network television show “The Tracey Ullman Show”, which aired from 1987 to 1990. However, few remember that this show spawned a spin-off called “The Simpsons” in 1989.

In 2006, Ullman topped the list for “Wealthiest British Comedians” at an estimated 75 million pounds.

Take a look at Paul’s conspicuous cameo at the end of the video for “They Don’t Know”.