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Starr Power: WWD Catches Up With Ringo

The former Beatle, who will be the face of John Varvatos’ fall advertising campaign, discusses his career and his Peace Rocks initiative.

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Retirement has never even entered Ringo Starr’s mind.

The former Beatle turns 74 today and his touring schedule and extracurricular activities would slow down a man half his age. Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band started performing in Canada in early June and will circumnavigate the U.S. through the fall.

That’s just one part of his busy year. Since January, Starr has been honored with the Lifetime of Peace & Love Award by the David Lynch Foundation, performed with Sir Paul McCartney on the Grammys and then again at the CBS taping of “The Beatles Tribute,” a special celebrating the 50th anniversary of the group’s first U.S. visit and appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Simon & Schuster published “Octopus’s Garden,” a children’s book based on his lyrics, and an exhibition of his artwork is working its way around the country.

At noon today in Los Angeles, Starr will stand in front of the famed Capitol Records building in Hollywood and ask everyone around the world to join him in a peace and love moment by hoisting their two fingers in the air in the universal symbol of peace. At the same time, it will be revealed that Starr will be the face of John Varvatos’ fall advertising campaign.

In addition to print ads, the initiative includes a behind-the-scenes short film and a social media component, all intended to raise awareness of the Ringo Starr Peace & Love Fund. For anyone who shares a photo of themselves flashing the peace sign via Instagram, Twitter, Vine or Facebook and tags it with the hashtag #PeaceRocks, $1 will be donated to the charity through the end of this year. In addition, Peace Shops will be installed at various spots where Varvatos merchandise is sold and 100 percent of the proceeds from a special Peace Rocks T-shirt will be donated to the charity.

Dressed in black with his signature wire-framed sunglasses and a pair of colorful sneakers, Starr made a pit stop in New York in mid-June to play The Beacon Theatre and unveil a collection of self portraits at the Soho Contemporary Art gallery.

“The Beacon was great last night,” he said. “New York and The Beatles, New York and Ringo; it’s like a bond we have. New Yorkers feel we’re from New York because of Ed Sullivan and Shea [Stadium] and the first landing was New York. So there’s an incredible great bond of love between us and New Yorkers.”

Asked about the sneakers, Starr lifted his feet in the air and said of the pattern: “These are Vans but this is ‘Yellow Submarine.’ The Beatles are doing clothes and shoe merchandise with different people now and this is one of the great aspects that really works,” he said.

But Starr is happy to let the experts do it and has no plans to launch his own apparel collection. “No. Then it’s hard work. I like to just find it, wear it and have fun with it.”

Over the years, Starr and The Beatles had their share of iconic fashion moments, whether it was their hairstyles, their collarless suits or their colorful “Sgt. Pepper’s” military-style jackets. Starr said even before he became a Beatle, he considered himself a stylish guy. “Before The Beatles, I was quite a good dresser in the other bands,” he said. “When you’re in a band — before it got to grunge — you dressed the bit. So yeah, I’ve always had an attitude with the clothes.”

But there are some outfits that he recalls with a cringe, particularly one lime green cardigan. “There’s always a few mistakes in your life, but that’s how it is.”

Today, he’s more apt to be decked out in Varvatos or a European line called The Kooples. “I don’t think you have it here, it’s in England. But I don’t say, ‘I have that, I wear that.’ I go round and I pick bits from a lot of shops, a lot of designers, a lot of brands. Just whatever I feel looks good.”

Although his personal style is still important to him, it pales in comparison to his primary mission in life, which is to promote the message of peace. In addition to today’s press conference and peace gathering and the Varvatos campaign, all of the proceeds from the sale of his art is being donated to charity.

Starr said creating art is one way he relaxes from his crazy schedule. But he doesn’t view himself as a particularly talented artist. “[Art] is easy in a way,” he said, pointing to a piece by Keith Haring in the gallery. “How great is that? But at the beginning, it was, who the hell is that crazy guy, there’s no faces? So whatever you do, promote it. I can’t really paint either, but I do. I just get the brushes out and I paint in acrylic. I tried oil, a friend of mine, George Condo, gave me a lesson. He’s been a friend for 30 years. Look at him. I remember when he started and now there’s no one bigger. With his crazy people that he paints. So get your brushes out, get on your computer and just create. That’s how it is.”

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