Ringo to the kids in the car: 'Finally, we meet again!

11:04 AM, Feb 7, 2014   |    comments
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  • 1964 photo by Ringo Starr, from his 2013 book Photograph.
  • Musician Ringo Starr meets backstage on November 22, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV with the subjects of a photograph he took of six teens in a car during The Beatles' first U.S. visit in February 1964. The five surviving teens (now in their sixties) attended the Ringo Starr concert and met with the former Beatle backstage after the show. Pictured (l-r): Gary Van Deursen, Arlene Norbe, Bob Toth, Ringo Starr, Suzanne Rayot and Charlie Schwartz.



LAS VEGAS - Theirs was a modern-day fairy tale that no one could predict would be told. Six Beatles-crazed New Jersey teens flew down the Van Wyck Expressway on a cold Friday in 1964, hoping to catch sight of the Fab Four. A chance 50 mph conversation with Ringo Starr led to a photo snapped by the drummer.

Forty-nine years later on another wintry Friday, the "kids in the car" were reunited with their famous photographer. Their happy-ever-after was complete, with behind-the-scenes access to his All Starr Bandsound check, tickets to his performance and billing below the Beatle on the Palms Casino Resort marquee.

"Finally," Starr bellowed at the reunion. "We meet again!"

Starr's interest in knowing who and where his subjects were sparked a search spearheaded by USA TODAYThe surviving "kids" were found, making Charlie Schwartz, Gary Van Deursen, Arlene Norbe, Suzanne Rayot and Bob Toth overnight sensations. (The sixth, Matt Blender, died in 2011.) The Today show brought them together to re-create the photo of their now-famous drive, then sent them to Vegas to meet Ringo and see his Nov. 22 show.

The concert coincided with the unveiling of Starr's first print exhibit and release of the hardcover edition of Photograph (Genesis Publications), a limited-edition book of the drummer's photos, including the "kids in the car" print.

Before the reunion, the mounting excitement left Schwartz, 67, thinking that he needed to see a doctor because he was having trouble sleeping. Schwartz's wife, Stacey, laughed at his concerns. "I said, 'You think? You're going to meet Ringo Starr!' "

Each of the now-grown "kids" brought a loved one along. The pairs arrived two-by-two at sound check early Friday evening. The group, bright-eyed and sporting smiles, had an enthusiastic reunion filled with hugs and family introductions. Aside from best friends Gary and Bob, they hadn't stayed in touch since graduating from Fair Lawn High.

The moment was bittersweet, with Blender's absence heavy on their hearts. "Matt would have had a ball," said Van Deursen, 68. "I really wish he was here."

The group mouthed the words as the band rehearsedAfrica and It Don't Come Easy. Suzanne and Arlene bopped and swayed in unison.

After the set, the "kids" were ushered backstage for the meet-and-greet. Gathered around Starr's photo book, they gasped in awe at their sprawling two-page image. The women joked about being centerfolds.

A cheerful and warm Starr entered with wife Barbara Bach. He hugged Toth, 67, first. "You haven't changed a bit. And I've learned to lie."

The group eagerly rehashed memories of their famed first meeting like old friends, with Starr as enthusiastic as his fans to discuss details.

Rayot, 66, asked Starr if he ever received the pinkie ring she threw at him from the car. "John Lennon probably stole it," Starr joked back.

Their reunion ended fittingly with another photo. This time, Ringo joined his subjects and the five friends flashed peace signs. He then surprised the group with signed copies of Photograph.

As the "kids" bade their goodbyes to Starr, Norbe, 66, added, "We'll meet again in another 49 years!"

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