The names on the British marriage license — Richard Starkey, 40, of Liverpool and New York’s Barbara Goldbach, 33 — could hardly have sounded less glamorous. But on April 27, 1981, when the couple traded vows at London’s Marylebone Registry Office, they attracted hundreds of fans, hordes of press, and even a handful of ex-Beatles—all of whom knew the couple by more famous monikers: Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach.
At the time of the 45-minute nuptials, Starr was in the middle of a career standstill. His 1978 solo effort, Bad Boy, had flopped, and the bulbous-nosed drummer had started to focus on acting, nabbing the grunting lead role in 1981’s Stone Age comedy Caveman. While on the film’s Mexico set he met Bach, best known for her role as a Bond girl in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Though they were both in relationships (and Bach already had an 8-year-old son, Gianni) when they arrived for the shoot, the two connected after a late rehearsal in Bach’s hotel room with director-cowriter Carl Gottlieb. ”The next morning, they showed up in the same car, glowing and holding hands,” Gottlieb says. ”Obviously, he had never left [the room].”
It took a twist of fate — and a winding road — to cement the couple’s budding relationship, when, in May of 1980, Ringo’s Mercedes skidded out of control on a London street. Though they suffered only minor injuries, the pair later told the press that the fender bender had convinced them they were destined for each other.
For Fab Four fans, the circus atmosphere at the ceremony, held in the same spot where Paul McCartney wed Linda in 1969, was a flashback to the crazy final years of Beatlemania, though Starr, McCartney, and George Harrison opted not to stage a reunion. Instead, they reportedly held an impromptu jam, with Paul on piano, Ringo on an upside-down ice bucket, and George on guitar (the only member missing was John Lennon, who had been assassinated in front of his New York City apartment four months earlier). Later that year, tracks contributed by McCartney and Harrison appeared on Stop and Smell the Roses, Starr’s first well-received album since 1974’s Goodnight Vienna.
As for Mr. and Mrs. Starkey’s film careers, their post-Caveman roles were sparse (though they reunited on screen in 1984’s McCartney-penned Give My Regards to Broad Street). Still, they continue to buck showbiz tradition, having remained married for more than 20 years—not bad for a relationship that started on the rocks.