once thought too European, too sophisticated for "Charlie’s angels" this native newyorker went primitive to co-starr with ringo. hail "caveman's" lady—
pictorial essayBy BRUCE WILLIAMSON
When Caveman comes to the large screen sometime this spring, art will not be imitating life. In the movie, "a knockout prehistoric comedy," if we're to believe what publicists write, gorgeous Barbara Bath fails to get her man. He’s a small, smart caveman named Atouk, played by former Beatle Ringo Starr. He understands things. Barbara explains: "Like the wheel, food, even relationships . . . love, and walking upright. Atouk only has eyes for Lana, the part I play. But I’m the bitch. At the end, the girl from the cave next door wins out. I get thrown into the dinosaur dung."
It's a total spoof. Atouk nya zug-zug Lana, in the Caveman vocabulary (from a glossary of just 15 words), means that Atouk ultimately doesn't get it on with Lana. Offscreen, as the entire civilized world must know by now. Barbara and Ringo wrote their own happy ending, which should be culminating in a marriage about the time you read this.
I’d never have believed it when I went to interview Barbara last spring at the Caveman location in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ringo was temporarily' down and out with food poisoning, being nursed back to health by his then-current girlfriend, a likable photographer named Nanev. Barbara was working her shapely tail off on camera every day, under a blazing sun, and was expecting a visit from cinematographer Roberto Quezada, whom she had met when he worked on one of her earlier pictures, a thriller titled The Unseen.
To see Barbara through a close up lens must invite substantial risk of love at first sight. To see her in person, esc II at arm's Jength, guarantees, at a minimum, instant infatuation, Hazel-eyed and lawns, she's a wonder to behold, easygoing, with sheer beauty as the only indication site's a movie star. Every man, woman and child connected with Caveman was part of an unofficial Bach fan club long before I arrived on the scene.
"She's a real pro; she's been very helpful to me" was the testimony of big John Matuszak of the Oakland Raiders, who moonlights as Barbara’s Neanderthal steads in the film.
"We just call her Senorita Casabas," cracked comedian Avery Schreiber, paying mock tribute to the scanty cavewoman costume in which Barbara's breasts were squeezed together like twin melons.
The first day of shooting in Puerto Vallarta was a fishing sequence, to be filmed on a shallow river filled with spectacular rock formations, downstream from a hilltop restaurant called Chico's Paradise. Barbara, wearing a floppy straw hat and a faded Army shirt to keep the sun off, sat on a stark of film boxes under a makeshift umbrella while director Carl Gottlieb rehearsed the action. All the male cave people were using their womenfolk as fish poles, gripping their ankles and forcing them in underwater, headfirst until the ladies came up gasping lot breath, with or without realistic rubber fish. They were saving Barbara for the actual takes. "God," she said dryly, half to herself, while her stand-in went down for the fifth tune, "men were always terrible."
Despite that touch of cynicism, Barbara was up for the game. When her turn came, with the cameras rolling, she was plunged into the river by Matuszak for take after take. Later, for a sequence in which Lana flounders helplessly until Atouk jumps in to save her, she watched a stunt woman slide off a rock and slip into a steep, rushing rapids. Afterward, Barbara, a dogged perfectionist, repeated the action so sportingly that her double might as veil have taken the afternoon off.
Gottlieb—who rewrote Jaws and co-authored The Jerk prior to his Caveman assignment—explained the Ringo- Barbara screen relationship to me in words that subsequently sounded prophetic: "Lana is meant to be the first sex object, Atouk is the first man to evolve with any sense and Matuszak as Tonda is primal man—you can't get much more primal than John. As a cast, our principals look wonderful. The first time we saw them all together, our hearts leaped. When you need a suave, small, funny, awkward, unprepossessing leading man, there aren't a whole lot of those to choose from—Dustin Hoffman, Dudley Moore, Robin Williams. And who else is there who’s also a star? There’s Ringo."
Barbara nodded. "He's so interesting, a very nice guy. I think Richard’s going to be marvelous in this picture."
Later that night, during dinner with Quezada, Barbara rambled from subject to subject with nary a mention of Richard Starkey, a.k.a. Ringo Starr. As an actress, she was determined to play more comedy and had already shot Mad Magazine Presents Up the Academy. "A horrible film, after all the hard work we put into it. I’m just standing there; I could have been a stuffed doll." Before that, except for The Spy Who Loved Me and Force 10 from Navarone, her career had been mostly a series of grade-B potboilers made in Italy and sundry faraway places, epics with such titles as The Island of the Fish Men and The Humanoid.
One of Barbara’s major professional disappointments, of course, occurred during the torrential spring of 1979, when she almost won the Charlie's Angels role they eventually gave to Shelley Hack, then to Tanya Roberts.
"The producers thought I was too European, too sophisticated," says Barbara, born and bred in New York. "I’m afraid I didn’t take them seriously enough when they asked questions like, ‘What sports do you play?’ and 'What brought you to Hollywood?’ Now, that was a good question. I'd often wondered myself. Somehow, in the end, I sensed that the problem was not whether I could act but whether I could bounce and be Huffy enough."
When she talked with me about marriage early in 1980, Barbara was pretty well set against it. An unfluffy Long Island beauty who had become a successful model, she had married a businessman from Italy and discovered that all roads led to Rome. After producing two children and making films abroad, she decided that her career had worked out appreciably better than her marriage.
"I can’t imagine why I would ever get married again. I made that commitment once and was unable to fulfill it. The way I am now, if I want to be with someone, I'll be with that person, but I see no reason to carry his name as well. I’m still me, and I've worked hard to achieve that much. For someone who has already been married and has two wonderful children, marriage would make no sense."
Cut. Fade out and flash forward to late summer 1980. With Caveman in the can, a thousand headlines have already spread the word about Barbara and Ringo from Beverly Hills to Bangladesh when we meet again. Obviously, there's a new Barbara Bach at large, brighter of eye and with a lilt of excitement in her manner, yet too much like the original to make me suspect she’s still another stunt double.
"You remember everything L said before?" Barbara begins. "That went out the window. Richard and I are living together, and we’ll get married as soon as my divorce is final.
’’A lot of garbage has been written about us, none of it interesting. The truth is, we weren't together until the very end of Caveman. Working, we got along fine, but we each had other people, our respective friends. Then, all of a sudden, within a week—the last week of shooting—it just happened. We changed from friendly love to being in love. And we both had the same philosophy, neither one ever wanting to marry again. Richard already has three children, aged ten to thirteen. Quite honestly, I never thought I’d be so lucky, to fall so much in love that I'd want to do the whole thing over. My family was shocked."
While they don’t exclude the possibility of other children, Barbara and Richard (never Ringo to her) intend to establish a home somewhere for the five they have between them. Ringo’s children spent August with the happy couple in their rented house above Sunset Strip, then Barbara's 12-year old, Francesca, and eight-year-old, Johnny, came from Italy to explore Beatlemania firsthand.
"Richard's wonderful with kids; they lose him. For them, it’s like a wonderland here, with drums and guitars in the music room."
Barbara herself came late to Beatles appreciation. In the Sixties, when they were at their peak. I was in Italy. I once took my little sister to Shea Stadium to see them, because she was a Beatles freak. I wasn't. I don't think I could have named five of their songs a year ago. I was never really into music, though I am now—up to my ears. I’m surrounded by it, because Richard is making another album." Suddenly, Barbara finds she can speak with authority about cutting tracks. Sin has met Paul McCartney. George Harrison and Steve Sills, all of whom are producing songs for Ringo’s new LP due to be released earl) in 1981; its working title is Private Properly, alter one of the Hacks produced In McCartney'.
"There’s also a song on it Richard wrote just for me," Barbara notes with pleasure, "called Can’t Slop Lightning. That’s what struck us. I guess, though I won’t give away the words. Paul produced Lightning, too, and let Francesca and me play on it as part of the percussion group. Really thrilling. Much bet ter. right now, than any film I could possibly be doing in Sri Lanka or Sardinia. Though I'm grateful for such movies and had a good time making then), this whole music world is magic to me."
Whatever magic they're making together must have been at a high pitch one rainy day last spring, when Ringo’s Mercedes 350SL was menaced by a skid ding truck just outside London. To avoid a worse collision, Ringo himself whipped into a skid that took out three lampposts. The car flipped over twice, throwing him clear, with Barbara huddled on the front seat in shock, the roof collapsed over her. They both walked away from the accident, only slightly the worse for wear.
"Terrifying as it was." says Barbara, "we were checked out at a hospital—and a half hour later, we got into a cab and went back to the Dorchester. From the pictures in i he paper, you'd have sworn anyone inside that car had to be mangled, it not dead. That particular Mercedes must be the safest automobile in the world, and Richard bought exactly the same car again. The wrecked one lie’s having crushed into a box, which we're going to keep in the house as a work of art." In memoriam or in gratitude, she adds, Ringo also ordered two star-shaped gold pins for Barbara and himself. "Each one has a little piece of the broken windshield set in its center. Richard felt that if we survived that together, we'll manage to get through a whole lot more."
Where do they go from here? From L A. to London or Paris or Rome, or perhaps Monte Carlo, where Ringo has established legal residence. New York’s nomadic, romantic Barbara may be on the move again soon, but she's in no doubt that anyplace she hangs her hat with Ringo will be home.
"The unexpected is what makes life wonderful, isn't it? I'm incredibly happy now. I had always secretly believed in Prince Charming, ii ever lie came riding up on his charger. And Richard came. We’ll get married, and that's it . . . hap pile ever after, all the rest. So now I’m into fairy tales."
Spoken with a joyous ring of conviction that suggests our own B.B. may be stepping into the choicest role of her career.
PLAYBOY INTERVIEW: JOHN LENNON and YOKO ONO—candid conversation . . . . 75 After a five-year retreat from the press, John, the brilliant Beatle, and his inscrutable wife, Yoko, reveal the extraordinary details of their life, love and music in a remarkably intimate interview.
BARBARA BACH - pictorial essay . . . . BRUCE WILLIAMSON 120 Our favorite Band beauty brings cheer to Caveman—and co-star Ringo Starr. Can Bach and a Beetle make beautiful music together?
COVER STORY What could be better than Bach? More Bach; Barbara, that is (see page 120). You might remember her from The Spy Who Loved Me or from her earlier playboy feature, Bonded Barbara (June 1977). As a prehistoric heroine in her new flick, Caveman, Barbara displays a timeless beauty. Our star-filled cover was shot by Executive Art Director Tam Staebler and was produced by West Coast Photography Editor Marilyn Grabowski.