Sunday, June 18, 2006

You say it’s your birthday? Well, it’s Paul McCartney’s birthday, too.

And not just any birthday: Mr. McCartney celebrates his long-anticipated 64th today, an occasion he immortalized 39 years before the actual event when he wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” for the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

The song is, of course, a wry preview — from the perspective of youth — of the cozy domestic bliss of an imagined old age. But domestic meltdown is more like the situation at the McCartney household, as Paul and Heather Mills McCartney recently filed for divorce after six years — four of them as man and wife — and one baby (2-year-old Beatrice) together. Oh, Paul will get by with a little help from his attorneys, but it won’t be cheap.

The soon-to-be ex-Mrs. McCartney, who is about 26 years younger than Paul, reportedly will be getting a lot more than just funny paper from her former hubby. Various press accounts say the settlement could net her as much as $300 million from Mr. McCartney’s stash of about $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the British tabloids — which already were having a field day with the divorce — are making like real Blue Meanies with sordid stories about Heather’s previous modeling career having included posing for pornographic publications, as well as even steamier accusations (which she denies and is threatening to sue over).

Needless to say, there will be no future exchange of valentines, birthday greetings or bottles of wine between the now-parted couple — not that there will be any shortage of applicants willing to both need and feed Mr. McCartney now that he is 64.

Late-night comics and headline writers are sure to have a field day with the tragicomic irony in Paul’s marital split occurring just in time for that 64th year he once pictured so differently.

According to some sources, Paul wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a tribute to his father. The song stands as the antithesis of the live-fast, die-young ethos epitomized by the “Hope I die before I get old” refrain from the Who’s “My Generation.”

Tongue-in-cheek though the song may be, an old man could do worse than find himself on those Sunday-morning drives, and “doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?” Indeed, for many years it seemed that this vision of tranquil golden years would be Mr. McCartney’s reality. Surely it could have been — at least between globetrotting tours — had the true love of his life, the former Linda Eastman, not died of cancer at age 56 in 1998.

But for that untimely loss, it is unlikely things would have degenerated so badly on the domestic front. Paul and Linda apparently enjoyed the type of well-worn companionship and matrimonial harmony that “When I’m Sixty-Four” envisioned. She wasn’t much of a singer, but Linda was apparently a heck of a wife and mother.

Some have accused Heather of being a gold digger — a person who decided that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you fake. Virtually everyone in the McCartney entourage says this is not so, despite the more-than-generous payout she likely will get.

The official party line is that the matrimonial acrimony is rooted in spotlight envy. Heather, it is reported, has developed a rather large chip on her shoulder over the fact that her husband gets so much more attention than she does as celebrity spokesman for her anti-land mine crusade.

The fact that the McCartney kids have never taken a shine to Heather didn’t help the situation.

So, if age 64 finds Beatle Paul at least temporarily in the land of the brokenhearted rather than nuzzling with the missus in that cozy little cottage on the Isle of Wight, there is still much to take solace in.

Paul remains, after all, the greatest songwriter of the past century — along, that is, with his former partner in crime. (In an interview Friday with Deborah K. Dietsch for The Washington Times, John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, speaking by phone from London, sent her warm “congratulations” to Paul on his 64th.)

And anyone who has seen Sir Paul rocking out in concert on his recent world tours would have to conclude that this is not a man likely to retire any time soon.

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