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AT 70, RINGO IS STILL AN ALL STARR

Ever since Ringo Starr vowed, on a well-known cover of Buck Owens' hit Act Naturally, that he'd become "the biggest fool to ever hit the big time," the renowned drummer has done all right for himself. As a member of the Beatles and as a solo artist, Starr has sold more than a few records, won some Grammy Awards and even had a minor planet named for him. But Wednesday Starr reached a very special milestone: He turned 70 years old.

He spent the day marking the occasion with a little help from his friends. His All Starr Band perfomed in New York City. On Tuesday, Starr and guests perform at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Starr spoke recently with Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times about hitting the big 7-0 and other recent accomplishments. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

How are you feeling about the number 70?

As far as I'm concerned, in my head, I'm 24. That's just how it is. The number, yeah, it's high. But I just felt I've got to celebrate it. I'm on my feet and I'm doing what I love to do, and I'm in a profession, as a musician, where we can go on for as long as we can go on. I'm not hiding from it, you know.

What seems like an advanced age to you now?

I think 90. But we'll see. It's a birthday at a time.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is taking one of your drums.

They're taking a whole snare drum. I'm lending it to them because it's well-documented, in 1964, that old Bill Ludwig, he presented it to me. I bought these Ludwig drums, and in the shop in England, the guy wanted to take the sign out, but I love everything American, the music and the instruments. So I made him leave the sign on. So I was a running commercial - on Sullivan, and all that touring of America, it said Ludwig drums. And so to thank me for that, they gave me this gold drum, and that's the one that's going into the Metropolitan for a year.

A few weeks ago the Vatican finally gave its approval to the Beatles. How did you feel about that?

It didn't affect me in any way, but I do believe that the Vatican has better things to deal with than forgiving the Beatles. I don't remember what it actually said - it had some weird piece in it, too. That they've forgiven us for being, what, satanic? Whoever wrote it was thinking about the Stones.

There's a novel out now called Paul Is Undead, which imagines that you're a ninja and your band mates are zombies.

I only ever see the covers and the titles. I don't read it all. But it's always on. There's nothing we can do about that. What's more interesting to me is that our records are still coming out. And they're the same records and the new generation gets to hear them, and as far as that's concerned, that's the most important thing to me. The music we make, it's still going on.

Fast Facts

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band

Featuring Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Rick Derringer, Richard Page, Wally Palmar and Gregg Bissonette. Tuesday, 8 p.m. $49, $75. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400.

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