I Met Paul McCartney - or did I?

by Traci Nubalo

When I learned that I was about to meet Sir Paul McCartney I felt a thrill that I had never experienced before. After all he is more than a living legend. Much more.

My friend and I were ushered into a large, private, very-nicely appointed hotel visiting area. There were probably fifty of us on hand to greet him on the night before we were to enjoy his concert here in Los Angeles.

And there he was, smiling and shaking hands while we waited our turn. He wore a very nice deep blue suit and a crisp white shirt, sans necktie. And he was gorgeous!

As we waited nervously for our minute or two with him my mind began to spin as I decided what I would say to him. Clearly any mention of Yoko Ono or Heather Mills was out of the question! I began to wish I had come better prepared.

Suddenly he turned to us and I had this amazing feeling that ALL of his attention was focused on us for that moment. I stood there gaping at him, running a very high risk of embarrassing myself in front of a man who I had held in awe my entire life.

I missed Beatlemania by a decade-and-a-half. But their music was part of my life from my earliest memories. I’m sure that a little cultural explanation is required for me to tell you this story, since I got some of it by word-of-mouth myself. But it’s a fascinating tale, one which we’ll never again come close to witnessing. This is because we no longer have music stars anywhere near the popularity of The Beatles in their prime.

I know, I know: someone wants to challenge me already. Maybe a Beyonce, or Led Zeppelin, or even Bruce Springsteen fan. But trust me (sorry Bruce!) as great as our current-day acts may be, The Beatles were in a league of their own in terms of cultural popularity and social importance. And as you read on, you’ll see how I found out firsthand that the Fab Four literally changed the course of world history!

President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated; the country was in a desperate way. Our government was in severe disorder. Unrest from the failing Vietnam war was showing up in ugly demonstrations on campuses nationwide. Russia’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev was banging his shoe on the table at the United Nations, threatening to bury us under a hail of the dreaded nuclear weapons that both super powers had stockpiled in dizzying fashion (a scene to be accurately and chillingly depicted in Sting's future dark hit "Russians"). We were clearly moving into territory that we as a people had never imagined possible.

Into this sad and bewildering scene appeared the strangest music group imaginable at the time. To begin with they had hair all the way down to the collars of the fashionable collar-less suit coats they wore! And they were very, very good musically! Immediately the country (and the world) sat up and took notice. The Beatles were so talented that they immediately began to thrill their fans and frighten their detractors.

And they were masters at working the press! They held some of the funniest press conferences in history:

“When do you plan to get haircuts?”
George Harrison: “I had one yesterday.”

“How did you find America during your last tour?”
John Lennon: “We turned left at Greenland.”

When they arrived on the scene they hit hard…and they just refused to go away! They broke into the American music scene in 1962 with their first hit “Love Me Do”. By mid-1963 Beatlemania was in full swing on both sides of the pond, and the group’s live appearance on The Ed Sullivan television show in 1964 sealed the deal in the colonies. During that historic one-night appearance 73 million television sets were tuned to the show, and a number of major U.S. cities reported that not a single crime took place during that hour.

By April, 1964, the group had cornered the world music market. They had written and recorded the top five best-selling singles in the U.S. while simultaneously owning the #1 and #2 slots on the album charts. They had also scattered other assorted hits throughout the Billboard Top 100. The Fab Four continued to place #1 hits consistently until their breakup in 1970.

At their concerts worldwide, girls would scream and swoon making so much noise that the band complained that they were unable to hear themselves play! The crush of the fans (and the press) literally imprisoned the members of the group everywhere in the world they traveled. George Harrison described being on tour with The Beatles as “a car, a hotel room, a theatre, another car, and another hotel room.”

Despite this insane lifestyle the group’s recordings contained a message of peace, love and hope that was carried around the world. Even behind the Iron Curtain kids played Beatles albums behind closed doors in secret gatherings, eagerly trying to decipher which face on the outer jacket belonged to which member, since the remainder of the liner notes were banned in Communist countries. The young men and women involved never guessed that they had begun a process which was to change the world. Beatlemania had just been turned loose behind the Iron Curtain.

Into this amazing cultural petri dish entered a dark and enduring mystery. In 1969 reports surfaced in the media claiming that Paul McCartney was dead. The story said that the heartthrob singer/bassist, who had co-written some of the most popular songs in recorded history, had stormed out of a late-night recording session at Abbey Road studios after an argument with his band mates. On a dark and rainy British motorway, the reports claimed, he suffered a fatal auto accident, being decapitated in the process.

At this point, the British version of the CIA, the Special Operations Executive (SOE) allegedly cornered the remaining three members and their management team. They were forced into a bizarre conspiracy to prevent millions of potential suicides among the band’s fans.

The tales goes on to claim that one William Campbell, a recent winner of a Paul McCartney look-and-sound-alike
contest was recruited to replace the young Beatle in public appearances. Extensive plastic surgery ensued and the game was afoot with the fake Paul (“Faul”) now appearing in public as part of the group.

Eventually, of course, reports of the charade sifted through to the worldwide media. Denials from the group’s management quickly followed and McCartney (or was it his doppelganger?) issued a statement from his home in Scotland in which he cribbed a great line from Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The always-ascerbic and opinionated John Lennon was widely quoted as saying: “It’s rubbish. It’s all a load of shit.”

But the tale persisted and was bolstered by stories from many sources that The Beatles - by now growing unhappy with this bizarre arrangement - had begun to place clues on their albums alerting fans to the situation. Such clues ranged from supposed “backward masked” messages in the music to visual clues inserted into the accompanying album art. Quite a few such pointers were claimed by some to be found in the group's lyrics directly: "He blew his mind out in a car..."; "...the walrus is Paul". Literally hundreds of clues were purported to be found on all of The Beatles records to follow. In fact, there are just too many such clues to repeat here. I would suggest that the interested reader simply Google “Paul Is Dead”. Leave yourself plenty of time because you’ll be inundated with lists of sites covering the topic ranging from the deeply fascinating to the absurd.


I found myself running out of time. My hand was holding the hand of the man who had written “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” (not to mention “I Want To Hold Your Hand”). I heard myself stammer something to Paul about how important the group’s music had been to me throughout my life. I saw him patiently nodding, politely pretending that this was not the millionth time he had heard this. He replied that, yes, many fans do offer such reports and that he found it humbling and very sweet. “We were really just four lads who formed a tight little group. Then we watched in amazement as the situation swept us into history,” he said.

I began to take my sweaty hand back, but he held it in a soft grip - not a day of hard labor had ever been done by this hand! - and then he leaned forward with his beautiful sixty-year-old face next to mine.

In a half-whisper I heard him say, “But there is one thing that happened to us that really blows my mind to this day.”


It’s 2010. John Lennon has been dead almost three decades - shot and killed by a deranged fan outside his NYC apartment. George Harrison, after cheating death at the hands of an intruder who stabbed him in his palatial home outside London, has passed away from throat cancer. McCartney (or was it Faul?) has continued to record and has mounted a number of wildly-successful world concert tours, performing with all of the vocal and instrumental skill evident in the early years. The plot thickens yet again:

Los Angeles film-maker Joel Gilbert claims to have received a plainly-wrapped package at his office reputedly posted to him by George Harrison (my favorite Beatle) just before the lead guitarist’s death. Claiming he was fed up with holding this secret, George states in an enclosed hand-written note that the tapes are his “last will and testament” and that he wishes to finally unburden himself of the guilt of the decades-long deceit. Gilbert claims to have used Harrison’s voice from the tapes as the narration for his documentary “Paul McCartney Really Is Dead - The Last Will and Testament of George Harrison.”

When I saw the DVD advertised I contacted the film company who graciously provided me with a review copy. (Thanks again, Howie!). I was also offered an interview slot with Joel Gilbert, which I passed on for reasons I will explain in a moment.

I think that it’s very important for me to state that I do not believe that Paul McCartney was killed on that dark and lonely motorway decades ago. In fact, I find it laughable that anyone with good sense could believe that a conspiracy as far-reaching and farcical as this could survive. That said, however, the question arises, “Why are you bothering to write yet another article on the topic?”

What I’d like to comment on in this piece is the cultural and political (as you will see) significance of an urban legend that could last so long and create such a volume of interest as this.

One thing should be said in fairness to the legend itself : in a way, Paul (as the most public representative of The Beatles) had, in fact gone through at least a symbolic death at this point in history.

The group’s touring career was over, ended by the sheer inability of the boys to show their faces in public without causing mass hysteria and risking being torn limb-from-limb by their own fans in the frenzy. As the two most famous songwriters in history the very prolific Lennon/McCartney duo had long since been dissolved. The hit songs which were still topping the charts were actually written by one or the other, with a simple contractual arrangement in place making it seem like the two were still writing partners.

Ever trying to lead the creative charge, Paul/Faul had produced several disastrous short films featuring the band vamping to the latest now-psychedelicized single release. In these disappointing efforts, however, he unwittingly blazed the trail for the music video craze which would revolutionize entertainment in a decade or two.

But, as Lennon wistfully sang “the dream is over”, in all practicality, The Beatles (and Paul McCartney with them) were - at least for the moment - no long among the living as creative entities. Such a fall from grace! It must have been an unbearably-crushing blow to the egos of four men who had known only massive success for their entire adult lives.

This - in my opinion - is the true “death” which visited the band, despite the efforts of Joel Gilbert and his creative team to re-re-spin the “Paul Is Dead” legend. By the way, the DVD is a mildly-entertaining 90 minutes, but will prove interesting only to the profound Beatle devotee who MUST consume all things Fab Fourish. It was on that basis that I declined the offer to interview Gilbert.

But, as the sun began to set on the British empire’s most famous four citizens, there was much, much more happening on the world political scene for the group. These events would equal or surpass in significance anything that The Beatles (or the world) had ever dreamed of!


To this day, I don’t know why Sir Paul chose to semi-whisper this to me rather than making a stir by sharing it openly in the room. Perhaps this was just one more piece of evidence of the man’s true and deep sense of humility and his honest awe at the band’s incredible list of accomplishments.

His lips to my ear he said, “I really wish that John, George and Ringo could have been with me to hear this. But when my current band and I played Moscow for the first time, I was invited to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev, then President of the former Soviet Union. During my conversation with him he said ‘You four boys with your messages of love and hope accomplished something that the combined political and economic forces of the world failed to do: you helped to bring down the Iron Curtain and you helped to end the Cold War. You brought freedom to the people of my country.’”

I stood there stunned. This was a concept that I would never have thought of in a million years and it had just been stage-whispered to me by Sir Paul McCartney himself!

And whoever it was that who so graciously placed a respectful kiss on my cheek - Paul, Faul or the Walrus - he was clearly one of the most alive and exciting men I have ever met in my life!

Copyright (c) 2011 Traci Nubalo. All rights reserved.ver met in my life!

Giving Us Paws For Thought: A Visit with The DogFather

by Traci Nubalo

(Reprinted courtesy of PURE Magazine. February, 2011 issue)

One of the great joys of my years in Second Life has been the owning and training of my artificial intelligence dog, a gorgeous black lab named Bella. When we first got her I had no idea what an wonderful and fun adventure was about to unfold for me and my SL family. We took Bella home and found that she was a bit on the, shall we say, rambunctious side. She loved to run all over the sim, as any RL dog might. She loved to jump into the water which our SL home was next to. She even loved to sit in her food and water dishes, a trait that I knew from RL was peculiar to Labrador retrievers.

But she also had some rather irritating traits such as excessive barking and even a nasty, frightening growl that we really disliked, especially when company was visiting. We learned that this is where the AI aspect came in for the VKC dog. Whenever Bella did a behavior that we disapproved of we would type “Bella bad” into open chat. Similarly, positive behaviors would be rewarded with “Bella good”.

Over time we began to see changes in her. And over these few years Bella has become a fun, fascinating companion. But there’s a deeper tale to be told. After purchasing Bella we began to interact with an AI dog trainer named Vitolo Rossini. He’s also known as The DogFather.

Vito is a fun, 59-year-old guy who is the owner and operator of Dog Park in Rhoda. We SL dog owners know him as someone who is passionate about the dogs and their owners and is always willing to help by answering questions, holding training classes and generally being a source of information and inspiration. Those of us who know him all agree that a more kind and fun-loving soul is to be found nowhere else in Second Life. On more than a few occasions we were delighted by his friendliness and willingness to spend as much time as necessary to make our dog-owning experience all it could be. He would even end each visit bowing from the waist saying, “Bowing with respect.“ As I got to know Vito more he began to open up to me about his past and how he became The DogFather.

In 2003 Mr. Rossini was a practicing martial arts teacher in Tucson, AZ who spent his days happily selling ice cream from his neighborhood truck. One day at work he was run over by another vehicle. In that instant Vitolo Rossini became a victim of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He spent 6 ½ weeks in a coma and two more years in rehabilitation. While being driven to an appointment one day he struck up a conversation with his Paramedic Services driver thus meeting his current wife of four years Patty.

In a recent chat he described the condition in which this horrible accident has left his body: “I am currently partially paralyzed on my left side. I have moderate to severe spasticity, primarily on the left side of my entire body, but it moves to the right side as well. I walk with the assistance of a walker (or dual canes) and I have chronic double vision, which is corrected by prisms in my glasses.”

Rossini also says that he suffers from short-term memory loss and is in a great deal of pain. He takes medications to control the spasticity and pain, but finds that sufficient pain meds seem to dull his mind. So he chooses to live in significant pain, but he’s able to stay alert.

In 2006 Vito discovered SL, and found a world perfectly suited to his limitations. He found that he could function fully in SL, and do things that impossible for him in RL. Using this new-found freedom he quickly got involved with AI dogs and their owners, discovering that he had a knack for the scripting languages used in the virtual pets. Soon he had created Dog Park and developed the TBI Center that flies above it. Other TBI patients heard about Vito’s work in SL and followed him here. Many of them purchased AI dogs and began attending the numerous training classes offered by him.

Some amazing things began to happen. At first Vito got reports that the TBI patients who had AI dogs were beginning to experience new and different kinds of dreaming experiences, often followed by positive emotional changes in life. Vito: “Owning and training a dog in SL creates a form of relationship between person and the K9. This shift in focus distracts a resident from the pressure that often accompanies learning; he is able to achieve learning without stress. A reason for this is that the participant feels as though he is playing with and loving a pet, rather than mentally putting emphasis on the often-scary process of learning new concepts.

“Second Life gives us (TBI patients) a new chance to function. We have notes to remind us of what we are doing, and a handy inventory window which reminds us of our tools. We are more able to function independently, and these tools offer us helpful assistance. As we use the tools and increasingly learn to function independently, our brains begin to build new neural pathways - new synaptic connections. This results in people finding new ways to think and function."

I asked Vito what it is about Second Life (and other virtual worlds) that attracts millions of us, whether physically-challenged or not. “There are no limits as we traverse the metaverse; there are fewer physical or personal constraints,” he replied. “When one becomes an avatar they also become free, in a sense. One finds a place where he can be amazed, or even just begin to feel comfortable within once again. We begin to make friends more easily and start to enjoy learning about others. Communication is of great value to all human beings and even more so to those who are home bound via injuries and for other reasons. And SL fills this need!”

At this point I felt like we had moved universes away from AI dogs and K9 training classes. The conversation had morphed into a fascinating new look at virtual worlds and their potential uses as platforms for personal growth and change.

The DogFather then made a startling claim: he believes that at least half of SL residents are in some way at least partially bound to the home. This shocked me until he pointed out that being “home bound” needn’t mean living in a wheelchair.

He wisely stated, “There are the physically homebound - but there are also the emotionally homebound, and the spiritually homebound residents. The physically homebound encompass many disabling conditions. But some people feel like they can't face the public for whatever reasons - valid or not. Emotionally homebound people have thoughts within that do not allow them to feel comfortable out in public: ‘I am too ugly,’ ‘I am not good enough,’ ‘I am stupid.’ Some are afraid of strangers, some of germs.

A person becomes spiritually homebound when they find that there is nothing that they have in common with others. They feel that they ‘can't relate’, and so they withdraw. In each of these cases, Second Life allows some interaction with a ‘world’ and with real people. It‘s a ‘window to the world’ in more ways than we might be aware of. ”

It dawned on me that most men and women in the world exhibit symptoms of such spiritual malaise. Essentially, we are lonely. We are seeking connection - every one of us. And for most of us finding deep connection in what we call the “real world” is becoming as increasingly-difficult process.

Yet, from the adversity that befell one simple man springs a vision of a greater Awareness. Via the unexpected vehicle of pixel pets many of us are finding fresh avenues to happier lives. New vistas in personal growth are appearing and many are finding freedom in areas that once felt restricted.

Perhaps you’ll decide to pay a visit to Rhoda, where you’ll find dozens of AI dogs to play with and be amazed by. You might choose to teleport to the TBI Center high in the sky above Dog Park or spend some peaceful time in the gorgeous meditation area adjoining the Center. But by all means make it a point to get to know the man whose wisdom and vision is quietly changing and enriching so many troubled lives on a daily basis.

Vito Rossini will tell you that the six-and-a-half weeks he spent in a coma brought him to his true potential to live his life in service to others. He will tell you that practicing good karma in SL is as important and effective as it is in first life. And he will ask you to always be aware of the fact that the avatar you are interacting with online may be suffering some very real physical, emotional or spiritual challenges that you will never know about.

And this guru-in-disguise will ask you to remember that each moment in Second Life is a gift and an opportunity. We are given this new life and we are offered the chance to create our virtual world in a way that centers us in peace and understanding of one another.

Copyright © 2011 Traci Nubalo/PURE Magazine. All rights reserved.

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