Today is Jane Asher's 59th Birthday. In case you don't know, Jane Asher was Paul McCartney's girlfriend (and fiancee for a time) 1963-1968.
Jane Asher was born on April 5, 1946 in London, England, the first daughter of Richard and Margaret Augusta Asher. Asher's brother, Peter,and her sister, Claire, both have that trademark red hair just like her.
The Asher children were all involved in the performing arts. They all got their start when someone told Asher's mother that her children were beautiful and should be in films. She liked the idea and thought it would be good for their self-esteem and a fun hobby.
Jane Asher began acting that same year (1951), appearing in the film Mandy, the story of a deaf girl. By the age of 12, she made her stage debut in Alice In Wonderland, playing the lead role. She also appeared in BBC programs (Peter, two years older than Jane, appeared in The Planter's Wife and Isn't Life Wonderful?).
Before long, however, it was music that was Peter's main passion, and he became the other half of the duo Peter & Gordon. (Now, Peter Asher is the vice-president of Sony USA). The youngest Asher, Claire, was also an actress for some time. She had a role on the radio soap Mrs. Dale's Diary, and a part in the series The Mistress with her sister. (Claire has since become a school teacher).
Jane Asher was hired to be on the BBC programme, Juke Box Jury. The show had regular people and musicians judge the latest hits on the radio. The seventeen-year-old was asked to do an interview on the show with The Beatles, pose for photographs and scream. After the show, she met up with the band in the green room. After talking to the well-educated, sophisticated Asher, they invited her back to their hotel, to which she accepted. After being embarrassed greatly by John Lennon; Asher , Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Chris Hutchins, and Shane Fenton (the last two of which were friends of the Beatles) went to Hutchins' flat on Kings Road. There was plenty of Irish whiskey to go around, and the more the men all drank, the more they flirted with Asher. Needless to say, she was very much overwhelmed.
McCartney later recalled his first meeting with Asher:
"We all said, 'Will you marry me?' which is what we said to every girl at the time. (Jane was) a rare London bird, the sort we'd always heard about"
At first, it seemed that George Harrison took the most interest in Jane Asher, but it soon became apparent that it was Paul McCartney who fancied her the most. After lots of suggestive discussion amongst the entourage, they all left, leaving Asher and McCartney in the bedroom of Chris Hutchins' flat.When the others returned hours later, they were greeted with an unexpected scene: McCartney and Asher were talking about their favorite foods.
Everyone except Asher decided to go out that night in London's West End, and they decided they'd take her back to Wimpole Street. Before she left their car, McCartney asked for her phone number.
Cynthia Lennon wrote later about their relationship:
"Paul fell like a ton of bricks for Jane. The first time I was introduced to her was at her home and she was sitting on Paul's knee. My first impression of Jane was how beautiful and finely featured she was. Her mass of Titian-colored hair cascaded around her face and shoulders, her pale complexion contrasting strongly with dark clothes and shining hair. Paul was obviously as proud as a peacock with his new lady. For Paul, Jane Asher was a great prize."
Paul McCartney was a frequent visitor to the Asher home. On one day, Asher's mother, Margaret, thought it would be nice to have McCartney living at their home whenever he was in London.. Once, the bassist had missed his train to Liverpool and Asher's mother let him stay for the night. He took up their offer became a fixture on the top floor of the Wimpole Street home.
At this time, Beatlemania was at its height, and McCartney was the only lucky Beatle at this time in matters of privacy. The home addresses of Lennon, Harrison and Starr were well known by Beatle fans. It was still a mystery, however, where McCartney lived. When word of Asher and McCartney's relationship reached the press, however, that luxury was gone. The Asher phone would constantly line be ringing. Unfortunately for the family, nothing could be done because Dr. Asher needed the line for emergency calls from his patients.
McCartney in the biography Many Years From Now, spoke about the Asher family:
(Mrs. Asher) was a very warm person, a very nice mumsy-type woman, great cook, nothing was too much for her...Richard (Asher)....was very intelligent and very eccentric. But terrific and a great fun person to know...Peter was an interesting bright guy, also very interested in music...There was a lot of connection there. Claire was a very nice younger sister.
Asher's background is best described as privileged. She, like the Duchess of York and Camilla Parker-Bowles, is of the same lineage as England's King Richard III (In fact, Jane Asher has offered a lock of her hair to prove, through DNA, that the King did not kill his nephews in the 1800s). Her childhood six-story home was in the center of London. Asher was educated at Queen's College, one of London's leading private girls schools, located on Harley Street. Her father was a well-known physician, psychologist and writer of a number of medical books. Mrs. Asher, of the noble Eliot lineage, played in orchestras before quitting to have a family. (She maintained lessons at her home, as well as at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama). Asher's intellect as well as her acting abilities from her parents made her the quintessence of a young high-society woman in England.
Asher's acting and prominent family name made her a household name in England.It was a holiday that n=made her known worldwide.
All of the Beatles and their significant others planned to go on vacation together during the summer of 1965. After the media frenzy over the Lennons' and future Harrisons' trip to Southern Ireland,it was impossible to follow through with the idea. The couples had to split up and go to different locations. In order to reach their destination of the Virgin Islands, Asher, McCartney, and the Starrs had to make four flight changes in order to distract the press. It was all for nothing: the world soon knew Asher to be McCartney's girlfriend.
Problems for the couple, however, were inevitable. As McCartney's popularity grew, he demanded that Asher give up her career, which she refused to do. Despite these troubles,however, Asher and McCartney soon moved out of the Wimpole street home in 1966. They settled into 7 Cavendish Avenue, located in the exclusive area of St. John's Wood, London. The house is a three-story Victorian house with a lot of space outdoors. Asher decorated the house to her tastes.
Asher and McCartney soon were entertaining people, just like a married couple. A symbol of a married couple at the time was also to have a maid and a butler, which was also at their house. So it was no surprise that many close to Asher and McCartney thought they would be married soon.
Jane Asher on marriage, mid-1960's:
"I am not Paul's wife-but yes, we are going to get married. We won't be married for a while yet, but when it happens we've got a family planned. First we want a boy and then-come what may. There's no particular reason why we are not getting married right away, except that we're both pretty\line young...I shan't give up my career unless it interferes with our being together...I love Paul. I love him deeply,and he feels the same. I don't think either of us has looked at anyone else since we first met...I want to get married probably this year and have lots and lots of babies. I certainly would be surprised indeed if I married anyone but Paul."
Soon after the couple purchased their Cavendish Avenue home, they bought High Park Farm in Scotland. The house was in complete contrast to the Cavendish home, where Asher favored a more rustic design. It was retreat from the busy life of London.
Around this time, Asher started working with the Bristol Old Vic troupe in Bristol, England ,where she starred in plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Great Expectations . She celebrated her twenty-first birthday on tour in United States with McCartney and friends.
Later that year, on December 25, McCartney proposed to Asher and gave her a diamond and emerald ring. When everyone heard of the engagement, many were pleased. McCartney's girl fans, for the most part, did not resent Asher's engagement to him. If it wasn't themselves being McCartney's fiancee, they felt Asher was a good match for McCartney. When the "Apple Scruffs", (Beatles fans who would stay near McCartney's Cavendish home and 3 Saville Row), would buzz the intercom or ring the doorbell,Asher would always politely and patiently answer. Asher was a role model to many; all of her fans washed their hair with Breck shampoo, just as she advertised on the television. They even ironed their hair straight to look just like her. Fans approved of Asher's down-to-earth personality, and that she was possibly the only person who could curb McCartney's ego. Despite Asher's ability to bring out the best in McCartney, even she couldn't control what happened when she was gone.
McCartney led a double-life throughout his whole relationship with Asher, very typical of pop stars at the time (and of today as well). One was with her, which he lived a very domestic life, and a happy one. One was without Asher, at various clubs around London, being the womanizer he always was. And when those two lives met, problems ensued.
Asher returned to the Cavendish residence unexpectedly one night in the late spring of 1968, to find Paul with another woman. Asher left the home soon after. Despite this occurrence, Asher and McCartney were seen together in public appearances. However, the relationship was publicly known as over when McCartney showed up alone at the Yellow Submarine premiere.
On July 20,1968, Asher officially announced what the public already suspected, that her engagement to Paul McCartney was off. The last public statement from Jane about McCartney was made on the show Dee Time, and follows as such:
"I haven't broken it off, but it is broken off,finished.....I know it sounds corny, but we still see each other, and love each other, but it hasn't worked out. Perhaps we'll be childhood sweethearts and meet again, and get married when we're about seventy.
McCartney on his relationship with Asher:
We nearly did get married. But it always used to fall short of the mark and something happened. And one of us would think it wasn't right....Jane and I had a long good relationship."
Able to break away from the shadow of her relationship with McCartney, Asher established herself as a leading actress. She had had roles in popular films such as Alfie with Oscar-winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), and The Masque Of Red Death, but it was her role in the revival of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger that was a breakthrough. Asher later recalled that "it was the first time took myself seriously (as an actress)." She wasn't the only one who thought so, critics and audiences alike were so delighted with her performance that it had a run in London's West End. The role has been called 'her dramatic coming of age.'
The 1970s were a turning point in Jane Asher's life. She met illustrator Gerald Scarfe (who did the cover of Pink Floyd's The Wall), whom she is now married to. Scarfe and Asher have three children (Kate, born April 17, 1974; Alexander, born December 1981; Rory, born in 1984). Asher's father, Richard, was found dead in the Asher family home in 1979, reportedly from a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. Asher's critically-acclaimed The Deep End was also released.
Jane Asher on her various careers:
"...of all the things I do, acting, in many ways, is the thing that grabs most, but there's another level on which it strikes me as being a little silly. In the end you're dressing up and deciding to be somebody...it's financially precarious-you never know when you'll work again."
Asher, while raising her family, decided to branch out into other venues. She has written over fourteen lifestyle books, including Jane Asher Costumes and Jane Asher Party Cakes. In addition, she has written several novels including: The Longing (1994) and The Question (1998). Trying To Get Out is the working title of Asher's latest novel, which as of January 2001, is not ready to be published yet.
In addition to writing, the actress runs Jane Asher Party Cakes (as she has since 1990). The company makes premium cakes for corporations and private parties (including one for Prince Charles' 50th birthday celebration). Cheaper versions of her cakes are sold in prominent British supermarkets (such as Sainsbury's). As of January, 2000, a collection of cake mixes called The Home Baking Collection is also being produced under Asher's name. In a late 1990's interview, Asher said her interest in cake making stemmed from her childhood:
"I learned basic cookery from my mom, taught myself cake techniques and then got fed up with my own cakes not looking as good as the ones in the shops. I think my showbiz side must have come out, the enjoyment of entertaining, because the cakes got increasingly wild and funny until many years later when a friend suggested I put them all into a book....(once the book became a bestseller) cake-making stopped being a hobby and became a business."
Although very busy with her businesses, Asher has still found time to act. She appeared in Absolutely Fabulous as herself (with her good friend Joanna Lumely, who plays Patsy). She was in the television movies Closing Numbers (1994) and The Choir (1995) . In August of 1998, Asher finished a successful run of the play The Things We Do For Love. One critic was quoted as saying "Jane Asher is a delight to watch." In August, 2000, Asher started performing in another Alan Ayckbourn play at the National Theater in London, England. This was not any old stage production-it is two plays ("House" and "Garden") running at the same time.
If that weren't enough to keep Asher busy, she also has a television programme (though it does not require her to act). The show, Good Living with Jane Asher, airs on BBC1. The program showcases her recipes, crafts and cakes and is very successful (it runs in series throughout the year). In a similar fashion as Good Living, the actress has also started Jane Asher Sugarcraft (to take the place of her Tea Room). The company has courses as well as bakeware; it also sells sugarcraft. Both businesses are located in Chelsea.
Given all of her accomplishments, there seems to be no stopping Jane Asher. She continues to balance her businesses and acting. Jane Asher and her family currently live in Chelsea, London. (Rumors have persisted for several years that Jane Asher and Gerald Scarfe are on the verge of divorce, but, as of January 2001, those claims appear to be unfounded.)
(Jane in the movie "Alfie" 1966)