Angie McCartney, stepmother of Sir Paul McCartney, launches a line of tea from her Playa del Rey garage

“50 Shades of Earl Grey” is the newest flavor in a line of teas by Angie McCartney

“50 Shades of Earl Grey” is the newest flavor in a line of teas by Angie McCartney

By Michael Aushenker

With “50 Shades of Grey” poised to be the hot ticket at this weekend’s box office, there’s a Playa del Rey local by way of Liverpool who’d like you to try something really hot (perhaps with a bit of cream and sugar): a blend of tea she’s calling  “50 Shades of Earl Grey.”

Angie McCartney, 83, recently launched the online retailer Mrs. McCartney’s English Tea. With her line of flavors including Strawberry Green Fields (a fruity green tea) and Blueberry Meanie (black tea with organic blueberries), it’s safe to say she may have some relation to Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles.

In fact, she’s Paul’s stepmother. After Paul’s mother died, father Jim remarried in 1964. And McCartney entered their inner circle in time to witness Paul, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr at the peak of Beatlemania.

“Being connected to Paul McCartney, I have many Facebook friends. They’ve all started drinking tea. But the world headquarters is in my garage,” she says.

And that garage is located in Playa del Rey, where McCartney resides with daughter Ruth McCartney and son-in-law Martin Nethercutt, who co-run her other business, McCartney Multimedia.

McCartney Multimedia may never have happened had it not been for the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. McCartney was a secretary for a USA Today advertising manager in the Valley when the notorious 6.7 quake hit.

“We lost almost everything,” she recalls.

Urging her employer to relocate her to a Gannett newspaper in Nashville, she relocated to Tennessee with Ruth and Martin, where they remained for three years. Soon her daughter and son-in-law began to learn code and design websites.

“That’s where we started our McCartney Multimedia [in 1998],” McCartney says. “[Singer] David Cassidy was our first website client.”

Projects that followed have involved  The Clinton Foundation, Paula Abdul, John Cleese, the neighborhood group saveplayadelrey.org and, currently, Nando di Stefano’s The Good Pizza shops in Playa del Rey and Westchester.

Five years ago, a good friend of McCartney’s and reformed alcoholic refused an offered libation and instead requested tea, planting the seed for McCartney’s latest enterprise.

“What’s more British than tea? What’s more famous than McCartney?” she remembers him telling her.

That advice steeped. In addition to the aforementioned flavors of organic and fair-trade teas imported through an Arizona supplier, McCartney offers Golden Slumbers (green tea with a “cheeky little toasted puffy rice”), Rockstar Rescue (named for its throat-soothing properties; “great for after a show”), and the strong tea McCartney says she starts every morning with, British Breakfast. The company contributes 10% of sales proceeds to the Linda McCartney Breast Cancer Research Centre in Liverpool.

Prior to the Beatles’ game-changing appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the Liverpool quartet had already made a name for themselves locally at The Cavern and in Hamburg, Germany. McCartney, as Jim’s wife, was privy to many casual moments when young Paul visited home. Of his band mates, she saw John the most “because after he had moved to London, he bought a home at Dorset. If he came to Liverpool, he stayed with us. I loved him. He was very edgy, flied off the handle at the drop of a hat but he was very artistic,” she says.

“George didn’t visit very often,” she adds, but “always loved my husband’s custard. He’d ask Jim, ‘How do you make it without skin on the top?’ ‘Aw, that’s my little secret,’” she says, adding with a chuckle: “I know how to make it without the skin, but I’ve never told the secret.”

McCartney, who in 2013 authored “My Long and Winding Road” (its title paraphrasing Paul’s famous Beatles composition), only remembers Paul and John collaborating “in an offhand way,” she said. “I’d be in the kitchen making pots of tea. There was a dining room and the two would be at a piano and talk and argue and strut things down. A few lines or a few chords. They had scraps of paper everywhere.”

Of course, whether it was Lennon’s famously misconstrued Beatles/Jesus Christ quote, scandals involving drugs and women, or the iconic band’s 1970 break-up, Paul and his mates were always fueling headlines. McCartney recalls having to “switch off the television when something was coming up,” she says, so as not to upset her husband. “Poor Jim had shingles at the time [of the Beatles’ end].”

Paul’s father, who died in 1976, did not live to see that dark December day in 1980 when Lennon was assassinated. McCartney was in Norfolk when she received a phone call from Ray Connelly, Lennon’s journalist friend, informing her of the tragic news.

According to McCartney, Paul wrote her favorite Beatles composition, “Blackbird” (on 1968’s “White Album”) after drawing inspiration from her mother Edie, who was comforted by the song of the blackbirds outside while sick, and an early recording is “dedicated to Edie.” In a 2002 KCRW interview with Chris Douridas, Paul said he was enraptured with “the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”

Whether it is Lennon impersonator Joe Stefanelli or Ian Whitcomb playing Cantalini’s Salerno Beach, Playa del Rey is rich with echoes of the British Invasion. However, anyone expecting Paul McCartney sightings in town may have to settle for his stepmother instead.

“We haven’t seen him in a long time,” McCartney says of her world-famous stepson. “Whenever he is here, I’m somewhere else. I know he’s very happy now with his wife Nancy.”

At 72, Paul stays professionally active, last weekend debuting “FourFiveSeconds,” his collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna, during the Grammys. McCartney scoffs at online haters who question Paul’s motives: “It’s not that he needs the money, it’s just that he loves performing. He’s doing it because he wants to.”

Next month, Angie and Ruth head to Austria with “The Magical History Tour,” their Beatles stage show starring the Stefanelli-led tribute band the Moptops. Beatles’ longtime secretary Freda Kelly, subject of the “Good Ol’ Freda” documentary, joins them for a screening with Klaus Voorman, the “Revolver” album cover designer.

“One of the shows will be in Obertauren, where the Beatles filmed the ski scenes for [the movie] ‘Help!,’” Ruth McCartney says.

Angie McCartney sometimes gets nostalgic for her hometown.

“I miss the sense of humor. The general down to earth,” McCartney says. “Everybody in Liverpool is funny but they don’t know it. They say dreadful things.”

However, her new home of Playa del Rey is “such a happy place — it’s comparatively unspoiled,” she says of her adopted community, where she and Ruth frequent Cantalini’s, Mo’s by the Beach and Caffe Pinguini, and where neighbors offer home-grown zucchinis, tomatoes and cabbage.

And perhaps mint leaves for her morning batch of British Breakfast?

Learn more at mrsmccartneysteas.com.

michael@argonautnews.com

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