CNN’s Wendy Walker reflects on Paul McCartney’s private ‘birthday’ performance in 2003
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Remember back in 2003 when there were reports of Paul McCartney performing at a private party? Well, all details are revealed in the new book, “Producer: Lessons Shared from 30 Years in Television“, by Wendy Walker. Turns out, the woman who Paul McCartney was singing “Birthday” to for her 50th birthday is Wendy Walker, the senior executive producer of CNN’s Larry King Live.
At the time, Walker was married to financier, Ralph Whitworth, who paid $1 million to have Paul McCartney perform at a private birthday party for her in Rancho Santa Fe, California, near San Diego. McCartney agreed to make this rare appearance if the money was donated to the landmines charity he was supporting with then-wife Heather Mills.
Wendy and Ralph first met Paul when he appeared with Heather on the Larry King Live show in 2002. The Whitworths then chaired the Adopt-A-Minefield benefit in 2002 (which McCartney performed at) and donated $50,000 to the charity.
Being huge Beatles fans, Ralph Whitworth got the idea the following year to approach McCartney to play at a private birthday party for his wife. McCartney agreed to this rare private performance since the $1 million sum would go to Adopt-A-Minefield.
The party was held at the Whitworths’ favorite restaurant, Delicias, in Rancho Santa Fe. Wendy describes her shock and surprise to see her childhood idol, Paul McCartney, performing in the intimate setting– and all for her! Walker was surrounded by approximately 150 friends and family including the emcees of the party, Larry King and Katie Couric. As any true fan would, Walker documents in her book the 19 song set-list that McCartney played that night.
Walker crossed paths with Macca again in 2007 when Larry King did a special interview in Las Vegas for the one-year anniversary of The Beatles’ Cirque du Soliel show, LOVE. Ironically, both Wendy and Paul were now divorced. While talking to Paul, Ringo entered the room, and Paul introduced them: “Ringo, this is my friend, Wendy.”
After 17 years as a producer for CNN’s Larry King Live, Whitworth has met her share of famous politicians and celebrities. But to this day, she is still amazed that Paul McCartney played at her private birthday party — a once-in-a-lifetime event that she will never forget.
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