Paul McCartney’s First Steady Girlfriend
Dorothy “Dot” Rhone, a quiet girl from Liverpool, England, was abused by her heavy drinker father. She also had a very emotionally distant mother. She grew up terribly shy, introverted and withdrawn and didn’t think she was at all pretty. As she said,
I never thought I was pretty at school because my sister always said my nose would spread all over my face because it was too pudgy. One night I actually went to bed with a clothes peg on my nose to try to make it narrower, but it was too painful.
In 1959, Dot was attending a gig at the “Casbah Club” featuring a teenage group who called themselves “The Quarreymen”. (It wasn’t until the next year that the Quarreymen would change their name to the Beatles). At the time, Dot was 16 and working as a bank clerk. She struck up a conversation with Paul and John Lennon. At first she wanted to date John,
I liked his [John’s] face, I thought he was rugged-looking. Paul was handsome in a softer way. John was also the dominant one, a very different personality. He gave me the nickname bubbles for some reason and we got along really well. I know Paul is always painted as the nice, kind one, but to me John was more compassionate. He wasn’t as mean as they make out.
But after learning John already had a girlfriend, she switched to Paul.
We were sitting around talking and I said I felt a bit woozy, that I might faint, and went outside into the garden. Paul came out after me to see if I was all right and it was then that he said ‘D’you fancy going out?’ This had been my plan and it worked a treat. But although I had moments of being very bold, all the doubts then came out. Anyway, I said yes, and we agreed to meet somewhere. It could have been Penny Lane which was roughly half way between our houses. The first date was the pictures. We didn’t have any money to go anywhere else.
Because of Dot’s shy, withdrawn personality, she was easily dominated by Paul, who set down his rules loud and clear.
He was so possessive that he needed to control everything about me – my appearance, the way I dressed, even the way I thought. he was always wanting me to look better than I did and I never thought I measured up to the way he thought I should be. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but back then I went along with it. I became his puppet. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have allowed it to happen. He gave me a list of rules that I had to stick to. John had the same rules for his girlfriend Cynthia….
He told me I couldn’t see my girlfriends. There was no going out except with him, and I lost touch with my friends because I was never available. When we did go out I wasn’t allowed to smoke, even though he smoked; it wasn’t the image he wanted I guess.
He also made her dye her hair blond, a la his sexual fantasy girl, actress Brigette Bardot, and made her wear short, tight miniskirts. As Paul later explained,
At the time everyone was trying to turn their girlfriend into a bargain basement Bardot. We all happened to be at the age when a ravishing sex goddess taking off her clothes was the fantasy for us boys. We were all smitten. So the girls had to be blonde, look rather like Brigitte and preferably pout a lot. John and I used to have these secret talks intimating, although not actually saying it, that we could be quite happy for our girlfriends to be Liverpool’s answer to Bardot. My girlfriend was called Dot and, of course, John had Cynthia. We got them both to go blonde and wear mini skirts. It’s terrible really. But that’s the way it was.
Besides controlling her image, he was also terribly possessive, despite the fact that he wasn’t shy about hooking up with other women while they dated. In one instance, Dot stated,
I always used to see this guy on the way to school, standing at the bus stop, and I would spin fantasies about him. And one night there he was at the Casbah. I was giving him the eye and stuff and he asked me to dance. I was dancing away with him while Paul was upstairs rehearsing. When he came down he saw us jiving and he was furious. He came up to us with my coat in his hand, while we were still on the floor and just said ‘We’re going’ just like that. We went home and had a row, but it was very one-sided. He told me I shouldn’t be dancing and having a good time without him, but I wouldn’t fight back. Maybe I wanted to keep the peace because I had seen so much fighting at home. And, of course, inwardly it was quite flattering all this possessiveness.
Dot, in love and very malleable, put up with all of this. But it wasn’t all bad with Paul, and Dot also remembers a kind, caring side, and she loved his family.
I think I was probably in love with Paul because I loved his family, too. His Aunties were great. One of them always came round on a Monday night to do the washing and make supper. And I loved his dad too – he was great. At Christmas and new year I would go there and it was so different to my house. They had brilliant parties and they would play music together, Paul on guitar and his dad on piano… Paul was always writing songs and he would try them out on me. He would say that he wrote them for me. Two songs, Love Of The Loved and PS I Love You he said were definitely for me… I remember the first bit, something about ‘Each time I look into your eyes I see the love of the loved.’ but no more. It is such a long time ago… PS I Love You must have been written later, in Hamburg, because the words were about writing home to a loved one.
Paul got Dot pregnant sometime in 1961.
Paul’s very conservative father forbade them giving the baby up for adoption and a wedding was planned. Paul bought his expectant girlfriend a gold engagement ring and was ready to “do the right thing.”
It was just going to be in a register office. It wasn’t going to be a big wedding. No one had any money. I was going to live with his dad in their house. Everything was set. My mum went to see his dad. Paul’s dad was great; my mum was awful. She said I couldn’t be wheeling a pram around because of the neighbours, but he said he’d be proud to have me wheel a pram. He was really good. He put his arm around me, made me feel looked after.
If Dot did give birth, the entire history of the Beatles would, of course, have been changed. But fate intervened and she miscarried after three months. The wedding was canceled. She was initially devastated. As for Paul,
He seemed a bit upset but deep down he was probably relieved. With hindsight so am I. When I look back on what happened to Paul after the Beatles became famous, I know it would never have worked between us.
When the band went off to play in Hamburg, Germany, Paul would write to Dot almost every day. He would also get together with other women, but Dot ignored this, only confronting him about a love letter she found to Paul from a German girl about how she “couldn’t wait for him to come back.” He dismissed the issue and it wasn’t discussed again.
While the group was in Germany, Dot and Cynthia went to visit the boys. When they arrived,
The idyllic image of our handsome heroes waiting for us with open arms on the platform of a foreign station, all misty and romantic, kept us occupied… [but] by this time they were all drinking heavily and taking pills to keep them awake. When we arrived it was morning and they hadn’t been to bed all night. They were drunk, or whatever, and their eyes were popping out of their heads.
While there, Dot and Paul lived together in a cabin on a houseboat. About these happy days, Dot recalled the two as being “very cuddly, lovely, close.”
However, by the summer of 1962, with the Beatles on the brink of national fame, Paul decided to call it quits with Dot. Despite the actual breakup being abrupt, she saw it coming,
I could see that Paul was growing away from me. I knew what was coming. And all these years he had been having his bits on the side and it was getting so easy for him. He was young and he couldn’t resist. That was a time of sadness but also release. I didn’t keep trying so hard or worrying about trying to keep up, or saying the right things or not having my hair right or not being enough fun…
Finally one night, Dot was decked out in a baggy sweater with curlers in her hair when Paul came knocking.
Paul said we’d been going out so long that it was either get married or split up. He said ‘I don’t want to get married, so even though I love you we’ll have to finish.’ He didn’t cry but I knew he felt badly and he was sorry, just by the way he looked. I burst out crying. I said how can you do this? What am I going to do? I thought he might come back because it had been three years, but I suppose really I knew.
At this point, Dot no longer had the ability to pay for her flat, which Paul had been helping out with. But she soon was able to move into a flat near Cynthia, who had recently found out she was pregnant. This way, she could be there to support Cynthia. Perhaps it was also in her mind that she’d then get a chance to see Paul.
I used to see Paul when he came with John and one time he took me out in the car. He started out being okay, and maybe he just wanted to see if we could get back together. But he ended up being nasty again because he didn’t like my nylons, which were patterned with diamonds. As I said, looks were everything, he was very superficial then, though I’m sure he’s changed quite a bit. I cried and cried for weeks after Paul and I split up. I didn’t go out because I hardly had any friends anyway. It was probably three or four months before I got myself together.
She later joined the Civil Service and began the next stage of her life. Unfortunately for her, the Beatles soon hit it big and “It was Beatles, Beatles, Beatles,” said Dot. “I couldn’t escape.”
To get away from the situation, she decided to to leave Liverpool and make a new life for herself. She moved to Canada, and within four days had met the future love of her life, Werner Becker. As far as I could find, they are still married to this day and living in Ontario.
Dot was to see Paul again briefly when the Beatles played a gig in Toronto in 1965. He later mentioned her in a book, but not in an endearing way:
When I saw him refer to me in that book it was hurtful… When you go out with someone for three years you’d think he would have something more to say than that he wanted you to look like Brigitte Bardot. Maybe I didn’t mean that much to him after all – but I don’t really believe that. I know that, for a few years at least, I did.
Many years later, when Paul’s group “Wings” played the Maple Leaf Garden, Paul invited his ex-girlfriend to the show and sent a Rolls Royce to pick up Dot, her husband, and her daughter.
After the concert, Paul and Dot got a chance to be together and talk. Paul answered many questions Dot had had about their time together. According to her friend, Sandra, this meeting with Paul helped Dot tremendously. “When she met Paul again, the ghost was laid,” said Sandra.
At last, Dot Rhone, Paul McCartney’s first serious girlfriend, had achieved her own “closure”.
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy subscribing to our new Daily Knowledge YouTube channel, as well as:
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- Why the Beatles Split Up
- Bigger Than Jesus
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