Sunday, August 31, 2014

50 Years Ago Today - The Beatles in Atlantic City

Photo Courtesy of Richard Black - (Copyright)

John, Paul, Al Black, Ringo and George at Al Black's house in West Atlantic City - Monday, Aug. 31, 1964

The Story Behind the Photo:

             The Beatles in Atlantic City – A Day in the Life - August 30, 1964 - Bill Kelly

The Beatles came to Atlantic City in commercial delivery truck, played a half hour show that nobody heard, stayed for one memorable night, and left in a bread truck, but not before playing a game of Monopoly on the hotel room floor, eating a White House sub, writing a song, and instigating chaos and mayhem on the streets and boardwalk.

When George Hamid, Jr. booked the Beatles to play the Steel Pier in the spring of 1964, they had a few hit songs and had attracted 73 million people to watch them on the Ed Sullivan TV show, so Hamid signed them to come to Atlantic City when they were hot, and were still relatively affordable. $10,000 is what Sullivan paid them for three songs, and Hamid would get a dozen songs and a half-hour performance, and he hoped they were still popular at show time in August.

Hamid’s Steel Pier was a well known and popular venue for British Invasion bands – and most of them would play there, but the Beatles came in on the biggest wave, one that’s still being talked about.
Hamid originally wanted the Beatles to play the Steel Pier ballroom, where most of the big acts performed, but by the end of the summer Beatlemania was clearly contagious and spreading wildly and they were bigger than the ballroom, so he moved the show down the boardwalk to Convention Hall, a week after the Democratic National Convention was held there.

“All the Way with LBJ” banners left over from the Democrat convention were still hanging and the First Daughters of the President – teenagers Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson stayed in Atlantic City just to attend the show.

The Atlantic City Police thought they had their hands full with the civil rights demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention earlier that week, but were totally unprepared for what would become known as “Beatlemania,” and be considered a terrorist security threat today.

Everyone could feel the buildup of anticipation as the Beatles were coming, but nobody could imagine the pandemonium that would ensue.

Former Atlantic City police officer Robert Clifton, who was assigned security duty, put together his recollections for Beatlefan Magazine and recalled: “It was the end of August 1964. I had been with the Atlantic City police department for five years. During that time I had experienced a lot, particularly when it came to celebrity security details. There was Sinatra at the 500 Club, Ricky Nelson, Dick Clark and Paul Anka at the Steel Pier…But the impact left by four young mean from Liverpool is still with me. At the end my career, I saw nothing that can equal that one night many years ago.”

“As the last days of the summer faded away,” Clifton recalled, “we stood and watched as the political banners, streamers and confetti from the Democratic Convention blew away, caught in an ocean breeze and scattered along the Boardwalk. It was the finish of what had been three long weeks of security, dignitary protection and the beginning of protest demonstrations. Now it was over but there was more to come. The Beatles were coming. George Hamid, owner and operator of the Steel Pier, had somehow induced the group to come to Atlantic City. Hamid leased the Atlantic City Convention Hall and the tickets went on sale. They sold immediately and naturally this one night show was a total sell-out. That was to be expected. What happened next was unexpected.”

Tickets went on sale in May at the Steel Pier box – four at a time – ranging in price from $2.75 for general admittance to $3.90 and $4.90 for reserved seating, tax included, cash only, first come first served, and the line extended down the boardwalk. Any tickets left after two days were mailed to those who sent a check or money order, but the 18,000 tickets were sold out in short order and the general admittance would fill the room to capacity. Some of these tickets are on sale on the internet today at much higher prices. 

When the Rolling Stones came to town Hamid picked them up at the airport in his convertible and drove them to the boardwalk where he bought them hot dogs and pizza, and hardly anybody recognized them. He couldn’t do that with the Beatles.

By August the Beatles had continued to feed on their skyrocketing popularity and were to be met in Atlantic City by thousands of screaming fans, mainly teenage girls with high pitched voices, so they required special security to keep them safe from the unruly crowds.

Hamid grew up in a circus family so he was used to this sort of thing, and to handle this problem he turned to Al Black, an Atlantic City private eye in the best Sam Spade - Peter Gun tradition. The son of a policeman, “Big Al” was a former marine, around the island swimmer, and later a central figure in an undercover sting operation. A TV detective show with Brian Dennehy - “Big Shamus, Little Shamus,” was based on Big Al’s exploits.

Getting the Fab Four to their gig and then to their hotel with thousands of screaming fans blocking the streets was certainly a big chore, but not for Al Black. Keeping the Beatles on time, safe and secure was something that Al Black could do, with a lot of help from the Atlantic City Police Department.

The police thought they had their hands full with demonstrators during the Democratic Convention, but this was more difficult, as thousands of hysterical teenage girls can be more dangerous than terrorists.

Robert Palamaro, a former AC motorcycle policeman recalls today that, “I was detailed to them, and we brought them in inside a bread truck.”

Palamaro says that, “Al Black was the one who put it all together. His father was a policeman, a detective and a truant officer when I was in school.”

Palamaro got friendly with Al Black, who was also pals with Palamaro’s father-in-law Skinny D’Amato, owner of the famed 500 Club. Since Palamaro married Skinny’s daughter Paula Jane, and served as Sinatra’s bodyguard, he is loaded with fantastic stories and celebrity photos, including one of him with the Beatles.

Assigned to the Beatles security, patrolman Clifton recalled the Beatles arriving in a limo. “We arrived at 5 p.m. the night of the show and at least 1,000 fans lined Pacific Avenue, the street that fronts the stage door entrance to Convention Hall. We were told that the motorcade with the Beatles would arrive at 6. During that hour we watched the crowd in the street grow larger. About 5:45 we were alerted the caravan was en route, barricades were moved into position, creating a passageway from the curb to the stage door. When the crowd saw this happening, it was their cue to move into a better position…In an instant, hundreds of people made a rush across Pacific Avenue, oblivious to moving traffic, concerned only with getting closer…The Beatles were coming…The crowd moved as one, like a great wave of humanity, pushing, showing, straining to see, holding cameras up over their heads, hoping to be lucky enough to get on decent shot. As the limousine pulled up to the curb, an eager fan jumped in front of it, only to be pinned at the knees, caught between the front bumper of the limo and the rear bumper of a police car stopped in front of it….The car door opened and out came the Beatles, wanting to smile, wanting to be friendly. The crowd made its move, rushing forward to greet them. For their own safety each young man was surrounded by police officers. Paul McCartney, the last Beatle to exit from the limousine, was practically shoved through the single opened door that led into the building. The crowd continued its surge and in order to restrain them, police officers picked up the wooden barricades and charged into the mob of people. Finally, the stage door was closed and bolted.”  

The Beatles were in the building.

                                                      THE PRESS CONFERENCE

“The band was then escorted up a flight of stairs to a series of rooms where a press conference was to take place,” Clifton recalled. “The four young men, each dressed differently, sat comfortably at a long table. Each had his own microphone in front of him.” 

The Beatles’ Public Relations man - Derek Taylor stood in front of a floor mike and introduced the Beatles to the local media and assorted hangers on. In an interview later on Taylor said, “Outside of Convention Hall we were immediately surrounded by kids. How it happened I don’t know because everyone was warned, but the crowd was unpredictable and wild.”

As the interview went on it was easy to see, said Clifton, “that the group who entered the room – sincere, eager and willing to answer questions – soon lost interest. This was caused by the people conducting the interview, not all professional media, who asked such questions as, ‘What do you think of America? What do you think of American girls? What do you think of Atlantic City? The same questions were asked over and over again and the one subject the Beatles were eager to talk about - their music - was the one topic that was forever being overlooked.”

            The Beatles at the Press Conference - Atlantic City Convention Hall - Sunday Aug. 30, 1964 

Q:  Of all the cities that you have been in, which one do you like the most?
John: Liverpool.”
Q: How do you find America?
John: We made a left at Greenland.
Q: "Have you composed any new numbers over here?"
Paul: "Two."
Q: "What are they?"
Paul: "We can't tell you that.”
 Q: "Is George going to take Joey Heatherton to a ball in New York?
George: "I don't even know him, whoever he is."
Q:  "What's this about an annual illness?
Harrison: "Well, I get cancer every year."
Q: "What do you think of American television?"
Ringo: "It's great - you get eighteen stations, but you can't get a good picture on any of them,”
Q: "What are your favorite programs on American television?"
Lennon: "It's rubbish."
McCartney: "'News in Espanol' in Miami. 'Pop-eye,' 'Bullwinkle.' All that cultural stuff."
Q: “How does it feel to put the whole world on?"
Lennon: "How does it feel to be put on?"
Ringo: "We enjoy it.”
Paul: "We're not really putting you on."
George: "Well, just a bit.”
Q: Why don’t the Beatles don't sing at press conferences and airports?:
John: "We need money first"

 “This type of questioning continued” wrote Clifton, “and Ringo Starr casually leaned back in his seat, as if disappointed with it all. Hundreds of flash bulbs kept popping.”

Larry Kane, one reporter who did asked the Beatles some serious questions, was a Florida radio news reporter who so impressed Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, that Epstein asked Kane to join them on tour, the only reporter allowed to travel with them. Kane, who would become a popular Philadelphia TV anchorman, wrote a book about what it was like being on tour with the Beatles.

“At long last,” notes Clifton, “the interview was over. It was getting near show time. The Beatles went about their preparations, changing now into matching suits, combing what was then considered long hair. Each was calm, quiet, reserved, yet friendly in a shy way. There was a total professionalism about them, despite their youth. They were ready to perform if the audience would let them. I escorted Paul McCartney into the hallway outside the dressing room, looked out through the window and saw that in over an hour the crowd on Pacific Avenue had increased to a few thousand people. Those with tickets were out front on the Boardwalk, entering, taking seats, waiting for the show to begin.”

                             THE SHOW – 60 MINUTES OF SCREAMING GIRLS

Totally unappreciated were the opening acts. The Righteous Brothers left the tour early on, feeling neglected by the crazy Beatles’ fans, and all but forgotten are the others – Tommy Roe, the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, and New Orleans soul singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry. Jackie DeShannon was there too, and she stuck with the tour and got to work with the Beatles, considering it an important time in her career.
8:30 p.m. “Showtime came at last,” wrote Clifton. “We left the dressing room and walked down a narrow staircase to the backstage area. Each Beatle still remained calm, patiently waiting to go on stage. The noise from the audience at this time is rather hard to describe. It was different, not an impatient murmur, but more like one of expectation, a funny kind of excitement. Then came the words from the giant speakers situated throughout the large auditorium, ‘The Beatles!’ And, all at once we were moving, walking quickly out on to the stage. Once there we were met with a mighty blast of sound, a solid wall of noise that actually struck you with a force that stopped your forward momentum.”

The Convention Hall stage is huge, too big for the small quartet and their small sound system, which was what a garage band would use today. Instead of using the main stage the Beatles were on a makeshift 15 foot high platform constructed on scaffolding in front of the stage, with a half dozen police officers, Clifton with them. He recalled that, “Eighteen police officers stood below us, between the Beatles and 25,000 screaming fans. But no one moved from in front of their seats toward the stage as the Beatles began to play.” They were polite but disorderly and remained in their place.

“Don’t ask what songs they played,” said Clifton, “because no one except the Beatles can answer that question. No one heard one song, one lyric, not even one note. The cheers never stopped. The screams never died and the tears from the eyes of young girls never stopped flowing. It was Beatlemania.”
Of the Beatles’ fans, Larry Kane later said, “I wanted to look at their faces and what I saw, almost to a person, is the boys and mostly young girls, ripping their hairs, tears flowing from their eyes, not tears of agony or joy – it was possession, and they were possessed with these four young men.”

For the record, the Beatles opened the twelve song set with “Twist and Shout,” that the Isley Brothers had made a hit, and concluded with Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” sandwiching them around Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” the Shirelles’ “Boys,” and some originals -  “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “You Can’t Do That,” “All My Loving,” “Things We Said Today,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Then in a little over a half hour it was all over, and no encore.

“The show was over,” notes Clifton, “but there was plenty more to come.”

                                    THE DELIVERY TRUCK ESCAPADE

The Beatles got out of Convention Hall in a commercial delivery truck, though different people remember different details, like what kind of delivery truck it was. Clifton recalls them arriving in a limo and leaving in a laundry truck. The Beatles chronology says it was a fish truck, one fan remembers an ambulance, while Bobby Palamaro recalls it being a bread truck, to be more specific - a Rando Bakery bread truck.

“As the auditorium cleared,” Clifton recalled, “fans raced to Pacific Avenue to join thousands who had been there before them. All wanted to see the group one more time. The street was filled with milling people. Traffic stopped and had to be rerouted. The limousine that brought them was unable to make it into the street from the garage, and even if it had made it there was a danger that the vehicle would be swarmed by eager fans. It became a security nightmare. As time passed it was evident that for the safety of the people in general and for the Beatles in particular something had to be done. Finally, a solution was agreed upon and a distinctly marked laundry truck made its way down Georgia Avenue, made its way slowly through the crowd, eventually arriving in a secure area of the garage. Each Beatle was taken to the garage area located below the Convention Hall and placed inside the van, made comfortable and very quietly taken from the building. The laundry truck was completely ignored by the fans.”

Kathy Gerdsen met the Beatles in Atlantic City in 1964 and kept in contact with the Harrison family over the years. Gerdsen met the Beatles after their concert at the Atlantic City Convention Hall. She had been in the hall with the rest of the screaming girls, then when leaving she noted that there were two ambulances parked by one of the backstage exits. "Most people thought the Beatles had already left," she later recalled. "But I saw the ambulances and went towards them. It was a chance thing. I climbed on the back of the ambulance, turned around, and bumped straight into Paul. He was leaning against the gurney."

Before the police pulled her away she got to talk to them as they climbed in.  She recalled George and Ringo got into one while John joined Paul in the second. "I asked George how I could keep in contact with them and he told me to write his parents at Macketts Lane, Liverpool and that's what I did." Over the years, Gerdsen wrote faithfully and in 1974, George came to Madison Square Garden to do a concert with Ravi Shankar and she met them at the Plaza Hotel. Ten years earlier Gerdsen almost caught a ride with the Beatles to the Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City.

                                                 LIFE AT THE LAFAYETTE

Palamaro recalls that, “We did the show at Convention Hall and then took them to the hotel – the Lafayette, which is no longer there. We just made small talk with them, and mainly dealt with their manager. They were just chillin’, just trying to relax, and we were making sure nobody got near them. Our job was to keep people away from them so they could relax, but girls were climbing up the fire escape, it was really unbelievable.”

Clifton remembers that, “Once they arrived at the Lafayette Motor Inn, located at the other end of town, the Beatles became virtual prisoners in their own suite of rooms. While they relaxed, the fans continued to mill about, calling from the street below, teenage girls found their way to the rear of the hotel and like human flies began climbing from balcony to balcony. In their rooms, the group relaxed. They talked briefly about the show, the audience response and how they had left the area. Later, they ate submarine sandwiches form the White House Sub Shop.”  

When it was time to get something to eat, they wanted to try a local delicacy, so Palamaro suggested White House subs. As he explains it, “my uncle Tony Basile owned the White House subs, and we couldn’t take them there, so we decided to bring sandwiches to them.”

Basile’s daughter Jen, who runs the White House today, was too young to recall the Beatles, but has a paper plate with their signatures on it, framed and hanging on her wall.

PHOTO: Atlantic City policeman Bobby Palamaro with the Beatles and White House sub.

When Palamaro brought the special “Six Foot Sub” to the Beatles, he recalls that, “Brian Epstein, their manager was there, and he frowned on anyone taking pictures. But we had Jim Barber - the official police photographer there, so they let him take that picture with me and the White House subs.”   

                   The Lafayette Hotel in Atlantic City where the Beatles stayed August 30, 1964

One of the opening acts, Jackie DeShannon, whose hit songs would include “What the World Needs Now,” “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” and “Bette David Eyes,” can be seen in a photo of her and George Harrison playing Monopoly on the carpet floor of the Lafayette. 

                                                          EVERY LITTLE THING

During their stay in Atlantic City the dynamic songwriting team of Lennon and McCartney combined to write “Every Little Thing,” which they recorded in late September for their fourth album “For Sale,” released in the UK at the end of 1964 and in the US in June of 1965.

Every Little Thing
When I’m walking beside her
People tell me I’m lucky.
Yes, I know I’m a lucky guy.
I remember the first time
I was lonely without her
Can’t stop thinking about her now.
Every little thing she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, oooh.
When I’m with her I’m happy
Just to know that she loves me
Yes, I know that she loves me now.
There is one thing I’m sure of
I will love her forever.
For I know love will never die.
Every little thing she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, yea.
And you know the things she does,
She does for me, oooh.
Every  little thing.
Every little thing.
Every little…..

Paul wrote the lyrics and later said: “John and I got this one written in Atlantic City during our first tour of the States. John does the guitar riff and George is on acoustic. Ringo bashes some timpani drums for the big noises you hear. ‘Every Little Thing,’ was my attempt at the next (big) single. I remember playing it for Brian backstage somewhere. I thought it was very catchy, something I thought was quite good but became an album filler rather than the almighty single. It didn't have quite what was required (to be a hit single).”

The Beatles began recording ‘Every Little Thing’ on 29 September 1964, taped four takes, then the following day recorded five attempts. Take six was aborted when Paul burped, take seven ended in laughter. Finally they got it right but relegated it an album filler rather than a single.

Keith Badman describes it as a “devotional love song, most likely written with Jane Asher in mind, and emotionally revealing…although the music was less successful, the lyrics are among McCartney's most succinct and tender on the album.”

And it was penned at the Hotel Lafayette in Atlantic City on August 30, 1964.

Bobby Palamaro, who stood guard at their hotel room door, says today, “I was 30 years old then, and now I’m 80, but I still remember them. They were really nice kids. We got to talking and you just had to like them.”

“The summer night turned into morning and a few hours later The Beatles were gone,” Clifton nostalgically wrote, “off to some other city, to some other concert. Many things have happened since 1964, but looking back over the years, that one particular evening stayed with me. I never forgot it. I never will. The Beatles made an impact not only in show business, but in the world. And I was there seeing, hearing, feeling it, maybe in a very small way a part of it, a part of history that summer of 1964.”


But the Beatles weren’t out of town yet. Al Black had them in the back of the truck so he took them home, to his house at 1112 Bay Drive in West Atlantic City to meet the family and some of the neighbors.

Al Black’s daughter Donna, who now runs the Black security service, was only a child who sat on the shoulders of a neighbor when the Beatles visited the Black’s home. A few photos were taken, but only one survives.

Donna Black recalls, “My babysitter was among the throngs at Convention Hall, and was really upset at missing the Beatles at my house.” But some of the local neighbors came by and the lads from Liverpool got a taste of the real Atlantic City while they were here.

The pit stop in West Atlantic City isn’t mentioned in the Beatlesbible chronicle that says they continued on their Jersey Shore journey: “2:15 pm left Lafayette Motel–Hotel in fish truck which took them to their tour bus, which took them to Cape May where they stayed at the Lafayette Hotel.”

Both Lafayette hotels, the one where the Beatles stayed in Atlantic City and the one in Cape May, were named in honor of the French hero of the American Revolution - Gen. Marquis de Lafayette, and neither are standing today. Although no one today seems to recall them being there, records indicate the Beatles stayed in Cape May for the two days, a short hiatus before their September 2nd show in Philadelphia, when they had to get back on the Beatlemania bus.

The old Lafayette Hotel on Beach Drive in Cape May, where the Beatles stayed August 31-Sept. 2, 1964

The chronicles say: “Day off in Cape May, New Jersey. 10.00 am, Monday 31 August 1964, following their concert the previous night at the Convention Hall in Atlantic City, the Beatles relaxed at the Marquis de Lafayette Hotel, Cape May, New Jersey. Paul McCartney used the time off to call Elvis Presley on the telephone. Cape May – Monday August 31 – Wednesday September 2.”

The 2014 Cape May Film Festival to be held at the Chalftonte Hotel- October 17-19, will feature a showcase of Beatles Films in honor of the 50th Anniversary of their first US visit, including “A Hard Days Night,” which was publicly released in September 1964 and may have been privately screened by the Beatles when they were kicking back in Cape May.

“A Hard Days Night” somewhat captures on film, the madcap “Beatlemania” mayhem - a possessive, contagious pandemonium that swept through Atlantic City for one day in late August, 1964, and is still remembered by those who were there.

         Al  Black with Ringo and the 1964 Photo when Ringo and his All Star Band played Bally in 1999