'We've Got 'em, Luv, and It's All Gear'
In '76 England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back. No sooner did the four ragmops set foot on U.S. soil then we were theirs. Their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show racked up the highest TV rating in history. After that, as the Beatles began a live concert tour. Washington surrendered, and New York City's Carnegie Hall was all but obliterated. Then it was on to Florida. What was it like at the front? Life's Gail Cameron was there-and somehow survived to write this report.
Like the Blitz, it began with shrieks, sirens and total panic. The door of a black limousine waiting for us at Kennedy Airport flew open and someone hurtled past me in a blur. A second later I was picked up bodily and tossed in on top of him. It was a Beatle. Ringo hoarsely introduced himself. Police were pounding the roof and shouting at the driver. "GET OUT OF HERE BUDDY IF YOU WANT TO GET OUT ALIVE!"
"So this is America," observed Ringo as he looked out form under his mop of hair. "That was fantastic. They all seem out of their minds."
While searching the car for my shoe I asked if this was just a routine day for the Beatles.
"NO," he said emphatically. "We never expected anything like this-it was really GEAR."
"Fab," he explained, translating quickly form his native Beatles-ese, "you know-really great."
A crimsom convertible suddenly appeared alongside us packed with a band of teen-agers from Fair Lawn, N.J. "RINGO< RINGO!" they all shouted, "WE GO RINGO!" The girls squealed and the boy behind the wheel momentarily lost his grip, nearly smashing into our rear door. Ringo rolled down the window. "Hi kids," he called.
"YEAH-YEAH-YEAH!" yelled the kids.
"What's new?" asked Ringo.
"We love you, Ringo, we love you," one girl screamed. "Oh-I'm about ready to die. DIE!"
"Don't do that, Luv," fired back Ringo and shut the window.
At the Plaza Hotel teen-agers were chanting, stomping their feet, waving a wild array of signs-"BEATLES 4-EVER" "THE USA WANTS YOU TO STAY" "ELVIS IS DEAD-LONG LIVE THE BEATLES!"
"Oh, look at that," said Ringo, "that's marvelous."
"Gear," I corrected him, as we emerged into the din and were shoved by police into the hotel lobby. The mink-coated woman inside instantly became as unhinged as the teen-agers outside.
"My God, Esther. LOOK, there's one right there and oh, he's simply adorable, he's a devine little dream."
Police, private detectives and bellhops pulled us through the people and potted palms and then unceremoniously tossed Beatle after Beatle into the elevator.
Out on the streets, the teen-agers had begun their long vigil of Beatle-watching. The sight of a shadow in a window, any window, any floor, incited hysteria. Between times they sang "London Bridge is falling down...'Cause we've got the Beatles."
When I went out, I was nearly torn apart. "Did you SEE them? Did you touch them???" they bellowed. Chewing the jelly beans they had brought to belt the Beatles with, they tried to tell me just why the Beatles set them screaming.
"They're just so sexy, also foreign," said 16-year-old Soni Scharf of Brooklyn.
"No, no," interupted several disguested boys. "It's the sound, it's a tough sound."
"The thing is also," explained a 15-year-old girl, a little shyly, "they sing decent songs, they're not dirty or anything like a lot of rock 'n' roll groups here."
"I scream," said a girl, "because I hope they'll look at me."
"It's Ringo," said Pat Rodier. "It may sound silly to you, but I propose to him every night."
"The American rock 'n' roll is getting to be a drag," said a boy with a Beatles haircut. "I don't know what the Beatles' beat is, but it's different. And some people say the haircut is stupid, but it's better than a duck's. Also cheaper."
Pretty soon the Beatles emerged and dived into their limousine for the dash to the CBS studios to rehearse for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. There a favored few teen-agers who had connections heard the first live Beatles music on U.S. soil.
"Well," explained Kathy Cronkite, 13 (daughter of TV's Walter), who was there with her sister Nancy, 15, "their accents are heavenly and their hair is so adorable. Our father doesn't really like our reaction very much, but we can't help it."
"You know," observed a 17-year-old philosphically, "this is the first time I've gone nuts over a singer that my parents didn't tell me it was disgusting."
"I just don't know why I scream," sobbed Diane Ambosino, 13 of New York, big tears streaming down her cheeks as she wished outside. "It's just because they're Beatles."
On the whole, the Beatles' appearance on the Sullivan show seemed subdued, though the audience wasn't. Afterward they entertained for Washington and they told me how it is.
"We're kidding everyone, you see," explained John. "We're kidding you and we're kidding ourselves. We just don't take anything seriously. But we're having a good time, Luv, and so is everybody else." I asked what they looked like with their hair back from their foreheads. John looked up in horror. "You just don't do that, Mate. You feel naked if you do that, like you don't have any trousers on."
Do their fans want locks of hair? "Always," said Ringo. "They come after us with scissors but we're on guard and they never get any."
They gave their first concert in the Washington Coliseum before 8,092 shrieking fans-and pulled out all the stops. After it was over, a wide-eyed blonde groped her way out. "We didn't come to hear them really, because we hear the records," she said. "We came to scream at them."
The Beatles loved it. They could have ripped me apart and I wouldn't have cared," said Ringo.
Later that night, at a party at the British Embassy, more history was made. For the first time ever, a fan sneaked up behind Ringo and stole a lock of Beatle hair. At least, thank heaven, the outrage technically was on British soil.
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