Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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The Beatles, from left, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, are shown in their New York hotel after their arrival on Feb. 7, 1964. Nine days later, the Beatles made their second TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach.
1964 File Photo/The Associated Press
Steve McManus, left, and Bob Saxon in 1965, a year after they saw the Beatles in Miami Beach.
Photo courtesy of Steve McManus
“I don’t even remember the police making eye contact with us,” Steve said. “They must have figured we were hotel guests or something because we weren’t trying to get in. We were in!”
The problem was the elevators up to the main lobby were off limits, as was the stairway. But then something miraculous happened.
“This old guy comes down the stairs from what must have been the pool,” Steve said. “He’s dressed in a big white bathrobe, he’s got a bald head and he’s smoking a cigar. He must have been somebody – he had two guys with him – a guy on each side.”
And he was headed straight toward Steve, Bob and John.
“You guys want to see the Beatles, don’t you!” the guy barked, acting like he owned the place.
“Yeah!” responded the boys in unison.
Up the elevator they rode to the main lobby. As the door slid open, the boys stared open-mouthed at the throng of teenyboppers straining against the police line and velvet ropes just inside the main entrance, begging to be let in.
“Get these kids over to the ballroom,” ordered the bathrobed benefactor through his clenched cigar.
“Yes, sir,” the bellhop replied.
“So the bellhop escorts us across the big lobby, right in front of all these people, right up to the entrance to the ballroom, where they have more guys with more velvet ropes,” said Steve.
No questions asked, the gatekeepers beckoned the boys under the ropes, whisked them through the doors and suddenly there they stood, open-mouthed, in the pin-drop silent ballroom.
“We’re all by ourselves. Not a soul in the room,” said Steve. “The stage is all set up. There are big TV monitors in the corners and it’s just the three of us. No one else.”
Then all hell broke loose.
The crowd rushed in, Steve remembers to this day, “like a wave hitting a beach.” And Steve, Bob and John rode that wave – actually, it was more like running for their lives – all the way to the front row, less than 20 feet from the stage.
Mitzi Gaynor, the comedy duo Allen & Rossi, The Volantes unicycling act … that stuff’s just a blur.
John, Paul, George and Ringo? They’re forever burned on Steve’s brain.
“The place just went crazy,” he said. “Girls screaming, crying, fainting. To my left was this young woman up on a guy’s shoulders. It was unbelievable, I’m feeling it in my chest even as I talk about it right now. It was extremely exciting.”
Sullivan actually thought he could control the crowd with a predetermined set of hand signals. Yeah, right. Every moment the Beatles were visible – even when George Harrison playfully peeked out from behind the curtain as Sullivan issued his pre-show instructions – produced pure pandemonium.
The Beatles sang “She Loves You,” “This Boy,” “All My Lovin’,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You,” and the red-hot “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Through it all, Steve, Bob and John sat there, as if in a dream, sensing even as it unfolded that this moment was larger than the sum of its parts.
“Suddenly, we knew what this Beatlemania was all about,” said Steve. “If you were standing there, you couldn’t help but feel it.”
Echoed Bob Saxon in an interview from Florida on Friday, “I have to admit we were pretty caught up in it. Three geeky guys sitting in the front row, 15 feet from John Lennon.”
Steve eventually joined the Navy, met and married his wife, Rose (who’s from East Benton), and moved to Maine in 1976. He’s now retired after a career in architectural design and drafting.
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