This is the second part of a middle-school fiction piece I wrote a few years ago. In part 1, it was Friday, February 7, 1964. Our young hero and his uncle, both huge Beatles fans, tried to get into the Plaza Hotel in New York City where the Beatles were staying on their first American visit. When they failed, Uncle Aaron guessed that the Beatles would have to rehearse on Saturday before playing The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night, and he suggested they stake out the theater.
When we got there at 7:00 on Saturday morning, the police had already put up barricades to keep the street clear for the Beatles whenever they got there. So we waited, and so did a few hundred of our closest friends, some of the same crazy crowd from the day before at the Plaza. This time, we were at the front, so if there was anything to see, we’d see it.
It seemed like we’d been there forever when a couple of limousines rolled up behind the barricades, and people started cheering and screaming and waving their signs. We saw four shadows jump quickly from the first limo and hustle through the stage door.
A bunch of official-looking people trailed along behind the second limo on foot. Suddenly Aaron yelled, “Rube! Hey, Rube!” One of the official-looking people turned to look . . . and then walked over to where we were standing. “Rube!” Aaron cried. “What’s going on?”
“Aaron!” he said. “How long has it been, anyhow?”
“Not since we graduated from college in ’59! What are you doing here?”
Rube gestured at the cameras around his neck. “Photographer. The Beatles are doing a photo shoot in Central Park this afternoon, but I get to tag along this morning.”
“Are they going to rehearse now?” Aaron asked.
“Yeah, they are.” And then, even though we were in the middle of a crowd of kids cheering, chanting, and screaming, Rube’s next words seemed to echo forth from a silent place in the center of the universe. He said to us: “Do you want to come inside and watch?”
I have never passed out in my life, but at that moment, I almost did.
We went toward a gap in the barricade, only to be met by the same man-mountain of a guard who had stopped us the previous day. “No admittance,” he growled. We’re going to jail, I thought. Then Rube stepped in and said, “Reuben Jefferson, New York Journal photographer. These two are with me.” Unbelievably, the guard let us through—and he winked at me as we passed. There were shouts of disappointment from the crowd: “Hey, why do they get in? Come back! No fair!” But we were in.
Ten minutes later, we stood with a knot of people on the side of the stage, staying as close to Rube as we could, fearing that if got separated, we’d get thrown out of the theater, or worse. The Beatles came out and took their places, Paul, George, and John from left to right, and Ringo above and behind them on drums. One of them, either Paul or John, counted off the first song, and they began to play.
If you want to know what happened next, I can’t really tell you. I know that they practiced five songs altogether, and “She Loves You” was the third one, but just like you, I have to rely on the history books for the rest of it. All I remember of that half-hour with the Beatles is a mixture of shock and joy.
The next night, 70 million people watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was the first time most Americans had ever seen them play. Most, but not all. A handful of us had seen them already.