Editor’s Note: In honor and memory of Sharon Litwin, The Queen here at NolaVie, we will be publishing a piece from her every day for the next month. Sharon was an advocate and spokeswoman for arts, culture, people, and policies here in New Orleans. Her voice and sharp wit will be greatly missed.
To hear Sharon Litwin’s piece about the Beatles on WWNO radio, click here.
Fifty years. A half century. OMG is that really how long it’s been since the Beatles were in New Orleans?
While the official anniversary of that almost-religious event won’t happen until this coming September, celebrations begin this weekend with the opening of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles at the Saenger Theatre and some accompanying events at the Monteleone Hotel, a hostelry that turned down the opportunity to house the Beatles in 1964 for fear of being overrun by frenzied females.
Now, I wasn’t here in 1964, so I can’t personally attest to the Fab Four fever that overtook this town. But as a kinda, almost, related-to-them-by-family fan (full disclosure, my Aunt Jessie Robins – one of my father’s four sisters — played the role of Ringo’s Auntie in the truly devastatingly bad 1967 television movie Magical Mystery Tour; although the music was great), I freely admit, I love the Beatles.
So in light of my tenuous almost-family connection and the upcoming golden anniversary, I decided to go online and wallow in some New Orleans Beatlemania nostalgia. Instead, I ended up howling with laughter when I read what a total fiasco their entry into New Orleans was. So here’s a look back at the 24 hours of the British Invasion and the concert that attracted a capacity crowd of 12,000 to what is now called Tad Gormley Stadium in CityPark.
Because they had difficulty finding a hotel that would house them, the Beatles were booked into the Congress Inn – on Chef Menteur Highway! Mobbed wherever they went, arrangements had been made for a helicopter to meet them at Lakefront Airport and fly them directly to the Congress Inn. Only thing was the chopper was grounded with mechanical problems and the replacement limos were sent to the wrong airport instead. But, hey, quick thinking on the part of the pilot sent their chartered plane on to Moisant Airport to meet up with the limousines. Ah, but if that was all that was to happen.
According to a Times-Picayune story, somehow “the band’s vehicle took a different path from the others (limousines) so fans lining the planned route never got a glimpse of them.” Nor did the police motorcade assigned to escort them, it seems. They got lost, too.
Arriving at the Congress Inn, the Beatle mobile was spotted by fans who surrounded it, according to a report in the Beatles Bible, a website written and published in Cardiff Wales by a Fab Four aficionado named Joe. The site goes on to report yet another couldn’t-win-for-losing event (verified in above The Times-Picayune report). “The police arrived and forced the fans aside, but as the limo reversed it hit a Kenner Police Department escort car.”
I mean, no wonder they didn’t come back. Would you?
So, Paul McCartney, should you read this please be assured that New Orleans has come a long way since 1964. Really. You won’t have to stay on Chef Menteur Highway. For sure the Monteleone Hotel will find you a fancy suite. Your limousine will not get lost. The restaurants are wonderful. And, honestly, there’s no water in the streets.
And while Aunt Jessie is long gone, I’m still here. I’ll make sure it all works.
For more stories on the infamous 1964 Beatles visit and everything and more than you might ever want to know about them, go to www.beatlesbible.com.