Monday, July 13, 2009

Remembering The Beatles in KC

By Steve Crum

Talk about schmoozing with celebrities! Forty-five years ago, this September 17, The Beatles performed before an SRO crowd of typically screaming teens at the good old Kansas City Athletics Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The KC stop was a sort of last minute, penciled-in concert during The Fab Four’s nationwide tour. We can thank the savvy Athletics owner Charles O. Finley for booking the boys. He evidently did it as a favor to his teenaged daughter.

I was not at the concert, but I did make it to the media madness occurring at the Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City, Mo. where the Mop Tops were staying. Prior to their performance, a press conference was held on the top floor on the hotel.

I do have unpublished photos (see one above) of the craziness occurring on the sidewalk and in the park adjacent to the hotel. Hundreds of teenagers had gathered, and looked skyward to catch a John, Paul, George or Ringo glance. Jokesters in various hotel rooms were throwing fake autographs on slips of paper out their open windows just to get screaming reactions. The Beatles did briefly appear at the very top of the hotel on the penthouse balcony. They waved at the crowd dozens of stories below.

I still have the photo I took of them as they waved, but it is not reproduced here. Unfortunately, I had no telephoto lens, and the images are ultra tiny. Still, it is a rare but nearly invisible shot of the legendary quartet.

The following story by then high school senior [and my pal] Karen Katz is reprinted from her story Beatled Press At Conference, published in the Wyandotte High School [Kansas City, Kansas] student newspaper, The Pantograph, on Oct. 2, 1964:

From the Panto were five staff members: Steve Crum, Janet Barnes, Joe Rodriguez, Sandy Shultz and myself, with high hopes and press passes. We were going to The Beatles Press Conference at the Hotel Muehlbach.

In the lobby of the hotel we approached the desk clerk to ask directions to the conference room. No one knew.

Going upstairs to scout around, we flashed our press passes at a policeman and started by. We were halted and informed that we needed orange stickers reading "Beatles Press." These stickers could be obtained from Mr. Shauff, we were told, with a birth certificate saying, "18 years-old." But all we had were press passes. If at first you don’t succeed, try again--and we did. Again and again and again--but Mr. Shauff was nowhere to be found.

We stood amidst a group of girls around a TV newsman. Suddenly Charles Finley appeared in the lobby. Joe [Rodriguez] walked over to him and began explaining our frantic situation. A crowd was gathering as Finley explained to us he didn’t arrange the conference. But we were persistent.

“How many of you are there?” he asked.

“Five,” I answered.

“I can’t take all of you. I’ll take you.” He pointed to me.

Upstairs I started through a door at the end fo the hall. I was stopped, and Mr. Finley spoke up.

“This girl is from the Wyandotte High School Pantograph, and I think she should be let in as a representative.”

“All right,” the man said, “but don’t scream or anything.”

The carpeted room was filled with newsmen, chairs, cameras and smoke. My hands were shaking, and the room was unusually stuffy.

The Beatles’ public relations man [Derek Taylor] entered and explained how the proceedings would be conducted. Then The Beatles shuffled in. It seemed as if I was staring at magazine cover only this was the living end!

I moved to the front with the radio section of the conference and stood opposite The Beatles.

“Ringo,” I asked, “what are you going to do if it rains tonight and you get tonsillitis?”

He didn’t know, but for $150 thousand [what The Beatles were getting for this gig], what’s tonsillitis?

Then a cameraman offered to take my picture with them. In a dazed state I walked up to Ringo and tugged on his coat sleeve. He put his arm around me! I Smiled as cameras flashed and realized that I was a part of that living magazine cover!
Postscript: Karen, wherever you are--since I have not seen you since 1965, please contact me asap with anything additional you recall about your Beatles experience. I recall when you returned from meeting the boys, you were dazed with glossy eyes and distant smile. Outside the hotel, on the sidewalk, you kept repeating that Ringo actually put his arm around you. Several teenaged girls, strangers to us, nearly ripped your blouse off when they overheard you. But we protected you.

And will forever envy you.
Enjoy this tribute to The Beatles performing in KC that memorable day in '64:

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