Beatles-themed sensory overload: That is how to describe The Fest for Beatles Fans in New York City, held from February 7-9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. What’s it like roaming a Fest that fills four floors of a New York hotel with musicians, historians, artists, authors, yogis, meditators, the famous and well over 8,000 fans from 40-odd states and five continents? Take a look at a day in the life of The Fest.
Beatles author and historian Bruce Spizer opened Saturday with a presentation on how the Beatles conquered America, no thanks to Dave Dexter, Jr., the Capitol Records guy who rejected hits like “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” because they had “too much harmonica.”
Dear Prudence Farrow spoke about her spiritual journey in India with the Maharishi and the Beatles before leading an introductory transcendental meditation session. The room, dubbed the Ashram for the occasion, was so packed that more chairs had to be brought in for the standing room only crowd.
Good Ol’Freda Kelly, secretary to Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and president of the original Beatles fan club, is signing autographs! Quick, get in line!
Still down to earth after all these years, Freda hates being the center of attention but enjoys being with the fans. Her grandson, a toddler, was happily drawing next to her. “Would you like Nile’s autograph?” she casually asked, to which I happily agreed. Good Ol’Freda is the Queen of Beatles Fans: regal, royal, lovely. Her documentary Good Ol’ Freda is a must-watch.
Chad and Jeremy played to a packed ballroom, beautifully crooning timeless hits like “A Summer Song” as if it were yesterday.
Freda Kelly joins Julia Baird (John Lennon’s half-sister) and the lord mayor of Liverpool on the Liverpool Life and Humor! panel. Visit Liddypool for a still-fab music scene and join the Save Madryn Street group on Facebook to help save Ringo’s old neighborhood from the wrecking ball!
Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s first wife, joins Martin Lewis and Billy J. Kramer, of Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas fame, and Vivek Tiwary, author of the graphic novel The Fifth Beatle, in honoring Brian Epstein, who will soon be inducted into the Rock n’Roll Hall of Fame.
Boyd and Kramer shared memories of Brian Epstein’s grace, talent, loving nature, and loyal business sense. Tiwary, a Broadway producer, views Epstein as a historic role model and a trailblazer. Gay when it was illegal, Jewish in a politely antisemitic Anglo world, and hailing from a rough and tumble port city, the deck was stacked against Epstein when it came to promoting four lads who played music in a cellar. Tiwary’s graphic novel is now being made into a feature film that will begin shooting at the end of this year.
Tiwary, the producer of Broadway’s American Idiot, was available to sign copies of The Fifth Beatle and talk about the upcoming film and anything Brian Epstein.
Fab4Free4All hosts interview animator Ron Campbell (center), the artist behind the Beatles Saturday morning cartoons and the feature film Yellow Submarine. Campbell was available at the Fest to generate original artwork and sign limited edition prints of his work. The Fab4Free4All guys — Mitch Axelrod (left), Rob Leonard (far right), and Tony Traguardo — were entertaining, informative, and hysterical. Their show is a must-listen.
Guitar enthusiasts rocked the George Harrison Gretsch exhibit at the entrance to the Fest. The exhibit featured rare and unpublished photos of George provided by the estate as well as Gretsch’s private collection of George Harrison related memorabalia…
…and this beauty, the Prototype #1 of George’s original Duo Jet guitar.
Woodstock had cops with flowers in their hat-bands; The Fest for Beatles Fans has New York fire fighters rocking out to George.
Fab Beatles puppeteer Bob Abdou entertained young and old with his puppet shows.
After a full day of panels, yoga, TM, art, parades, and music, there was still more rocking out to do. A three-hour concert capped off Saturday night in the ballroom. With a sold-out Fest, it was a standing room only crowd at 10 p.m.
Fest fans ranged in age from birth to senior citizen, with plenty of millennials and Gen-X’ers in between. This millennial waiting for the evening show featuring Chad & Jeremy, Donovan, Billy J. Kramer, Peter Asher, and many more artists proves Hippie fashion is far from yesterday.
And the bands rocked the house until 1 a.m….
Garrett Gardner of The Voice fame rocked a cover of “Helter Skelter” with his band the Greater Good in the Cavern, a place designed to showcase the talents of the next generation of Beatles fans. The Cavern featured a series of awesome Gen-X and millennial music and performance artists including Reserved for Rondee, Rony’s Insomnia, Bambi Kino, DJs Steve Pagan and Natasha Blank, the guys of Poetry at Parties, and artist Jesse Mosher, making for quite the avante-garde Beatles experience.
In the lobby the next generation of Festies jammed Beatles into the wee hours of the morning.
And see the question of the day: What Are Your Top 5 Favorite Beatles Albums?