Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Beatles, Ed Sullivan—and my DH, Michael

Ed first learns I have written a book when I hand him a finished manuscript. Naively, I imagine he'll be flattered, but when he reads it, he blows his stack and stops speaking to me.  He's furious. I am revealing more about him, more backstage gossip and more details about the inner workings of the show than he wants made public.

Fortunately for me and for Always On Sunday, Ed simmers down eventually and decides my unauthorized biography is "magnificent." He promotes it in his newspaper column, in interviews and in joint television appearances with me.  Ed helps turn the book he initially hated into a national bestseller.

During my 11 years on the Sullivan show, no one created more excitement than the Beatles. February 7, 1964: Kennedy Airport.  Their first trip to the United States.  The screaming fans!  The haircuts!  The sassy answers!  Welcome to New York!  The entire country focuses on this place and these young men.  Including me.  I am meeting their plane. A CBS public relations executive for years. Now the network's press representative on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

Ed was warned not to sign the Beatles: "You're crazy! No British group has ever made it big in this country." A month before they arrive, they are still unknown in America. Every reporter I contact turns down my invitation to go with me to JFK.

Two weeks later, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" rockets to the top of the charts.  Beatlemania crosses the Atlantic, and I am besieged by thousands of ticket requests. Reporters plead to join me at JFK.

On February 14, I greet the Beatles again, this time in Miami for a second Sullivan show.  I do my best to stay out of the way but, thanks to papparazzi determined to cash in on every shot of the Fab Four, I appear in photos published around the world (including the NY Post). In the captions I am called a Beatle, a case of mistaken identity Ruth and I still laugh about.

When I return to New York, Ed searches for me backstage. One stagehand is impressed.  "Ed must really like you," he says.  "You've only worked for him for four years, and he already knows your name."

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  1. I'm reading this now, Michael, and it's fantabulous!!! Such fun behind-the-scenes scoop!!! I'm so glad you wrote it and that Ed eventually came around and jumped on your wagon.

  2. Many thanks, DD. I always enjoy compliments, but I especially appreciate them from you because I value your opinion so highly. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!
    Best, Michael

  3. Hilarious. This sounds like a must-read. What a great claim to fame--to have been mistaken for a Beatle!

    1. Yes, Anne, those were incredible times. A few weeks before the Beatles arrived in the United States, they were completely unknown here. No one in the press wanted to go to the airport with me to meet their plane. All my invitations were rejected!

      Beatlemania hit a week before their arrival, and I guess my reward was to be identified as a Beatle myself in all those photos. And my punishment was that all the reporters who had rejected me now begged for Sullivan show tickets for the Beatles' US TV debut. The tickets were—guess what?—all sold out.

      Thanks for the comment & the tweet!

  4. Replies
    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      I'm pleased you think the book sounds exciting—meeting the Beatles was certainly an exciting & memorable experience! The Beatles were excited, too—filled with fun and energy and wisecracks, thrilled to be in America for the first time. They were telling me about all the entertainers they admired and asked me how many of them were on the same Sullivan stage on which they were about to perform.

      Thanks again, Michael