We call it The Fest.
We could say “convention” or “gathering” or “conference” or “meeting.” But it’s more than that.
It’s also “celebration” and “party.” The Fest for Beatles Fans – whether it’s held in New Jersey, Chicago, Las Vegas, or L.A. is always so much more than the trite, run-of-the-mill weekend symposium or show. It’s indeed a festival…a joyous fête uplifting of The Beatles and who they were and what they stood for, then and now. It’s a fest of their love.
In Los Angeles two weeks ago, we experienced that feeling with an awareness borne from time to think and reflect. Oh there were crowds and we were busy, but we weren’t OVERWHELMED the way we were in February at the New York Fest…we weren’t inundated as we were in Chicago. The authors and presenters and speakers who gathered on the “Left Coast” had moments to digest what was going on and to let the HISTORY of the moment sink in.
Directly across from my booth in the Marketplace stood Julia Baird, John’s sister, taking time to have her photo made with every single person who asked – signing autographs and sharing memories. At times, I could feel how very exhausted she was, but like John, she turned no one away. Julia kept smiling and hugging and making each fan feel special and unique. And when they walked away she didn’t roll her eyes or secretly snipe at them. Her love for each person was genuine. I know. I could see.
Beside me sat Ruth McCartney, takin’ the mickey out of everyone in her path…especially me. She had a blast from the moment she arrived ‘til the last second that she walked away. Selling her own brand of McCartney tea, Ruth was a force of fun to be reckoned with…a whirling dervish of deviltry. She was all nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Loved it!
It was a weekend for standing and chatting with Bob Eubanks who once brought The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl…a weekend for learning The Cavern Stomp from the lovely Freda Kelly, who (quite fortunately) will never ever change…who will always, as the song says, “stay as sweet as you are.” It was a weekend for laughing with Ivor Davis over Ringo’s 1964 escapades and for smiling from ear-to-ear as Dave Morrell spun his web of loosey-goosey experiences, sharing the moments he spent with John just “horse-doggin’.” Those were the days, my friend.
The L.A. Fest was a weekend of music: the rock rant of Mark Hudson, the mad sax of Mark Rivera, and the “Hey Jude” of Mark Lapidos. All reMARKable.
It was Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell, and Laurence Juber all WINGing across the stage together…together, minus One.
It was Bruce with the serial number and history of every Beatles record ever made and Chuck with a photo of each stop along the concert highway. It was me with 4000 footnotes and Kit with two upcoming books and Michelle and Jessica flowing past in 8-inch platform heels and burgundy “Help”-inspired, hooded capes. It was “Liddy Dave” with his quick wit and Candy with her inborn Beatleness. It was Susan stepping up to emcee us all…and Wally toting his penguin, a wry Thisbe (or Pyramus?).
We photographed one another. We made Beatles news for Steve Marinucci and Adam Forrest. We got up the courage to tell Julia how much she meant to us (well, I did). We bought T-shirts and books from one another. We had dinner together. And we laughed. We laughed as if our lives outside those walls realm had vanished, as if Joy was all we had.
For one weekend, we were all sixteen again.
Someone called The Fest for Beatles Fans a family reunion without the squabbles…and it is. It’s a magical mystery tour where she loves you and everyone feels fine. It’s a ticket to ride to a realm where each quirky person is completely accepted and totally loved.
When John Lennon gave his stamp of approval to Mark Lapidos’s idea to create a “Beatles Fest” forty years ago, he was unwittingly endorsing The New Apple…a gathering of creative souls to sing, dance, act, speak, read poetry, do yoga, imagine, and remember.
And so, in an important way, we are continuing The Business of The Beatles. But to most of us, it feels like nothing but “fest!”
How many days ‘til the next one?
Jude is a John Lennon author/historian whose writing style is geared for fans, as she explains in great detail all angles of events in a very enjoyable manner. Head to Jude’s website to explore her works: http://www.johnlennonseries.com/
Follow Jude on Twitter @JudeKessler
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25 years ago today, at the Crowne Plaza Meadowlands in Secaucus, the 25th anniversary Fest kicked off.
During the celebration of The Beatles, time was also taken out to recognize the 25 year anniversary of when Fest founder Mark Lapidos met John Lennon – setting in motion the first ever Fest in 1974.
At the ’99 Fest, guests included Gordon Waller, Laurence Juber, The Quarrymen, Doris Troy, Louise Harrison, Al Brodax, and Tony Barrow.
As a great surprise on Friday night, legendary concert promoter Sid Bernstein stopped by.
Below, Mark Lapidos – wearing the same tuxedo he wore during the first Fest in 1974, cuts the 25th anniversary cake.
39 years ago today, Saturday, September 7, 1974, we opened the doors to our first Beatles Celebration – then called Beatlefest. It took place at the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street in New York City. I didn’t know what to expect. My brain was overloading with details. Did I forget anything? Was everybody going to show up? Was John going to surprise everyone and show up to pick the winner of the signed guitar he donated for charity? An amazing calm came over me the moment I came down to the main ballroom and saw the entire ballroom completely filled with fans, and then I realized that all these fans were here because of my idea of a 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Beatles Arrival in America. 8,000 people showed up over that weekend. I was interviewed by the NY Times (it appeared in the 9/8/74 edition, plus we made the covers of both Rolling Stone and UK’s Meloday Maker. I had no idea I would put on another FEST the next year, but thanks to all the calls and letters we received, I did and it has been an annual event ever since. Soon after, we started holding them in other cities, too! Now 119 FESTS and all these years later, we find ourselves gearing up for our 40th Anniversary Celebration at the same site, now called the Grand Hyatt and on the EXACT 50th Anniversary of the days The Beatles Arrived in America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 7-9, 2014. It has been quite a journey for the Lapidos Family, and the best part has been meeting so many other fans over the years and to have been able to present and meet guests who have been an integral part of The Beatles Story. Thank you for a wonderful 39 years, so far…
The Most Important Day In FEST History, April 28,1974 Part Two (short version). It’s a warm 82° Sunday in NYC and I am in Central Park, along with 100,000 other people waiting to see John Lennon and Harry Nilsson come on stage with NY DJ Cousin Brucie for the March of Dimes. I am wearing my brand new 10th Anniversary Beatles Shirt that Capitol Records had made. I had the shirt because I worked at Sam Goody (NY’s largest music store) and we happened to have a sale on Beatles records that week. I heard about the shirts and had Capitol send me a box for my staff to wear in store all week. NO ONE else had these shirts. That morning, I spot a guy wearing the same shirt in the park that morning and I don’t recognize him. I manage to get through the crowds and ask him where he got the shirt. Well, it just so happened the night before, he met John and Harry, and lucky for him they needed a ride back to their hotel! He drove them there and was invited up to their suite, John signed an autograph and gave him THAT SHIRT! I asked him What Hotel, and he told me. I asked him What Room and he told me that, too! The only person in that park of 100,000 who would know that information and because it was such a warm day, wore the shirt that John gave him the night before, and I found him!
An hour or two later, John and Harry enter the park and arrive on the stage, to a thunderous NY welcome. The hotel where they were staying was just outside the Park. I walk into the hotel, sit down, calm down, and get my nerve up to get into the elevator for the trip of a lifetime. I walk up to the suite door, take a few more deep breaths and knock. Harry opens the door. I say “Hi, I’m Mark Lapidos and I want to speak to John about Beatlefest”. He looks at me and says, “Come on in”. A few long, minutes later, John enters the parlor, we shook hands and sat down. I proceeded to tell him my idea of a Beatles Fan’s Celebration honoring the 10th Anniversary of The Beatles Arrival in America, in Feb, 1964. I had already booked the hotel, so I told him it was to take place at the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street on September 7-8, 1974. I told him I was a manager at Sam Goody, and he could tell I was a fan. The event I envisioned was a hotel full of Beatles Fans celebrating a common love for The Beatles, with films, live concerts, guests, discussions, a flea market, an art museum and more. John leaned forward in his chair, got very excited about the idea and said, “I’m All For It. I’m A Beatles Fan, Too!” 39 years later, I can still close my eyes and see and hear him say those exact words to me. I told him I also wanted to have a charity raffle of signed items from The Beatles. He said he had an old guitar in his attic that he would sign for the raffle (and he did). He picked the Phoenix House in NY, a drug rehab center as the recipient of the money raised (We raised $3,000 that show and have had Charity Raffles at every FEST since.) John asked me to return to the suite two days later, where his associate called Apple in London to fill Neil Aspinall in on the event details and the rest is history. The show was a huge success and it even made the cover of Rolling Stone! I did get to personally talk to John a few months later to tell him how is went and to thank him for all his help. He was happy to hear it went so well.
Realizing a dream can only happen if you truly believe in your abilities and to pursue them with 100% of your being – and with a little luck!
THIS DAY IN FEST HISTORY, Friday, April 26, 1974 I (Mark) had already thought of the idea of a Beatles Fans’ Convention 5 months earlier as a 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Beatles arrival in America, and had booked the old Commodore Hotel for September 7-8, 1974. The only thing missing was my insistance I get The Beatles approval for such a glorious event in their honor. It was on this evening I heard an announcement on WABC Radio (NY) that John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were going to be appearing at the First March of Dimes Walkathon/Concert in Central Park on Sunday. They were going to be talking with Cousin Brucie (the most popular DJ in the U.S.) on the stage set up on the east side of the park. The 5th Dimension were the musical attraction. I started calling friends and family and telling them I was going to meet John on Sunday (April 28th). Of course, they all thought I was nuts. On Sunday, I will tell the rest of the story of what really happened that warm and sunny Sunday, April 28, 1974. I know many of you have heard this story before, but for those who haven’t, watch for Sunday’s eNewsletter for the most important day in FEST history and a day I will NEVER, EVER forget!!!