By Jude Southerland Kessler
A note to Mark and Carol Lapidos on the advent of the 41st annual Fest for Beatles Fans
My brilliant mother (the oh-so-quotable Maxine Southerland) used to warn me, “Jude, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” She believed that “Plans” (with a capital P) were useless unless one actually acted upon them. Worse than useless – a waste of time!
American author, Henry David Thoreau, strongly agreed, although – unfortunately for him – he never met Mrs. Maxine. Thoreau wrote, “If you have built your castles in the air…that is where they should be! Now, put the foundations under them!” In other words, dream…but then do.
The Beatles were living examples of that maxim. They were boys who dreamed big and then worked their ever-lovin’ guts out to make those far-flung dreams reality. They were tireless in their pursuit of “the toppermost of the poppermost,” working 10-12 hours a day without complaining to achieve their goal.
And it is the same with Mark and Carol Lapidos, the creators and directors of The Fest for Beatles Fans. Many of you have been to multiple fests without ever meeting Mark and Carol. You may have seen them handing out bracelets or fighting fires or greeting you warmly without even knowing whom you were addressing. They never make The Fest about them. In fact, they intentionally fade into the background to make sure that those three magical days in New Jersey (in March) and in Chicago (in August) are all about The Beatles.
But for 41 years now, this very happily married couple (a feat in itself in our age) and their two creative daughters, Michelle Joni and Jessica, have given their lives to the concept Mark dreamed up four decades ago. They have devoted themselves utterly to The Fest for Beatles Fans.
Forty-three years ago, Mark Lapidos had a dream. And without shying away or procrastinating or letting “life happen with its other plans,” Mark found a way to meet with John Lennon in New York City and ask John for his endorsement of this imagined festival celebrating the Fab Four. Mark tells this truly goose-bumpy story at the Fest for all to hear, so I won’t “spoil the party” by divulging the details. But suffice it to say, out of that courageous visit to John Lennon, the Fest for Beatles fans was born.
To my way of thinking, getting in to see John Lennon was coup enough. I struggle to get my interviews. It is thrilling to me to even visit with people who were part of The Beatles’ entourage! Give me a chauffeur, a Cavern Club doorman, a traveling journalist on one of The Beatles’ tours, and I’m in seventh heaven! But, Mark Lapidos took matters all the way to the top…straight to the man who conceived The Beatles, hand-picked his group, and kept them together in good times and in bad. Mark went to John Winston Lennon. To me, that is remarkable.
But Mr. L(apidos) did much, much more. He began planning the Fest, partnering with his fiancé and later, wife, to work long hours “eight days a week” to book hotels, schedule conference rooms, supply food and drink, check on parking conditions, secure noted speakers, book Beatles notables, haul merchandise to Fest sites, set up decorations, make certain that electrical and AV equipment was working, and hire an extensive staff of trusted, responsible, impressive Fest employees to work for months insuring that each event was a roaring success. And hey, I’m only touching on the proverbial tip of the iceberg! There is soooooo much more to carrying off a mammoth event such as this. So much more.
And listen, the thing is…Mark and Carol and Jessica and Michelle didn’t just do this for a year or five or ten. They made it happen (extremely well) year after year after year through times when babies were born, when parents passed away, when the economy was awful, when hotels fell into disrepair and new venues had to be sought, when equipment failed, when storms rocked the area, when they were happy, and when they were sad. They endured for 41 years, no matter what.
The Lapidos family has been giving Beatles fans “a home away from home” and a place to reunite for 41 years. Theirs isn’t a story of “shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Theirs is the story of “been there, DONE THAT!” But they don’t say that in a jaded, bored way. Nope, 41-years-in, they are still uber-excited to present the Fest to you, thrilled to say “a splendid time is guaranteed for all,” and “happy just to dance with you.” Their hearts are still 100% invested in the hands-on running of this wonderful festival. They care.
So, I want you to see their photo (below, with Joey Molland, Albert Lee, and Mark Hudson)…and I’m asking each of you to seek them out at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, Aug. 11-13 and thank them. I’m asking you, if you’d be so kind, to simply shake their hands or give them a hug and tell them from the heart how much you appreciate what they’ve given us all for lo these many years. I don’t think a simple “thank you” is out of order, do you?
And…ahem!!!!…if I were Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, I would make it a point to show up one year and thank them as well…thank them for a lifetime of “putting the foundations under” a long-ago dream that has kept Beatles fans united, excited, and informed.
Mark and Carol, the Beatles authors of your Fests salute you! We are so proud to be associated with you. To us (although you are our age and younger, in many cases, than we are) you are our parents. You make us into family, and we love you! Thank you from our Beatle-y hearts.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com