Recap: The 2014 NYC Fest

Last month, over 8,000 Beatles fans from 45 states and 5 continents gathered at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd street for the biggest and best New York area Fest in our 40 year history!
It began Friday morning on February 7th, when the Fest sent two busloads of fans from the Hyatt in Manhattan to JFK Airport in Queens to commemorate the exact moment in 1964 when The Beatles stepped off PanAm flight 101.

Donovan brings the house down with Liverpool

50 years to the day of the arrival of The Beatles in America, months of perseverance paid off with help from Q104.3 and the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. With fans and media gathered at the TWA flight center at JFK, the Port Authority revealed a permanent Beatles plaque that marked the historic occasion.
As fans screamed and flashed homemade signs, our incredible house band Liverpool shook the airport with two live sets of Beatles hits. Ken Dashow of Q104.3 was on hand to deliver some remarks, and introduced Billy J. Kramer, Mark Rivera, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird to the crowd.

Fest attendees had the opportunity to look back on 40 amazing years of the Fest

The event was a huge hit, and was covered on hundreds of newscasts later in the day.
Back in Manhattan, the Fest began at 5PM in 20 ballrooms and meeting rooms and it wasn’t long before everyone realized it was going to be a very special weekend full of lots of surprises. Our special musical guests – Donovan, Peter Asher, Billy J. Kramer, Chad & Jeremy, Mark Rivera, and Mark Hudson, were just the beginning.

Pattie Boyd poses with Carol Lapidos

Fest fans go wild at JFK Airport

Other musical guests – many previously unannounced – included Denny Laine (Wings), Neil Innes (The Rutles/Monty Python), Gene Cornish (The Rascals), and Terry Sylvester (The Hollies). Also rocking the Fest were The Smithereens, The Nutopians, and Birds of Paradox (featuring Steve Holley and John Lennon’s former band members Gary Van Scyoc & Adam Ippolito). Of course, Liverpool headlined the nightly Beatles concerts. We thank Steve Holley, who did a tremendous job pinch hitting for Chris Camilleri.
A wonderful surprise, Pattie Boyd joined us for most of Saturday for a great talk and a signing session. Along with Pattie, our non-musical guests contributed greatly to the festive spirit of the weekend. “Good Ol” Freda Kelly, Mark Lewisohn, Larry Kane, and 20 other guest authors and panelists helped fill the weekend with lots of great moments. Let us not forget Vince Calandra, Irene Katz & Alice Kestin, who told stories of what it was like to be at the Ed Sullivan Theatre or the Plaza Hotel during the weekend 50 years ago when The Beatles conquered America.

The Fest’s 40th anniversary cake/cupcake mosaic – presented by Baked by Melissa

Also spicing up the weekend were two live broadcasts. Saturday, Cousin Brucie, the legendary DJ who now hosts 60s on 6 on SiriusXM, took over the main stage for three hours to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles. Besides all of our musical guests joining Cousin Brucie, Ronnie Spector appeared and sang a great version of Be My Baby. Sunday Morning, Ken Dashow’s Breakfast With The Beatles aired live from The Cavern, where Billy J. Kramer & his band, Dana Fuchs, and Garrett Gardner (NBC’s The Voice) all performed live.

Cousin Brucie gets the crowd going

The Cavern was a highlight of the New York Fest, a brand new second ballroom of live music that featured more than a dozen up and coming bands, DJs spinning Beatles songs, live painting, and more. Among the highlights: Garrett Gardner brought the house down, Michelle Joni premiered her tribute to Yoko Ono’s Bad Dancer and sang with Michelle My Pelle, acclaimed singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson graced the stage, and Mark Lewisohn joined Bambi Kino for some very early Beatles jams. Other artists included Dani Mari, The Ferocious Few, People At Parties, DJ Natasha Blank, Josh Max, Peculiar Gentlemen, Cheap Sneakers, Odetta Hartman, Rony’s Insomnia, and Nick Demeris. The Cavern went to 2 AM on Friday & Saturday nights for those who still had energy left, and ended with a Fest after-party Sunday featuring Reserved For Rondee, who blew the crowd away with their unique style.
The new events at the Fest proved to be very popular. The Ashram, a mind-body-Beatles experience, featured yoga, guest lecturer (Dear) Prudence Farrow, sound healing, talks on modern spirituality inspired by George Harrison, Deco’s poetry jam, and more. The Modern Drummer Drum Symposium was packed, and featured Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel), Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge), Aaron Comess (Spin Doctors), Steve Holley (Wings), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), and Shawn Pelton (SNL Sessions), world class drummers who paid tribute to Ringo Starr – the greatest drummer of them all. Also new this year were sold out New York City Beatles Walking Tours on Saturday & Sunday, and “We Can Write It Out” with Mark Hudson, where songs were created during each session.

Other highlights from the weekend were Photographers Bob Gruen, Allan Tannenbaum, and Rob Shanahan, and Artist Eric Cash showing their amazing exhibits, the incredible 40th anniversary Fest cake that was presented by Baked by Melissa on Saturday night, puppet shows and a parade led by Bob Abdou, a children’s concert by mr. RAY, two couples who got married the day of the Fest before coming to the Fest together for a “Beatlemoon,” Beatles trivia, “Yesterday and Today” winning the Battle of the Beatles Bands, Jeff Goldberg winning a trip to Las Vegas to see Beatles LOVE, and of course all of the late night jams throughout the hotel!

Shawn Pelton, Carmine Appice, Danny Seraphine, and Liberty Devitto pose at the Modern Dummer Symposium

We are currently gathering all of the pictures from The Fest. Many more pictures of all the guests and events will be shared in emails, on Facebook, and via in the coming days and weeks!
We’d like to give a special thank you to Q104.3 for being a wonderful presenting sponsor. The Touch Tunes Karaoke and the Nation-wide sing-along led by Ken Dashow in the Q104 Lounge were big hits. We’d also like to thank The Grand Hyatt, who did a terrific job hosting the Fest. Most of all, thank you to all the guests and fans who came to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in America and the 40th anniversary of the Fest for Beatles Fans with us. You all helped to make it the special event that it was. We look forward to Chicago and Los Angeles later this year and many more Fests to come!


39 Years Ago Today (9/7/1974) – First FEST

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…


Mark Lapidos Meets John Lennon 4/28/1974

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!


FEST Story, Part One – April 26, 1974

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!!!