My first contact with the Beatles was in 1963 when I was still just 14.
My best schoolfriend Ginny and I used to go to lots of pop concerts together.
We also used to spend hours upon hours waiting outside stage doors in order
to collect autographs. When we heard that The Beatles would be playing at
the ABC cinema in Croydon we were one of the first in line buying tickets
and we managed to get front row seats. The Beatles were, however, not top
of the bill. The show starred two Americans, Chris Montez and Tommy Roe.
There was a cafe adjoining the cinema and whenever Ginny and I attended
one of the many pop concerts held at the cinema we would go into the cafe
(still known as a coffee bar in those days) and listen to music on the juke
box. We were avid autograph hunters but rarely saw and never expected to
see any pop stars of significance in the cafe. When the great day of the
Beatles concert arrived Ginny and I turned up at the cafe as usual. On entering
through the door I was absolutely blown over and surprised, for the cafe
was empty but for three people sitting at one of the tables…The Beatles!
(John was backstage with his wife, although none of us knew he was married
at the time). I was awestruck…I just lit up and exclaimed “It’s The Beatles!”.
Paul asked us to join them at the table. I could hardly believe that something
so amazing was actually happening..… that Paul McCartney of The Beatles
was asking me, a 14 year old schoolgirl besotted with The Beatles, to sit
with three of them at their table. The only thing that I could think of
was to ask them for their autographs.
I was so crazy about The Beatles that I really would have liked to have had their autographs a hundred times over. I got out sheets of lined paper and asked them if they could sign their autographs as many times as possible on the papers. Paul took the lead and the other two followed along gladly. George commented that it was like doing lines at school, but then added with pride that he was now signing his name! I told them that I wanted to give everyone in my class at school their autograph (which is what I did the following day). Then we heard that John had emerged from the stage door and so we had to rush over there to get his autograph as well. Collecting autographs was the most important thing and we were so excited. As we were rushing out of the cafe Paul called after us “Are you coming back?” I said “Yes” and rushed out. I failed to spot John myself but Ginny got me his autograph on a piece of paper (which I later stuck into my autograph book on the same page with the autographs of the other three Beatles, each of whom signed their names with three kisses. After I had missed John we returned to the cafe but The Beatles were gone. Ginny said to me “Did you see the way George was looking at you?”, but I was too excited to have noticed anything.
When I left school at 15 I had to find a job and so I wrote to The Beatles' press office in London asking if they had any vacancies. It was very easy to get jobs in those days. Tony Barrow, who was The Beatles press officer, contacted me and asked me to come in for an interview. He then gave me a job working in The Beatles fan club department of their press office in Monmouth Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue and very close to Denmark Street which was, and is, known as 'Tin Pan Alley'. The office had only been open for three months. Brian Epstein still had his headquarters in Liverpool and “Beatlemania”, as it later became known, had not fully taken off. I was the 'Beatle girl' that was there right from the start.
The NEMS company in Monmouth Street was on two floors. On the lower floor was Tony Barrow’s office. He was my direct employer and he was the spin doctor for The Beatles and some other of Brian Epstein’s artists. In the adjoining office was his very hard-working secretary, Jo Bergman. I noticed that she was always up to her ears typing away all day. She later confided in me that Barrow was lazy, and that all he did was drink coffee and socialise all day whilst she in the adjoining office did all the work. I worked on the floor above with Tina and Mary who were the joint fan club secretaries. Barrow, however, saw fit to use the fictitious names of Ann Collingham and Bettina Rose for these two girls. I was there to help them by opening letters from the sackfuls of fan mail that arrived for The Beatles each day and, after reading the letters, putting them in the appropriate pigeon-holes according to their contents. It must have been a bit like being a post office sorter! I was also the person who had to make endless cups of coffee on demand whenever anyone requested it.
Jacket - a later story . . . .
Lots of the guys who visited me either knew George personally or were Beatles hangers-on. Well, there was one guy who used to pop around to my flat from time to time. He used to turn up for a chat and then listen to some music for a while before leaving again. Then one day he turned up carrying with him a hippy style jacket which he said I could have. It was perfectly normal in those days for people to pass on a few items of clothing like this to each other and so I just accepted it. I wore it a few times but noticed that it was much too big for me. It also seemed to be rather dirty and I knew that this Indian-made jacket would fall to bits if it was washed. It also had tassels that were frayed, and some that had completely come away. As a result I felt that it was not really something that I could wear and that it was not even of a good enough quality for me to be able to pass it on to anyone else, and so I binned it.
The next time this guy turned up he asked me why I was not wearing the jacket. I told him that it was not fit for purpose and that I had binned it. He then went out of his mind with distress. He said to me “How could you have done that? It was something so special”. I told him that it was a piece of rag and I don’t know what he was making such a fuss about. I said that it was too big for me, that it was dirty and that even the tassels were torn away and and missing. He said that the missing tassels were what made it so special. It was unique. However he never told me it had belonged to George. Everything had to remain “Magical Mystery”. People were just playing games with me. I completely forgot about this incident until about forty years later when I discovered on the internet a picture of George wearing this jacket while posing at his house in Esher with his own blue-point Siamese cat!! I have since found other pictures of George as he was painting his house in Esher while wearing this jacket.
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