February 9

Bill Nemitz: Checking out Beatles ‘hype’ became magical history tour

A Saco man and his teenage friends got themselves into a prized position to see the Fab Four in 1964.

For most of us old enough to remember, the Beatles’ introduction to the United States 50 years ago this month begins and ends with Ed Sullivan and a grainy, black-and-white TV screen.

click image to enlarge

The Beatles, from left, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, are shown in their New York hotel after their arrival on Feb. 7, 1964. Nine days later, the Beatles made their second TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach.

1964 File Photo/The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Steve McManus, left, and Bob Saxon in 1965, a year after they saw the Beatles in Miami Beach.

Photo courtesy of Steve McManus

Not so for Steve McManus, 67, of Saco. He actually crashed the party.

“If you think it’s interesting enough, I’d be glad to fill you in with all of the details,” offered McManus in an email last week.

Do tell, Mr. McManus, do tell …

It was Feb. 16, 1964. One week to the day after the Beatles electrified the nation with their first performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in New York City, they were in Miami Beach for an encore appearance with Sullivan on a show to be broadcast live from the waterfront Deauville Hotel.

McManus was 17, a senior at Fort Lauderdale High School. He worked part time as a bagger at the local Publix Supermarket along with his best buddies, Bob Saxon and John Kreitner.

But on this particular Sunday, the three boys found themselves barreling 30 miles south to Miami Beach in a 1958 Chevy Impala, white with all-red interior, they’d borrowed from John’s sister.

Their mission?

“We just wanted to see what all this hype about the Beatles was all about,” said Steve.

They arrived just after noon. A dress rehearsal for the evening show was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and already, the line – almost all trembling teenage girls – stretched for several blocks south of the Deauville Hotel entrance on Collins Avenue.

The three boys waded through the crowd if only to soak in the spectacle for a while. Tickets to rehearsal, let alone the live TV performance that evening, were nowhere to be found.

That is until two older women, apparently there to see headliner Mitzi Gaynor perform, got tired of the hot sun and the mayhem and approached Steve, Bob and John.

“We’re leaving,” one of them announced. “Here, boys, do you want these two tickets?”

“So here we are, three guys with two tickets and we never even got to the point of trying to decide who was going to make the sacrifice and not go in,” recalled Steve. “We didn’t even know what the inside of the hotel looked like, but we couldn’t imagine that many people fitting inside there.”

Good call. Local merchants had handed out far more complimentary tickets than there were seats available in the Deauville’s Napoleon Ballroom, leading to a near-riot when police stopped letting people in as dress rehearsal time approached.

But back to the boys.

Heading north on Collins Avenue past the hotel entrance, they spied a service alley leading down to a basement-level set of gray doors. Doors which, upon taking a closer look, they discovered were unlocked.

“So we went right in and found ourselves in the kitchen,” Steve said. “John was in the lead, so we just followed him.”

No one in the bustling kitchen blinked an eye. (“Maybe they thought we were dishwashers or something,” said Steve.) Finally, the trio came to another door and walked out into a small subterranean shopping area with a small clothing store, a gift shop, a magazine shop and a uniformed Miami police officer at every stairwell, elevator and exit.

The place was in total lockdown.

Now what?

The boys lingered in the magazine store – each buying an 8-by-10 glossy, shot just the night before, of the hotel manager mugging with the Fab Four out by the hotel pool. They checked out the overpriced bathing suits. Almost an hour passed and, much to their pleasant surprise, nobody gave them the heave-ho.

(Continued on page 2)

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