Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cunning, Guile and Pure Cheek

This story is found in the book "The Beatles in New Zealand" by Bruce Renwick.  It was reproduced from an article for the Evening Republican newspaper in Indiana as well as from a personal interview Bruce did with Steve.

Steve Bridges from Columbus, Indiana was in New Zealand for a year’s university study and was living in Christchurch at the time of the Beatles visit.  Steve, his sister and her teenage friend had been out to the airport to see the Beatles arrive and then returned to the Clarendon Hotel to catch another glimpse of them.

The girls suggested to Steve that he attend the press conference as he was a reporter of sorts, with article he sent back to the Evening Republican qualifying him as a newspaper man.  Their motives were not entirely selfless as they quite generously offered to be his stenographer and typist.

There was  a huge crowd outside the Clarendon Hotel but Steve tried to bluff his way in by telling one of the policemen on duty who he was and that he would like to attend the press conference, “Yeah, sure buddy you and everybody else.”  Was the reply, so Steve retreated back into the crowd.  It was about this time that Steve spotted the Editor of “Canta,” the University of Canterbury’s newspaper, whom he asked, “Have you got you press card I.D. on you?”  and “Could I borrow it for a short time?”  The editor reluctantly loaned his card to Steve after receiving an assurance of its quick return.  Now armed with the vital ingredients to get into the hotel Steve approached the police line once more and as luck would have it the policeman he’d encountered the first time had moved so with a flash of the press card he found himself in the lobby of the hotel.  He then rang Brian Epstein’s room and explained to Brian that he was a bit of an imposter but would very much like to attend the conference but also had to return the press card.  Brian said to Steve, “Return the card to your friend, but tell the policeman that you’ve forgotten your pen and you’ll be back in a minute and if you have any trouble, make a scene and demand to see me and I’ll get you back in.”

“Forgot my pen,” Steve told the policeman outside and within a minute or so he had returned the card and was back inside the hotel.  Now the butterflies in Steve’s stomach began to flutter as he entered the room set aside for the press conference.  Steve waited for everyone to be seated before he could see where there was an empty seat; there was one seat left right beside John.

Steve desperately thinking of something to say finally asked a rather intelligent soul searching question, “How are you?”  John was obviously impressed and replied “Fine” and noting that Steve had a notebook and a pencil spelling it out for him “That f-i-n-e.”

Later on, during the conference John leaned over and said to Steve, “
You are writing down more than anyone else but haven’t said a word.  Ask a question.”  After their earlier question and answer incident Steve thought it safer to write and listen rather than ask questions.

The Beatles were asked about the egg throwing to which Paul replied, “The eggs were very soft, they break quite nicely on contact.”  George said it was probably his Lordship the Mayor who had thrown them.

One reporter asked the inevitable question the Beatles must surely abhor, “What are your plans when Beatlemania wears off?” Paul quickly replied, “John and I will write songs, George will open a bookie joint and Ringo will become a hairdresser.”  John in a more philosophical vein added, “We don’t worry about that, easy come easy go.”

Throughout the conference background noise was proved by the crowd lining the street outside who chanted, sang and screamed.  A young reporter who frankly confessed he had never heard the Beatles music was only interested in their sociological and political implications, asked John if he felt at all remorseful for “all the injury to life and property for which you are responsible” John, a little perturbed, pointed outside and asked, “Do you see anything wrong with those kids out there enjoying themselves.  If they weren’t out there some of them would be somewhere else getting into trouble.”  After a few more rather offensive questions from the same reporter Ringo in a disinterested monotone said, “He must be one of the egg throwers.”

John and Paul were asked if they had written any songs while on this tour of Australia and N.Z.  John replied “We normally do write songs on the road but not on this road.”

John was then asked by a female reporter how he felt about people buying his book because he was a Beatle, to which John bluntly replied, “I don’t give a damn why they buy it.”  Indignantly she said, “But what about your artists’ integrity?”

“What artist’s integrity?  I couldn’t care less” was the reply.

This ended the open question and answer session.  Steve’s personal impression of the Beatles was that when they were faced by the media and were barraged by questions, the Beatles are not very impressive.  Their speech was slovenly at times and he felt done on purpose, some of their answers although intended to be humorous were often pathetically stupid.  Near the end of the interview Steve gained a different impression, he talked with John for a couple of minutes and then Ringo.  In those few minute’s Steve noticed two different fellows from those facing a press conference and the same questions for the umpteenth time.

Both were sincere and appeared quite normal – and perhaps half-way intelligent.

The conference was terminated when Derek Taylor, the Beatles press agent, informed everyone that the boys needed some rest.  Although two of them had sore throats it didn’t stop them from puffing on cigarettes and having a few bourbons during the session.

As Steve was about to leave John said to him, “Don’t you want a photo of you with us?”  and so a press photographer obliged with a group photo.

Steve walked out of the hotel to be greeted by Virginia and Barbara who unleashed a barrage of questions.  They didn’t give him a chance to answer so he let them hold the hand that had shaken John’s and Ringo’s and that seemed to calm them down.

The young lady that Steve was taking to the performance was a Ringo fan and after relating his experiences to her, especially talking with Ringo, Steve’s prestige with her went up considerably.

The two evening performances had been sold out for weeks before and the Beatles were only on stage for 25 minutes so at $14 a double for tickets it worked out at 27 cents a minute.  The rest of the performance was filled with other rock n roll artists and a comedian whose jokes were a little crude for a teenage audience.

Except for the constant screaming voice, jumping and swooning figures and two girls having a fight over which Beatles was the best it was a very calm and sedate audience.  Actually a little anti-climatic after the events earlier in the day, but did Steve enjoy himself?  Yeah, yeah yeah.

No comments:

Post a Comment