Monday, September 10, 2012

On Seeing George

In 1972, the Apple Offices moved from the well-known building at Savile Row to St. James Street and the Bennett House.   The Savile Row location was still used as a studio until 1975, but all of the office work was moved to the Bennett House.   This is where our two fans were fortunate enough to meet George Harrison on one glorious summer day in 1973.   I found this story in the August 1978 issue of "The Harrison Alliance."  However, there is a note that says that it originally appeared in the August 1974 issue of "With A Little Help from my friends."  It was written by Kris Spackman and is a very sweet George story.    At times George really went the extra mile to make his fans happy. (In this case he went the extra three blocks).

Kris (center), Marla (right) and friend on Apple's stoop, St. James' Strett (Notice the Beatles red and blue posters in the windows!)

photo by Debbie Peterson
photo by Madeleine Schatz

On seeing George
By Kris Spackman

In everyone’s life, there are some very special moments on which to look back with the thought, “Did that truly happen to me?”  And you smile at remembering – experience the breathless excitement all over again. Feel the chills chase up and won your spine, your heart pounding in your ears.  One such special moment for me occurred on August 10, 1973, only six days after our arrival in England.  It was an experience which was so very personal and meant so much, I was almost hesitant to write about it.  But with a little encouragement from friends, I decided to share it with you.

So come along with me, to that Friday in August a hot sunny summer day with the skies clear and blue above the bustling London streets.  It is shortly after noon and the sidewalks and thronging with businessmen and secretaries, clerks and office boys, tourists and shoppers enjoying their lunch hour in the warmth of the sunny day.  Marla and I are approaching the “new” Apple in St. James’ Street where we are still unfamiliar with the comings and goings of Beatles in their daily routine.  Today, the tourists are invading the building and after watching them come and go, we become enterprising and join one such bunch.  After all, no one is going to come out and tell us anything!  In answer to our timid inquires, a very nice young secretary informs us that yes, indeed, Ringo is in and in a very befuddled state, we stumble outside and take up our positions on the corner step, trying to appear calm and collected, while the butterflies nearly fly from our stomachs!   Big Mal, who is indeed as husky as we’d already heard, and who is incongruously soft spoken.  Tony King appears and makes us giggle as he flounces up the street but he returns and sets our head spinning by conceding that George is also present.  “Not really…” we think “it couldn’t really…”  But many amazing things are to happen that afternoon.

It is almost impossible to sit still.  We are jumpy and nervous and the noonday sun beats down upon our heads os that we sweat even more.  When the two young Frenchmen approach, at the sound of their voices, we suddenly once more come back to earth.  “You are waiting for the Bea-tles?” one inquirers in broken English, and we eye him warily, wondering why he would want to know, until he adds, “We see George Harrison in the restaurant down the street!”  And as they take their leave, there follow moments of tortuous indecision.  What should we do?  Take a chance the walk down?  Could they have been serious?  Would they know him if they saw him?  What if he is?

And so we go, walking slowly in heat which rises in waves from the pavement, searching the faces of men passing by, looking back as Apple recedes into the distance.  It is three blocks to Le Pruniers, a cheerful looking establishment with sunny yellow curtains in all its windows.  Here we are and now what do we do?  We find our feet taking us inexorable toward the door.  And then suddenly the summer heat disappears and we are frozen to the spot when a long-haired lad in  mirrored Polaroid shades, which do little to conceal that thin face and those marvelous cheekbones, emerges…ALONE!  Marla says, “Worries are over…we recognize him!”

In a voice which seems to come from another person, I managed a clam, “Hello George, how are you?” and he stops, uncertainly.  He stops!  He is standing there inches away for real – all six feet (?) of him, which my spinning head takes in at a glance.  His hair is long and curly, the “permanent” growing out, he’s wearing a tan jacket and shoes and blue jeans.  “It can’t be, it can’t be,” the voice inside me insists, but we are walking toward him, and he moves to meet us, picking the shades off his nose and resettling them in the cutest of gestures.  He’s smiling and God knows, we are probably grinning like idiots, struggling to maintain a calm on the outside we are far from feeling on the inside.  The very first time should be a quick glimpse of a figure on his way to the car!  But no- here he is – here we are – on a busy London street three blocks from Apple, and George is saying,  “Do you want to walk me up the street?”  Does he have to ask?!  Marla says “Yeah, sure! We have nothing else to do!”  Good ol’ Marla!!

Somehow, we get our feet to move; somehow we manage to converse like normal human beings and Mr. Harrison chats away with us as though he had known us all his life.  He is friendly, very kind, very interested in what we have to say or in making us feel that way.  I am listening to the beautiful music of a voice I know so well, feeling as if it is the most natural thing in the world to be strolling up the street beside him and praying that the moment lasts forever.

For three whole blocks we talk.  Twice he asks if we are from the States, and twice we tell him yes, from Cleveland.  The second time he teases, “Oh, you’re in the sticks!”  He asks if we are on vacation (not holiday), and we tell him we’ll be there for two or three months, that some friends are coming in October.  “Have you seen ‘swingin’ Carnaby Street’ and Buckingham Palace?” he inquires, and we explain we’ve only been here a few days, (but not that the time’s been spend on the lookout for him and his friends!).  He says we should go to California, that he loves it there.  Then, says George, “How old are you?” and we tell him.  The conversation wanders.  He asks where we are staying and at our reply of “Willesden,” he remarks brightly, “oh, out with all our Indian friends!” Thanks George!  “Everyone’s out there.” Marla adds, for she has found herself a Jewish second hand store.  We tell him we have a flat and seek his kindly advice as to whether or not we are getting ripped off for £14 a week(we were!).  Assures millionaire George, “Fourteen quid a week out there isn’t expensive!”  I miss his answer and ask, “Is or isn’t?”  George “Isn’t!”   I am reassured for he adds that living anywhere is expensive nowadays.  He wants to know how many of us are there, at the discovery it is just the two of us, demands, “What?  No boys?” and promises to send some along for us!

I look up.  Apple is suddenly very close.  Time is suddenly too short.  I tell him the new offices are really nice and he replies that they are only temporary.  Marla pertly inquires, “Why?”  He explains that the offices on Savile Row are all torn up.  We should go and have a look at them.  We are standing across the street from Apple, and Marla and I are so engrossed in him, so oblivious to everything else, that twice we start into the street and almost get killed by cars zapping around the corner.  If he’s noticed, he doesn’t let on.  Yes, very nice indeed!

Suddenly we are at the door.  And I know it’s almost over.  This once-in-a-lifetime stroke of genuine luck brought about by some God-knows-what hand of fate is at an end.  I tell him to have a nice day, and he smiles and waves on his way in.

My knees begin to wobble dangerously and we make it only half a dozen yards further up the street before we collapse.  We are dazed, shaken, hanging onto each other in a state of disbelief.  But it wasn’t a dream for once.  And I am glowing inside and out from happiness, from knowing he is such an incredible person.  I feel so much, so much that there are no words for.

We compose ourselves and return to the corner to wait.  It is still a sunny blue-skies day, the sidewalks are still full of tourists, Londoners, children, but they are all a blur.  At the moment there is only one person we are concerned about.

Shortly after, to our dismay, a group of “fans” turns up.  And to our further dismay, they are still there when George, with Mal, once more emerges.  “Oh God!” I think as the “fans” begin to squeal and chase him with their cameras and he literally flees from them.  From where we are standing, he must pass us by and he looks at us, a bit chagrined  Marla calls out to him, “By the way, the album’s great!” and he nods, with the famous half-smile!  The “fans” pursue him clear to Mal’s car, while we watch in disgust, thinking what a waste, but he waves in response to the lift of my hand.
And then he’s gone.  We will see him again on a number of occasions during our stay, but nothing, not to this day perhaps ever will top this day.  Those three blocks.  He is incredibly easy to talk to.  So kind.  The nicest person I have ever met.  I look back on it almost as a dream sometimes, but a dream that came true.

Later that evening, we see dear sweet Ringo for the first time as well, and experience that solemn-faced nod- the prelude to many.  With Ringo, the “fans” are still there with their cameras, along with some of the Apple “regulars” who totally ignored us.  But after our incredible day, we are too happy to care!

Though I know that for me, no other experience will top this, after such a perfect star to what will be a perfect trip, we know Lady Luck is travelling with us.  There are only good things to come.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely reminiscence. Thanks for sharing it and evoking those times.