Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tess's Beatles Encounters

I have been busy typing tonight!   Tess Basta has some wonderful stories of the times she met 3/4 of the Beatles.  These stories come from the April 1982 issue of "With a Little Help from my Friends."  I love the image of an elevator opening up and George Harrison standing inside.   And I also like reading about seeing Paul in New York during the recording of RAM.    We see so many photos from that time that fans have taken, but very few stories have surfaced.

Paul and Linda in NYC November 1970.  Photo:  Linda Aiello
Paul in NYC April 1977.  Photo:  Tess Basta

Ringo in London August 1973 Photo:  Tess Basta

Beatle Encounters
By Tess Basta

The first encounter with George was with my friend Linda in the elevator.  This was in January 1972, the year Linda and I were graduating from high school, and we had begun to get a head start.  This was at the time the Apple (ABBACO) Office was at 1700 Broadway.  So, naturally one day we decided to go up to Apple just for fun and fill out a job application, why not?!  Apple occupied I believe the 40th and 41st floors.  The 41st floor was the executive office.  Well, we get to the 41st floor and there is a big reception area (the receptionist was May Pang, by the way, and she was very polite and friendly).   We told her we were looking for jobs and wanted to fill out resumes and she said sure, gave them to us, and told us to sit down on the chairs and fill them out.    Needless to say, Linda and I filled these forms out so slow.  The longer we could stay there the better.  You never know who might decide to show up!  Well, no one showed up and we gave the forms back and left, saying to each other, “Why didn’t we have any luck on having one of THEM walk in.”

We decided that since we were already in the building we would stop on each floor, see what type of company was there, and fill out a job application.  I believe we were on the 38th floor and had just filled out forms with the company on that floor – don’t remember what company it was.  Linda and I called for the down elevator and were standing there discussing which company to see next.  An elevator stopped and we missed it as we were too busy talking and had to call for it again.  Keep in mind that there is a bank of four elevators in this building.  The elevator we missed was the last one on the left and we were standing dead center in the hallway. 

Anyway, the next door elevator to come was the one that was directly in front of us.  The door opens and it’s GEORGE inside!  It was just him and he was with another man who Linda and I refer to as “the headless man” as to this day we can’t remember this other person.  We could just slightly remember by the clothes of this other person that it was somebody who was much, much older.  It could have been Allen Klein for all we knew as we didn’t see this guy at all.  When that elevator door opened and produced George, Linda and I almost passed out.  All things considered, we behaved like normal people considering we were getting into an elevator containing George Harrison!  The most priceless thing of this incident was the look on George’s face when the door opened and he saw Linda and me.  Linda and I have this look imprinted on our brains as it was amazing.  It was something on the order of panic and fear as his eyes opened so wide they almost jumped off his face!  

We immediately calmed his fears, as after seeing that look on his face we didn’t want him to worry.  After all, Linda and I were dressed as we were looking for jobs and it probably just looked like we were office workers in the building.  We walked into the elevator and we both said, “Hi George, how are you?”  He said, “I’m fine, thank you, how are you?”  “Fine,” we say.  Now Linda and I went into our act and Linda says to me, “Tess, what floor are we supposed to go to?”  I say I’m not sure and then Linda says, “I believe it is the 30th floor.” So Linda presses the 30th floor button.  George, by the way, is leaning against the side wall of the elevator right next to the buttons for the floors.  Linda and I were really cool and calm.  Linda did most of the talking as I usually go mute at times like this.  Thank God she does talk, one of us had to!  We were just standing there though, before the questions, and George was looking at us wondering why we weren’t tormenting him.  He had that look on his face!  Linda finally said that she enjoyed the Bangladesh concert and he said that he was glad that we liked it.  She then asked him if we could have his autograph and he said that we would be getting off the elevator soon and that we would miss our stop.   (Is this man for real?  Does he think we are going to get off the elevator with him in it!!!!)  We said that’s okay, we’ll get to the floor later.  He did give us each an autograph and by that time we were approaching the lobby.  When the door opened, he let us out first and said, “Bye girls, it was nice to meet you, have a good day.”  We said the same to him and thanked him again.  

Needless to say, we were out of commission for the rest of the day.  There was no way we would be able to job hunt further.  We walked out of the building (he took a back exit near the elevators) and let out all the screams we couldn’t release before.  People were looking at us like we were crazy and went straight to the subway to go home.  I have to say that George was VERY pleasant and smiled as he talked to us.  I’m sure a great deal of it was relief and it paid off that Linda and I had remained calm.  This was the first time I had ever been in an elevator and wished it would have gotten stuck!  The other thing that was very lucky for us was that the elevator didn’t make another stop all the way down, so it was good that no one else got into the elevator. 

After my elevator encounter, I saw George twice when I went to England in August 1973.  I saw him at the Apple offices at St. James Street.  He arrived with Mal Evans.  Mal parked the car around the corner and they both came walking around to the front entrance of Apple.  George was smiling and saying hello to everyone, but he did not stop and talk.   He seemed to take great delight in seeing everyone waiting out there and looked very happy.  There were about six other people standing there.  Then, obviously, I saw him and Mal leave and again he didn’t stop but was still all smiles and now saying goodbye to everyone.  They of course got back in the car and drove away.  I had my camera this time but this was the year I bought my new 35mm camera and it was very hard to focus while George was constantly on the move.  I did get two shots when he stopped by the car to get into it but they are not very close up.  If I had any brains I would have stopped closer to the car to take the pics but dummy me stops not even half way there.

Next Beatle on the agenda is Ringo.  I saw him about four times when I was in England at the Apple Offices as I mentioned above.  He was not particularly friendly.  I remember my friend Linda asked him once when his new album (Ringo) was due out and he had said September, but other than that it wasn’t very inspiring.   He always had this very unfriendly look on hs face and it seemed best not to approach him.  As usual there is always a handful of people standing in front of Apple.  I saw Ringo go in and out the same day I saw George.  I took some photos of him and have some halfway decent ones.

The first time I ever saw Paul was in November 1970 when he was in New York recording his album “Ram” at CBS Studios.  To say that I was beside myself is the understatement of the year.  It happened quite a few years ago and my mind is very vague about details.  I know I went there a couple of days.  One day (the first time I saw him) I saw him three times.  When I arrived he was already there.  There were a lot of people there every day and I was told – which I found out myself – that he is usually in a vicious mood.  This was his bad period.  I saw him come out for lunch with Linda and I was in heaven!  To finally see him in the flesh was too much.  Believe it or not he decided to stop right outside the doorway and let people take pictures of him but he wasn’t too thrilled about it.  And believe it or not my camera decided not to work!  When he left to go to lunch, he and Linda simply walked up the block and people were following him up to the corner but didn’t dare follow him any further. 

After semi-composing myself he came back and 1 ½ hour later.  All of a sudden people looking and noticed him bopping down the block from the same direction that he’d left in.  He simply walked in and that was that.  Afterwards I saw him leave for the day – around 6pm.  As a joke, everyone decided that when he came out to leave we would all be quite and not even flash photos of him.  Sure enough, around 6pm a cab pulled up and he comes walking out and no one does a thing.  Total silence.  It took a lot of will power not to want to take his pic or even say goodbye or anything for that matter.  But you should have seen the look on his face as he walked to the cab!  And when he got into the cab he turned around to look at all of us and we still weren’t doing anything.  He had such a perplexed look on his face!  My next encounter with him at this time was a couple days later.  We cut school and went down there in the morning.  We got there about 9am and no one was there.  We couldn’t figure this out.  We found out later that he absolutely, positively does not want to see anyone there in the morning and he scared them enough that no one went.

We were standing there saying how great it was that we were the only ones there.  Finally, he pulls up in a cab with Linda and Mary and Heather.  Both of us standing in front of the entrance and he is paying the driver and scowling at us from inside the cab.  Everyone gets out and he stops directly in front of us- only 3 feet away.  We say good morning to him and not only does he not say good morning, he says absolutely nothing but continues to stare at us and mean really looking at us.  We were a little uneasy and my friend Linda finally asks him if we can take a picture and he says “not in the morning” and leaves it at that and walks in.  Linda and I found out afterward that we were very lucky as there were a few bad incidents with girls there in the morning.  Then we knew why he was staring at us the way he was.  He was looking to see if he recognized us.  If he had previously warned us not to be there at that time of day.  Obviously realizing we did not know, he did not go into a tirade.  In spite of the fact that most of the time he was in a miserable mood, Linda and I were glad he didn’t decide to randomly abuse us that morning considering we were innocent.  It showed us that his good nature was still intact under all the hostility apparent at that period of time. 

I didn’t see Paul again until May of 1976.  When I had gone to England a few years previously, he had just left prior to our arrival.  We knew he was not around as we went to his house in St. John’s Wood.  Later on we knew that he had left for Africa.  But I did see him in concert, but concerts, in fact, at Madison Square Garden.

Naturally, while Paul was doing his concert in New York, we made a few visits to the Stanhope Hotel.  We only managed to catch him once but you should have seen the crowd hanging out over there every day.  When there are crowds that size you know not too much personal contact is going to happen.  Anyway, the day we saw him there must have been close to 50 people outside the hotel.  We were there for a few hours and he came out of the side entrance of the hotel as for sure he was definitely aware of the size of the crowd.  Sometimes he does strange things because his plan was to walk out of the side entrance and walk down the block to Madison Avenue where there was a limo waiting. How he thought no one would notice him come out the side with all those people there is beyond me.  Obviously, he was noticed as soon as he came out the door and naturally the whole gang followed him down the block. He was pleasant but I’m sure he was slightly petrified and couldn’t wait to get to the limo.  He kept walking and was signing autographs at the same time but made sure he didn’t lose his stride.  He would have been better off just leaving the front entrance of the hotel as he would only have to walk a few feet to the car, but of course, Paul usually has a knack for doing things backwards.  Where was I in all this?  I was keeping pace right behind him and a couple times had my hand on his back!  My friend Linda was practically right next to him and at one point a guy grabbed Paul by the arm and my friend Linda screamed to the guy, “Leave him alone!”  In the process of saying this she didn’t realize that she screamed right into Paul’s ear and he turned to look and her and said in a real soft voice, “Hush now.”  And seemed to realize that she was protecting him.  Linda managed to get his autograph in all this mess but try as I might I couldn’t’ magazine to get my paper to him.  I had to wait another year to get Paul’s autograph. 

My friend Linda and I saw Paul again on April 30, 1977.  I remember the date as it was Linda’s birthday.  On a hunch we found out that he was visiting New York and we went that morning to the Stanhope.  We got there about 9:30a.m. and were not there for 20 minutes when he and the family came out.  When we got there, there were about six other people in front and they told us that Paul should be out very soon as the limo was there for him and they just brought out all the luggage a few minutes ago.  He was leaving this very day.  Linda and I were very, very lucky.  A half hour or so and we would have missed him by only a few minutes.  It goes to show you that if you are meant to see any of them it will happen whether you realize it or not.  This encounter turned out to be the best of all and Paul came out in a great mood.  As he came out he said hello to everyone and he seemed to recognize a few people there as he called one girl by name and asked how she was doing.  My friend, Linda, walked up to Paul as he was coming out and told him that it was her birthday today and he of course said, “Well Happy Birthday!” and Linda said “how about a kiss?”  and she leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.  I joked with Linda afterward and said, “it was a little backward that you kissed him on your birthday – it should be the other way around!”

Meanwhile, Paul put everyone in the car including Linda and stayed outside and talked for a while.  I of course was in my usual comatose state but managed to squeak out and ask him for his autograph which he gave me and I proceeded to mumble a thank you.  I took a few photos and managed to get a couple of halfway decent ones.  I’ve since discovered that when I’m in their presence my hands shake a great deal and mind doesn’t seem to work properly which is why I think I always have bad luck with Beatles and cameras!  After I got my autograph I did something I can’t believe I did.  I simply was standing there looking at him while everyone was talking to him and I suddenly got the urge to kiss him on the cheek.  Not only did I surprise myself but surprised Paul at the same time!  I must have looked like something coming out of left field at him and in the process of kissing him quickly on the check, proceeded to knock him in the face with my eyeglasses!

He pulled back and looked at me and had this tremendous smile on his face at which pint he said, “That’s all Tom Jones stuff!” My friend Linda even managed to have taken a picture which just shows a slight part of my face and shows Paul looking down at me and smiling.  She didn’t realize it at the time but we saw it after the photos were developed.  Anyway, he got into the car and left but it was a wonderful encounter!  As it was a little after 10am at this point we decided to go to the Dakota for a while but did not catch John much to our dismay.  We thought maybe we could have made it a doubleheader!  A funny aside to this story is that I kept asking Linda what she wanted for her birthday and as a joke she would say, “Paul McCartney.”  I said, “Sure I’ll work on it right away.”  And it turned out to be true!


  1. Whoah! That's some typing job!!!! I'm at work, I'm-a-copying to a document so I can read it at home (as usual). I can't wait!

    One Beatle would be enough, imagine meeting THREE!

    I was just listening to Vertical Man (and not liking it! Sorry Ring!) and thinking, I'm going to write a song for Ringo! So wish me luck!

    I keep a word document for questions to ask Macca if I ever get to interview him (which I definitely will not!). I guess I can submit them now on his website, if he would answer a question I asked, that would be close enough for me!

    Thanks for the herculean typing effort, Sara, I LOVE these stories.

  2. Ok, read it last night! Wow!

    1.) I KNEW Ringo was going to be grumpy! Love Ringo, but his reputation as “the nice Beatle” is way overrated. Even in the Beatle press conferences, he could be the most snotty.
    2.) So funny that she never met the Beatle who actually DID live in NYC!!!
    3.) Wow, maybe I’m wrong, this would be THE site to research it out, but there’s not a lot of stories of Paul being “vicious” is there? I’m happy she finally had a great experience in 1977. Though who has “a hunch” that Paul just happens to be in town…and then finds out that he is! (how the hell does THAT happen?!!!)
    4.) The George story is hilarious. I’m happy he was polite. Even though he probably grumbled as soon as they were outside of the elevator! My favorite part of the story is the part where they call whoever George was with “the headless man”! Hilarious! And I have to compliment them on their composure and just start talking!
    Back to Paul, my favorite part of that story has to be when they decide not to notice him! Hilarious!

    (also, I'm so embarrassed by my comment, above, from yesterday! I was at work, and was rushing to type, and not making alot of sense!