Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dream jobs at the Beatles secret HQ

There are a few things in Beatles-dom that remain a mystery to me.   The two biggies that I am forever trying to learn more about are the Apple Scruffs and the Beatles fan club.    Since I am snowed in, I decided to look through my old magazines that I have stored away and so I dug out Datebook from the summer of 1965.  Inside I found a charming article about two girls named Susan and Pam who worked at the Beatles Fan Club Headquarters in New York.   As I read the article, I found myself wishing I could have gone back and worked with them.  They just seemed like they had so much fun working for the Beatles Fan Club.

Then I recalled something I had posted on this blog quite  a while ago about a fab club worker who was was auctioning off some personal Beatles items.  Sure enough, it is the Susan from this Datebook story!   She even mentions in her story that I posted originally that she was written about in Datebook.   The whole thing is found here.     In the comments it was decided that her autographs were not authentic.   They were signed by Neil Aspinall and a UK secretary.   However, the card was written by Brian.    

Dream Jobs at the Beatles HQ
By Laurie Brandel
Summer 1965 Datebook magazine

I visited the secret headquarters of the official Beatles fan club.   Right in the middle of Manhattan, on the fifth floor of a deceptively ordinary building, hidden behind the reception desk of an office which does not even bear its name, I found the bustling center of activity for millions of American Beatles enthusiasts.  And working away in the midst of all this exciting activity were two 17 year olds fortunate enough to hold what most American teenagers would consider the dream teen job of the decade—assistant to Lynn Hargrave president of the Beatles Fan Club.

I met them.  I chatted with them.  And they turned out to be pretty, bright, marvelously kookie 17 year old olds.  Blonde, 5 foot 8 Susan Friedman is a senior at Martin Van Buren H.S. in the borough of Queen New York.  Brown-haired 5 foot 4 Pamela Barlow is a senior at Francis Lewis H.S., also in Queens.  Both girls study dance at the June Taylor School of Dance in preparation for what they hope will be careers in the theatre.  But not until after they graduate this year and work full time for a while in the Beatles organization.  Since September they’ve worked 1:30 to 5:30 pm after school and all day on Saturdays.

“How did you two get these dream jobs?” I asked the girls.

“Well,” Susan began, “do you want the truth?”  I nodded and both girls giggled.

“It was really sort of simple,” Pam chimed in.  “We’d gotten tickets to the benefit performance of the Beatles at the Paramount last time they were here.  Then we heard about a cocktail party being given for them after the concert.  We wanted to come.”   

“Pam’s father knows somebody out there,” Sue pointed to the other offices served by the reception desk, “so we learned about this secret place.  We decided to come here and see what we could maneuver.  When we found Lynn Hargrave, she was so surprised to see us that she showed us around the offices.  We talked for a while and both of us at one point exclaimed, “Gee, wouldn’t it  be great to work here!”  Lynn looked at us strangely then smiled and said, “Fine.  You’ve got jobs, them.”
“We never got to the cocktail party, of course” Pamela broke in, “But that was all right because the Beatles never got there either.”

“We got something much more important,” Sue smiled.  She fingered a shiny disk which hung around her neck on a gold chain.  Pam swung hers in a circle jokingly, too.

“What are those?”  I rose to the bait.

“Nothing really, “Pam said coolly.  I looked.  They were gold circles on which were engraved the following words, “To Pamela (Susan), with luv, from Brian and the Beatles.”  Both girls now wear these Christmas gifts around their necks at all times. 

 However, neither of the girls has yet met the Beatles personally.  Both admit they “just can’t wait” until the Beatles come back again in August.  Before the jobs the girls had been fans of the Beatles, although they do not claim to have been the most enthusiastic fans.

Said Pam, “I’d never even been to an airport –which is more than some people can say,” She looked over at Susan who made a sign of mock protest.  The girls had been good friends before the job and remain so now.

Which of the Beatles do they favor?  The girls looked at each other.  “Well…” Pam began.  “Really….all of them….” Susan continued.  “After all…you know…we do work for all of them…”   “Of course, we can’t deny a special feeling for Paul and George…”  Pam admitted.   “You realize that those two are the unmarried ones!” Susan explained, her eyes sparkling mischievously.

The Beatles know of the existence of the girls through Brian Epstein who met Pam and Sue when he was in New York.

NEMS publicity chief, Tony Barrow had a very exciting introduction to the girls when he first arrived at the secret headquarters.

Pam was walking through the reception area, saw the rather nice looking English gentleman and decided to play one of her practical jokes.  

“You over there,” she commanded, “put your hands up, all the way up over your head.”  He obeyed, puzzled.  “Higher…higher…okay, now, sweetie, I want you to spell the word URGE and say the word BULB after it”  

Hesitantly, tony did as he was ordered, then laughed when he realized that Pam was putting him on and that he was the victim of an office kook.  Pam laughed nervously too, when he introduced himself as one of her bosses!

Fan club head Lynn Hargrave broke into our conversation at this point.  “You must realize, Laurie,” she said, “these girls are quite insane.”  “I realize, I realize,” I said.

“The Beatles will be arriving on August 13,” Lynn continued slyly, “and I’m planning to fire these two on August 12.”  She smiled when she said it.

Sue and Pam slid to their knees, “Please…please master,” they mockingly begged, “spare us!  You wouldn’t!”  Then they giggled hysterically.  Lynn shook her head and looked at me in resignation, then went about her work while the girls continued chatting. 

“We’ve met such marvelous people here,” Pam said.  Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Brian Epstein, Tony Barrow and so many others.  It’s made a great difference in my attitude.  I have never felt more confident in my long life.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” Pam continued, “no matter what goes wrong, I always feel sort of ... like…well…at least I can say that I work for the Beatles, which is more than anybody else can say…except her,” she pointed at Sue.

“What sort of job skills do you have?” I asked.

Both girls can type although Pam admitted, “When I first came here I couldn’t’ type very well…but I improved, didn’t I Sue?”  Sue shook her head at me and smiled secretly.

I asked what they had learned about teenagers from their constant contact with them through the mails.  

“They’re all basically the same,” said Sue.  “no matter where they come from.  The letters all seem to ask for the same things in just about the same way.”  

“After all,” Pam broke in, “they have one very important thing in common – love for the Beatles!”
“It’s not just a childish thing either,” Sue said, “I mean that more and more of the kids in the club are collecting money for charities by washing cars, cake sales, variety shows.”  

“Yes,” went on Pam, “since October it seems to me that there’s been a big change in the character of the fans writing in.  They’re not so involved in just hollering anymore.  They’re more involved in community activities and other responsible things.”  

“How old are the members of the fan club?  “Well,” said Sue, “I guess the youngest is a girl of 1 ½.  And the oldest is an ice old gentleman of 74.  I’d say about 10% are boys.  But each day’s mail seems to vary.  One day I’ll say to Pam, “Look, they’re getting older – here’s a whole batch of married ladies.  But the next day, there’ll be a whole batch of 15 year olds.  So you can’t really tell.”

The girls, Lynn and myself then spent some time seriously discussing the fan club and its workings.  I thought you might like to know some of the following facts.  First of all, the proper address for the club is Beatles Fan Club, Box 505, Radio City Station, New York, N.Y. 10019

What happens there to your Beatles mail?  After being picked up at the post office, it is taken to a mailing service which opens it, sorts it, send out membership forms and processes memberships of those who send in their $2 fees.  All other mail is then forwarded to the Beatles headquarters.  This includes personal communication to the Beatles, requests to form chapters, request for pictures, scripts of “A Hard Day’s Night” ($1) and for fact sheets, requests to form Brain Epstein fan clubs, for information on tickets, for pen pals (send name, age, interests), correspondence with chapter presidents, general complaints and requests for information.  All personal mail and gifts addressed to the Beatles are processed through this office.  Mail addressed to England is also returned to this office for processing. 

During the lulls between Beatle appearances in this country, about 6,000 letters per week are processed.  When the Beatles are around this figure more than triples.

What are the club’s major problems?  First –the impatience of teenagers.  The girls who write in don’t seem to realize that there is such a great volume of mail.  Since each piece is read and processed carefully, there is usually a time gap of about six weeks between receipt and final disposition.  Letters which inquire about previous letters simply increase the volume of mail and slow the whole process down even further. 

Also, many girls forget to send in their changes of address in time – or don’t include their addresses in the body of the letter.  Addresses on separate sheets of the paper or on the outsides of the envelope are apt to get lost.

Beatles fans have sent thousands of gifts to the fab four.  Included have been rings for Ringo (including one huge rattle ring, six inches in diameter), sculptures and drawings, four-leaf clovers, used barrettes, guitar picks, lockets, ID bracelets, watches, wedding bands, class rings, tie clasps, diapers, towels and pillow cases (for Ringo and Maureen), shirts, sweaters, scrapbooks, Playboy Club keys, hair oil, combs, etc etc.

One girl, whose name is Sandra Williams, recently sent four portfolios of excellent drawings and poems without putting her address on the material.  So there they lie at Beatles headquarters, beautiful but anonymous.

“What do you girls hope for when the Beatles arrive?”  I asked.  “Are you hoping to get to know them personally?”  

“Are you kidding!”  Pam and Sue chorused.  “Of course we hope to get to know them!”  “We just hope that aside from seeing them here at the office,” Pam said, “we’ll be able to talk with all of them and show them what the average American teenager is really like.”

“And we’d like to be casual,” Susan continued.  “Get to know them like human beings rather than just celebrities.”

“Is there any chance f their dream coming true?”   I asked Lynn.

“Who knows?”  She smiled.  “Ringo now, all such plans are secret.  Of course, if we fire these kooks before the Beatles ever arrive…”

The girls chuckled and I could tell that it was a good relationship they had with Lynn.  I knew they’d still be there when August 13 rolls around, working at their teen dream jobs.

“Sometimes,” Pam said, “when somebody asks me where I work and I tell them, power!  They just can’t believe it.”

“Sometimes,” Sue said, “We can’t even believe it ourselves.”

1 comment:

  1. Great, thanks yet again, Sara, wow. I love how no one ever wants to choose a favorite Beatle!! And of course, how could they?!!

    Beautiful and amazing....I never even knew there was a secret New York headquarters!!!