Sunday, February 23, 2014

Beatles at the Omni

More and more photos and stories from the Beatles 50th anniversary come trickling in, which is fine with me!  (And I am sure it is fine with you as well.)   This photo was found here along with the  story.

To be the general manager of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in 1964 was to be at the epicenter of excitement. The Beatles were already a household name, but had not yet performed across the pond in the U.S. However, on February 11, 1964, the band was to have their first performance on American soil and they were going to be resting their heads at the Omni Shoreham Hotel

Phil Hollywood, the general manager of the hotel from 1958-1975, remembers quite well the excitement and chaos surrounding the event. He recalls that the band stayed in room 625 (now a Presidential Suite), with guards lining the entire sixth floor. Hollywood arranged for The Beatles to use the freight elevators to enter the hotel to avoid the thousands of screaming women desperately hoping they could catch a glimpse of the sensational British pop stars. Hollywood also remembers that John Lennon jotted down the playlist of 12 songs on hotel stationary – a copy of which still remains in the hotel’s lobby today.

Jill Flynn, current director of sales and marketing at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, recently sat down with Hollywood to learn more about The Beatles’ historical first visit, other famous guests and what it was like to be the hotel’s general manager during such an exciting time.

Tell me what you remember about The Beatles’ stay at the Omni Shoreham Hotel?
These fellows were so nice. They were here about four days. When they left, they left by bus, and by that time every kid in Washington knew they were here. Kids were crowding every exit so I got two limousines positioned out back with two motorcycle police officers to throw everyone off. I brought The Beatles through the kitchen, they waved to everyone. Then they came out through the Ambassador Ballroom, right out the french doors onto their bus. They said it was the best departure they ever had. When the bus left and I dismissed the limos, kids were left crying, I felt so bad.

Sounds like you did your job. Do you have any humorous or interesting stories from their visit?
Oh the hairdryer story. I went up to the suite and they needed a hair dryer. Those were the days men did not use hairdryers, they just combed their hair. So, I called Gerda (Gerda Baum worked in the food and beverage department at the hotel) and asked, “Gerda, you have a hair dryer don’t you? Do you want to make it famous?”

The Beatles weren’t the only famous band to stay at the hotel, were they?
The Rolling Stones were here shortly after that.

You obviously weren’t a stranger to high-profile guests. Who were some of your other visitors?
During the Kennedy funeral, we had 19 Heads of State here. I stayed up all night greeting Presidents and Emperors. I never went to bed that night.


  1. I wonder if Phil Hollywood really remembers John writing out the set list on the hotel stationery -- or if he THINKS he remembers it being done because he's now seen the original set list (which I've owned for nearly 20 years). It seems unlikely to me that he'd remember seeing John write it out and even unlikelier that he'd be inside the Beatles' hotel suite when John wrote it.

    1. Great question Mark. Over the years our minds sort of change what really happen. I wouldn't think he was right there hovering over John as he wrote it out. But you are right, he has seen it so many times that he now thinks he remembers seeing John write it out.

    2. To be fair to Phil Hollywood, it is the writer of the article who says that he "remembers" that John wrote the set list on hotel stationery. It does not say that Phil Hollywood claims he was there, watching it. Most probably Hollywood subsequently learned that the setlist was written on hotel stationery, and pointed it out to the reporter. In the interview, Mr. Hollywood does not make any mention of the setlist.

      Sometimes we must parse writers' words....this is how many a Beatle myth has begun!

  2. I love this story, but I think Phil Hollywood is confusing his Beatles visits. No one ever talks about the time they stayed their on the 1966 tour when they played DC stadium. They left by bus from the Shoreham during the 1966 tour, not during the first visit.