Friday, February 21, 2014

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the road

Before there was the Beatles Love in Las Vegas, there was another Beatles music extravaganza that was sanctioned by Lennon and McCartney (but not by Harrison or Starkey) called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road."    It played on Broadway for about 6 weeks at the Beacon theater.    It had very mixed reviews.  It seemed that people either loved it or hated it.   Mostly it seems that everyone loved the music and the performers, but the story line and the strange costuming is what was disliked. 

I am a big fan of Broadway musicals and I especially love the era of the "Rock Opera" and the boom of new musicals that hit the stage in the early 1970's, so this store of one of the original Broadway starring actors of the Sgt. Pepper play, B.G. Gibson was very interesting to me.     

There were several things that stood out in this piece:   I had no idea that Yoko Ono was at the premier of the musical the same night that John and May were there,  the club that the after party was held was the Hippopotamus and not the Rhinoceros, the mental image of O.J. Simpson and Ben Veereen dancing is almost too much for me to take, I didn't realize that Peter Brown was so heavily involved with this musical.

This article comes from the Autumn 1994 issue of the Good Day Sunshine fanzine.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road
(How a Beatle fan made it to Broadway on a Beatles Show!)
By B.G. Gibson

It was June of 1973 when I finished seven months of touring in the concert version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Toronto, Canada.  Having performed in the show on Broadway for the better part of a year prior to the tour, I was anxious for a new musical experience.  Fortunately for those in New York who were part of the rock musical theater/ concert scene in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s there were ample opportunities for employment.  “Jesus Christ Superstar” had firmly established the legitimacy of the rock opera on Broadway, more and more heavy rock groups were booking engagements at theatres and traditional venues like Carnegie Hall and contemporary musical works were being written specifically to those ends.

After a short period of rest and relaxation in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, I began making the rounds in New York City, reading the trade papers and making contacts to decide what my next audition might be.   I heard of an audition that would be held for an upcoming rock spectacular based on the music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  There was no question that that was the job I wanted.  I was a Beatles fanatic and had all their records and knew all their music backwards and forwards.  I couldn’t bear the thought that I could miss out on this once in a lifetime dream opportunity!

Well, I got my music ready and when audition day rolled around I hopped on the New York express train from Trenton ready to rock!  As I recall. There were quite a few singers at the audition (which I was used to by that time, but still not too happy about) and by the end of the day no one had heard anything definite about the casting of the show.  All I did learn was that the show was to be in the rock opera format comprised of Lennon/McCartney compositions from the Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums.  So, in essence, my excitement peaked by my anxiety deepened.  As it turned out, callback auditions were scheduled and throughout the summer of 1973 the process of casting the Beatles spectacular continued until finally, in late August, I received word that I had been cast and that further details would be forthcoming!

To say that I was euphoric would have been a major understatement.  However, my euphoria was short lived.  Repeated calls to producer Robert Stigwood’s office in New York proved fruitless.  Either I couldn’t get through to someone “in the know”, or my calls were unreturned.  After what seemed like years of waiting.  I received a call from Peter Brown, president of the Stigwood Organization American Operations, who told me that due to unforeseen and continued litigation concerning rights and royalties, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road” would be delayed indefinitely.  He said that all cast members would be notified as soon as the production schedule and rehearsal dates were firmed up.  What a roller coaster ride this had become in such a short time!  All things considered, except for periodic contacts with the Stigwood office, the future of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road” was a mystery to me.  All I kept hearing was “Negotiations are still going on.  We’ll let you know when we know something definite.”  Or “Nothing new to report at this end, give us a ring in a couple of weeks.”  Meanwhile, I had used up a complete unemployment claim and had performed in two separate bus and truck tours of “Jesus Christ Superstar” all the while hoping to hear something definite and positive about “Sgt. Pepper.”  Rumors were always flying about what was happening with the show and it was beginning to be quite confusing, frustrating, and depressing.

In late September of 1974, I got a call from Richard “Cy” Denton, stage member of the “Pepper Company”, a little more than a year since my first audition for the show.  I was told that rehearsals would be starting in early October.  Specific details would follow.  Elation immediately took over when I learned that official rehearsals for the John Lennon/Paul McCartney rock spectacular would commence at 10am on Monday, October 7, 1974 at the Ukrainian National Hall, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York.

If I hadn’t worn groove through my Sgt. Pepper album by this time, I certainly finished it off during the weekend prior to the first day of rehearsal.

Throughout the 12 month waiting period we all endured, I heard about the other cast members.  I was already acquainted with some and other would soon become new friends and colleagues.   When I think back to the very early days in “Sgt. Pepper”, I remember it as one of the most exciting, positive times I’ve had. 

On the first day of rehearsal, the cast gathered and was introduced to one another and things were brought to order by Tom O’Horgan, our director.  O’Horgan’s directorial achievements include:   Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Lenny, Inner City, The Leaf People, Dude, the Conjuror and many pieces for film and television in America and Europe.  Man of the cast had worked under Tom’s direction in the past.  He is the ultimate professional, teacher, and inspiration.  I was honored to be working with him again.  During my tenure in “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway, while I was finishing up my senior year of college by day and commuting to New York to do the show at night, Tom showed continued interest in my studies and added valuable insight for me.  That’s Tom.  He always had time to share.  To this day, I am grateful for the influence he has had on my life.
As The Pepper Company, we sat together on that first day of rehearsal and Tom welcomed us.  He gave us a quick synopsis of what had been going on with the production for the past year.   Among other things, royalty rates and percentages had to be negotiated and agreed upon by Robert Stigwood and John and Paul.  The owners of the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, and the owners of the Beacon Theatre in New York City had to come to terms with the producer concerning prices, concessions, and length of run.  And a wide-spread national tour had to be, at least, partially put together before rehearsals could begin.  The unpredictable schedules and varied commitments of John Lennon and Paul McCartney were responsible for many of the delays, a fact that is easily understandable.  We all appreciated that some of our questions had been answered, but, for me, quite frankly, just knowing that rehearsals were finally underway and that I was part of this great experience made up for all of the frustrations and disappointments I  may have encountered along the way. 

Tom turned the discussion to the business at hand and talked us all through his conception of “Sgt. Pepper.”  It sounded like the typical extravaganza in true O’Horgan tradition:  “Sgt. Pepper” begins with a presentation of the “one and only Billy Shears” who needs “somebody to love.”  To his rescue comes Maxwell’s Silver Hammermen:  Jack, Claw and Sledge, who are only too willing to help as long as the price is right.  In an effort to totally control Billy, the Hammermen utilize a pair of magic spectacles to lead him into the decadent life of sleazy dreams and the super hype of illusion.  Billy Shears, however, repeatedly rejects their advances and each time he does the hammermen reclaim the magic spectacles, withdraw the enticing fantasy, and leave Billy all alone to contemplate the “Nowhere man” that he has become.  Finally, in a last ditch effort to win him over, the Hammermen reveal Strawberry Fields, a pretty young girl who is in their power and who Billy takes  a liking to right away. The happiness of Billy Shears and Strawberry Fields being evident, the Hammermen waste no time in exploiting Billy and turning him into a big star.  Caught up in a whirlwind of his own sudden self-importance, Billy takes off in his career with reckless abandon, promptly forgetting Strawberry Fields.  Jack, Claw and Sledge Hammer, anxious to seize the moment and make Billy one of them, devise an appropriate initiation ceremony for him.  With success within their grasp, there is a sudden, unexpected turn of events, leaving Billy to learn that “the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Although none of us knew how any of this would work out theatrically or musically, our enthusiasm was high.  As a matter of fact, the more impossible it seemed, the more I was anxious to do it.  Musical scores were distributed, and we all sat around the piano and sang through the show.
This is what a chronological list of musical numbers looked like:
Act I
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help from my Friends
Nowhere Man
With a Little Help from my Friends (reprise)
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
I Want You
Come Together
Nowhere Man
Sun Queen
Lovely Rita
Polythene Pam
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
You Never Give Me your Money
Lovely Rita (reprise)
Her Majesty
A Day in the Life
She’s Leaving Home
Strawberry Fields Forever
Getting Better

Act II
When I’m Sixty-Four
Because (reprise)
Good Morning, Good Morning
Being for the Benefit for Mr. Kite
Oh! Darling
Fixing a Hole
Oh! Darling (Reprise)
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Mean Mr. Mustard
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Carry that Weight
Golden Slumbers
Carry that Weight (Reprise)
The Long and Winding Road
Get Back
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The End

The energy was so high during the first sing-through of the show that it was incredible!  It was such a magical time that it seemed to me as if everyone knew the score perfectly and we were ready to put on the show that very night.  Of course, my adrenaline level had a lot to do with that observation, but nonetheless it was the beginning of a very special chapter in my life and I knew it was only going to get better.  A real thrill for me personally was the realization that the way the music had been arranged, the Hammermen were largely responsible for singing the Beatle harmonies just as they were originally recorded.  So, being “Claw Hammer” the tenor of the group, I got to sing most of Paul McCartney’s parts throughout the show!  What more could I ask for?

B.G. and the other Hammermen

It was also interesting to see that couple of songs from the Let it Be album had been included.  After a year of involuntary hiatus, the excitement was building fast and furious from day one!  After lunch break, Tom staged as many scenes as time would allow and at 6 p.m. the first day of “Sgt. Pepper” rehearsals came to an end.

The train ride back to Trenton that night was like floating on air.  I was tired and hungry and filled with the satisfaction of work well done and the exciting anticipation of the days and events yet to come.  After just one day, I was thoroughly convinced that it had been well worth the wait, and I had renewed pride in my convection to stick with the Beatles through it all!

As rehearsals progressed one day was more phenomenal than the next.  I loved every second of it!  Tom directed with his usual brilliance and incorporated many of the little amusing and pertinent “bits” that we tried out for him during the course of blocking the show.  Certain ideas and conceptions that Tom laid out of us at the beginning of any particular segment of rehearsal would frequently grow and evolve into something even more fantastic or bizarre as the cast went with their gut reactions and tendencies based upon where the music and theatrics were taking them.  We would find ourselves in a different place than where we started out to be and, usually the result was so right that Tom would revamp his original premise to fit what had happened.

To my elation, the Hammermen were required to be onstage for about 85% of the sum total of the show.  And the large majority of our stage “business”, singing and non-singing was to be done in perfect cadence with one another, sort of loosely choreographed or street-synchronized. (Tom was a master at taking street reality and putting it, seemingly untouched, on the stage).

It was said somewhere along the way that the Hammermen were rock’s version of the Marx Brothers.  Bill Parry (Sledge,) Allan Nicholls (Jack) and I were virtually inseparable from the first day of rehearsal.  Our mutual admiration for the Beatles was understood and it was suggested at the outset that we spend considerable time together in an effort to more effectively develop our group characters.  As it happened, this suggestion was hardly necessary.  WE spent most every rehearsal day together, even staying at the rehearsal hall most days when the rest of the cast took their lunch break so we could toss around a baseball or football, or experiment with our “Hammer Harmonies” or other songs around the piano.  The energy among us was natural and incredibly high.

With the Broadway opening of “Hair,” Tom O’Horgan was the originator of the use of hand-held microphones for advanced sound production in American Theatre.  For Sgt. Pepper, hand-held microphones were also used and although the sound was sensational, the implementation of hand-held microphones brought with it a necessary evil which came to be known as “mike traffic”   “Mike traffic” is not too difficult to understand. Each microphone is connected by a cable to a sound soloists throughout the show must share microphones.  In trading off the microphones, the actors must be aware that the cables don’t get crossed or knotted and cause disaster onstage.  To avoid such disaster, entire segments of rehearsals were devoted to “mike traffic,” the careful passing of microphones over and under appropriate cables to eliminate dangerous stage obstruction.  Literally hours at a time were spent this way; no singing, no staging, just meticulous microphone handling with special attention to the position and condition of cable wires.  In rehearsal, where no sound equipment was set up, we used cut-off broom handles for microphones which were tied to clotheslines.   This worked perfectly, as clotheslines proved to be just as difficult to deal with as cable wire.  On this particular day of rehearsal, we had worked the first half of the day on Acts I and II, stopping often to clean up scenes which weren’t just what Tom wanted.  This type of rehearsing is particularly trying, as it causes you to constantly break concentration and energy and start up again and again. 

Rehearsals had been in progress a couple of weeks now and I was always in anticipation of seeing someone wildly famous shows up like—you know who!  My expectations were supported just a few days later when I was surprised to see Elliot Gould sitting the audience section of the hall watching rehearsal in progress.  Elliot Gould was a friend of Tom O’Horgan’s and stopped by to say hi and observe the goings on.

Well on this day, we finished touching up Acts I and II and broke for lunch.  The Hammermen stayed behind, as usual, and had lunch while playing kick-soccer with a balloon, confined to three wooden chairs!  Just one of the zany ways we had of relaxing.  The cast reassembled after lunch and Director O’Horgan called for Act I “mike traffic” rehearsal.  That’s show biz!  So, we began the tedious procedure form the top of the show and worked out way through most  of the act, weaving broom handles through yards of clotheslines, trying to work it to perfection so that Tom would be satisfied and so that “mike traffic” rehearsal might decrease in frequency in the future.  After about an hour, the stage manager called for a ten minute break and every broom handle in the building hit the floor.  Bill Parry and I headed for a couple of folding chairs, out of break and perspiring after what was proving to be a somewhat frustrating day.  I leaned back in my chair as Bill leaned forward to retie his sneaks.  I glanced in the direction of the doorway leading into the rehearsal area.  A small group of people were making their way into the room.  As I remember, there were three men and a woman.  Bill and I, meanwhile, were discussing the progress of the rehearsal and how we had both seen better days.  Again I glanced at the four visitors heading our way.

“Hey, Bill,” I stated casually, “this guy looks something like Lennon.  What d’ya think?”  Bill looked up for a moment and said nothing, then went back to adjusting his knee pads.

Almost shocking myself with what I had just said and what I was seeing, I looked again.  The tallest of the three men was bespectacled and wore a floppy hat, and a diminutive oriental woman walked beside him.  They were rapidly advancing and I nudged Bill in the shoulder with my arm.  With urgency in y voice, I whispered in the direction of his head, my eyes glued to this mysterious visitor, “Bill!  This guy REALLY looks like Lennon!”

Ever in control and world-class guy, Bill finally answered back, “Well of course it is, B.G..  What do you need, a written invitation for proof?”

I was totally awestruck.  I’m sure Tom introduced john to the cast, but I really don’t remember any of that.  I was definitely in some type of number state.  Thinking back now, the next think I remember is rehearsing from the top of Act II while John Lennon sat and watched!  I guess Act II rehearsal went really well.  I had all I could do to keep from gawking in John’s direction like the world’s biggest Beatlemaniac the entire time.  What I do remember and shall never forget for as long as I breathe is being introduced to John by Peter Brown in the company of Tom O’Horgan, Bill Parry, and Allan Nicholls at the end of that day’s rehearsal.  He didn’t say much to anyone but he did say to the Hammermen as a group that he enjoyed our harmonies!   To make the best day of my career absolutely perfect, the Hammermen got to pose with John Lennon for a picture!  Again my mind blanks at this point and resumes on the Amtrak Trenton local somewhere outside of New York, hurling darkly through the vast industrial wasteland of New Jersey.  I can recall thinking that if the train suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, it would be o.k.  It was if my entire life had come full circle on that very day.  Also, John’s companion, who I was later introduced to, was May Pang.  I was to learn that this was a period of separation for John and Yoko and that his steady partner through it all was Ms. Pang.  But the only thing that mattered to me as I traveled back to the town where I heard my first Beatle songs and bought my first Beatle record was that I had met John Lennon!

Lennon was the high point for everyone in the cast as we all buzzed with excitement for at least a week after his visit.  Adding to the excitement was the need to be ready for the world premiere of “Sgt. Pepper” at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford.  Wrapping up rehearsals at the Ukrainian National Hall, Tom got us ready for our first performance before a live audience.  The bus ride to Hartford from New York City was a magical mystery tour in itself for the cast.  Spirits were never higher as we checked into the Hartford Hilton and headed to the theatre to rehearse.  With our first performance only days away, we had only a couple of rehearsals with lights, sets, costumes, props, and make-up to be ready.  This was an awesome task considering the types of special effects Tom had employed:  there were the helium-filled weather balloons, which projections bounced off of while the Hammermen rotated them out over the audience in slow motion.  There were the hundreds of pink Styrofoam Frisbees which the cast hurled into the audience at the end of Act I.  There was a 30-foot Lucille Ball look-alike Statue of Liberty which was moved onto center stage to reveal “Polythene Pam.”  There were the “Hammer Headdresses” that the Hammermen wore in Act II.  There were the giant grandma and grandpa puppets who danced to “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  There were the super life-sized busts of Mick Jagger and David Cassidy, the huge wristwatch and hand, the smiling lips and teeth, and the larger-than-life octopus.  There was also a Mylar confetti shower to be timed with “The End.”  Adding to all this was the announcement by the City Council of Hartford that the Saturday of the world premier weekend had been declared “Sgt. Pepper Day” in honor of the Beatles and the show!

Bushnell Park, across from the Bushnell Theatre, was the site of “Sgt. Pepper Day,” replete with games, music, balloons, and general celebration of the Beatles.  It was quite informal, peaceful, and very enjoyable and relaxing.  Glaringly missing from the day’s events was any hype of the show’s opening or ticket information.  “Sgt. Pepper” had been completely sold out in Hartford long before the cast had even boarded the bus in New York City. 

As a member of the cast, I would say that the world premiere of “Sgt. Pepper” went much as expected.  A sell-out, standing room only crowd cheered, whistled, and stomped through the production, although the reality of performance indicated to all of us that we still needed work on problem areas and unforeseen spots, which only performance experience could make us aware of.  Fortunately, the production schedule allowed for this happenstance and we left Hartford to “set up shop” in Beacon Theatre on 74th and Broadway for several days of rehearsal prior to the New York opening.

Using the Harford premiere as a guideline, Tom O’Horgan rectified problem areas and began to customize the show to the Beacon Theatre stage, which was to be our home for a while.
Hard work, long hours, and opening night was at hand.   The Beacon Theatre had a seating capacity of almost 2600 seats, which is roughly 1000 seats more than most other Broadway houses and is one of the major reasons the Beacon was selected as the site of the show.  Major crowds of people were expected.  On the day of opening night, the cast was to arrive early for a sound check.  The first thing to greet the Hammermen as we walked into our shared dressed room were three bouquets of flowers, three bottles of Dom Perignon, and cards which read, “Best wishes, Paul and Linda McCartney.”  Serious jitters and stage fright like I’ve never known before began for me right then and there.  The countdown to the opening night curtain continued.  Half-hour was called by the stage manager and we climbed into our costumes and dabbed on our make-up.  I pulled the all-time theatrical no-no by sneaking into the wings and peering out into the audience like an excited kid at midnight on Christmas Eve.  There was tom O’Horgan, the father magician, in top hat and tails, and from the back of the auditorium Yoko Ono emerged and paraded down the aisle to her seat.

“It was twenty years ago today…”   The opening chords of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” rang out into the darkened theatre and an immediate roar went up from the crowd.  As the curtains parted and the Hammermen high-stepped out onto the open stage, the audience gave us a standing ovation!  Front row center were Johnny and Edgar Winter.  A few rows behind them Carol Channing could be seen.  Farther back in the orchestra section to the right was Alice Cooper.  And of course, John Lennon was out there somewhere, too!  Every new Beatle song prompted a standing ovation from the wildly enthusiastic opening night fans.  It seemed as if we were playing to a mob of adoring Beatlemaniacs!  The cast gave a greatly received opening night performance and when it was over, we all changed into our best regalia to attend our opening night party at a club called “Rhinoceros.”

The scene at “Rhinoceros” was another example of mass hysteria we had all witnessed at the Beacon Theatre.  Security was tight and just getting in the door took about 20 minutes!  Andy Warhol sat in a corner of the room, characteristically calm and passive.  Rod Stewart, Sally Kellerman, and Andy Williams drank with friends and admirers at the bar.  O.J. Simpson and Ben Vereen were moving on the dance floor.  Howard Duff, Art Garfunkel, Desi Arnaz Jr., Polly Bergen, Dave Loggins, and Mackenzie Phillips all chatted with members of the cast.  To me, this was like being in the show biz hall of fame!  As the party progressed into the night, I rubbed elbows with Robert Hegyes, Andy Kaufman, Laraine Newman, Davy Jones and film direction Robert Altman.  It was an ongoing, escalating high with culminated, for me, when the Hammermen approached John Lennon at an opportune moment and I kiddingly asked him, “Tell me, John, is there any truth to the rumor that the Beatles will be getting back together?”  John looked at the three of us and said, “As far as I’m concerned, the Beatles were reunited up there on stage tonight.”  Seizing the moment, I got the cast photographer to take a picture of John and myself and a couple of party-goers.  Then was back into the opening night celebration, meeting new friends like celebrities Frankie Valli, Meatloaf, Wood Allen and Vicki Sue Robinson.  It was in the wee hours of the morning when the party finally spilled out into the streets of New York City, leaving the cast of Sgt. Pepper to recreate the Beatle magic night after night.

“Sgt. Pepper” continued to play to packed houses of enthusiastic crowds, and celebrity visitors kept dropping by to wish us well.  Beverly D’Angelo, Karen Carpenter, Daryl Hall and John Oates, and John Kennedy Jr. (replete with a squad of Secret Service agents) all made appearances at one time or another.  Before a particular Sunday matinee in December, stage manager Dick Denton visited our dressing room to announce yet more celebrity visitors. 

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I’m here to inform you that Paul and Linda McCartney will be in the audience of today’s performance.”

Excitement and anxiety began to well up inside me, very reminiscent of opening night.  I knew it wasn’t professional behavior but I couldn’t help but search the audience for a glimpse of Paul.  I had been tipped off that he was sitting on the aisle somewhere in the middle of the orchestra section. I finally did spot him.  The stage lights washed out into the house and the row that Paul was sitting in was just about the last row visible through the illumination.  Beatlemania again took me over, but with it came a pang of paranoia.  I had a solo to sing near the end of Act I:  “she’s Leaving Home,” and out in the house on this particular day was the man who originally co-wrote and sang it!  During the slow motion sequence at the end of “A Day in the Life,” Allan (Jack Hammer) handed me the microphone and realizing my nervousness, smiled and whispered, “Good luck!”  Thanks Allan.  Well, I got through “She’s Leaving Home” and we all got through that Sunday’s performance.  Meanwhile, this Hammerman was ready to meet Paul!

My meeting Paul took place on the set of “Sgt. Pepper” after the final curtain had come down and the audience had cleared the theatre.  Paul looked natty in a three piece English suit, and was accompanied by Linda and their two daughters.   Peter Brown was on hand to do the introductions all around.  When Peter introduced us he said, “Paul, this is B.G. Gibson.”  As we shook hands, Paul smiled and said, “Too much, B.G!”  It was really like a family affair, with pictures being snapped here and there, Paul chatting with members of the Pepper Company, and Linda and the girls smiling about the set.  Before too long, some posed photos were organized and the Hammermen prepared for the camera.  When it was our turn, Paul, Linda and the Hammermen smiled and said “cheese” and it was over.  Paul said, “I’ll take a dozen ten by eights.” And we all had a laugh.  Another very satisfying trip back to Trenton that evening made me very proud indeed.  Having met John Lennon and Paul McCartney—could George and Ringo be far behind?

“Sgt. Pepper” was still going strong, when, during his current concert tour Elton John was joined onstage at Madison Square Garden by John Lennon.  Elton had released his cover version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to coincide with the opening of the show, and on the night of the Madison Square Garden concert, “The Pepper Company” received word that we had been invited to Elton John’s opening night party at the hotel Pierre in Manhattan.  After the show that night, the Hammermen headed straight for the Hotel Pierre.  When we arrived, John Lennon was heading straight toward us and one of the cast members asked where we should go.  “Go right on in,” John quipped, “they’re all waiting for you in there!”  Meanwhile, I ducked into the men’s room and, moments later, in came John Lennon!  He used the stall next to the one I was using.  John and I were really becoming close friends. 

The Hammermen made their way into the main ballroom and beheld the Larry Elgart Orchestra playing dance music for the celebrity-studded party crowd. We were seated at a table with Patti LaBelle and her singing partners Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx and sooner than we could realize, we were in the receiving line to meet Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  The entire evening was another super charged experience that had become commonplace since “Sgt. Pepper” had entered my life.

It was a sad day for us all indeed when, on New Year’s Eve, the closing notice for “Sgt. Pepper” was posted on the call board backstage at the Beacon Theatre.  Reasons for the closing were never articulated t the members of the cast, but all plans for the tour were also shelved, and so in early January of 1975, the last performance of “Sgt. Pepper” became a beautiful memory for us all.
As a final note to my “Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road” story, I was invited to one fo the many parities that were thrown following the 1975 Grammy Awards presentation in New York City a few months after the show had closed.  Again, it was a very special time.  I met former Blood, Sweat and Tears keyboardist Dick Halligan, Dr. John, guitarist Steve Cropper, long-time Temptations lead singer David Ruffin and Stevie Wonder who had captured five Grammies at the awards ceremony that night.  But, looking back most fondly, I remember seeing, sitting with friends, John Lennon, who with Paul McCartney made this dream in my life come true.


  1. Oh my gosh, Sara, another great nugget, and another spectacular typing job, unbelievable what you uncover. I keep starting to read this, but I'm at work, so I'm going to have to save this for later!

    I don't think it's in the article, but in "Loving John", May says that after the show, John got really drunk, she left him, and he ended up making out with one of the cast, an African-American actress, I believe you've posted photos of that moment of passion!

  2. So great. Fabulous perspective. Saw the show once, a few weeks after opening, and you all were fantastic! I'll never forget it. Thanks for sharing this piece of you. Have a wonderful life and God bless. ~ dan

  3. Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I'm undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look
    forward to new posts.

  4. Wow thaat was odd. I just wrote aan incredibly long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr...
    well I'm not wrditing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say
    excellent blog!

  5. I saw the show the night Paul McCartney was there. We heard some buzz afterwards that Paul "might" be there, so we hung out by the stage door for what seemed like hours. He finally came out and before stepping into a limo, took photos with us! Then he got in the car, rolled the window down and waved. What a classy guy. Now, I wonder, WHERE can those photos be!?!? -Tony From Long Island

  6. Whoops - what I meant was, someone from the press or a papparazzi took our group photo with Paul. Man, I would love to see that picture today and share it with my adult kids, friends and family!

  7. Any idea what the show poster is worth?