Friday, July 11, 2014

My Three days with the Beatles

Tina Williams was one of the school girls in "A Hard Day's Night."   This is a story that she wrote for "16" magazine about her experience working with the Beatles on the film.    I do not always think that the things in "16" in the 1960's were true because they sugar-coated a lot of the stories and told just false information, but this seems like a pretty good telling.  

My 3 Days with the Beatles
By Tina Williams
September 1964 16 Magazine

It was almost like a dream come true – in fact it was – the morning I heard that I was one of the girls chosen to make a film with those fabulous Beatles!

How did it all start?

Well, as a student of the Aida Foster School, I was asked to attend an audition with the producer, director and cast director of the film.  But when I saw the number of girls on a list who were also to be auditioned, I gave up all hopes of getting the job.  Nevertheless, I put on my best bib and tucker and sallied forth.  

At the film company’s plush Mayfair headquarters, I was shown into the producer’s office.  I was asked all sorts of questions -- “What work have you done before?”  “Do you like the Beatles?”  Just ordinary questions.  And that was that!  To be honest, I didn’t give the matter another thought.  That was until the morning I heard that I had been give the role.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was even more pleased when I heard that my friend, Susan (who attends the same acting school I do), had also been selected.  We had both waited three weeks to hear that we were in.   But it didn’t seem that long because we didn’t worry about it.  It’s no good biting your fingernails all the time.  What was the point?

Then we were told, very casually, to report for filming in three days’ time!  Those three days seemed like three weeks!   I was so excited; I couldn’t wait to get started.  Then we heard that we were all to be crowded on a train which had been hired for the filming – destination unknown!   All we were told was to report to the Paddington Station and that we would return about seven in the evening. 

Came the big day, I’d hardly slept all the night before!   Later, I discovered that in my colossal rush to get ready, I had left my purse, with my money inside, at home – which led to several embarrassments!

I said goodbye to my parents and joked, “Well, I’m off now.  Gotta date with the Beatles!”  I felt nine feet tall and actually I’m only five feet five!

So there I was on my way to Paddington.  Then I realized I had no money with me!  It was getting late and I just dared not miss that train.   Can you imagine keeping the Beatles and everyone else waiting just for me?  Luckily , I had some small change in my coat pocket which was enough to get me to Paddington Station.  

Naturally, the first thing I looked for when I arrived were those four fabulous fringes.  But they weren’t to be seen anywhere.  I joined up with the other girls and we boarded the train.  But still no sign of a Beatle anywhere.  Hello, I thought to myself, you’re not even going to meet them.  You know how films are made!  All in little bits and pieces and all over the place.  But then I thought, well, we must meet them sometime, because we are playing the parts of fans who discover in the film that they are on the train and we run up and down the corridors looking for them, until finally we corner them in a carriage.

The train started on its journey.  “When are we going to meet the Beatles?”  We asked someone.  “Don’t worry, girls, you will!”  He said.  The train stopped at Westbourne Park, just outside Paddington, and at last we heard that the boys had boarded the train.  It was all so secret.  No one apart from a handful of people were to know of their movements that day.  It was, of course, very necessary to keep things quiet.  Can you imagine what might have happened if the Beatles had suddenly turned up at Paddington Station?  British Railways would have been thrown into complete chaos!

But we still had to wait three hours before seeing the boys!   Then all at once they burst into our compartment.  “Hello girls!”  They all shouted.  I was dumb-struck for a second.  I couldn’t say anything.

They all looked great, especially Paul.  He’s so handsome when you meet him face to face.  Almost immediately, I found myself talking to Paul, George John and Ringo as though I’d known them for a long, long time.  It’s the way they make you feel.  They’re all so warm and friendly.  I thought that perhaps they wouldn’t talk to us, except in the scenes we play with them, but this wasn’t so.  They have no “big star” temperament at all.  They are just four ordinary fellas who enjoy life.   And they proved to be so much fun!

We were to spend a whole day with tem and another two days at Twickenham studios.   We had lunch and tea with them on the train and both meals were quite a riot.  You know it’s almost impossible not to roar your head off when you’re in their company.  The jokes seem to flow all the time.  Those three days were really the craziest I have ever spent.  I thought Ringo was the funniest and the most friendly.  He says such funny things.  

“I can do things for you, kid.” He said to me in an American accent.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Get you into films, make you a big movie star and all that jazz!”

So I said in return, “O.K., then I’ll get you onto a Beatles record.  I know them, you know.”  They we’d burst out laughing together.

One time, when Sue and I were leaving the carriage after completing one of the scenes, there was a sudden jolt of the train and we both fell over on top of the boys, catching our new nylons in the process.  And you know how awful your skin looks when it comes poking out of the little holes in your stockings.  Ringo took one look and said, “You ought to do something about them warts!”
John offered to buy us some new stockings and he even wrote down our sizes!  Wonder if he’ll remember.

Came the time (on that first day) when I wanted to buy myself a coffee, and as I had left my money at home, I asked one of the girls if she would lend me a couple of bob.   Ringo overheard.  He called his personal assistant-secretary-casher and mall of all work over and told him to lend me some money.
That when I found out that the boys never carry money around with them!  Mal carries it.  He does everything to see that the boys are organized and well looked after.  Mal is their road manager and a real sweetie.  He took a whole wad of five-pound notes from his pocked!  Actually I felt a bit of a Charlie—I only wanted five shillings, but I paid him back later.  I hate ever to be in debt to the Beatles!

The film is going to be quite a riot.  We watched several very amusing scenes being filmed on the train.  For instance, John is involved in a very funny scene with us in a railway carriage, where he is mistaken for an escaped convict – and he’s even handcuffed.

Ringo also has some very amusing scenes, where he goes into  a pub and everything goes wrong for him.  He wants so much to join in on the fun that everyone else is having, but things don’t work out that way.  At one point he joins in a game of darts and one of the darts lands up in somebody’s sandwich!

Actually, it’s been hilarious watching them during takes.  In the middle of one scene, in the studios, John suddenly looked up at the hole in the roof and cried out, “There’s a man up there holding a mike,” in a goonish voice.  On another occasion we had a dog on the set that wouldn’t do as it was told.  The boys were  very patient until the dog finally played the scene the way it was required.  Then John turned to the dog, patted it and said, “Now the dog will sip sinc to my next number!”  Everyone was in stitches.

Haven’t said much about George, have I?  Well, George is a deeper character than the other three.  He’s the quiet one.  Poor fella can’t get a word in edgeways with Paul, John and Ringo around, anyway!

He’s so rugged looking, is George—even more so in person than in his pictures.  He and Ringo share a Mayfair flat, but they were talking of moving soon.  The other night a group of girls started signing outside their place.  They sang “Glad all over” and whistled “Bits and Pieces” – you know Dave Clark’s hits.   George said jokingly, “I rang up the police so Ringo could get a good night’s sleep.  Of course, if they had been singing our songs, we wouldn’t have sent for bobbies.  But Dave Clark?  Well…”

You know it was quite flattering, leaving the studios after a day’s shooting.  There were always a crowd of Beatle fans waiting outside.  The girls would ask me all sorts of questions about the boys, and soon I got to know them quite well.

My father came down to the stuidios to pick me up by car at night, and ti was amusing on one occasion when the fans started talking to him while he waited.  One of them went up to him and said, “The Beatles will be out soon.”

“How do you know?” asked my father.

“Tina says so,” she replied.  

Dad smiled and said, “Tina who?”

Then the girls chorused, “Tina Williams, of course!”  Can that be fame, at last?

Seriously, though, I really did have the time of my life working with them.  They are, and I really do mean this, a fabulous bunch of boys when you get to know them as I did.  On my last day’s filming, we were having pictures taken and I was asked, along with three other girls, to pose combing the boys’ hair.  Ringo was my man.  Afterwards, they offered us girls a job as their hairdressers.  But again they were joking.  At least I think so.  That’s the uncertain thing about the Beatles.  You can’t tell when they are joking or when they’re being serious.

The film is an experience I’ll never forget.  I can’t wait to see it and neither, I except can you!

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