Monday, August 18, 2014

The story of Beatlesville

The idea behind Beatlesville is actually a good one.  It was a special area on the tarmac of San Francisco Airport  that was surrounded by a five-foot cyclone fence with 180 police officers around it.  100 "Beatle Bobbies" from the San Francisco Beatles fan club wore white arms bands and were trained to help keep the fans calm and the Beatles safe. (If you want to know more about the Beatle Bobbies, I have an article about the group from Baltimore here).    The plan was that the Beatles would climb on the special platform that was in the center of "Beatlesville" and get introduced by local DJ and wave to their fans for a few minutes before getting into the car that would wisk them away to their hotel.

This newspaper photo shows how Beatleville was set up 50 years ago today

But this was a case of something that sounded like a good plan ended up not being such a great plan.  Fans started showing up to see the Beatles at noon the day before their arrival.  One girl said, "I actually SLEPT on the platform where THEY'RE going to be!"   Fans came from all around California for this event, which caused a bit of a fight among the fans.   There were three main groups of large Beatle fan clubs present:  The San Francisco Club, The Oakland Club and the Peninsula Club.   The San Francisco Club were the "Beatle Bobbies" and they were trying to keep order among the fans.  So when the police told the Beatle Bobbies that everyone needed to move back from the square area where the Beatles would be,  they began to shout out orders to the others.  This did not go over well with the other fan clubs.   They did not want to listen to someone their own age tell them what to do.   A screaming and match broke out and girls were yelling at each other and things were starting to look vicious until the deputy stepped in and threatened to move the Beatles right into the car as soon as they departed the plane if the girls did not stop.    So they did as they were told because they did not want to risk not seeing the Beatles.

One fan club group shows off their signs

But as you can imagine, tensions were still high.  Some reports say that 10,000 fans were at the San Francisco airport waiting for the Beatles, although many historians believe that number was exaggerated.    Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 - 10,000 fans were there in Beatleville and the area disc jockeys were in the middle of it all, getting the crowd pumped up for the big event.  They did Beatles cheers, sang Beatles songs and made announcements.   Not only were tensions high but the girls were getting worked up into hysterics.    And to top it off, the Beatles plane was delayed twice.  All of these things made for a bad combination.

Finally at 6:42p.m. after some fans had been waiting over 30 hours to see the Fab 4, their plane touched down in San Fransisco!   As Ringo began to come down the steps, the crowd went wild.  As they made their way towards the Beatleville platform the crowd began to surge forward.  Girls were pressed up against the fence and some were trying to jump over it.   Mass hysteria was all around the Beatles.  Girls were fainting, screaming, crying, and clawing over each other to reach their favorite band member.   Before the four of them even reached the platform, they were taken quickly to their limo and sped off for the Hilton Hotel.   It is a good thing too, because soon as they got into the limo, the Beatleville fence broke and fans were everywhere.   And while the Beatles were gone, fans were left kissing the dirt they walked on and trying to save some of it as a souvenir.   All of those hours of waiting for only 42 seconds of the Beatles presence.   All that was left behind were thousands of homemade posters and love letters.

From then on, the Beatles did not make the public appearances at the airport in a formal way.   Thing had gotten far too out of hand and they could have gotten killed. What a welcome to the U.S.A.!

*Articles used for this story:

"A Giggling Gathering of the Frenetic Faithful" by Richard Thieriot San Francisco Chronicle.  August 19, 1964

"The Beatles Come to Town" No writer listed.  San Francisco Chronicle.

Some Fun Tonight volume 1 by Chuck Gunderson p. 36-37


  1. I was there on that day. I hitchhike from my home in Daly City with one other Beatle fan that I knew. It's funny how my memory differs from what is in print here. First I remember walking through the SF airport terminal and hearing one employee saying over the PA system "Would Mr. Paul McCartney please come to the Western Airline counter" and suddenly seeing a rush of people running over to their counter. I also thought that the BeatlesVille was surrounded by police cars I guess I was wrong. I remember seeing the Beatles start to walk up on ramp to the stage and just as quickly turn around as I was nearly killed as I was in the front row and pushed against the fence I always thought it was a police car. I remember thinking even to this day that this was the closest I'll ever get to meeting the Beatles.

    1. Rock Singer....thank you for sharing your memories of that day! That's amazing you were there, and even better that you actually got to see them!

      Pretty funny the "Mr. Paul McCartney" page!

      I live for accounts like this! Thanks again.