Monday, August 31, 2015

Beatles at the Cabana Hotel

1999-08-30 04:00:00 PDT PALO ALTO -- On Aug. 31, 1965, the Fab Four were holed up on the top floor of the eight-story Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, watching TV and ordering room service after two sold-out shows at the Cow Palace.
Outside, the frenzied 500 -- teenage Beatles fans, mostly girls -- swarmed the parking lot along El Camino Real and the property across the street, causing a traffic jam unheard of in those uncongested days.
After the Beatles left the next day, hustled out in a delivery truck, their sheets were cut into small pieces and sold in the parking lot. The room service dishes and cutlery disappeared. Eventually, the celebrity appeal of the Cabana, a prototype of Caesar's Palace and managed by Doris Day's brother-in-law,Jack Melcher, also slipped away, and the hotel closed in 1992.
Now the newly renovated Crowne Plaza Cabana Palo Alto has decided it's time to get back, so to speak: The management is looking for memorabilia -- and memories -- of those fevered 48 hours when fans camped out before and after the concerts in Daly City. A few items have already been installed in the Beatles Room, number 810, which officially opened Saturday night. Hotel officials were planning to meet today to decide what the room's rate will be.
Anita Gonzalez of San Leandro never forgot her brush with the Beatles at the Cabana. She was "16 or 17," and having a nose job done at Stanford Hospital when she heard that her beloved band was staying nearby"I begged my father to take me out of the hospital and drive me by the hotel just in case I could see them," she recalled. "He thought I was nuts because I looked so horrible -- my face was all black and blue, my nose bandaged -- but he did it, and then he took me back to the hospital."
Some teens tried to pass themselves off as journalists to gain entrance to the heavily guarded hotel, which had 23 members of the then- University of Santa Clara football team stationed at elevators, stairwells and the lobby. A few girls managed to slip past the security force outside and began clambering up the grillwork for a look at their favorite moptop before being dissuaded.
Deborah Hudson of San Jose still speaks with envy of her then-teenage girlfriends who drove from Bakersfield to Palo Alto "and stayed for the whole time" during the Beatles' brief visit.   Hudson, a free-lance writer, and Gonzalez, office manager of Health magazine in San Francisco, finally got to go inside their former idols' inner sanctum this weekend. While the real memorabilia is under management's lock and key, hanging on the Beatles Room walls are authentic-looking framed reproductions from the personal archives of Vienna Watkins, the Cabana's original director of sales and marketing.
Now an artist and co-owner of galleries in Murphys and Bear Valley, Watkins gave the hotel a three- page, 27-point mimeograph from Beatles manager Brian Epstein detailing security measures ("no children unless accompanied by an adult"); the yellow "welcome Beatles" ribbon that staff members had to wear for identification, later autographed by Paul McCartney; and news clippings from the Palo Alto Times.
In one photo, 14-year-olds Rocky Keith and Sue Moore of Palo Alto "sob with joy as they tell of seeing the Beatles leave" the hotel.
Watkins said those two were not the only ones shaken up by the visit. A mother of young children at the time, she recalled that the lads from Liverpool looked like "four scared kids" when they returned to the hotel -- and with good reason.
"Their limousine was dented on the top, on the sides, and the back from all the fans pressing against it," Watkins said. "This place was filled with kids."
But inside the hotel, they were safe, she said. "We had the Santa Clara football team -- they were big! We had security, we had our badges, and we parked our cars and stayed here for 24 hours."
David Young, the new Crowne Plaza's executive sales director, says he has been surprised by the lasting impression the Beatles' short stay made.
"I was at a Hewlett-Packard golf tournament recently, and everybody who was in a certain age group came by and said they had tried to dress up like the press with a suit and camera to try to sneak in to the Beatles," he said.
Of course, the Beatles actually stayed in two rooms on the eighth floor -- no one is exactly sure which -- and the story goes that Ringo didn't spend the night there at all (he was with a woman). Hotel officials hope to clear up some of those details in October, when they plan to host a Beatles night for fans to bring in their mementos.
As for Gonzalez, hotel visitors will soon be able to say, in Beatles style, they saw her standing there -- her portrait will also be going on the Beatles Room wall.

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