Thursday, August 11, 2016

Beatlesmania '66

Beatlesmania ’66- Kids Calmer, but the din isn’t
By Jeffery L. Stern
Chicago Sun-Times
August 13, 1966

The happy howls of more than 26,000 fans engulfed the Beatles Friday as the British rock n roll quartet opened an American tour with two performances in the International Amphitheatre.
Teenage girls gurgled, squealed and danced at their seats as they long-haired Beatles played 11 selections at a matinee.  Fifteen were treated at a first aid station for hysteria and fainting symptoms.
A Milwaukee woman, Mrs. Jean Niezmanski, turned out with her daughter and two other youngsters dressed in shifts with the design of the Union Jack.  “We just want to be seen by the Beatles,” she cried.

A newcomer to the cult would have called it pandemonium.  Actually, in contrast with times past, Friday showed that the quartet’s fans, like the rest of us, are growing older.  Looking out over the howling throng, Paul Prang, a 23 year old who is special events director for the Andy Frain ushering service observed, “The kids are calmer this time.  They’re not as excited as they were at Comisky Park (scene of last year’s Chicago appearance). 

The Beatles who appeared onstage in dark green suits and lime shirts, were escorted by police, sirens screeching form their hotel to the Amphitheatre.    Their white car, its rear window fogged to shield the group from view was preceded by a black limousine decoy car.

About 40 girls who surged toward the Beatles’ car were blocked by a line of guards who stood with their arms linked.  Four of the girls injured in the crush were taken to Evangelican Hospital for observation.

Inside the hall, 50 policemen, 100 firemen and 200 ushers and usherettes lined the aisles and stood three-deep in front of the stage.   They had little trouble keeping order.

Some of the policemen, who were issued wads of cotton before the performance, stuffed it into their ears to muffle the high-pitched roar that went on and on.    Policemen carried switches instead of nightsticks, and ushers were urged before the performance to use “psychology” in handling glazed-eyed youngsters.

In addition to psychology, the ushers were armed with flashlights and told to flick them in the eyes of half hysterical youngsters who left their seats to head for the stage.

Firemen carried ammonia capsules to revive fainting girls, but some may have been prompted by the din to take a whiff themselves. 

The audience waited for more than an hour and a half and heard four preliminary groups before the Beatles materialized and performed for 30 minutes. 
Their singing, scarcely heard in the screaming and applause, was accompanied by flashes from hundreds of cameras in the darkened auditorium. 
Fans occasionally jumped up with banners proclaiming love for one or another of the Beatles.
After the matinee performance, some girls attempted to hide in washrooms and under seats to await the Beatles’ departure.  Ushers carried some from the building.  A panel was kicked out of a door leading to the Amphitheatre garage.  However, the group never left their dressing room between shows.
Most police and fire veterans of last year’s appearances in Chicago agreed that this year’s crowd was milder.  Fire Marshal Francis J. Murphy, chief of the Fire Prevention Bureau, said this year’s audience screamed less and appeared older than last year’s.

Perhaps Ricki Bluestein, 14, of Skokie expressed a common sentiment when she said, “I still like the Beatles as much as ever, although I no longer belong to a fan club.  I’m not in it anymore because I grew up.”   She said the Beatles were as good as ever because “they keep experimenting with new songs and new ways of singing, and that’s good.”

Prang noted that great numbers of boys in the audience were dressed n the mod style of the British teen in the street and wore their hair long. “It’s the Carnaby Street influence,” he said, referring to a London center for mod clothing.

Mod-clad James Basso, 18, wearing a ring in one ear, and sandals, disclosed that “I’m dressed up now,” but that he wears undistinguished garb while at work for a television manufacturing firm.
Among the legions who aspire to a personal word with the Beatles was Jeanette Mathews, 18, of Mauston, Wisconsin.  She picketed the Stock Yard Inn besides the amphitheater with a sign proclaiming, “I write songs of the Beatles type.”  In two years, said Miss Mathews, she has written 64 songs, but none has been published.  She hopes the Liverpool four can be persuaded to look at some of them.

Few of the fans were perturbed by the controversy which recently broke out in the United States over a remark by Beatle John Lennon that the quartet was more popular than Jesus.

Lennon appeared suitably contrite Thursday night in explaining to newsmen that his remark had been misunderstood. “I wasn’t saying whatever they’re saying I was saying,” he declared.  By their enthusiasm, most of the fans seemed to echo the passionate defense of the Beatles offered by Debbie Baker, 17, of Gary.  “I don’t care what he believes, “she said of Lennon.  “We all stick up for John.  We love him.”

Meanwhile in Birmingham, Alabama radio station official who started a “band the Beatles” moved said Friday that his station has forgiven the quartet.

Tommy Charles, co-manager of Station WAQY, told the Associated Press, “We have called off our planned destruction of the Beatles records and other things we have collected.  We have to take him (Lennon) at his word that he is sorry.”

A spokesman for the sponsoring agency said the two performances—both sellouts—would gross $136,000. 

At least one sour note was sounded at the song-fest, however.  Grumped Lt. Mel Rolof of the Fire Prevention Bureau:  “They (the Beatles) should be banned.  All they are is a pain in the neck for everyone.  I didn’t know one song they sang.”  Rolof, it can safely be said, is not a mod. 

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