Monday, October 15, 2018

George in L.A.

Another George story tonight (I hope no one minds) from With a Little Help from my friends.  This story was written by Laurie Fidler and is from the April 1979 issue. 

After getting home from work on Wednesday, March 7, 1979, I got a phone call from my friend Stefania.   With excitement, she told me George was going to be interviewed on CBS-TV in an hour or so.  We quickly wondered if it was going to be live -- if so, where?   So while I put myself together, Stef phoned one of her sources at CBS and then called a friend at Warner Brothers (Burbank studios where Dark Horse is located).  From these two sources, we were told George was at Warn Brothers right now!  So we quickly grabbed the first available George photo camera, combed our hair then raced like hell through 5:00 traffic to Dark Horse in Burbank.  We'd been there before so we didn't really take that long trying to find it.  Whew!  So we arrived not really knowing if George was still there.  A friend of mine who is a journalist was walking out of Warners, along with about 10 other people -- all carrying George's new album and cameras and briefcases.  My friend told me the press conference that George gave to discuss his new album was over.  Oh no!   But George was still inside talking to Mo Austin (the man who owns Warner Brothers).  My friend assured me that George wouldn't be inside long and that Stef and I should just wait a bit and we'd meet George.  Meanwhile, a man coming from the press conference told Stefania that George had left.  So confusing!  But then a very kind guard told us George was still inside because the beautiful bronze and silver Bentley he came in was still there.  Joyful again!

One-half hour of waiting and then -- George appeared!!  He was so beautiful!  Smiling and really limping.  His left foot was bandaged and George was relying heavily on a cane - but he was all smiles.  And oh, what a smile!  George had short hair which really accentuated his brown eyes.  When we saw George we didn't know what to do but as I saw George was walking towards his car and as I was holding the two photos for him to sign, I walked quickly towards him and got the words out.  "George, could you give us an autograph?"   He turned around, smiling, with his arms outstretched for the photos.  We fumbled with the photos and my pen for a second or two.  As he had to hold the walking stick for support, I held the photos with him.  He signed my photo "To Laurie, George Harrison."  Then he took the other photo, a beautiful color 8 x 10 from a Japanese calendar, and asked: "Where did this come from?"  We said, "from a Japanese calendar"  He seemed pleased and signed it "to Stephania, George Harrison."  He seemed confused by this name Stefania but I told him it was Italian.  He smiled.  Stefania asked if they could take photos.  He said yes, but to please be quick.  We took photos while George signed.  Then when he was done, we all walked together the few yards to his car.  Oh - there were no other fans around.  Just us, George and his friend, and a few Warner employees.  Anyway, we found we could ask a few questions.  Something like this:  Me:  Will you be back in LA to tour soon?  George:  No, I don't think so -- not for a long time.  Stef:  How is the baby?  George (with a really big smile) He's fine!  Me:  How is Olivia?  George:  She's fine.  do you have the album?  Us:  Yes!  George:  Do you like it? Us;  Yes! Then Is aid, "Yes, especially 'Blow Away.'  It's wonderful!  Then I added, with a very excited voice, "George, you're on AM in L.A.!"  George smiled then I said, "Come on, you've got to beat the Bee Gees!"  George laughed and said "Oh well."  I'm sure we said more, but it was all so wonderful I can't remember more.   Not until after George left (he had to practically hop into the car to avoid putting any weight on his bad foot) did I realize how close we had been to him.  My shoulders were touching his as we both held the photos he signed.  He is so thin -- but not at all weak looking -- in fact, he looked very healthy, his face full and really young looking.  Maybe the family life is making him younger!  Sure looks it!  After all these years, it's nice to say that George was perfectly wonderful -- oh, but I hope to see him again!

Here is Stefania's version of the same story.

I came home from school at about 3:30, which is really early for me.  It was hot, so I just peeled off some clothes and switched on the TV.   It just happened to be on CBS.  Because it was so hot I just sat on the couch and relaxed, when all of a sudden I hear "These are the stories we are working on for the 4:30, 5:00 and 6:00 news..blah blah blah...and Pat O'Brian will have an interview with former Beatle George Harrison."  That was all I had to hear to take me out of a nice state of relaxation.  A hundred thoughts went through my mind:  call the gang, get my camera ready, get a tape recorder, where was the interview taking place, when, was it in L.A.?  I called answer.  She was not home from work yet.  I call Sandi --- she had to work late.  I keep trying to call Laurie but still no answer.  Where the hell was she?  By then I had tried to work all the tape recorders in the house and of course not one of them worked.  I was so mad.

Finally, Laurie called saying she went to see Sandi at work and she told her to call me right away, something about George.  I told her about it and she said: "While I come over, call the station to first find out if it's live."  Needless to say at hearing the word "live," I went slightly mad.  I then began to make calls -- I think about 6 of them -- each time getting closer to his whereabouts.   As I was talking I kept thinking to myself, "God!  I work well under pressure."  I was very calm and professional on the phone.  My final call was to Warner Bros. where I found out that George was holding a press conference at that moment.  After telling her some far-fetched story (what's funny was that she believed me), she told me where the conference was being held.  Bless her.

Called Laurie back up to tell her to forget about the show, we are going to see George at Warner Bros.  She made it up to my house in a few seconds flat.  I hardly had time to grab my camera and film and I a photo for George (I prayed) to sign.

I hear her honking and run out to the car in near panic (it was not about 5:00pm in full rush hour), I get in and We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of oz...

Laurie, I think, if she were in a competition for the world's fastest driver would have won hands down.  We made it to Burbank in about 20 minutes.  A miracle in itself, not to mention when the freeway is bumper-to-bumper.  Laurie always was good at dodge-the-cars.

After parking the car and walking towards the front entrance, a quiet fear began to come over me.  I'm not sure if it was fear of not being able to finally meet him face to face after so many years or the fear of actually meeting him.  From a total state of nerves, I found myself totally calm and at peace with myself.

Then I began to notice a lot of people walking down the street with George's new LP and some press releases, and as we approached the gates, more and more people began to file out.  "Oh god, it's already over, maybe he left" was my first thought, which saddened me considerably. I proceeded to ask some reporter if he knew if George had already left.  "He left a long time ago," was his answer in a rather shitty tone.  I again felt sad but there was no way I was going to budge an inch, at which time Laurie's friend comes and says that the conference went great and that George was funny and very nice.  After asking if he was still in, she replied she was pretty sure he was because he went in after the conference to talk to Mo.

All that was left to do was wait.  So we did.  We went to the parking lot to see if we could spot one of his cars but nothing looked right, however, the first car my eye caught sight of was a gorgeous bronze Bentley, brand new and very classy.  We wanted to go and check it out but then someone else would walk out the doors of Warners.  Every time those doors opened I felt I would die.  Finally, a security guard came outside because at 6:00 Warners officially closes, so he was there.  We asked him if he knew George was still in there, at which point he turned to look at the cars in the lot and said, "Yeah, that's the car he came in this morning," pointing to the Bentley.  Me:  "do you know if there are any other exits?"  Guard:  "No, he'll have to come out from there.  He'll be carrying a cane.  He was limping."  Limping?  What does he mean limping?   We thanked him for being so nice and just began to talk amongst ourselves trying to implant the assurance that yes, this was it, and yes Virginia there really is a Santa Claus.

A few seconds later, the guard says to us, "Here he comes!"  I turned to see him coming towards us expecting to see that wonderful lively bounce but instead saw him limping and quite badly at that.  He was so lovely I don't think I'll quite be able to put in words what my feels were at that point.  all i could think of was how beautiful and young he really is.  Pictures are really a very false representation of him.

We started to walk towards him and stopped.  When he reached us my first concern was to ask him what had happened to his foot.  He replied with a gorgeous smile, "Oh, I just hurt my foot."  Thank you, George, but that's a bit obvious since his foot was all bandaged.  He was wearing beige cords, a printed shirt (white/blue and blue flaps).  He was also wearing his big Dark Horse necklace, the blue one, and no wedding ring.   I'm usually not so observant but I couldn't keep my eyes off of him.  Ah!  That man is bewitching!

The best part, however, was his hair.  It's short and sporting and it suits him wonderfully.  Lovely, just lovely.

Laurie asked him to sign a couple of autographs and again with an enormous smile he said, "Oh sure!" What a sweetheart, you should have seen him trying to get comfortable with his cane before signing.  However, he was enjoying it or so it seemed.  As he signed I asked if I could snap a couple of pics, and to answer he looked right at me and said: "Sure if you can be quick."  As I was taking some shots I heard him say, "Oh, where'd you get this one?"  I looked to see that he was checking out my photo of him, really interested (hopping so as not to put weight on his hurt foot), I told him that I loved his new album.  It was light-up time again, his whole face was a warm grin.  "do you really like it then?"  "Of course," I said, "Do you have the album?"  He again seemed interested - ah, such a gentleman!  Laurie then said, "I love Blow Away, come on George, knock those Bee Gees off the charts!" (as she thinks of it now, she can't believe she said that -- I can't either!)  After hearing that he just about cracked up and made a gesture like, oh well, we try.   he was getting ready to go so I asked how Dhani was.  This question brought about the biggest smile yet and the reply "Oh, he's just fine!"  "And Olivia?"  "She's fine too."  He then said he had to go and said bye.  At the second he left, already I couldn't believe what had happened.  All I could remember was how beautiful, young, happy and gentle he was.  He has absolutely no airs about him at all.  He makes you feel more like a friend, asking you questions.  I could have not have dreamt of a more totally terrific meeting with George.  I thought I'd be very nervous but instead, I was calm with a kind of inner glow.  Absolutely mind-blowing.  My last thought was, God, it was worth the waiting, and how much I do feel for him.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving the George stories, Sara. Thank you!

    It's sad though because before John died, George seemed like he was getting increasingly more comfortable with life as an ex-Beatle and interacting with fans. I think it really changed him, even though there are of course still many lovely fan accounts from the 80s and 90s.