Tuesday, November 21, 2023

In Quest of a Teenage Phenomenon

Photo  by Scott C. Dine (St. Louis Post Dispatch photographer)
The apex of a Beatle fan's career -- Miss Gale Wachsnicht touches Ringo's sleeve. George follows John in a rear door escape from their Chicago motel.  "I grabbed George," Gale said breathlessly, "just a couple of seconds before the policeman grabbed me."


In Quest of a Teenage Phenomenon – the Beatles

By Sally Bixby Defty

St. Louis Post Dispatch

August 27, 1965


“I touched them!  I touched all four Beatles with this hand!” Miss Barbara Ziegenbein gasped as her idols sped away from their Chicago motel to a doubleheader at White Sox Park.  To touch even one Beatle requires the resilience, imagination, and raw courage of James Bond, Barb, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ziegenbein 111 Five Meadow Ballwin, had spent three months planning the feat. She and Miss Gale Wachsnicht, whose parents are Mr. and Mrs. Henry Washsnicht 10334 Oak Avenue, Overland had obtained tickets in May.

Craftily, they wrote to the five swankiest Chicago hotels saying they would be in Chicago the weekend of The Beatles’ arrival and did NOT want to be involved in mob scenes.  “Please assure us that the Beatles are not staying at your hotel,” the letter concluded.  The one hotel that did not reply was obviously their target, the girls reasoned.

“It’s not sex,” the girls explained.  “The Beatles are just cuddly.  We’d like to do their laundry for them – things like that.”  When asked who was her favorite, Barb answered, “First I  liked Paul best, then John’s book came out and I loved him.  After I saw “A Hard Day’s Night” I liked Ringo the most. Now that I I’ve read the book by their manager, Brian Epstein, I kind of go for HIM.” 

Having received a tip that these mid-century phenomena, would be staying at the Sahara Inn near O’Hare airport, I decided to accompany the girls in their quest last week.  I arrived at the motel to find them casing the layout of the sprawling Sahara.  Eager-eyed teenagers filled the corridors.

A porter confided that the Sahara was already planning to sell the Beatles’ sheets at $1 a square inch.  (The girls ended up such friends of the head maid that they were given free swatches of both Thursday and Friday night sheets).

Many informants believed that the Beatles were to stay on the sixth floor of the motel tower. The junior detectives telephoned all rooms on the sixth floor, but received no response we decided to investigate via the fire escape under cover of darkness.

As we crept to the fifth floor, Barb spotted a ladder leading to a parapet on six. We climbed up gingerly only to find the sixth floor was under construction. In the inky blackness we debated whether to tie a rope to a stud and slide down the outside of the building to rap on a Beatle window when they arrived.  Gale sighed, “Oh, if they only knew what we go through for them!”

All kinds of girls came and went during the long vigil in the parking lot. There were cleanout girls in madras shirts and denim skirts, Courreges girls in white boots and short dresses belted at the hip, and a trio with long, straight hair, tight white Levis, black leather caps and jackets and pale impassive faces so tough they scared me.

It was after 4a.m. when, without fanfare, black limousine glided to a stop before the motel and was immediately buried under ecstatic girls, including Barb and Gale.  After police scraped fans off the car, out came the real live Beatles:  first Paul (the cute one), smiling and gently raising his finger to his lips to quite the crowd; then George (the man of mystery), Ringo (the Chaplinesque Beatles) and John (the thinking girl’s Beatle)  (John has just published his second book ‘A Spainard in the Works’ which has been called the teenagers introduction to James Joyce.)

Girls stuffed themselves into the Cadillac to breathe Beatle air.  A tiny blonde ran up to me glowing and said, “Look! A chewing gum wrapper from the floor!” I started to examine it and she cried, “Don’t unfold it!  THEY squashed it up that way!”

I awake the next morning to find a sea of teenagers on the parking lot waving, shouting or just staring at the fifth floor.  By early afternoon they had become a formable force which broke police line as if it were a daisy chain.

So Barb and Gale sneaked around to the back door and when the Beatles emerged the girls had their idols almost all to themselves. They returned dazed and weak in the knees.

“I got to touch Ringo!” Gale said, “and then I grabbed George!” Though a policeman had pushed her to the ground to disentangle her from George, her current favorite, it was an experience of a lifetime.

At the concert at White Sox Park the screaming rose to an excruciating pitch   as the Beatles trotted from the dugout to a stage set up on second base.

Leonard Berstein, who considers the Beatles’ music an art form, listens to them in person with his fingers in his ears.  I discovered that the conductor of the New York Philharmonic knows what he is doing.  A gentle pressure on the ears muffles the piercing yells so that one can faintly hear the twang of guitars and the beat of Ringo’s drums.

Though a few girls wore “Please don’t scream – sing!” buttons, most of the audience of 30,000 shrieked as though in agony.  Weeping, shaking their heads with faces contorted, fists clenched, they screamed in staccato barks of pain.  Barb explained it, “These girls have been waiting so long – they just love the Beatles, they’ll never love anyone else, and at the same time they know they’ll never get close to them and it’s all in vain.”

Paul, smart and well-groomed in striped shirt with a stiff white collar, tie, and well-cut navy suit, appeared poised and cheerful at the press conference. Ringo, dressed in a wide stripped T-shirt and jacket, looked indescribably woebegone. His eyes and his eyebrows slope down toward his earlobes, the mouth droops, and that nose….

When asked why he always looks so sad, Ringo answered, “Thot’s joost the way the face works.  Ah’m really quite hoppy inside, it just doesn’t show.”

George, a distinctly lupine young man with a mouthful of crooked teeth, said that in Houston teenagers had broken police lines and swarmed over and under the airplane.

“When I saw them lyin’ on the wings smokin’ I thought we were dead for sure.” He said in a soft Liverpudlian burr.

Philip G.D. Adams, the British Consul-General made his way to the front of the room. “I do beg your pardon,” he intoned in a Rule Brittania voice, “but do you chaps consider that you do a good job for your country?” John leaped to his feet with a fixed toothy grin and a snappy salute.

As the Beatles nodded their assent to the question amid general laughter John shot a level glance at the British official and quietly asked, “Do you?”  

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