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   Vol. 15  No. 13
Friday February 12, 2016

When LAX Landed The Beatles

When LAX Landed The Beatles

   Here is a break in the day’s occupation and an extra special issue for all you lovers celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th.
   When The Beatles arrived in Los Angeles time stood still. It’s now fifty-two years later and our dear friend Michael Webber is helping us remember the event.
   Michael helped us celebrate “The Day The Beatles Landed At JFK,” which you can celebrate all over again by clicking through.
   We have added a Playlist (available on Spotify) and also some Beatles tunes from YouTube to add some music to your day as you take a dip into the deep end of the Beatlemania pool.
   Go get ‘em, lovers!

     July 14, 1964: More than a month ahead of the Beatles’ anticipated arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), management of the Department of Airports sat down with a local disc jockey/nightclub owner/concert promoter, as well as representatives of local police and fire departments to plan for two “B-Days”—internally-used code for days on which The Beatles would be at LAX.
     The tour would open on August 19th at San Francisco's Cow Palace, with shows on consecutive days in Las Vegas, Seattle, and Vancouver. The fifth date of their first full tour of the U.S. and Canada would have The Beatles playing the historic Hollywood Bowl on August 23rd, followed by a couple of days off before continuing in Denver on August 26th. Therefore, LAX management was planning for a window believed to begin on August 23rd and end on or before August 26th.

Beatles At The Beach

One More Time?

     This was not the Beatles’ first trip to America, but it was their first continent-wide concert tour.
     A few months earlier on February 7, 1964, the band had landed at New York's JFK International Airport for the first of two days of performances (split into three broadcasts), bookending a week in which they also played concerts in Washington, DC, and New York's Carnegie Hall.
     Two months later, the Beatles would hold all of the top five slots on the U.S. record charts in a single week in April. In July, United Artists released the movie “A Hard Days Night” to surprisingly widespread acclaim.
     The Beatles dominated the pop music charts in unprecedented fashion, adding cinema to their conquests. In an era when paper concert tickets were sold in box offices in exchange for cash, the Hollywood Bowl show had sold out in only 3 1/2 hours— as fast as as pre-internet sales would allow.
     With the concert sold out, the local concert promoter had no need for additional hype and the individual Beatles had already tired of constant hounding by fans and media. In this context, there were no dissenters when LAX’s airport operators resolved to avoid the bedlam that had occurred at JFK, where Beatles management had worked with local media to spur a larger-than-life first impression by leaking details of the band's airport arrival.

An LAX Non-Event!

     The objective was to make the Beatles' presence at LAX as much of a non-event as possible.
     The first decision documented in the airport’s own archives was that there would be “no airport reception.”
     Essentially, airport management sought to minimize fans’ hope that the airport might offer their best opportunity to see the band.
     With only five days of preparation time for an entirely different operational landscape, on August 13th airport management was informed that the Beatles would arrive first at LAX on its international commercial flight to America, en route to San Francisco. Apart from their desire to minimize the impact, almost everything had changed from the plan refined over the preceding month.

Pan Am Peerless

     As with their first trip to America, the Beatles again would arrive on a Pan Am commercial flight.      The airline had one of the most savvy marketing teams to be found in any industry and had practically invented the practice of “product placement” by positioning its logo in so many iconic images of the Beatles’ arrival at JFK. Whereas Pan Am’s public relations and other staff had considerable influence over the scene at JFK near their corporate headquarters, Pan Am's influence over planning at LAX appears to have been nominal (although again the airline’s logo appears omnipresent).
     LAX management quickly conferred with U.S. Public Health, Immigration and Customs, as well as with the Federal Aviation Agency, to plot a path for the Beatles to be processed with minimal exposure.
     Allied agencies such as police and fire departments would have limited roles in this particular operation, since the Beatles would not be leaving the airport's sterile area but would stop for less than an hour before continuing to San Francisco.
     On August 18th, Pan Am's Boeing 707-321 departed London Heathrow with the Beatles on board.
     As was Pan Am’s practice for each of its Clipper aircraft, this one (registered #N728PA) had been named Peerless—even more perfectly suiting the Beatles than February's Clipper Defiance. As in February, Pan Am placed a temporary sticker over the Clipper name to brand it “Jet Clipper Beatles.”

Manitoba Interlude

     While the Beatles would play Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal on the Canadian dates of this North American tour, a 25 to 35-minute refueling stop at Winnipeg would be Manitoba's only exposure to the Beatles that year. The locals treated the event as a proxy for an actual concert.
     Allegedly tipped by an Air Canada employee, Winnipeg radio stations broadcast flight details, resulting in throngs of fans jamming the outdoor observation deck and airfield entrances.
     Impressed by the turnout, Beatles manager Brian Epstein encouraged the band to deplane the aircraft and acknowledge the crowd.

Bruce Decker

Decker’s Dash

     The Beatles descended hastily gathered stairs and were immediately surrounded by reporters who could hardly believe their good fortune at this impromptu opportunity. Overcome by the situation, a 17-year-old Bruce Decker made a mad dash for the aircraft, temporarily eluding security before being captured by Mounties almost two-thirds of the way up the aircraft stairs.
     It was just the kind of scene airport management in LAX hoped to prevent.
     “We couldn't see anything from the observation platform,” Decker recalled in 1985, in what would be his last interview, “so we sneaked down to the ramp. It was fascinating to see the Beatles in person here in Winnipeg. I just figured I could make it up those steps, and I no sooner thought of it and I was gone. I had to get a closer look at them. The crowd roared when they saw me go. Just as the Mounties were wrestling with me, I caught a glimpse of the Beatles through the door and they were chuckling.      Afterwards, kids crowded around me, touching me and screaming.
     “The girls thought there was some kind of magic about me just because I'd got so close to them."

Guess Who

     While “Decker's Dash” became an immortal part of Winnipeg folklore, its namesake never had the opportunity to meet any Beatles before passing in the 1980s. His bandmate in a local garage band was Burton Cummings, who would go on to fame as a member of The Guess Who and as a solo artist who also toured as a member of Beatle Ringo Starr’s backing band.
     Refueling completed, the 707 was on its way to LAX. The “no reception” mandate had already given way to plans for a press conference on the lower level of the airport’s Satellite 2 terminal.
     The press conference logistics had to be worked out with reporters, as well as Pan Am and even Customs agents, in order to preserve an ideally seamless flow of the Beatles through the airport without exposing the band to the public.

Best Laid Plan At LAX

     Perhaps considered naive in hindsight, airport management still hoped that fans could be prevented from learning of the Beatles’ brief presence at LAX, but by late morning, Los Angeles-area news media began reporting that the Beatles would go through Customs at LAX between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. that same day.
     While the media leaks were far from ideal, LAX management relied on the basic plan they had coordinated in recent days with police, airport security, and other operations personnel. All gates to the airfield were duly manned, the stairways and elevators leading to the satellite's lower levels were guarded, and lobby windows surrounding Gate 20 (where the international flight would deplane) were barricaded. Surplus barricades were strategically stowed should it become necessary to seal the entire satellite area.

All Hell Breaks Loose

Beatles At Lax     The first of the crowd began streaming in around 1:00 p.m. By 4:00 p.m., the crowd was estimated at about 400. An internal memo suggests that the small crowd’s shrieks and constant motion from window to window easily gave the impression of an exponentially larger crowd.
     Most were young girls—six to sixteen—with very few boys and no parents in sight. Having already deciphered that a press conference was to be held, the girls attempted to bond to the reporters and photographers until tearfully being separated at the check-in point from which the registered press was escorted to the secret conference room.
     At 4:15 p.m., the 707 taxied to Gate 20. This provided the only chance for much of the public to see the Beatles that day, descending the stairs and posing for a few pictures.
     The band acknowledged fans visible through the windows, and although lasting only a few seconds, this was the most worrisome moment for airport management as hysterical fans pounded the double-paned lobby glass.
     The press conference at LAX had been hurriedly scheduled to mark that the Beatles had arrived in America.
     Rather than the Beatles' press manager or one of the band moderating, reporters shouted a cacophony of questions at multiple Beatles.
     Sidebar discussions abounded as reporters edged near the table to question individual Beatles.

Beatles LAX Press Conference

     Other reporters audibly protested the chaos and a visibly irritated John Lennon appeared relieved when around the ten-minute mark of the conference manager Brian Epstein leaned in with a whispered message, which Lennon enthusiastically recited as “the Airport Authority would like for us to close this thing down now, alright.”
     Standing up and nodding for his band mates to follow, Lennon announced again “the airport man says we've got to go,” adding dryly “back on the 23rd for more photos and fun, alright.”
     Contrasted with the triumph of cheekiness and good will that characterized the Beatles' press conference at JFK in February, the LAX press event was a barely tolerated slog.
     Signing a few autographs as they left the conference room, the band was led to slip aboard their 5:15 departure to San Francisco.
     An unanticipated early B-Day lasting almost exactly an hour had passed without injuries to the band or their fans.
     The next two B-Days at LAX should be relatively less complicated on the airside due to being domestic flights aboard a chartered airline that was able to deplane and board the band without entering the terminal.
     On the other hand, those flights would introduce new potential challenges for the airport’s landside operations, given that the Beatles would need to leave and enter the airport via ground transportation.
These would be the two flights for which airport management and its allied partners had already been planning for more than a month.
     However, the planners tweaked their plans due to lessons learned from the first B-Day.
     One such lesson was that airport and airline employees posed potential weaknesses in terms of leaking information to their children.
     The LAX internal memo documents airport management’s grudging admiration for “sharp-witted sub-teen and teen-age girls whose grapevine communications system antiquates the entire electronics industry”—several decades ahead of Facebook and Twitter.

Planning Ahead

     Days ahead of the anticipated arrival for the Hollywood Bowl show, the Department of Airports sent a message to all media that if LAX were too congested, the Beatles’ American Flyers chartered aircraft would be diverted to another Southern California airport.
     Generalized instructions were telephoned to Tanner Motor Livery who was providing ground transport for the Beatles and their entourage, as well as to the local promoter and representatives of the charter airline.
     All 35 individuals on the contact list were advised to be on standby for final instructions when the arrival airport had been confirmed.
     Compared with news of the unanticipated extra flight operation at LAX a week earlier, the next unexpected news was much more welcomed.
     Instead of a scheduled arrival at 3:00 p.m.—basically, rush hour at LAX—the Beatles would leave after the preceding show and arrive at LAX in the wee hours of the morning. Coming from Vancouver, the flight could either pre-clear Customs in Canada or stop in Seattle so it would arrive in Los Angeles as essentially a domestic flight. Doing so would allow the aircraft to land at a remote location known to only four people at the time, rather than use the terminal.
     Airport staff were glad to trade a long night for having fewer fans on-hand and more predictable ground transportation. Essential personnel began to report at 9:00 p.m. with the Airport Department’s Public Relations team providing key communications and the general manager of Operations as “field commander.”

Decoys In Action

     In an extraordinary coincidence, Angie Macias of LAX’s P.R. Department had previously met the Beatles and their managers when staying in the same hotel as the band in Copenhagen at the beginning of their World Tour on June 4, 1964. Arriving at midnight, airport guides Ethel Pattison and Jane Berkey would serve as decoys in other limousines while also directing the Beatles’ chauffeurs to a remote airport gate.
     Several key elements of the plan fell apart quickly. The team was informed that the flight had not pre-cleared Customs and therefore the remote location was replaced by the north side of Satellite 2, which was, at least, not visible to the public. At 3:45 a.m., the Beatles chartered Constellation arrived at the darkened ramp to no more clamor than a handful of reporters and airport and airline employees. A baggage tug route was used to transport the Beatles to the Customs clearance area.
     Already known to Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor and road manager Neil Aspinall, LAX’s Angie Macias was handed the Beatles passports to marshal through processing.
     B-Day #2 at LAX had been relatively painless. Fans had not exceeded the hundreds and had “taken the bait” regarding prospective alternate airports, with several hundred also reportedly gathered at Ontario Airport. Hours after the Beatles had left LAX, about 150 fans remained in the Satellite 2 lobby, refusing to believe they had already missed seeing the band. The young girls reported they had nowhere to go anyhow because their mothers believed they were spending the night at friends’ houses.

Hollywood BowlIn & Out of The Bowl

     After the Hollywood Bowl concert and a couple of additional days off, the final B-Day would be a scheduled 10:30 departure to Denver on the morning of August 26th. With no need for international processing, the outbound flight could use the remote airfield location intended to be used for the inbound flight.
     Unaware of the remote location to be used for the charter flight, the droves of fans favored Satellite Six, where scheduled flights to Denver frequently departed, and Satellite Two possibly because it had been used for the international flights.
     LAX’s Angie Macias attended the Hollywood Bowl show as the guest of Beatles management and had been a visitor at the Beatles’ rented Bel Air mansion. Macias reported to the mansion for their load-out, advising airport management when cars transporting entourage and equipment left at 9:50 a.m., and then rode with the Beatles in their limo departing the mansion for LAX around 10:20 a.m.
     The Beatles’ white Continental was intercepted along Pershing Drive at the airport’s West end and then guided by a security car through the gate direct to the aircraft ramp. Amidst a few more photos, the Beatles boarded the American Flyers aircraft and at 11:04 were airborne, closing out the third of three B-Days with the only casualties being disappointed fans, who would have enjoyed more access but had no enduring injuries.
     To airport management, that was the most important metric for success.
Michael Webber

Meet The Beatles 2016

Bob Eubanks(A Postcript) Then KRLA-AM (1110) radio deejay Bob Eubanks (better known nationally for later television work, including hosting “The Newlywed Game” and “Card Sharks”) mortgaged his house to pay the Beatles $25,000 for their performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964.
     Eubanks would also promote the Beatles’ two performances at the Hollywood Bowl in 1965, as well as their 1966 show at Dodger Stadium.
     In a recent interview, Eubanks observed how the travel ground down the band over the course of those years.
     “They got tired of touring. After the ‘66 tour, they just didn't want to do that anymore.
     “My personal opinion is they were tired of being hassled and being chased. They said, ‘OK, we're done.’”
     All these years later, Eubanks’ KRLA cohort Dave Hull was still consistently referred to as “Dave Hullabaloo” by sources interviewed for this story.
     Jet Clipper Peerless, registration N728PA, was delivered to Pan Am on March 6, 1960, and sold to International Controls Corporation, re-registered as N11RV, on June 14, 1971.

Club 707

     It then changed hands several times before being repossessed by Pan Am (and re-registered as N728PA) on October 27, 1975. After several more sales, it was sold to Air Manila International and finally bought by an eccentric millionaire who converted the aircraft into a stationery restaurant called “Club 707” near the Manila airport. Interestingly, the aircraft has an unsubstantiated local cache for having been formerly owned by Elvis Presley, but it never was. Alternatively, its one-time use as Jet Clipper Beatles appears nowhere in the promotional material. According to the latest update found, it is fitted out as a private jet with the original bar, desk, and seating, but tables have been added to accommodate up to 40 diners.
Ethel Pattison
     Ethel Pattison remains active with the Flight Path Museum at LAX. The Ethel Pattison Rose Garden was dedicated on January 25, 2006 to commemorate what was then already 50 years of service to Los Angeles World Airports. After many years as Chief Airport Guide, her current title is Airport Information Specialist, but many others would as likely call her the “Heart of LAX.”

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