The day Cassius Clay and The Beatles shared the ring
In February, 1964, 55 years ago, the Beatles came to town. The Fab Four performed live at the Deauville Hotel for their second appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
And Miami went wild.
Here is a look back from the Miami Herald archives at the impact they made.
A LOOK BACK
Published Feb. 9, 2014
Lynn Henderson had the most valuable possession in Miami that sunny mid-February Thursday afternoon 50 years ago: a construction paper press badge she made in journalism class at Miami Springs Junior High.
The school’s newspaper, The Eagles’ Nest, had an in with the deejays at WQAM-560, the hippest station in South Florida, the one where DJ Rick Shaw aired the Beatles’ American breakthrough single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” before anyone else locally.
Henderson, 13, was her newspaper’s star reporter and WQAM’s school correspondent.
“Our heads were starting to balloon. We thought, shoot, why not interview the Beatles? — not realizing the chaos that would ensue at the airport,” Henderson, now Lynn Hunt, said. Hunt scored an interview with the Beatles that afternoon on the tarmac outside the National Airlines Terminal as 5,000 screaming fans greeted the Beatles at Miami International Airport.
Hunt was among the first that day to usher in Beatlemania to South Florida, less than a week after the Fab Four’s live U.S. TV debut before a record 73 million viewers Feb. 9 on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were poised to repeat the hysteria at Miami Beach’s Deauville Hotel on Feb. 16 for a second and final live Sullivan Beatles taping. That night’s broadcast would draw 70 million viewers and confirm the American public’s infatuation with the Beatles.
New York met the Beatles first for that initial Sullivan appearance. Washington, D.C., scored the first Beatles concert on U.S. soil a couple of days later. But perhaps no U.S. city can claim as big a hold on the Beatles’ members as Miami had in February 1964. You could say they were here Eight Days a Week.
“They spent more time in South Florida than any other city; they were here eight days,” said Joe Johnson, host of the syndicated radio program “Beatle Brunch.”
“They only spent a couple days in New York. Even on tour, they played San Francisco and only spent a day or two in the city. In Miami they really interacted with our local celebs. Cassius Clay. They loved the local flavor. I think for Florida to claim the Beatles as part of their own is really important,” said Johnson, 55.
Hunt, 63, who became a professional writer and creative director for an ad agency after graduating from the University of Florida, remembers 1964.
“My beloved journalism teacher arranged with our principal to get us out of school early and we had our permission slips and we made our construction paper press badges and one of my classmate’s moms dropped us off at the airport. We showed the PR woman at the airport our stuff, and she let us go through to the end of one of the concourses.”
Hunt laughs at the memory.
“There is a guard and he let us go out, which didn’t please the other teenagers that were there.” Suddenly, the boys depart the plane, descending a silver stairway toward a limo. Hunt’s heart did a Ringo drum roll like the one that opens She Loves You. “I’m thinking, ‘This is my chance.’ I started running toward the limo,” she said from her home in North Carolina.
“I was smaller and faster, and I got there as they were pulling their legs into the car. I knocked on one side. The police were running after me. John Lennon waved them away because I had my construction paper press badge on, and my notebook and pencil.”
Five questions, five answers from John, Paul and Ringo. George, the quiet one, remained silent.
“It was very fast and over quickly. John blew me a kiss and the window slid shut and they took off,” Hunt said. “We were in a daze. I don’t remember how we got home. We called [journalism teacher] Mr. Sligar from a payphone, and he was bursting with pride.” She laughs when she recalls how that day changed her life. “I married a Brit and we would meet some of his friends and the first thing he’d say was, ‘Lynn interviewed the Beatles.’ I could have found the cure for cancer, but everyone would remember that day at the airport.”
Two days later, Bob Saxon, 16, and two of his friends from Fort Lauderdale High School, piled into a parent’s 1958 Chevrolet convertible and headed to the Deauville Hotel to meet the Beatles.
“We knew there was no way to get into the Deauville by standing in line because only about 300 could get in and there were thousands of kids in line,” Saxon, now 66, said.
So the kids ditched the car north of the Deauville and walked down a service road along the side of the hotel. There, they spotted a vacant catering truck backed up to the kitchen entrance. The trio scurried into the unlocked vehicle, filed out of its back doors and found themselves deposited in the hotel kitchen.
The three were collared by one of the sergeants guarding the stairwells and elevators.
“But some guy named Johnson, wearing a bathrobe and a beach towel over his shoulder and smoking a big cigar, came in from the pool area or beach and said, ‘You boys trying to see the Beatles?’ “ The stranger told the sergeant the trio was with him. “He must have been a prominent guy,” Saxon, now president of a yachting company in Fort Lauderdale, said.
“He walked us past all the guests and through the lobby, over to the auditorium, opened the auditorium door, and said, ‘You are on your own from here.’” The boys grabbed front row seats on the side near the camera guys. Beforehand, Sullivan gave the audience directions as to when to cheer and when to simmer down. They kept screaming, to Sullivan’s irritation. “You’re not listening to me,” the host admonished the frenzied teens.
“George Harrison was opening the curtain and sticking his head out and showing his face and all the girls were flipping out,” Saxon explained.
The next day, Sheri Shepherd (now Sheri Estroff), 17 and with family connections — Dad Sonny Shepherd was a vice president with the Wometco movie chain — partied with the Beatles at the Indian Creek home of Sam Cohen, the owner of the Deauville. The Cohens had wanted to invite a couple of high school senior girls to the house party so that the Beatles, who were in their early 20s, would have people close to their own ages.
Shepherd and pal Susan Coolik, both Miami Edison seniors, ran home from school to get their swimsuits and casual clothes. Soon, they found themselves on chaise lounges at the Cohen mansion’s backyard pool with the Beatles: John and his then-wife Cynthia (“They were so nice; he was the oldest of the boys so I could relate more with him”), Paul (“a little shy”), George (“so quiet he didn’t open his mouth”) and Ringo (“Oh, my God! You couldn’t shut him up. He talk, talk, talked. I remember Ringo being such a flirt.”) The Beatles tried to water ski from the back of a 23-foot Formula race boat in Biscayne Bay.
“They had no sun at all so they were very, very white, not looking like Florida boys,” said Shepherd, now 67.
The timing of the Beatles’ arrival in the tinderbox America of the 1960s couldn’t have been better. The Kennedy assassination had happened only months earlier and a mourning nation was looking to heal.
“It was escapism from the horror we had just gone through,” said Chuck Bergeron, 52, professor of jazz and rock history at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. “Sometimes this goes over the heads of my current students, who are 18 and 21 and don’t understand the fear of going to high school with some kid who got a draft card in the mail. The level of fear and paranoia in this country at that time — the Civil Rights Act hadn’t been signed and there’s rioting — and this music was an outlet for that for an entire generation.”
The music also tapped into every generation’s desire to call something their own. “No kids want to dance to the music of their parents,” Bergeron said. “Here comes these guys, born in 1940, ‘41, not Depression-era babies. It’s music and fashion and a look and it came along at a time when we needed something different. Lennon and McCartney are as important as songwriters as George and Ira Gershwin were in the early parts of that century. They broke a lot of rules melodically and harmonically and didn’t follow the norm, and that’s important for an art form. “I don’t think we’ll ever achieve anything like this again,” he added.
“Back then there were so few sources of news and information. Today, a horrible tragedy will happen and the next day we’re focused on Justin Bieber’s arrest.”
Legendary WQAM DJ Shaw, now retired and living in Cooper City, still has the 45 rpm record of I Want to Hold Your Hand that he played that winter morning, more than 50 years ago, the one that turned South Florida on to a new, vibrant sound from England.
“I Want to Hold Your Hand was an amazing thing. I put it on, played it first in South Florida, and nobody had heard of the Beatles. About 30 seconds into the record the phones exploded,” Shaw, 75, said.
“Something was going on here, something really unusual and different. Those things become road marks and the soundtrack of your life. “
“We should always think how lucky we are to be here in South Florida where there is all this Beatles DNA still around,” Johnson said. As for Hunt, the crafty junior high journalist:, the Beatles’ Miami visit boosted her report card that year. “I was Outstanding Journalist of the Year,” she said. “I got an A.”
— HOWARD COHEN
A FAN REMEMBERS
Published Feb. 14, 2004
Back in 1964, Carole Redlus gawked at her beloved Beatles from behind a security line at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach.
She was 12 then, a star-struck preteen flashing metal braces in a grin, hoping Paul McCartney would glance over and perhaps, to make her knees tremble, wink.
Not until she opened the Miami Herald on Friday and saw herself in a photograph taken 40 years ago did she realize the moment had been captured by a photographer.
“My mom called me and told me to look in the paper,” Redlus, a Southwest Miami-Dade homemaker, said in an interview Friday. “I couldn’t believe it.”
As Miami marks the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ first visit here, the publicity is helping some fans to relive the memories. In Redlus’ case, she dug a suitcase full of Beatles memorabilia out of storage and spent an afternoon combing through the dusty archives. The Beatles came into Redlus’ life when her cousin, who was a year older at the time, brought over the band’s “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” record for a slumber party in 1964.
A few months later, she caught wind that the band was coming to Miami Beach. The ticket she bought to see them at the Deauville is harbored safely away in an album. Her mom took her to the hotel.
“My mother thought we were going to get trampled to death,” she said. “We sat on the floor in front of the stage. Everyone was just screaming. It was hysteria. People were fighting to get to the front of the stage. Just being in the room with Paul McCartney and the Beatles was an experience in itself. It was great.”
Before leaving the hotel, Redlus and her cousin (who is standing to her right wearing horn-rimmed glasses in the photograph) tried to sneak to the Beatles’ room. “We took the elevator to the floor beneath the one they were in, then took the stairs one flight up,” she said. “As soon as security saw us, they chased us out.”
Her favorite Beatle has always been Paul. “He’s just the cutest,” she said. Redlus, 52, still tunes in to the Beatles brunch on Sundays on 102.7 FM. Her 16-year-old son, Alex, a sophomore at Gulliver Preparatory School, said he knew his mom was a Beatles fan, but had no idea to what extent — not until she busted out the dusty suitcase. “I knew she was a freak, but I honestly had never seen this stuff before,” he said.
Inside Redlus’ suitcase is a slew of Beatles posters, magazine and newspaper articles, books, old tickets, baseball-style cards, and even wallpaper she once had hanging on her wall. The albums she kept were ruined years back by water damage.
The article she clipped about the Beatles’ arrival in Miami was written by Herald reporter Gene Miller, who is still with the paper. The first paragraph captures the atmosphere their presence produced.
“Outshrieking a jet, Miami teenagers smashed a plate glass door, broke 23 jalousies and tore up 12 chairs at the airport Thursday to greet England’s cultural gift to America, the Beatles,” Miller wrote. “The Beatles escaped unsquashed.”
While the Beatles have always been her favorites, Redlus has tried to keep up with the times. She also got into The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Her cellphone today rings to the sound of the Outkast song, “Hey Ya.” But she notes that today’s most popular music has a very different approach.
“It’s completely different now,” she said. “The Beatles were safe. My parents were supportive of me being a fan. There was nothing offensive about them. Their music is great. It’s not the same song over and over again. “Paul McCartney is a genius.”
Published Feb. 13, 2014
It was 40 years ago today, the Beatles came to Miami to play.
Four young men from Liverpool, England, arrived on that sunny Miami day, Feb. 13, 1964. The Magic City was never the same.
The Beatles, too, were smitten by Miami, one of the early stops on their first U.S. tour.
“That was just like paradise because we’d never been to anywhere where there were palm trees,” Paul McCartney said in the Beatles’ Anthology documentary. “We took a lot of photos. We were like tourists.”
Indeed, they were. They frolicked in the surf. They jested with Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay. And they thrust Miami Beach into the national spotlight when they performed at the Deauville Hotel at Collins Avenue and 67th Street for their second straight appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The week before, they had appeared on the show in New York. For some lucky fans in South Florida, the Beatles’ visit to Miami — the band loved it so much they stayed an extra week — altered their lives forever.
Ruth Regina, the makeup artist for “The Jackie Gleason Show” in Miami Beach, was hired to do similar honors for the Liverpool lads — McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — and clung to their sides for the group’s entire stay. Rick Shaw, in the right place at the right time, was the first local DJ to play “I Want to Hold Your Hand” over the airwaves. Four Herald staffers got to be the Beatles for a day.
Then there was Larry Kane. Forty years ago, he was a news director with Miami’s WFUN-AM (now WAXY-AM 790). Today, he has the distinction of being the only U.S. journalist to accompany the Beatles on every stop of their 1964 and 1965 North American tours. His book, Ticket to Ride (Running Press, $22.95), came out last fall.
Yet Kane almost bagged the assignment.
“I didn’t want to go,” Kane, 61, said by phone from his Philadelphia home. “I told the program director, ‘Why would a guy like me, a serious journalist, want to travel with a band?’ I thought it would be a flash in the night, that they wouldn’t be around in a year.”
Kane, then 21, covered it all. Presidents, popes, mayhem, malcontents — not pop bands visiting from England.
But six days before the band’s Miami arrival, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was pounding across the airwaves. “Meet the Beatles!”, the American version of the band’s second album, With the Beatles, topped the charts, and more than 3,000 hysterical fans greeted the group’s plane in New York City.
The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show drew 73 million viewers. The following week, the Beatles would make their second appearance on Sullivan’s show — from a stage inside the Deauville.
About 2,600 people were in the audience. The set list included “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “From Me to You” and the ballad, “This Boy.”
“When we got off the elevator with the police and security it seemed like the girls popped out of the walls,” said Regina, the makeup artist, laughing at the memory from her makeup and wig shop in Bay Harbor Islands. “In their room we could hear the roaring of fans, like the sound of waves, coming from downstairs by the beach. Every once in a while they would walk over [to the window] to see what was going on. They were sweet about it. They were very much not aware of just how popular they were. I think they were a little shocked by the whole thing.”
WFUN wasn’t going to let this phenomenon go undocumented. When the Beatles were due to deplane inside Concourse 3 at Miami International Airport, National Airlines’ hub back then, Kane had his orders: Be there and cover the story.
The scene at MIA was crazy. Estimates suggest that about 7,000 frenzied fans turned out. Sinatra and Elvis were big; Beatlemania was monumental.
“The kids had flooded the concourse . . . they were on the tarmac,” Kane said. “Most took cabs there because they were not old enough to drive.”
The Miami Herald also got into the act. Two copy boys, a reporter and a photographer dressed up in mop-top wigs and dark suits and rode around in an airport cart clutching guitar cases before the real Beatles arrived. They did it to write about their adventures the next day.
Paul Schreiber, recently retired as a reporter/editor with Newsday, was a Herald copy boy then and Beatle Paul. Fans weren’t fooled for long. For one, the Fake Four — who also included reporter Kurt Luedtke, who went on to win an Oscar in 1986 for his screenplay for “Out of Africa” — arrived without a jet.
“They were on to us and hooting and yelling and so on,” Schreiber, 60, said, laughing, from his New York home. “They were mostly teens, going nuts trying every way to get to the Beatles. I saw a line of girls spiraling down the baggage shoot to get to the plane.”
Schreiber says he was already a Beatles fan and has remained so. Regina was charmed by the lads and became a lifelong Beatles fan. It would take a bit longer for Kane to be converted. He first interviewed the Beatles at a sparsely attended news conference at the Deauville. The band, especially Lennon, thought the button-down newsman looked like a nerd. Kane thought Lennon was “scruffy.”
That would have been it, but in August he was assigned to interview the band again, just prior to their Jacksonville tour stop. He wound up being invited to accompany the Beatles on the entire tour because their manager, Brian Epstein, mistakenly believed Kane was the head honcho of news for a slew of stations. Kane was in.
“It was the most amazing experience I ever had,” he opines now. “In my career I’ve interviewed every president since LBJ, covered 19 political conventions, every condition of the human being. Yet wherever I go, the first question I always get is what Jimmy Carter asked me before his election defeat: ‘So Larry, what were the Beatles like?’ It’s something I can’t escape.”
Kane wasn’t the only person in South Florida to initially hold some reservations. Veteran DJ Rick Shaw was the first local jock to air the U.S. breakthrough single I Want to Hold Your Hand when he worked for then pop-oriented WQAM. It was about a month before the Beatles’ arrival.
“Capitol [Records] special-delivered the record at noon on a Saturday. No one else was at the station,” Shaw, now 65, recalled. “Back then it was a big deal if you had the record first. I called Jim Dunlap, the program director, and said we have this record by this new British group, so he said to play it. Shaw’s initial reaction to Hand? “It was good. Nice song. Didn’t blow my socks off. But I can see an opportunity when it’s banging on the door,” said Shaw, now on weekday mornings at WMXJ, Majic 102.7 FM.
“This is the only time this has happened, but 30 seconds into it the phones exploded! I still have that 45. I saved it.” Shaw suggests that the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy opened the door for the Beatles. The youthful president was a favorite with the rock ‘n’ roll generation.
“It was a giant culture shock when he was assassinated. It’s 1964 and guess who shows up on Sullivan? The Beatles.” In October 1964 record buyers slit open their copies of the group’s fourth LP, Beatles for Sale, to read this liner note written by the group’s PR man, Derek Taylor: “The kids of A.D. 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well-being and warmth as we do today.”
Sure enough, the group’s 2000 release, Beatles 1, a compilation of 27 of the quartet’s biggest hits, ranks as the No. 1 title on Billboard’s Pop Catalog chart. “The biggest thing is you won’t see something like you saw on the Super Bowl the other night,” said Joe Johnson, host of Beatle Brunch, a syndicated radio program. “Families can trust that any Beatles CD will be . . . acceptable. You won’t see Paul doing something obscene. It’s a safe harbor for families.”
— HOWARD COHEN
MIAMI BEACH HYSTERIA
PUBLISHED FEB. 18, 1989
Compared to Elvis, The Beatles were practically eunuchs. “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” they sang, shaking nothing but their mops of lank seaweed hair. Despite their stage passivity, the Beatles sparked a mania when they first appeared on American television.
According to Nielsen ratings released the morning after their appearance on the Feb. 9, 1964, edition of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” more than 74 million people tuned in, setting a record for the largest-ever audience for an entertainment program that wouldn’t be matched until the 1980 “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of “Dallas.”
Yet despite their highly public American launching, the Beatles were still a question mark in the eyes of many. Many pop culture soothsayers (Sullivan included) predicted that the Beatles’ second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show — broadcast live from Miami Beach a week later — would be the one that to answer the burning question: fluke or genuine phenomenon?
The hysteria bubbling around the Beatles’ arrival in Miami on Thursday, Feb. 13, hinted of the latter.
Around 7,000 Miami teenagers — most of them girls bearing smelling salts — carpeted the observation decks at Miami International Airport’s Concourse 3. Some screamed, other cried, all were in the throes of truancy. This despite warnings issued a day earlier by Dade County School Superintendent Joe Hall, who proclaimed that unauthorized “Beatling” — i.e., skipping school — would not be tolerated.
Sometimes, of course, one has to break the rules. This the legion of Beatlemaniacs did with gusto.
They upset five sandy tub-sized ash trays in the terminal, body-heated the lobby 10 degrees and broke a plate glass door while overrunning a Dade police officer, one of 127 assigned to the curb the madness.
“If I ever caught my kid out here, I’d beat the hell out of her,” barked one weary officer. “This is disgusting.”
It got worse, especially when the shrieking engines of a National Airlines DC-8 died at Gate 27 and the Beatles began to deplane. They were welcomed with sonic booms of glee and outlandish exuberance.
Joyfully, the crowd smashed glass jalousies. Happily, they smashed innocent fiberglass waiting-room chairs. Lustily, they showered the tarmac with jelly beans and underwear.
Then, suddenly, the child mob got nasty. They hurled their still-growing bodies against the concourse door leading out to the concrete apron. “Let us out!” they screamed, clawing at the steel divider.
It took the muscle of two, then four, then seven officers to keep it closed.
The airline crew looked out from the safety of their plane and marveled at the disobedience. Boys jumping from the observation deck to the concrete runway two stories below, girls fainting proudly. The crew congratulated themselves for not wearing the Beatles wigs they had purchased in Miami before picking up the lads in New York, and bade their precious cargo farewell.
Flanked by 30 bodyguards, John, Paul, George and Ringo waved to the crowd for 10 seconds, then jumped into two waiting limousines (rented at $11 an hour) that had pulled up to the ramp. They departed for Miami Beach with a motorcycle escort.
Destination: the glamorous Deauville Hotel (“Beatle Central”) on Collins Avenue.
It took about 12 minutes for the four to move from their limo into a Deauville elevator. This was more than enough time for Ringo (“the one who wears four rings,” wrote the shocked Miami Herald) to hit on a pretty blond named Kitty who was waiting for him in the lobby.
“Ringo!” she squealed. “Come on, baby!” he retorted, sweeping her up to his room.
Later that night, the Beatles explored the beach scene, stopping first at the Peppermint Lounge, which was just off the 79th Street Causeway. Surprisingly, wrote the Miami Herald at the time, they created all the impact of four flies at a picnic. They left an hour later in a huff — reportedly furious that they were ignored — and sequestered themselves away from their fans for the next two days (though they were spotted dancing the Mashed Potato at a private party in the Mau Mau Lounge).
Sunday — the big test — came quickly. They were ready.
By 7 p.m., a 200-foot line of sweaty fans five abreast snaked through the Deauville lobby (the show would be broadcast from the Napoleon Room).
Henry Herrera — one of the lucky ones with tickets — now recalls this as “mile-long line that ran all the way down Collins. It was a wild day. I was around 12 at the time, but remember it vividly. People saw Ringo up in his room window and screamed.”
At 7:50, the doors opened and the lucky few were ordered to take their seats. (A thousand persons holding tickets never made it inside). Sullivan himself looked out at the shrieking mob, shook his head and summed it all up by saying, simply, “It’s the Beatles.” At 8 p.m., Sullivan’s “really big shoooo” began.
By 8:30, when the Beatles took the stage after Mitzi Gaynor’s opening act, pandemonium erupted. How naive they looked, how earnest. Dressed in immaculately pressed Edwardian suits, their great pudding-bowls of hair bobbed maniacally as they raced through “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please, Please Me,” “She Loves You” and several more of their hits-to-be.
The first three songs had been performed on the Sullivan show the week before, but this week’s renditions bounced with an extra zing. The Liverpudlians seemed to sense they truly had arrived. A quick look at the studio crowd bouncing off the walls was a testament to their newfound superstardom.
One man in a white dinner jacket threw a wicked right hook at a young usher. A grandmother hammered a head with a stiletto pump she held in her hand. Two girls fainted dead away.
“It was nuts in that room, out of control,” says Herrera, who now works for the Deauville as an assistant auditor. “I remember being carried away by the Beatles. Mitzi Gaynor? She didn’t impress me.”
After the show’s completion, the Fab Four mingled with the crowd a bit, then moved on to conquer other cities.
They were in Miami exactly 84 hours. But the impression left was indelible.
Author Phillip Norman, author of “Shout,” a study of how the Beatles changed the face of pop culture, believes that the Beatles’ Sullivan show appearances — broadcast 10 weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy — were essentially therapeutic. The Beatles, he writes, “met America’s need for a new idol, a new toy, a painkilling drug and a laugh.”
Herrera wholeheartedly agrees.
“The Beatles had such an impact on all of us. On the city, on anyone who saw them. There’s never been anything like them in Miami. Before or since.”