Miami meets the Beatles
By Howard Cohen I The Miami Herald - Feb. 13, 2004
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 (now the Radisson-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.
CHAOS AT THE AIRPORT
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 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 onSullivan ? 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 that runs at 10 a.m. Sundays on WMXJ. ``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.''