It's Saturday, Sept. 12, 1964, and a 10-year-old girl named Linda Krisch waits in the basement of the Holiday Inn on Lombard Street in the middle of the night, with her father and 13-year-old sister. She's there, along with a phalanx of security guards, for the arrival of a black car. She doesn't know when it's supposed to come, that black car, but like everyone else, is waiting, as if for the lord of the manor as he returns from a Crusade. It's cold outside, and cold in the basement. The guards mill around, talking, smoking. Linda squeezes her father's hand a little tighter.
Finally, around 2 a.m., a black car lumbers down the ramp, into the lot.
Like bandits, they have arrived. The four of them.
Linda's father takes his daughters upstairs to the 10th floor of the hotel, where the occupants of the black car have been shepherded. Linda's father knocks on the door, and introduces his family. Linda spies Them sitting on the bed. They're wearing dark suits, dark pants. Funny-looking boots. Looking just a bit bedraggled. She's standing 10 feet from them, and realizes they really might not have wings after all.
At this point, one of them -- the one named Paul McCartney -- gets up and sidles toward her. He bends down, offers a hand. She takes it. He smiles.
He cocks his head and says to her, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Krisch," and she swoons, or as much as a 10-year-old can swoon.
The Beatles have arrived in Baltimore.
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison arrived 30 years ago to begin their conquest of the United States. Like alchemists, they had somehow used all the right ingredients (the '60s, the advent of pop music, records, dancing bangs, horizontal wags of the head) and synthesized them into a formula that packed arenas with smitten young women like Linda. Their formula had turned four ordinary-looking lads from Liverpool with bad teeth, but much talent, into truly dandy idols.
Thirty years ago today, the Beatles played what was then called the Baltimore Civic Center, appearing on stage twice, an afternoon matinee and an evening performance, drawing more than 14,000 screaming fans for each show. "Teen-agers, mostly, and girls, primarily," according to The Sun's news article from the day after.
Linda Krisch, now Linda Vinson and 40, remembers fondly.
"They called my father, who owned the Holiday Inn, and told him that they wanted to stay there. He said he would give them a whole floor . . ." recalls Mrs. Vinson, who at the time lived in Roanoke, Va., and now lives in Hamilton. "I had the whole weekend with them, seeing them go in and out. They took up a four-room suite just off the elevator."
After the Beatles left Baltimore, according to Mrs. Vinson, promoters ripped out the carpet, which was shaggy, '60s day-glo blue, and cut it into square-inch bits and sold them for $1 each. Mrs. Vinson said the promoters paid her father $1,000 for the carpet. Her father also bought 100 tickets for friends and families.
Some fans, however, didn't have the luxury of having parents who understood the appeal of the Beatles.
"I baby-sat for two or three months to go," says Colleen Reynolds, 44, of Jarrettsville. "My parents didn't understand. They had an absolute fit. No one could figure out why these guys with long hair were so great."
Her ticket was $3.75. ("Imagine, paying $3.75 to see the Beatles.") She was 14 at the time and a "George girl." ("I just loved George.")
According to Mrs. Reynolds, who occupied the Right Center section, Row AA, Seat 9 chair (she saved her ticket stub -- who didn't?), Ringo was on his pedestal in the back, and Paul, George and John in a row in front. Nothing else was on stage. No fireworks, no laser light shows, no scaffolding. Just four skinny guys in post-Edwardian/Beatnik/Nehru suits with banded-collar shirts, dark ties. And some fine music.
Only, you couldn't hear it.
"We heard nothing. Absolutely nothing," says Mrs. Reynolds. "The amplifiers were tiny, and everyone was just screaming and yelling, and I had tears rolling down my eyes." Mrs. Reynolds has spent the 30 years since first seeing the Fab Four on "The Ed Sullivan Show" filling a room in the basement of her house with more than $8,000 of Beatles paraphernalia.
Beatlemania has surely lasted in the hearts of those that were there, even if their Beatlememories may have flagged. No one could really remember how long they played (each set was about 30 minutes) or even the weather (consensus is that it was cool and overcast).
"I just turned 11 the day before the concert," says Marge Troy, of Baltimore, who attended the concert with her mother (who was 38 at the time), a friend, and the friend's mother. She saw them first on Jack Paar's tv show and asked her parents for tickets in April of 1964.
"The anticipation was brutal," she says, "I guess the organizers didn't realize how bad it was for people to wait as others performed during the show . . . and I had been waiting for six months. I remember Paul sang "All My Lovin,' " and they started with "Twist and Shout." It was a very safe feeling, like a big party, and I became really emotional. It was like a disease."
It's probably a disease that makes a sane man ask Ringo Starr for his used cigarette butt. Rob Margulis of Mount Washington was 20 years old in 1964, and attended the concert as a security guard. "My father was friends with someone who owned the detective agency hired to augment security with the Baltimore Police, and they needed people to help guard the doors," Mr. Margulis says.
"Our father drove us down to the center. It was like a madhouse . . . you could hear girls outside the arena screaming and pounding on the doors," he says. After the first show, he and his brother walked up on the stage and through the curtain. "We were in the presence of Beatles instruments.
"We then walked into a back room where there was a long table and TV cameras and reporters, and what was happening was a %% press conference," he recalls.
Stood behind them
A Beatles handler called out that the Beatles needed chairs to sit on, according to Mr. Margulis, and he and his brother grabbed two, placed them at the table, and stood behind them as John, Ringo, Paul and George came out.
"These guys absolutely exuded charisma. They had a Q-and-A session, and then they had private interviews. If I had sneezed, I would have sneezed on the Beatles, and I was actually looking down at Beatle hair," he says.
"No one was talking to John, so I went over to him, knelt down and started talking to him. He was just tremendous," he says.
John the guitarist told him that they really couldn't read or write music, that they just sat down at a piano and played things over and over. "It lasted about a minute. He was gracious and charming," he says.
And then, the cigarette butt incident. He and his brother were standing immediately behind Ringo ("it looked like his hair was thinning") and his brother asked Ringo, who was chain-smoking Marlboros, for one of his expired cigarettes.
"He said, 'Sure, help yourself,' " says Mr. Margulis with a laugh. (They still have it, in a box in the basement.)
When the press conference was over, the four had to push through crowds of reporters to get to their dressing room, so "I grabbed Ringo as he got up, put my arm through his, and said, 'Follow me, I'm a football player.' He laughed and kept saying, 'Have y' got me? Have y' got me?' I led him to the dressing room and then the magic was over."
But according to some, the magic is timeless, even after 30 years.
"I saw the show through tears," says Barbara Cox, 43, of Mount Washington, who saw them with her mother and sister. "We were on the second concourse, and it was like an earthquake from the din. I thought we were going to come crashing down, but then at least we'd be on the same level as them. We celebrate that day every year, and it was the beginning of our lives." %%