Sunday, August 30, 2009
They say you should never meet your heroes because they are destined
ultimately to let you down. Having had the treasured opportunity to meet George
Harrison, I can safely say that he proved to be anything but a
Let me share a story...
My personal encounter with George happened in September 1993 inside studio
Two at the famed Abbey Road Studios. I was part of an international gathering of
journalists attending the press launch of the Red and Blue Albums. Tipped off
the day prior by George Martin that "the quiet Beatle" might make a surprise
appearance, I kept my eyes open for a sign of L'Angelo Mysterioso. Believe me,
just to be spending time inside Studio Two where the Fab Four recorded such
legendary tracks as "Help", "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here, there and
everywhere" was a real treat, but the chance to encounter a Beatle on his own
home turf was immensely exciting.
The event kicked off with a 30-minute video show comprising various Beatles
promotional films. The lights quickly dimmed and the videos began to roll. Early
into the proceedings, I noticed a security guard briskly walk down the aisle
towards the entrance of the studio. Eminently curious, I followed his
Immediately, I noticed Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor languishing in the
studio's hallway. Looking around, I caught a glimpse of George speaking to
someone. Having waited for this opportunity my entire life, I decided to open my
conversation with George with a question he certainly had not been asked over
and over again. After shaking hands with me, George asked where I was
"Philadelphia," I told him. Then I said, "George I know that you have
been asked this time and time again but do you think The Rutles will ever get
back together?" I knew that George was a major Rutles fan, too. The real "Stig"
let out a hearty chuckle and the ice was broken. For the next 10 minutes, I
talked with George about everything form The Rutles to electric guitars, Bob
Dylan to Badfinger.
Relaxed and smiling, George couldn't have been friendlier. He freely spoke
to me like a friend, devoid of any pretense or artifice. I also distinctly
recall that throughout our conversation George held a burning stick of incense,
its exotic smell wafting through the hallowed halls of Studio Two. George
graciously signed the Red and Blue album press kit for me, too. Later, before
George was introduced as a surprise guest by George Martin, I grabbed my trusty
tape recorder to ask him a few questions about his guitar playing more to
crystallize my chance encounter with the reclusive star than anything
Now that George is sadly gone from this mortal coil, I feel eternally
blessed to have shared a few small moments in time with such a gracious and kind
soul. Long may this dark horse run....
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
So these aren't the best photos of George Harrison to ever surface. And I could sit here at make fun of them a little bit. However I can't bring myself to tell jokes because let's face it. I have never been in the same room as George. And I know that if George was right down the hall, Iwould be snapping photos right and left as well. And I would say "look at that spec! That spec is George Harrison!" George is more than just a spec in these photos, but he sure isn't the focal point.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The poster that advertised the Yoko art exhibit called"This is not here"
John's car parked in the hotel garage. Notice Mark is sitting at the wheel!
Mark sitting in the back seat of John's car in the middle of fan mail and other items from fans.
The back of Yoko leaving the hotel...
John telling the driver where he is wanting to go.
The left over birthday cake (sort of gross...but the guitar thing is cool).
I heard that Yoko Ono was having an opening of an art exhibit at the
Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse N.Y. which is about 3 1/2 hours north of my
hometown of Minersville, PA. So being the Beatle-fan that I am, off we went to
check it out and possibly catch a glimpse of John Lennon at the exhibit. Never
could we have realized what would transpire
The weekend started off with quite a 'rush' as we pulled into the parking garage of the Hotel Syracuse and saw John's psychedelic Rolls Royce. At that point the words "he's staying here" blurted out as I nearly jumped out of the window of the car I was in. Keep in mind I was not quite 15 years old and coming from a small town in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania, to me this was a BIG happening. So I got out of our car and dash over to the Rolls to find the doors OPEN and the back filled with
letters and trinkets from fans. I got behind the wheel for a snapshot and
pocketed the parking stub from the Rolls for a souvenir.
We checked in to our room and heard that the entire 7th floor was reserved for the Lennon entourage and OFF LIMITS with security posted at the elevators and exits. An all night vigil in the lobby proved fruitless and as morning comes, off to the
museum we went.
The exhibit "This Is Not Here" was very avant garde and very
cool...simple pieces by other celebrities and the like. One of Yoko's pieces was
a ladder under a circular canvas suspended from the ceiling. You climbed the
ladder only to find the word "yes" in the center of it.
We went back to the hotel and I had a whole new agenda for it was October 9th, John's 31st birthday. I got some information from a bell-hop that was working the 7th floor that Ringo and George were there and that there was going to be a party that evening celebrating John's birthday. All you needed to get in was a ticket or a sticker with Everson Museum on it and you were in (basically for those who helped with the production). I tried all night in vain to get in. Once, I even attempted to
peel a sticker off some photographer's gear in the elevator, but to no avail.
Every trip ended with the same results...security giving me the bums rush.
At 3 a.m. I decided to give it one last shot before giving up (I hadn't
slept since two nights before). I got in the elevator and pushed the button for
the 7th floor. The doors open and, to my amazement, there were NO security! I
peeked out and went down the hall. I could hear a live music jam session with
John, George, Ringo, Allen Ginsberg and others. I was not quite 10 feet away
from getting in when I felt my feet leave the ground...BUSTED! Two LARGE
security personnel unceremoniously put me back in the elevator and stated that
they "don't want to see me anymore." I was totally bummed but got the hint.
I crashed for a few hours and then went back to the lobby where we got some
information that the entourage was leaving for the Indian reservation outside of
Syracuse at some point in the early afternoon. I thought this would be my shot
so a plan was put together by myself and a hippie chick who was about 20 years
old. We had people stationed in the lobby and the garage...they weren't
getting out without us knowing. The moment finally arrived. I was at my post in
the lobby when I saw both elevators go to the 7th floor and stop. Moments later
the elevators descended and one stopped at the mezzanine level and the other
went directly to the garage level. I heard all sorts of commotion coming from
the front of the hotel so I started to run towards the marble stairs only to be
stopped by a roar behind me. Ringo and George come down the stairs into the
lobby followed by John & Yoko. With my little Kodak snapping away, I
followed them. As they got in the limos, I managed to get through the security
for a few quick photos only to be lifted off my feet once again. But this time,
victory was mine.
I went back inside the hotel and the bell-hop, who was my "deep-throat" so to speak, had procured some treasures; a piece of John's birthday cake and the top frets of the plastic guitar that adorned his cake. Twenty-six years later, that cake still sits in my freezer.
When John was assassinated on that fateful night in December 1980, I was attending a 'professional' school at Syracuse. On the night of the universal vigils, I
attended a very touching ceremony at the Quad on campus knowing in my heart my
own 'personal' experience with John in that same city almost 10 years earlier.
Ironically, our commencement ceremony a few months later was held in...none
other than the Everson Museum of Art. Talk about "Instant Karma"...my own
"Magical Mystery Tour"!!!
I met John Lennon at the entrance of the Dakota house in March 1977.
(I also met Paul McCartney at the entrance of the Abbey Road Studios in November
1976. But I will write about this story another time.) Anyway, I
think I was so lucky to have met them at the very important places in view of
the history of the Beatles. These are the most exciting moments in all of my
life of 42 years.
Back in 1976, it was the era Paul became a man of world attention after his
success in Over America Tour, but John still remained silent. I had not the
slightest idea where John lived in New York, but I managed to get his office's
address 1370 Avenue of Americas' through the fan club in London, where I was
staying to study the banking business.
In mid-March 1977, I flew to New York and went swiftly to his office hoping
I could have a chance to meet John. At the office, where a large
photograph of the cover design of Walls and Bridges was hung on the wall, I met
John's secretary Ms. Helen Seaman. She told me that John lived at the
Dakota and that he was devoted to the care of his child Sean. Also she
said that John once tried to give up smoking (but failed) and that he was
expecting much of the next Beatles' album, Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
Furthermore, she added, "I am sure John and Yoko will give you their autographs
because Yoko is from the same country as you."
Next day, I brought a Japanese folk-art object to the Dakota as a gift to
John. The Dakota stood with dignity in an old fashioned way among the
modern buildings. I was optimistic to see John but my optimism was crushed
when I heard a middle aged woman at the reception say, "Nobody can see John
Lennon without an appointment!" She gave me a sheet of paper to write a
message and my address and said, "You may receive his autograph only if he likes
your message." Oh what a hell! I was so disappointed that I could
not leave a good message which would attract John's eyes. I walked around
the Dakota with bewilderment and then sat on a bench when I saw John and Yoko
come out. It was just like that photograph on the sleeve of Watching the
Wheels. I dashed to them saying "Happy to meet you!" John answered
frankly, "Hello! Konnichiwa! (which means hello in Japanese). When I
talked to him to give me his autograph, he responded, "For what?" I thought
that he was on the alert about giving autographs or signatures freely, so I
explained those were for myself and for my brother. He said, "okay okay"
autographing four times. After that, I heard him saying "hurry,
hurry." There was a yellow cab waiting for them. Yoko got into the
cab first. I made an apology to her for disturbing them in Japanese
language, but she only stared fixedly at me without a word. John got in
the car and gave me a smile when he opened the gift and lifted it.
Forty four months later, that tragedy occurred at the same place I had
seen John. After I enjoyed Paul McCartney's concert in Tokyo this year, I
thought I could not share the time with John any more and felt sadness.
But my golden memory of meeting John will not fade away and will late forever
"Across the Universe."