Happy Birthday George Harrison – You Were Part of My First and Best Concert!

Beatles ticket stub cropped.jpgWhen talk of first concerts comes up, I always sit quietly, smugly waiting for my chance. Then, as casually as possible I say, “My very first concert was a Beatles concert at Cleveland Stadium in 1966.” People’s jaws usually drop. They are amazed, either at how wretchedly old I must be, or that I really got to see the Beatles in person.

Then, if they ask, I launch into the story. For months, my sixteen-year-old sister begged my father to let her see the objects of her absolute devotion, the Beatles. He relented, paying the highest price, $5.50 per ticket for three tickets. In 1966 that was a lot of money for a hard-working bricklayer to come up with, for a concert he would have hated, played by four guys he called long-haired “googamoogers.” But he did it, which shows how much the man must have loved his daughter.

I loved the Beatles too, secretly reading all my sister’s 16 Magazines, so I still remember the Beatles’ birthdays and other important facts, like their supposed favorite colors – Paul’s was blue.

August 14th arrived, and my two brothers drove my sister, my brother’s girlfriend, Donna, and me from New Brighton to Cleveland for the concert.  I was 11-years-old and this was the most exciting thing I’d ever done. I wore a good school dress, my yellow Easter Jacket and held onto Donna’s hand so I wouldn’t get lost in the crowd.

Beatle Concert Book.JPG

Concerts so notorious they have spawned books.

Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby played on the loudspeakers before the concert, but once the Beatles got onstage, you could barely hear them through the screams.

The crowd got restless at the first strains of If I Needed Someone, then stampeded –first past the grape stake fence, rolling a couple of cops on the way, then pouring toward the stage. They had to stop the concert until things were under control. The screams were deafening and my 11-year-old self thought,  “These teenagers are stupid. I would never do that.”

But 21 years later George Harrison smiled at me and I went into full-blown teenager mode.  I was 32 years old.

Actually, George was laughing at me.

It was December 1987 and I was at the Beverly Center in West Hollywood. I’d finished Christmas shopping and was walking from the elevator to my car when I saw a white Mercedes slowly drive past…with George Harrison inside. I recognized him because his video, Got My Mind Set on You, was popular then.

I got in my car and forced myself to process what I’d just seen.  Could that really have been him?   This was too huge a moment to leave to chance so I thought… I’ll walk back to the elevator, pretend I dropped something, then slyly sneak a peek when they drive by again. I thought, I have to do this, I have to be sure it’s him. He’ll never even know.

When the car passed a second time, I completely blew my ruse of looking for something and stared straight at the Mercedes in drooling disbelief. It WAS George Harrison!  I must have looked like a lunatic because he looked at me, laughed and said something to the guy driving the car as they rolled by.

I calmly walked to my car, got in, closed the door, made sure the windows were up and screamed at the top of my lungs, AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH…I JUST SAW GEORGE HARRISON!!!!!!   I think I screamed for a full minute – just like the teenagers at Cleveland Stadium.   I looked for him again and sadly watched the white Mercedes glide away.

I wish I could have told him that day that I loved his music.  I wish I’d thanked him for giving a gift the whole world enjoyed.  I wish he knew my life was infinitely better because I grew up with Beatle music and later his music, and made sure my kids did too. I wish he’d known that his songs have gotten me through every stage of life and can still lift me out of my deepest slumps and make great days better.

You know what I really wish?  I wish I’d moved my car quicker so they could have found a parking spot and maybe I could have told him all those things. Or maybe I would have just screamed.

George Harrison would have been 74 today.  I miss you George.  Happy Birthday!

18 thoughts on “Happy Birthday George Harrison – You Were Part of My First and Best Concert!

  1. What great stories those are! The Beatles! George! Wow!!!
    I’ve got a couple of tales about some brushes with fame, but perhaps the silliest one was when my husband and I were at a restaurant in Pasadena many years ago, and Richard Thomas (John Boy Walton) and his wife came in and sat down a few tables away. I flipped out, I was so excited, I had loved John Boy back in the day, and I dispatched my husband to go and ask Richard if he would mind if I came over to meet him. Why I thought that it was okay for my husband to go and speak to him initially and not me, is a mystery, although I must say that I guess I’d rather that he make a fool of himself if either of us was going to get the cold shoulder. Canary in the coal mine… (and let me say that my husband is way too good to me).
    Richard was very gracious and said that it would be lovely to meet me, so I suppressed a squeal and pulled the paper bar menu out of its plastic sleeve and raced over to Richard’s table and asked him to sign it. The whole time I was babbling like an idiot over how much I had enjoyed The Walton’s, blab blab blab…. Richard graciously introduced me to his wife and I said hello and then continued to babble…. it was like watching a crazy person spiral out of control.
    He shook my hand and I then trotted away to find a pay phone, where I called a good friend of mine and screeched into her answering machine, “I just met John Boy!!!! Oh my gosh! Eeeeeeeek!!!!!”
    The next day at work my friend said to me, “I didn’t realize that you were such a fan of John Voight.” Ha. Take note, kids…. if you are going to loudly scream nonsense into the phone, you can expect that your words will likely be inaudible to the listener.
    Thanks for your Beatles story, Fran! What fabulous memories those are!
    By the way, the autographed bar menu is framed and hanging on a wall in my house, along with a photo of me with Fess Parker. I have no shame. I flaunt my encounters with the cool kids.

    • Oh Leslie, I definitely get it and applaud you for going for it. I think if I’d been in a restaurant, I’d have chickened out. I love that you framed it. Wow, Fess Parker too, I love that! I’m so glad you got a kick out of my George story, I loved your John Boy story and God bless him for being so nice. I’ve heard of celebrities who are not so nice. I think I saw Richard in an episode of Law and Order SVU not long ago and was shocked that he’d aged…as if I havent. We’ll hang on to our stories and our ticket stubs and hopefully our kids will remember our tales of brushes with fame. Thanks so much for writing!!!

  2. It’s hard for me to believe, but I couldn’t afford to go to that concert because I didn’t have an extra $5.50 or money for parking. But I have a connection to the Beatles. My friend Joe Walsh (yes, that Joe Walsh from the Eagles) is Ringo’s brother-in-law. I have known Joe since 1965. What a great experience for an 11 year old, or any age. I never did get to see the Beatles.

    • How cool Chas. I just looked up Marjorie and she’s pretty gorgeous. Poor Joe to have to live with that huh? If you had seen the Beatles, you would have heard little of their music, come home partially deaf from the screaming and thought they were one inch tall, that’s how far away we sat, but it was worth it! xoxo

  3. A relief to see you still have that one ticket I gave you, a part of the the 3 that I kept for years afterwards since that fateful day of the concert. I’ll never forget the man’s words to me after he tore off a part of my ticket as I entered through the gate to get into the concert. He said, you keep these honey, they’ll be worth something later on. So I clutched them in my hand, & then sat in awe of the show I had just seen, & after getting home, locked them away in my drawer for safe keeping. The pictures I took never turned out, unfortunately, but it’s a day that will be forever etched in my memory. Glad I helped to give you a “good” memory. I know George is missed by many. What a fun thing to have actually seen him that day & know he acknowledged you! I am sure he appreciated the chuckle.

    • I am going to get it framed! Can’t wait to do that. Thanks for giving it to me! And for loving the Beatles so much that I got to go and experience such an awesome moment! It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

  4. So sorry that your cousin, Julia DiCostanza’s death was not mentioned in your blog. I know you were all very close. Your mom and Julia’s mom being sisters, nearly one year apart in age were close and were a part of each other’s families. A truly great and loving family!

    Sent from my iPad

    Sent from my iPad >

    • Oh Mary Anne, I mailed you a personal note about Julia. Yes, she and her parents and brothers are all very special and an important part of my childhood. She will be missed greatly.

  5. Great memories, Fran, Paul was my favorite one. I thought he was sooo cute !!! Do not like his music so much now. I was more of a Motown girl. But how cool you got so close to seeing George Harrison 😊

    • I know, Paul was gorgeous and still looks pretty good. I saw him in concert a few years ago with my kids and it was well worth it, he was amazing. I find that many of my favorite Beatle songs turned out to be written and/or sung by George, so he will always have a special place in my heart.

  6. I saw George Harrison at an Indian restaurant in a posh London neighborhood back in 1993. I didn’t have the presence of mind to do anything except stare at him as he and his guest left. He didn’t even notice me and my friend Jeff staring. My story sucks compared to yours- be happy you got a reaction out of him!!

  7. Don’t you wish we had cell phones with cameras back then? I often think of all the pictures I would have taken, behind-the-scenes, of the sitcoms I worked on over the years. I guess I should be happy that my meeting Olivia Newton-John in 1980 is on YouTube now. Ahhh, the good ol’ days! 🙂

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