It all started with an unexpected phone-call. In March of 1964, I was in my New York apartment building when the phone rang. I was wondering, like everyone does, who it was. I picked up the phone.
“Hello, Mr. Clausner. How are you?” said a British-styled voice.
“Who is this and how do you know my name?” I asked.
“It’s John Lennon of The Beatles. We’ve been looking for someone to be part of our entourage.”
“Entourage, what entourage?” I curiously asked.
“Entourage, ya know, to travel with us and hang out with us.” “Sure, I would love to John! When do I start?” I asked frantically. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Mr. Clausner. I’m gonna have to talk to the lads and our manager, okay? So, it’s gonna take a few days to settle this, ya know.” Lennon said laughing.
A few days go by faster than expected. Ring, Ring, Ring! I sprang from my rocking chair and right to the phone.
“Good morning, Mr. Clausner. How are you this fine morning?” “Delightful, John, you?” I asked.
“I’m doin’ great. Listen, me and my lads would love to have you as part of our entourage. Have your wife drive you over to Liverpool tomorrow and, ya know, come to our headquarters, okay?”
So, I got to The Beatles’ headquarters in London and was greeted by John. Inside of the headquarters, you could hear the sounds of many Brits talking loudly like records on loop. If you listened real closely, you could hear the voices talking about local news, music news and a lot more. The living room had a little wooden T.V. a few feet away from a green, leaf-life couch. Right next to the couch was a little wooden closet with gifts from their fans displayed nicely on top. On the brightly colored wall was pictures of the lads separated alphabetically. The living room smelt like new furniture had just been bought and put in the room. Then, John led me to upstairs to the “sitting down room.”
“Hello, Mr. Clausner. How are you?” John asked excitedly.
“Great as always. How are you?” I asked nervously.
“Delightful as always. Come make yourself at home, Mr. Clausner.” “John?” I asked.
“From now on, you can call me Angelo, okay?”
“Alright, I will.”
He then introduced me to the rest of the lads.
“This is Paul McCartney.”
“Hello Mr. Clausner. How are you?” Paul said with a wave of his hand.
“Fine and you?” I asked.
“Fine, fine.” he replied.
“Right here is George Harrison” John introduced me to him.
“Hello.” he said calmly.
“Hello” I replied.
“And lastly, Ringo Starr.” John lastly introduced.
“Hello Mr. Clausner. How’s life treating you?” he asked laughing. “Great” I replied.
“Alrighty, let’s get down to business.” John said laughing.
John sat down, put his hands behind his head and crossed his legs on the long wooden table. He had a very serious look on his face.
John said “We have a concert tomorrow night at The Palladium. Are you willing to travel with us to the venue?”
“Sure. I would love to, John” I said.
“Alright, good. The concert is at 8:00. So, we have a few hours to spend at the hotel which is, ya know, a good 10 minutes. We should be at the hotel by 7:30. Everybody with me?”
“Yes.” We all said excitedly.
“Good, good, good.” John quickly said.
Then, John took out Monopoly from that little wooden closet next to the couch.
“Alright, lads. Let’s play.” John said very seriously.
John took out the board very fast. Then, the dice. Then, the metal game pieces. And, lastly, the money.
“Angelo, would you like to roll first.” John asked.
“Sure, I would love to.” John gave me the dice.
I rolled the dice. It’s was six!
“Ooh, doubles. This is your lucky day!” John said laughing.
The game went on for another hour. John, it seemed, was very good at Monopoly. He really wasn’t fun and games! But it was no time for those fun and games we had a concert to prepare for.
The lads had told me when we were playing Monopoly that, like many musicians at the time, they had to choose their playlist before a concert.
“Back in the Cavern Club days, it was so hard to pick songs to play there. People may not know this, but, half of the people who went to The Cavern didn’t care for us. The other half, who were the teenagers, danced to the songs we played. Now, Angelo, you may not know some of the songs we played in the early days, ya know. But that’s alright!” John laughed.
Like John said, picking songs for the concert was very tough. It took us an hour and a half to pick these songs. Each member of the band had to agree or disagree with the other bandmates’ opinion and explain why. These agreements and disagreements later turned into arguments which lasted a short period of time.
But we couldn’t keep the fans waiting. It was time for the concert.
On the trip to the Palladium, John spotted a cigar shop near a McDonald's. Since the boys were big smokers, John wanted the rest of the group, including me, to get a pack.
“No thanks, John. I’m not a huge smoker.” I said. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Yes, I'm sure. Why would I lie to a Beatle?” I said with a laugh. “I don’t know, why?” John asked, laughing.
As we went into the shop, the sound of “I Saw Her Standing There” filled the room.
“Boys, do you hear something?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t, Angelo.” Paul said. “I hear it.” Ringo said. “It’s I Saw Her Standing There! How come you don’t hear it? Paul, it’s your song! You’re singing it, aren’t you?” Ringo asked. “I suppose so.” Paul replied. “YOU SUPPOSE!” Ringo shouted. This caught the cashier’s attention. “Settle down, boys!” the cashier said like a mother trying to calm her four babies down. “What seems to be the problem?” “Something about the music, I don’t know.” John said. “Do you want me to change it?” the cashier asked. “No, no, no. It's our song, ya know.” John replied. “You’re The Beatles?” the cashier excitedly asked. “Yes we are. Why?” George asked. “Oh my goodness. My daughter loves you guys. Can you sign this picture for her?” the cashier cried. “Sure we would. What’s her name?” John asked. “Lisa, sir.” “How old is she?” John asked. “Eighteen, sir.” “Mmm. Young fan, isn’t she?” John asked. “Oh, yes, sir. Very young and very strong, too.” the cashier said with a serious face. “Is that true?” John said with a laugh. John handed the cashier the autographed picture. “There you go, Mr. Cashierman!” John said in a business-man type of voice.
The cashier looked at John with a puzzled look. “Mr. Lennon?” the cashier said.
“Yes, Mr. Cashierman?” “You only wrote your name. Why is that?” the cashier asked with a laugh.
John smiled and said “I am the more popular Beatle. Plus, aren’t you talking to me?”
“I suppose.” the cashier said.
“YOU SUPPOSE!?” John cried.
John was about to leave the shop when the cashier said “Ya know what? Since you’re the famous Beatles, I’ll give you four the opportunity to purchase whatever pack of cigars you want for free. Consider this a freebie, if you will.”
John and the boys sprang up in the air when they heard this.
“Thanks a lot Mr. Casheirman! Can we have four Dutch Masters, please?” John asked.
“Whatever you want lads.” the cashier said.
I looked at my watch. It was 7:20! I had to tell the lads.
As the four were smoking and gossiping, I whispered to John “We’ve got to get going.”
“What’s the hurry, Angelo?” John asked with a laugh.
“You did say that we had to be at the hotel by 7:30, didn’t you?”
“Oh shoot! Boys, move out. We’ve gotta get to the hotel.” John said like a general leading his army in battle.
The boys ran as fast as they could to street corner. The boys shouted
“TAXI! TAXI! TAXI!” It was just like New York CIty.
Finally, pitch-black taxi cab pulled up to the street corner. The boys jumped into the car.
“Four Seasons Hotel and fast. Thank you.” John said firmly.
A few minutes later, we were at the hotel. We had to book a room but book it fast!
Ya’ know, John was sort of the businessman of the group. He negotiated deals, signed contracts with record companies, venus, and wrote weekly letters to their adoring fans. If you were in the presence of The Beatles, you were likely to get at least something signed by John and a strong handshake from each of the lads. So, when we walked into the hotel, which, like the Headquarters, smelt of new furniture, the desk clerk sprang from his seat like Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow on Groundhog Day.
“Hello lads! Welcome to the Four Seasons Hotel right here in good-ole’ Liverpool, England. How may I make your stay a little more comfortable and have a jolly good time?” the cashier asked.
“Good day, Mr. Desk Clerk. We would like 4 rooms, please.” John said in an almost New York accent.
“Ok. Just so I know, what are your names?” the cashier said as he took a pen and paper from his wooden desk drawer.
“Ok. Steven Collins, Shaun Russell, Howard Reed and Bingo Stars.” While he said this, with that same accent, John pointed to each member of the group and each member smiled. You might be thinking these names were not their names. Believe me or not, they actually used these names to prevent the public from knowing their real names in the early years of the band.
The manager started to laugh while he wrote down on his paper.
“What’s so funny, Mr. Desk Clerk?” John asked with a laugh. You could see the humor in his face.
“Your names are so ironic. Are you sure those are your names?” the desk clerk asked with a little laugh.
“Yea, I’m sure” John said. “I don’t see what’s so “ironic.” John said with air quotes. “Do you Shaun?” John asked with a laugh.
“No, I’m afraid I don’t.” Shaun/Paul said with a New York accent which reminded me of the people that lived in the apartment complex that I did. The people who shouted “Good morning!” from the bottom of the apartment stairs. Those were some really good times. But, it wasn’t time to procrastinate about good ol’ New York and Frank Sinatra and Lady Liberty. I was hanging out with The Beatles, the musical phenomenon of the century. The lads with the pizzazz that always made their loyal fans glad. To add to that fiasco, I was about to go backstage, for the first time, to a LIVE Beatles concert in London, England. You can’t get any better than that.
The desk clerk was taking a mighty long time with this writing. It wasn’t rocket science, ya know. It wasn’t like they were the first musicians to go to Mars or anything. Even John, who was a big fan of outer space. He thought of the solar system as “the community of planets spinning around and around and around until the end of time.” Many people agreed with him and still do. John was a smart guy.
A long time later, the desk clerk, which we later found out, was from London, told us our room number.
When we got to the entrance of the room, we noticed that the desk clerk didn’t give us the darn key. “What do you suppose we’re gonna do now?” Paul said. “Would you stop it with the ‘suppose’ stuff, please!” Ringo screamed. “I suppose not.” Paul said with a smirk. “OH MY LOR-”
Just then, John turned around. “Would you two stop it? I know what to do, Paul. Easy. We just go down to that Long Island desk clerk guy and tell him our little situation here and, hopefully, he’ll give us the key to our room. But, that begs the question: Will we be late for the concert at the Palladium, like you said at the headquarters, John?” John said like a kid asking a question to his teacher. “Well, I’ll tell you the answer. We will not be late for the big concert. We just get the key, come back up to said room, put our belongings in the room, and get the heck out of here. Sound like a plan?” As soon as John finished his sentence, each of the lads nodded and said “Yes Sir!”
A few minutes later, we went down the spiral staircases right into the quiet lobby. Like the cigar shop, there was Beatle music playing. This time though, it was “Till There Was You,” a much more softer song than “I Saw Her Standing There” but still, I couldn’t say I didn’t like the song. It was a pretty good song, I’m not gonna lie. Also like the cigar shop, Paul didn’t hear the song again. I won’t bore you with the details. I assume you know what happened. “Hello again, Mr. Desk Clerk.” John said to the desk clerk with a wave of his right hand and a smile on the face like a very happy house owner when someone comes to the house., depending on the person you talk to. John put his hands flat on the wooden desk that wrapped around the desk clerk like John was gonna tell him some mean words.But the words John said weren’t all that bad. He just told the desk clerk what had happened. Then, the clerk said, “Oh don’t worry Mr. Collins. This kind of situation always happens. Here ya go.” The desk clerk handed John the “right” key, as the desk clerk put it.
The boys and I then walked up the spiral staircase that hadn’t been cleaned, right to the front door of our room. John walked with confidence and kept singing “The key is gonna work, the key is gonna work, hi ho the Beatle-o the key is gonna work. Hey!” like a child. “John?” Ringo said. “Yes Ringo?” John replied. “I thought you told me and Paul to “stop it” and now you're shouting in the middle of a freaking hotel hallway.
John was right when he said that the key was gonna work. You could never doubt a man like John Lennon. If he told you something, you had better believed it. He was a great man and never disrespected anyone’s opinion whether it was the lads or one of their adoring fans, well sometimes.
Ever since John called me to tell me they wanted me in their entourage, I became a very good friend of his, including the other lads. There was no doubt in my mind that John and I were gonna be best friends forever or as you kids call it BFFs.
But, again there was the Palladium, my first Beatles concert ever. I wonder how they looked, how good they sang live and so much more.
John looked at his watch. “Alright boys, it’s time to get “the heck out of here.” John said with a stern voice. “Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four…” John said marching like a general leading his army into battle. It was time!