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Beatles Ultimate Experience: Three Friends Crash Beatles' Boston Press Conference 9/12/1964
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This is the story of three college age buddies who decided to take their chances, brave the odds, and meet the Beatles. The three amigos in question, Steve Small, Rich Hershenson and Charlie Kimball would be successful in meeting the Fab Four at their press conference held in the Madison Room at Boston's Hotel Madison on September 12th, 1964.

Not satisfied with simply going to the concert at the Boston Garden, these three fans instead accomplished what millions all over the world have dreamed of - to speak in person with and shake the hands of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

If you're thinking it would be impossible to slip past Beatles' security during the height of Beatlemania in September 1964, then read on! Meet Steve, Rich and Charlie. This is their story in their own words, including how they made it past security, their firsthand accounts of attending a Beatles press conference, and meeting the group up close and personal.

You may also be interested to click here for additional photos and the complete transcript of the Beatles' press conference at Boston's Hotel Madison on September 12th 1964.

                                          - Jay Spangler,

Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved
Q: "What do you remember about the three of you arriving for the press conference? I heard a rumor that some of you might have 'crashed' the event. What was the situation?"

STEVE: "We were all in college. I sort of crashed, they really crashed."

CHARLIE: "We arrived as three but stayed behind and struggled as two."

RICH: "Steve and Charlie and I had heard on WMEX radio that there was going to be a press conference and we thought it would be amazing if we could somehow get in to see them."

STEVE: "I was a sophomore at Yale and was on the Yale radio station WYBC. I had the WYBC press pass, and a portable tape recorder - probably one of the first battery-operated portable tape recorders. All of the radio stations had reporters in the Madison Hotel, where the Beatles were staying. I knew I wouldn't be successful if I called the hotel and asked for John Lennon or Ringo Starr, but I had a bright idea. I called the hotel and asked for one of the radio reporters by name - he had just given a live report on the air - and they patched me up to his room. I said, 'I am with the Yale radio station, in town to cover the Beatles. Are they planning a press conference?' He said 'Yes, call Bess Coleman. She is handling the arrangements.' So I called the hotel back, asked for her, GOT CONNECTED TO HER ROOM, told her I was with the Yale radio station, in town to cover the Beatles... What time and where was the press conference, could I attend?"

RICH: "She said to him, 'Sure.' "

STEVE: "She said, 'Come up to the second floor,' I think. 'If you have any trouble ask for me.' I couldn't believe it! I called Charlie and Rich and I remember saying, 'I'm going. You can come with me or not. But you're on your own. If I can get in but can't get you in, I'm going in,' and they both understood."

RICH: "We drive into Boston and we get to the street where the hotel is, and the entire street is just swarming with mobs of kids."

Q: "How crazy was it?"

STEVE: "It was a madhouse!"

RICH: "Just maniacs... because they know the Beatles are in there somewhere."

STEVE: "Thousands of screaming people, most of them girls."

RICH: "So we wondered, 'How are we ever going to get in?' Eventually we walked through the mob of people and we got to one of the doors of the hotel, and of course there was a security guard or cop there."

CHARLIE: "Steve got in by showing a Yale media ID. He may have said 'They are with me,' trying to help us get in, but the security guards asked for ID's."

RICH: "Steve goes up to him and says, 'I'm from the Yale radio station, here is my press pass.' The cop looks at it... and I'm thinking, this is a college radio station, how is he ever going to get in. The cop looks at it and says "Alright you can come in,' and he opens the door."

STEVE: "I had brought my polaroid in a large case, and I gave that to Rich or Charlie so it would look like they were with me."

CHARLIE: "We weren't allowed in, so we could only watch as Steve got in."

STEVE: "We were told, 'We are only letting people into the hotel this afternoon if they have a room key or a press pass.' So I said goodbye to them... sadly, but what can one do... and went inside."

RICH: "Charlie and I were dumbfounded."

Q: "What happened next?"

CHARLIE: "Rich and I decided not to leave. I don't remember how long we waited outside. I wanted to get in there with Steve and see the Beatles. It seemed like a very long time, and it might have been starting soon. A few more people were rejected joining us outside waiting and hoping to get in. Others gave up - we were not giving up!"

RICH: "All of a sudden I got an idea. I said 'Charlie, come on back to the door. I'm gonna try something.' We went back and I don't know whether it was the same guard. I opened my wallet and took out my college freshmen ID card which just had my name and my picture on it, it wasn't a press card. I said to him, 'I'm from the Dartmouth Press and here's my press card.' To our amazement he looked at it and said, 'Alright you can come in!' Charlie showed him an ID card and raced in with me. We got into the hotel and got up to the second floor, but then we got stuck again."

CHARLIE: "In my memory, which is pretty strong about this, once we got to the second floor there was a glass partition, with a doorway where the guards stopped us. Behind the glass partition we could see kind of a lobby, and the press conference room."

RICH: "It was kind of a lobby, open space, and across from that there were a few stairs that led into the room where the press conference was to be held."

CHARLIE: "I remember staring across that open space to the stairs. All the while we were stuck there we could look through the glass across to the conference room. We were so close. That layout is vivid in my memory, probably because I had to look at it for so long, and because as more time passed it seemed increasingly hopeless. Some security people arrived on the floor, saying, 'We're going to have to clear all these kids out of here.' "

RICH: "At that point I said to Charlie, 'Quick!' and we ducked into the men's room. We waited there, I don't know if it was 10 or 15 minutes, until we heard the noise had died down. Steve told me later that he had also used this idea somewhere else before to avoid being kicked out by security."

STEVE: "Actually, that was me and (actor/friend) Jon Korkes at Logan airport. We were trying to see Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. There was a huge crowd, and security came through and cleared people out. Korkes and I ducked into a bathroom."

Boston's Hotel Madison was demolished on May 15th, 1986
Image courtesy of David Kruh
RICH: "We got outside of the men's room, and now it's just Charlie and I. We're the only kids there."

CHARLIE: "When we got out of the bathroom, we were still stuck with the open lobby to cross. There were still guards who could stop us from going across the way to where we assumed the press conference would be. Again, we thought we were done for."

RICH: "And we didn't see Steve so we assumed he had already gotten in. Again we're thinking, 'How are we ever going to get in!' All of a sudden I heard someone nearby say, '...Miss Coleman.' A woman was coming with an entourage around her. I took a huge chance. I raced over to her and said, 'Hi, I'm Steve Small from the Yale radio station. I spoke to you today and you said I could get in.' She said, 'Oh sure,' and walked us over to the door and said to the guard, 'Let them in.' "

CHARLIE: "At the time, I actually didn't realize what Rich had accomplished. I felt going in with this small group was our last chance. Nothing else seemed to be getting us through. So I 'joined' them and went in. As we neared the stairs, it seemed like we were in... but just then I heard someone call out, 'Hey, who are you? Stop!' I couldn't believe we were this close and might still not get in. I said to Rich, 'Just keep walking.' We went up the stairs. Nobody stopped us. We walked into the press conference room!"

RICH: "I was filled with incredible joy and amazement - like this is the most incredible adventure and accomplishment and fantasy! Unbelievable! We're gonna actually see the Beatles - the greatest thing in the world and beyond! We walked in, and it was this big room with rows of chairs set up, and an aisle down the middle. We walked down the aisle and eventually spotted Steve in the very front row with his back to us. So Charlie and I went to the second row just behind him."

STEVE: "Just before the press conference was supposed to start I got a tap on the shoulder and turned around and it was Rich and Charlie!"

CHARLIE: "Steve looked really surprised when he saw us!"

RICH: "He turned around and looked at us in total disbelief!"

STEVE: "I couldn't believe it. I still didn't quite believe that I was there, and I really was astounded to see the two of them! They said, 'We went around to another door, different doorman. We told him we were with the Harvard and Dartmouth newspapers, and showed him our student ID cards.' "

CHARLIE: "For Rich and myself, there was a lot of anxiety about getting in there or not. Perseverance paid off. I think that was part of the spirit of the time, for me at least -- almost anything was possible. Maybe this was our version of going to the moon. Steve clearly belonged there. He had the appropriate ID. If Steve could get in, we could get in. Why not - we were buddies... We were as good as he was, right? We just had to not give up, to follow his lead and find a way to get in. And once we got in, we belonged there also."

RICH: "There were three distinct times when it was seemingly all over for Charlie and me. First was when we were outside the building and there were a million kids and guards at every entrance -- Who could ever think we might be able to get in? -- and I used my ID card. Second was when they said, 'Clear the kids out,' and I said, 'Let's duck into the men's room,' and we waited many minutes before we could tell the kids had been cleared out. The third time -- I am still to this day amazed at what I did -- at the moment when I heard somebody in conversation say 'Miss Coleman' I pre-instinctively rushed over and the idea came like lightning from somewhere and I said, 'I'm Steve Small.' I don't know whether I've ever had that kind of lightning thought and dissembling, if that's the right word. It also was truly amazing that she said, 'Oh sure,' and led us past the guard without questioning."

Q: "Incredible. If they ever invent time travel, I hope you guys don't mind if I tag along and crash the press conference with you. I would have guessed the security would be much tougher than that."

RICH: "I'd say the security was not too great other than having guards at the doors. Letting us in shows that the security was not too tight. I'm just thankful that they did so. The stars were obviously right for us that night. I remember that we were just beyond belief that we were there - couldn't believe that they were actually going to come out and we would be in the room with the most famous and wanted people in the world. So that is how Charlie and I 'crashed.' "

Q: "So the anticipation in the room was no doubt building. Was there some kind of official announcement just before the Beatles appeared?"

Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved
RICH: "Derek Taylor (Beatles' press officer) came out and said something about the Beatles - I don't remember what. That got us even more excited."

STEVE: "Derek Taylor said, 'First we're going to let the tv reporters do their stuff with the press conference going, but all the cameras at a distance. Then, we will allow one-on-one tv and radio interviews...' We could go down the line and interview each Beatle separately! Derek Taylor went on, saying, 'Then we'll allow time for photographs. After that, if anyone wants autographs we'll save time for that at the end.' "

Q: "And then the moment came and there they were... Ladies and gentlemen The Beatles! On the source video that I have seen, you hear everyone applauding excitedly as the Beatles enter the room."

Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved
RICH: "When they came out, for me it was electric and beyond imagining."

CHARLIE: "They were the most famous people in our world and perhaps among the most important in terms of how they influenced a generation, and more."

STEVE: "When the Beatles came out I was stunned. I was stunned that they were so small - average height."

Q: "They seemed different from what you expected?"

STEVE: "I knew they were worldwide famous and when they came out I thought, they're not giants - they're my size!"

RICH: "They were everything I expected - the feeling of just being in the room with them was enough. And they were incredibly impressive."

Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved
CHARLIE: "I have no idea what I expected them to be like, no memory of that at all. We just had an intense drive to get in there to see them in person."

RICH: "The one thing I remember for sure was that I was struck by how pale they all looked."

STEVE: "Really long hair - very long for the times."

CHARLIE: "In hindsight, I'd say they were simply real people, not gods up on a pedestal above us all. They certainly weren't aloof - they didn't put on airs. And they were doing something really special, of course. Could it be that I was more impressed that we got in than I was with them in person? Don't get me wrong, there was nothing bad or disappointing about them. But at the press conference, they were just real people - Slightly older guys."

RICH: "I wouldn't think about their later influence, because who knew or cared at that point."

CHARLIE: "Of course, I thought they were special. I wanted to shake hands with them, presumably because I wanted to touch them. And I did! Was that magical? Did I get an electric feeling? ...No. But to have actually been there, to have reached out and touched them personally, that's a real memory. I'm really glad we succeeded. The Beatles' music will always be special to me."

Q: "Once the question and answer session began, what do you remember?"

Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved
RICH: "It was very snappy and fast paced. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves. It was like the reporter was the straight man and the setup man and they came in with the punch lines."

STEVE: "They were totally at ease, joking back and forth, and things kept rolling along. I took a photo of Ringo and just before I took it I said, 'Ringo!!' He turned, looked at me and said, 'Now what newspaper could you be from... with a Polaroid!?'
(see photo to the left)
I also remember going down the line interviewing them individually after the press conference. I remember I asked one of them who their influences were, and I remember one of the groups they named was The Impressions, and maybe the Temptations, but not sure. Then I had a classic exchange with Ringo, with my microphone and tape recorder - I asked 'Would you please say for me, This is Ringo Starr and you're listening to WYBC?' Ringo said 'I"m sorry, but we can't do promos for anybody.' Well, of course, I played that exchange over and over at the radio station when I got back to school. I was a dj and did rock shows - great stuff."

RICH: "I raised my hand eventually. I remember I asked three questions, but I only remember two - Who does most of the lead singing, to which Paul and John kept going back and forth saying, 'He does,' 'No, he does!' I also asked what kind of guitars they used."

CHARLIE: "Paul and John especially were quick and witty. My recollection is that they were very at ease with the setting."

STEVE: "I remember the biggest laugh came with the 'We make a lot more money than miniature golf courses' response."

Q: "Most Beatle fans have not experienced what you were able to experience that day... What did it feel like to be having a conversation with the Beatles in 1964?"

RICH: "Just being in the same room with the Beatles was beyond words. The icing on the cake was the fact that we realized that we could ask them questions! I mean it really was plenty just being in the same room with them and hearing them talk - very funny and witty, quick and disarming, and unpretentious. It was like accomplishing the greatest thing - beyond lucky and like a miracle - I was with the most famous people in the world. I couldn't imagine anything in the world and life that could be better at that time. I was in disbelief heaven."

STEVE: "There was certainly excitement and shock, but at that moment - remember this is 1964 - they were big but no one had any idea of how HUGE they were going to become. They were a great hot new singing group, and it was great to be there, but it becomes greater by some exponential factor looking back on it!"

CHARLIE: "The surreal thing is to look at my right hand and say to myself, 'You shook hands with George, John and Paul. You son of a gun, you did it.' "
STEVE: "John, do you plan to do any more (short story) writing?"

JOHN: "Yes."

STEVE: "How soon... are we gonna see something?"

JOHN: "Oh uhh, just... whenever I just feel like, you know."

STEVE: "You don't have any immediate plans?"

JOHN: "No, I just do it now and then."

STEVE: "It looks like it."

JOHN: "Well, thank you!"

(Paul and John exchange smiles)

DEREK TAYLOR: "Hang on, hang on. (smiling) What was the last remark?"

STEVE: "I said it looks like it, I love it. It's very..."

PAUL: (comically) "Ooooooooo."

STEVE: "...written very off the cuff."

JOHN: "Yes it is. It sometimes is off there."

STEVE: (damage control) "It doesn't look like stuff that you sit down and say alright, I'm gonna write something that you..."

JOHN: "Oh, no. It works though, doesn't it."

Q: "Steve, you stated that you were the one that asked John the question about his book. Derek Taylor actually asked you to explain your followup comment. Before you and I talked, I had added to the transcript that your response to Derek was 'damage control.' What is the story behind that exchange?"

STEVE: "Damage control was correct to describe my mood after Derek pointed to me and said 'What was that?' or whatever it was he said. I remember saying 'It looks like it,' sort of under my breath, but in a humorous way. As I recall, maybe Derek had been assuming our exchange had ended, and he had pointed to the next questioner to ask a question. Some reporter began to do that when Derek turned back to me and said, 'What was that!?' He might have said, 'Explain that last remark,' but it was more in a light vein - 'What? You're insulting John!?' And it is correct that I did damage control and it's funny that my tone reflects that. I also definitely remember saying at the end, again in an engaging way, 'It looks very off the cuff," and then Derek turned again for the next question and John started to handle one of his jacket cuffs and said, also sort of under his breath, 'Yes, it is very off the.....' "

Q: "I'm assuming you guys got some cool souvenirs."

RICH: "To show how incredibly enthralled I was and how I felt about them - after I heard one kid say he got something of Paul's, after the press conference, I raced up to the table and took their ash tray with their cigarette stubs and chewed gum, and took them with me all the way home. I also remember an empty cigarette pack with a card from John Sano (?) of the New York Post with a note saying, 'Derek, get me John and I will love you forever.' So getting those things was amazing. But even more amazing was this: We had all been given postcard size pictures of the Beatles with their autographs imprinted. Somehow as Derek was leaving, I said to him that I didn't get one... which wasn't true. It was incredibly unlike me to lie - just another twist of fate that night. He reached into his jacket pocket and said, 'Oh here!' and gave me another one. I don't remember when I looked, but on the back were their real autographs in pen! Nothing could have been better! What I have left are the autographs. The others were thrown away as per my mother's instruction. I remember her saying, 'You're not going to keep John's cigarette ashes in the house!' So that eventually went."
Photo © 2009 Stephen J. Small, all rights reserved

STEVE: "I had John's 'In His Own Write,' and I got John to sign it, and Ringo, and I was moving down the line to get George and Paul - unbelievable! Then one of their guys said, 'Ok, gotta leave right away. Gotta go to the concert,' and I never got the other two. It was all over but the snatching of souvenirs. I also had some silver foil from one of their cigarette packs, and even a few butts from one of their ashtrays, but that is long gone. I do have the polaroids and the autographed book, and the memories."

CHARLIE: "When I realized that we could actually go up to the front, to the table at which they were sitting... I WENT FOR IT! I don't remember where the pen came from, but I saw matches on the table, picked a book of them up and went down the table asking for autographs. To say the least, I was surprised how natural and easy it was. They really were just regular people who happened to be stars. As I was going for Ringo I heard something like 'OK it's time to go... we have to end this thing.' "

Q: "Did you also have tickets for the concert at the Boston Garden that night?"

RICH: "We did not have tickets for that. I had completely forgotten about the concert - I was so intense about the press conference."

STEVE: "After the press conference, one of the Beatles posse said, 'Do you guys have tickets to the concert?' I couldn't believe what was about to happen, but it didn't happen. We told him we did not have tickets. He said, 'Well, I have only one ticket left but I'll give it to you.' We were stunned, but we decided it would be unfair to have one of us go and not the other two. We agreed we would sell the ticket at face value, not scalp it, and we would pick very carefully who we sold the ticket to. Outside, of course, the screaming mob was still there, but we saw one girl, with her mother I think, pleading for a ticket. We sold it for something like $6.75 and split the proceeds three ways."

Source: Interview with Steve Small, Rich Hershenson and Charlie Kimball conducted by

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