by Geoff Franklin for The World Beatles Forum


(We’d like to thank Brad Howard for providing this excerpt. For more details on how to get a copy of the full interview, see box at the bottom of the page.)


The following is excerpted from the full 6,700-word interview with Sid Bernstein now available in the latest edition of The World Beatles Forum fanzine.  Single copy purchase and subscription information can be found at the end of the interview.


We encourage Beatles fans to purchase Sid Bernstein’s new book, Not Just The Beatles . . . as told to Arthur Aaron.  Visit the official web-site: http://www.notjustthebeatles.com to purchase the book plus posters.


[Author Arthur Aaron and Mr. Bernstein have written a charming book about Sid’s life and his personal, close encounters with the dozens of entertainers, politicians, and wondrous people who have crossed his path of life over the past 83 years.


In 1963, he had a conversation with Brian Epstein that changed his life.  He presented The Beatles in New York City in 1964 at Carnegie Hall, and then made history with the mega-concert at Shea Stadium in 1965.  He did it again in 1966.


Our conversation was conducted by telephone on Wednesday, February 21, 2001 at 5 P.M..  Journey with Sid Bernstein as he takes us through portions of his life.  Read his book to learn more about this incredible man.]



Geoff FRANKLIN (GF): I’ve just finished reading your new book, Not Just The Beatles . . ., written with Arthur Aaron and I’m still tingling with the exciting stories that you tell, especially the first Shea Stadium concert with The Beatles in 1965. 


Sid BERNSTEIN (SB): Yes.  That was unforgettable.


GF: What’s the first thing that comes to mind, when you think about that first Shea Stadium concert?


SB: Just the incredibility of it all.  The fact that we got it on.  The fact that it ran smoothly without incident, and it set a world record for attendance and for gross and for excitement.  John later told me at a concert I did with Jim Cliff, the Reggae artist . . . John had asked me for tickets for this concert, and we were sitting next to each other, and during intermission, he stayed in his seat.  He didn’t leave his seat at intermission, and his two friends were staying there, and I was sitting there with my wife, and he said, “You know Sid, Shea Stadium, I saw the top of the mountain.”  And I said, “You know John, so did I.”  And that’s what it really was.


GF: It’s been said that George Martin wanted to record The Beatles at Carnegie Hall.  Are you familiar with this?


SB: I had not heard that.  No. This is news to me.


GF: So, to the best of your knowledge, that show was never recorded?


SB: Unless there’s a bootleg out that I don’t know about.  No, it was not recorded.


GF: From reading the book, I got the sense, when you made that first, cold call to Brian Epstein in 1963, that you were very, very nervous.


SB: Yes, I was.  I didn’t know exactly how he would respond and I didn’t know where I would place them, if he did say, “Yes.”  It was all just a wish and a hunch on my part that time was coming close for them to be known in America.  They were not known at that time.  There was no airplay.  There was no representation.


GF: This was early 1963 . . .


SB: . . .  when I made that call.


GF: The Beatles were already making a buzz in Britain.


SB: Yes.  And that’s what I was reading about in the English newspapers . . . and that’s what turned me on and got me so interested.  It became an obsession that I must bring them here . . . And Brian said, “You’re the first man from America calling.  Why would you want to commit suicide?  They don’t mean anything in America.”  And I said, “They’ll break here.”  I really didn’t know.  I hadn’t even heard their music, at this point - just reading about them . . . So, I wanted to book them three months from the time I made the call.  And he said, “No.  I won’t let my boys play at empty houses.  We fill every music hall . . . every theatre that we play . . . we get top dollar . . . the equivalent of two thousand dollars a night for one show.”  And I just adlibbed.  I didn’t know what he was going to ask.  I didn’t know where I got the figure from, a very odd figure . . . I said, “I’ll give you $6,500 to play two shows in one day.”  He said, “That’s interesting.  Where would you put them?”  And I had no idea.  And I said, “Carnegie Hall.” . . . He was familiar with the reputation of Carnegie and he said, “You want to put my boys in Carnegie Hall? . . . and he said, “I can’t send them over until we get airplay.” . . . He decided to put it off for just about a year past that call and that was February 12, 1964.  It was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  Kids would have been out of school and the hall was available and so I chose that date and cleared it with Brian.


GF: Those pictures that we see at Carnegie Hall with all the people wrapped around The Beatles on stage give the presence of an intimate concert.  But, I don’t think most readers realize that you had to put those seats there in order to fill demand and seat requirements.  


SB: The press of the world wanted tickets and in those years, what you did was you put a dozen tickets away for the few, leading newspapers.  I was getting requests from all over the world.  There was a Japanese contingent that came over, Japanese newspaper men who needed tickets badly.  So, I got approval . . . the fire law says, “If there are five musicians or less (and it may still be the same), you can put seats on the stage, providing that the performers give their okay.”  And here I was pressed by people asking for tickets from all over the world for this concert and I got Brian’s okay to put seats on there [the stage].  The stage hands gave me, I think it was around 150 folding chairs, because I okayed some of their children coming in, so they could see the concert.  So, they stacked up 150 seats reaching into the wings of Carnegie Hall, as well as the stage.  And, that was for one performance.  [My friend] Abe . . . who loaned me the money to do the concert, pay Carnegie, and give Brian his advance, asked me . . . begged me, “Sid, I need 100 tickets.”  Well, I gave him 150 and I gave the press 150.  So, I took care of Abe’s needs and the world press’ needs . . .


GF: One of the best stories in your book tells of how you were able to sell out Shea Stadium in 1965 without advertising the show at all!


SB: Well, he [Brian] had asked me not do any advertising, not to do any interviews until I gave him a deposit.  We had settled for $100,000 for that one show at Shea.  I didn’t have the $50,000 [for the deposit].  The rule even today is when you buy an act from an agent or an agency, you put down 50% deposit when the agreement is signed.  I didn’t have the $50,000.  So I said, “Brian, is it okay if I talk about them?”  He said, “I can’t stop you from talking, Sid.” 


So, while I have pushing my first baby, I have six, by the way, through Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village . . . kids are saying, “Sid, Mr. Bernstein, what’s next?”  I had already done, prior to Shea Stadium, The Rolling Stones in New York, Herman’s Hermits, the Moody Blues, Manfred Mann, the Dave Clark Five, and I guess I introduced the first 12 or 14 British acts . . . People just knew me in the park when I’d go through it on the weekend with my kid.


. . . When I got the OKAY from Brian in January of ‘65, I rented a little post office box and told the kids that they could mail their orders to this box . . . 6 blocks from my home and I never expected an avalanche of mail.  I waited three weeks, hoping . . . I had 20 or 30 letters in there.  And when I got to the post office box, it was crammed full of letters.  And I said, “My God, I’m sure I’ve got 20 or more letters in that box.” . . . I went to the enquiry window, and asked the gentleman there, “Sir, my box is P. O. Box 21 and I’ve forgotten my key and it looks like it’s got an awful lot of mail.”  And he said, “Hey buddy, what’s your racket?”  And I asked, “What do you mean?”  “You’ve got a lot of mail.  What’s your racket?”  I said, “Well, I’m in the mail order business.”  He called to a guy in the back . . . And they came back pulling three of the biggest duffle bags I’d ever seen.  And I said,“Wait a minute, fellows.  There’s got to be some mistake.”  I ran back to my home, quickly.  Backed up my car . . . they helped load up the three big bags into my car.  By the time Brian got to New York, I just didn’t give him $50,000 deposit.  I gave him a cheque for $100,000.  I had already banked $185,000. 


GF: This is months and months before August of 1965 . . . 


SB: . . . That’s right . . .


GF: You’ve been a manager, an agent, and a promoter.  What job was the most satisfying?


SB: The most satisfying are the ones that I am working on.  I just want to hit another home run at Shea Stadium.  I’m working on an idea for Shea.  In fact, I have an appointment there the day after tomorrow to see what day is available.  I want to do one more at Shea . . . Right now, I’m talking to Lenny Kravitz.  He was a classmate of my two oldest sons.  He said, “I would love to have you present me somewhere, Sid.”  And, so I’m thinking about Shea Stadium.


GF: Some of your stories in your book are absolutely delightful and I understand that you occasionally hit the lecture circuit. 


SB: I tell people I married a nun and they say, “Bernstein married a nun?”  My wife, when I was courting her, was a nun in The Sound Of Music with Mary Martin.  So, I have fun with that at a lecture.  


GF: Sid, that incredible story of how you accidentally rediscovered your World War II sweetheart after 40 years is touching.


SB: You want to know something?  A guy in France called me and said, “That’s a movie.”  I said, “So, do it!”  He’s a movie guy.  There’s a guy now in L.A., I can’t mention his name, who wants to do a movie just on Bethel ‘94.  You know when I went through producing the 25th Anniversary on the original site . . . I don’t call it Woodstock, by the way . . . but on the very original site of Max Yasgur’s farm . . . And, there’s a guy who thinks there’s a story in that and he wants to do a movie.


GF: Over the years, have you ever been cheated by a performer or a manager?


SB: No.  I’ve been lucky in that respect.  I’m lucky in this respect, too, and I talk about this when I lecture: that Judy Garland showed up for every concert that I promoted her in, where often she would cancel out on dates and break people.  They paid for the hall.  They gave deposits and stuff.  I was just very lucky.  I’ve lead a good life.


GF: Sid, could you tell us about your involvement in cancer research?

SB: . . . It’s a world music festival, an International festival of great artists.  I don’t know who I have in mind, but just great artists from around the world and all the money goes to cancer research in Liverpool.  There’s some wonderful work being done in that city.  I want to organize a concert at the great racetrack.  We do the Kentucky Derby.  They do the Grand National . . . I’ve already got interest from the racetrack and some of the city fathers to do it . . . and let the world come to it . . . I figure it’s going to take five million dollars to do what I want to do . . . and hopefully raise 15 - 20 million dollars to go toward cancer research in Liverpool.  So, I want to get that done . . . hopefully, next Spring - a year from now.


GF: Would you ask Paul to participate in your world festival for cancer research?


SB: . . . I’m asked this question fairly often . . . if he wants to come, wow!  I’d welcome Paul.  But, I’m not going to ask him.  They’re asked too many times, the three boys, to do things.  Let the artists just come.  I’m preparing to pay for the artists that we invite from around the world.  I want it truly to be a world festival, an International festival.  Liverpool has the history and a kind of welcome mat.  The reason I love it is that the people are so warm and friendly and the welcome mat is there for everyone and it’s a wonderful place to do a thing like this.


GF: Sid, you still have so much energy and enthusiasm.


SB: In the year 2002, I already have a plan to do a movie.  I’ve met a few writers who could do this story . . . I’ve had this story in my heart, my head.  I don’t write.  I haven’t written a script, but I know it can be done and I know the guys who can do it.  And, I want to do it in the city of Liverpool, rather than New York or anywhere else in the world . . . It’s a movie about brotherhood, civility.  It’s a love story.  I think it will work.  And, with the success of the book, I think I can raise the money . . . And, I even have a plan for the year 2003 . . . I’ve got six children, none married, all eligible for marriage - the right age.  And, in the year 2003, I want to see some grandchildren and I want to be around to watch them grow a little bit and hang out with them, as I did with my own kids.  That’s for the year 2003 - to slow down.  Take it easy . . . So, now you have the story of my life, my past and part of my future.



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