Evening Standard, Hulton Archive LONDON (AP) - Miles and Jimi. Jimi and Miles.…
- Posted on Sep 23rd 2010 4:30PM by James Sullivan
Bernard Gotfryd, Getty Images
"I took one look at the cover and said, 'Wow, if these are not the cutest boys on earth!'" Gendler tells Spinner.
Smitten, she wrote to the fan-club address posted on a sticker on the album. Coming home from school one day, she was greeted at the door by her mother, who produced a telegram from a certain Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager. Gendler's father drove her into New York City to meet Epstein and his staff, and she became one of the first Beatles fans in America to have direct contact with the group.
Too young to run the fan club's entire American operation, Gendler started her own northern New Jersey chapter. For her efforts, she was given a single ticket to the band's debut performance for American television, on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' Feb. 9, 1964. The four episodes on which the Beatles appeared, including that thrilling debut -- at the time, it was the most-watched television show of all time -- are now available on a digitally remastered DVD, 'The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles.'
Gendler, who went on to a career in communications under her married name, clearly remembers the mood of the country when the Beatles arrived. President Kennedy had been assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. She was in a mid-afternoon English class when the awful news was announced over the school intercom.
"It was overwhelming," she says. "You studied the Lincoln assassination, but you didn't think it could happen in your civilized lifetime."
The Beatles' arrival in America has been cited again and again as a critical boost to the national psyche at a time of abject despair. Gendler is living proof.
On the day of the first Sullivan show, her parents drove her into New York. They passed by the Plaza Hotel in midtown, where the band was staying. The streets were packed with hordes of young people.
At Studio 50, as the Ed Sullivan Theater was then known, Gendler's mother got out of the car to try to help her daughter get past the barricades. In a skirt and a ruffled blouse, the young girl explained to a skeptical security guard that she was "not the governor's granddaughter, or the mayor's daughter," just another Beatles fan.
"In the balcony," said the guard, handing back her ticket.
Though she has since watched the performance plenty of times, "The whole show is a dream to me," she says. She remembers the first song they played, 'All My Loving,' and the last, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand.' The DVD refreshed her memory of the others -- 'Till There Was You,' 'She Loves You,' 'I Saw Her Standing There.'
Watch 'The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles' Preview
Today, Gendler laughs, recalling her schoolgirl crush. "What if they meet me and fall in love?" she remembers thinking. "Actually, I just anticipated breathing the same air as the Beatles."
Gendler's fan club work made her a minor celebrity around New York. For a few years she did interviews and made appearances on local programs, promoting the 'Ringo for President' record and other novelties. She met the band members individually after their famous press conference (John Lennon, she recalls, was "unnerving," though Paul, George and Ringo were friendly). And she sat next to the sister of Brian Hyland ('Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini') at the Shea Stadium concert in 1965.
Just like so many other teenagers of the time, Gendler grew up alongside the Beatles. She came to understand the extent of the group's cultural impact when she received hate mail through the fan club: "What about our American boys?" wrote one detractor. In college, Gendler debated politics and helped mobilize protests against the war in Vietnam.
But she never lost her youthful exuberance over her favorite band. When she met her future husband, she was appalled to hear that he'd missed an opportunity to see the Beatles in his native San Diego. "It would've been the best place to meet girls!" she told him. "What was the matter with you?"
He soon redeemed himself. An aspiring sax and piano player, he had lots of Beatles sheet music. "This is a guy I could really like," she remembers thinking.
Over the years, Gendler has developed a friendship with McCartney's extended family, including his brother, Mike. She has taken her daughter to see McCartney perform several times, and she was once in a living room in Liverpool when McCartney serenaded his family.
"You can't quite top that," she says.
Because of her friendship with the McCartneys and her own career in television, Gendler doesn't try to capitalize on the extraordinary access she has had to the Beatles. But she's happy to talk about the Ed Sullivan shows: the first one, she says, was "a quintessential moment in my life."
As they were for countless others in countless ways, those four boys from Liverpool were "an important part of who I became," says Gendler. "I still love the Beatles. What can I say?"
'The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles' is available now on DVD.