Beatlemania and Me

BEATLEMANIA was the very first Beatles tribute band to perform as a big-scale, multimedia Broadway show. It featured Joe Pecorino ("John"), Mitch Weissman ("Paul"), Les Fradkin ("George"), and Justin McNeill ("Ringo"). It premiered May 31, 1977, and here's one of the original TV commercials for it and WHAT THE HELL!? WHO'S THAT FAMILIAR-LOOKING GUY IN THE BACKGROUND!!? Why, it's ME!

Beatlemania actually opened first in Boston (my home town) at the Colonial Theatre in April 1977 for tryouts and previews, a common practice back then for a Broadway-bound show. A friend of mine, Mary Galloway, called me one day. The production company for which she was working planned to shoot commercials for the show on the afternoon before its scheduled premiere later that night. They needed about twenty extras to pretend to be the "audience." Did I want to be one? Why, of course I did!
Back in 1977, unlike today, we weren't surrounded by opportunities to actually be on film or video. To get to be on camera in any capacity, especially in a non-media-oriented city like Boston, was a BIG DEAL! So, yeah, I was eager and excited to do it.
The next thing I knew, at about noon, I was inside the somewhat empty, cavernous, beautiful Colonial Theater, standing right in front of four "mop-tops" dressed in signature, Beatles-style, Nehru jackets. One of the actors, Mitch Weissman, was a dead-ringer for Paul McCartney. His resemblance was uncanny! I was instantly thrilled!
The performers pretended to play, we pretended to clap and give them a standing ovation. As these shoots usually go, to get all the necessary angles, we were there for several hours. I got a chance in between takes to chat with the actors, who were very laid back and friendly. The whole shoot was all very calm, quiet and casual. Good fun.
After the shoot, the twenty of us extras who had played audience members were offered tickets to the premiere and asked to come back that evening. We were urged to participate further in "interviews" that would be conducted on the scene where we were expected to enthusiastically endorse the show.
I arrived at the show, and I recall that the "interviews" were conducted during intermission. The only people "interviewed" were the ones who had been used as extras earlier in the day for the commercial.
The cool thing about the interviews were that they were conducted by the legendary MURRAY THE K, the first DJ to play the Beatles music in New York, which was credited with launching their big success in the USA. He was often referred to (usually by himself) as "the fifth Beatle." He was a small, thin, elderly man by then, now sporting a toupee full of hip-looking, gray hair. I remember him looking at me and grinning with wild eyes as he interviewed me, trying to coax exaggerated enthusiasm from me for what I had just witnessed. He didn't have to coax me too much - I really enjoyed the show!
Yes, I was interviewed, and, of course, I played my part to the hilt, professing great, mad, insane, frantic love for the show.
Much later when Beatlemania opened on Broadway, my friends living in New York told me, "John, you're on TV in those commercials ALL DAY LONG! We're sick of seeing you!" Alas, I never laid eyes on the finished product, because the commercials were only shown on TV in other cities except Boston.
A few days ago, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I stumbled across one of these commercials on YouTube! WHAT!?
I went to the source site and found another one. Alas, neither commercial was the one that featured me. But the second one has a brief moment where the camera pans over and.....YIKES! There I AM! (0:17)

So, after all these years, I finally have living proof that I was once a proud member of the first audience for what would become a perennial stage show. And did I mention that I'm also an avid Beatles fan!?
Perhaps, some day, my actual promo spot, the one where I'm interviewed, might turn up. To tell the truth, I never thought I'd ever see ANY of these, so now I figure anything's possible. On my behalf, keep an eye open for it, will ya?

Oh, and this:

Mitch Weissman (Beatlemania's original "Paul McCartney") and I reunited recently in Santa Monica where he was performing Beatles tunes with his current group. Here we are meeting again after 40 years!


Popular Posts