The Pan Am Series – Part XXVI: The Beatles (2 of 2)
15 February 2014 4 Comments
The Beatles’ whirlwind first visit to the United States also included a trip to Miami fifty years ago this weekend. National Airlines provided the transportation in a DC-8. On Sunday 16 February 1964 they made their second television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which this time was broadcast live from the Napoleon Ballroom of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. They returned to New York and on the morning of 22 February, arrived back in London on Pan Am’s flight 102, a 707 named Clipper Beatles. As has been thoroughly documented, Pan Am played an important role in this trip and the planning going into the trip was weeks in the making. Mike Webber, an air cargo consultant who is also a musicologist and fan of the Beatles, wrote about this planning in an article in Air Cargo News that appeared on 7 February this year, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in the United States:
“The mannered manager of the English band whose name few had previously heard had a message for all those present in the conference room at JFK’s International Arrivals Building (IAB, now Terminal 4). Speaking to mostly seasoned representatives of Pan American Airways, the Port Authority, and the New York Police Department, Brian Epstein could not have found an audience less likely to believe that they were weeks from experiencing a crowd unlike anything they had seen before.
“Mary Ann Trainor had joined Pan Am’s public relations department after moving to New York from Michigan in 1963. She sat across the table from Epstein in the hours-long planning meeting, during which the Beatles’ movements from aircraft to an on-site press conference and through curbside departure were plotted in detail.
“She recalls Epstein as thoroughly serious as the assembled representatives discussed which mix of local, national, and international media would have access to the tarmac and press conference. Trainor recalls how Epstein, a man whose classmates had included Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts—confidently repeated his assertion that no matter how big they could imagine this would be, it would be bigger. One can easily imagine how such a message went down with a group largely comprising native New Yorkers. They scoffed, but history validates Epstein’s faith about what would transpire at JFK International Airport a few weeks later on February 7, 1964. If not for a decision made at that planning meeting, the iconic images of the Beatles descending the stairs from the Boeing 707 would either not have existed or would have been profoundly less impressive. Several options could have allowed The Beatles to arrive more privately obscured from the viewing areas above the IAB but those in the planning meeting had agreed that they had to give the fans ‘something.’
“While he may have been cagey about it, Epstein relished the kind of massive reception about which he was warning. Rather than pull closer to the gate, the aircraft Pan Am had named Jet Clipper Defiance would be parked on the tarmac in full view of the thousands of fans and gathered media. The scene was repeated—with even more fans in attendance after the appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show—days later when the Beatles left JFK for England.”
Once flight 101 arrived in New York, Dorothea Rizzo took the Beatles under her care. From Webber’s article:
“Once the aircraft had been parked on the tarmac, Pan Am’s Special Services (VIP) representative Dorothea Rizzo boarded the plane, bringing with her a porter to assist with the Beatles’ luggage. Rizzo introduced herself and each Beatle introduced himself and then identified his bags to the porter. * * *
“Rizzo observed that they looked like little boys’ but she admired ‘how neatly combed they were, well scrubbed and with mod suits. . . . [she] observed that when asked if they had any special requests from VIP services, the four had none. ‘You would want to have a son like that,’ was how Rizzo summed up her impression of how the Fab Four handled the almost unimaginable situation unfolding in front of them.
“Rizzo enjoyed that, unlike celebrities who seem compelled to act unimpressed, these four boys were clearly exhilarated by the clamor of the crowd, but still unfailingly polite and ‘laid back’ to the professionals whose jobs entailed serving them. After posing for photos on the stairs and tarmac, the Beatles entered the International Arrivals Building for processing by Customs, Immigration, and Health Services.”
The big question in this whole episode was how the Beatles came to fly Pan Am instead of the state-owned national carrier of Britain, British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C.). According to Webber, all the Pan Am veterans he interviewed believed “that Pan Am’s brain trust recognized the potential promotional benefit of operating these flights and took up the challenge of competing with The Beatles’ own national carrier.” Further, these veterans expressed belief to Webber that overall “credit might be placed on the efforts of Richard (Dick) N. Barkle, who frequently seemed to be involved in such marketing opportunities for Pan Am.”
Unfortunately, Webber could not interview Mr. Barkle as he passed away in San Francisco on August 7, 2013. However, in his obituary from the New York Times (published 8/24/13) it was noted that he had been “responsible for accompanying VIP’s and dignitaries from around the world” during his many years at Pan Am.
As noted in the previous post about the Beatles historic trip to the United States, the concepts “product placement” and “brand recognition” in the airline industry could very well have had their genesis with flight 101 from London to New York with the Beatles. Webber sums it up quite neatly:
“One can scarcely locate a single photo taken of the Beatles on the airfield in which Pan Am’s aircraft and its recognizable personnel are not clearly visible. Then once inside the IAB, the Beatles’ press conference was conducted in front of a wall decorated with the classic Pan Am globes visible on all sides. Even when walking, the Beatles can be seen toting clearly labeled Pan Am bags they would continue to use for the remainder of the trip; photos and news reels shot later on the trip showed the Beatles carrying newly purchased records and other bounty from America in these same bags.
“By the time the Beatles returned to England, Pan Am had temporarily renamed its aircraft with a stenciled ‘Jet Clipper Beatles‘ in full view of the photographers and thousands of fans waiting to see them off at JFK.”
Webber’s full article can be seen here.
As Pan Am provided the air transportation for the Beatles and their entourage, it could fairly be said that the airline was in fact a sponsor of their trip to the United States. In all likelihood, however, at least in the airline industry at the time, providing free transportation was very likely not considered “sponsorship” in the sense it is today. And it would hardly make sense if the historic trip was called “The Pan Am/Beatles Official Inaugural Flight to the United States”. Times have changed! It should be noted, however, that since Pan Am’s breakthrough, other airlines began getting the message, starting with plugs during credits following TV shows where “travel arrangements provided by such and such airline” can be heard.
In another interesting story connected with this event, the daughter of Gerry Shea, the pilot of flight 101 on 7 February 1964 who sent the note to Monica Conway with a postcard autographed by the Beatles covered in the previous post, revealed that she too, was given a similar autographed postcard by her father. In an article written by Bob York that appeared in MassLive.com, Helen Shea Murphy recalls dinner the day he arrived from his trip:
“I remember my father . . . who loved to tease us . . . saying ‘I had some English lads who are in a band called the Bedbugs.’ Well, it took me about two seconds to scream, The Beatles! I suddenly realized that The Beatles were scheduled to be on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night,” she recalled. “Then my father just laughed and asked, ‘What is it about this band that all the girls scream when they hear their name?’”
After Murphy was given her autographed postcard she was told she could not call her friends until after supper, something that “seemed a bit harsh at the time”. After supper she did get on the phone and the word got around. Today it is “a keepsake I have to this day. That postcard made its rounds at my high school. It was hugged by many girls and even went under some pillows … it certainly has been very loved.”
Murphy’s father, a former Marine pilot, according to the article, was often used to pilot celebrities on Pan Am flights. Murphy was quoted as saying, “He was a very personable man. He had a great sense of humor and really enjoyed schmoozing with the passengers. When working, my father considered the plane as his living room and felt it was part of his responsibility to entertain the passengers.” This is probably the reason he was selected to fly the Beatles to the United States.
The full story about Helen Shea Murphy on MassLive.com can be seen here.
Finally, on 7 February 2014, the Port of Authority of New York & New Jersey hosted an event commemorating the arrival of the Beatles at the TWA Flight Center at Kennedy Airport. The Lord Mayor Gary Millar and Deputy Mayor Wendy Simon of Liverpool, England were in attendance as well as the band “The Cavern Beatles” from Liverpool, who performed for the attendees. A commemorative plaque marking the arrival of the Beatles on Pan Am will be dedicated and installed at Kennedy Airport and a replica of the plaque was unveiled at this celebration. In attendance were members of World Wing’s International, a philanthropic group of former Pan Am flight attendants. Gillian L’Eplattenier who worked flight 101 and whose recollections were featured in the previous post and Mike Webber’s article, was honored by the City of Liverpool with a gift for her role on the Beatles’ first flight to America. Photographs from that event are here.
In sum, the Beatles inaugural trip to the United States was a huge coup for Pan Am. Not only did the “Blue Ball” springboard into world recognition, the creative use of sponsorship to gain brand recognition and product placement had its genesis. Pan Am crafted this technique to ensure its market presence but it was not until decades later that it developed into an art by the world’s airlines.
For additional information about Pan American World Airways:
The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.
Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People
Also available in a Kindle Edition
For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline.
For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation