The Beatles in the 'Burgh, 1964

Like Beatles fans across the country, those at Greater Pittsburgh Airport became hysterical at the sight of the band.
Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney upon arrival at Greater Pittsburgh Airport. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)
Video of KDKA reporter Al McDowell interviewing Ringo Starr at Greater Pittsburgh Airport.

Monday, Sept. 14, 1964: Ringo was first off the plane.

He emerged from the darkened doorway of the chartered Lockheed Electra around 4:40 p.m. and stepped into the bright sun, which highlighted his sad eyes, rakish sideburns and, of course, that glorious nose. Even from a distance, he was instantly recognizable. The world’s most famous drummer.

The shrieking, which had begun long before the plane stopped, reached new heights. Thousands of teenage girls held back by the Greater Pittsburgh Airport’s snow fences squealed, screamed, shoved closed fists into their mouths, grabbed handfuls of their own hair, wept, and generally fell into fits of hysteria.

Behind the crowd, a blond boy of about 12 shimmied up a light pole to see the spectacle: The four young men known throughout the civilized world as the Beatles -- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr -- were invading his hometown.

Ringo started down the stairway to the tarmac. Behind him stepped John, cool in sunglasses and a flashy blue-and-white polka-dot shirt. Then George and finally Paul, who paused at the top of the stairs to point at something.

Ringo kept moving, five steps down, the other Beatles following close behind.

Then something came flying through the air. Something red and the size of a fist.

Ringo moved instinctively. He ducked, covered his head with his left arm and, less than a second later, sprang back upright as if nothing had happened.

He never paused in his descent, or changed his expression. He simply continued down and then calmly waded into a crowd of reporters, photographers, police officers and guys in work shirts and hard hats.

A reporter named Al McDowell from KDKA-TV approached Ringo.

“What’s that stuff they were throwing?” McDowell asked.

“Looked like a tomato, to me,” Ringo responded, pronouncing it toe-mah-toe in his thick Liverpool accent. “It’s always the same, you got a couple of lunatics in a couple of thousand … .”

John moved up behind him and held a small Beatles doll next to Ringo’s face -- an act that seemed to unnerve Ringo more than dodging hurled fruit.

It had been that kind of tour for the Beatles. Crazy, unpredictable, playful, a hint of anarchy and danger in the air. And flying food. Mostly it was jelly beans, but in Chicago a week earlier, a frozen T-bone steak hurled at the stage nearly clobbered Paul.

Now they were in Pittsburgh, the 20th of 24 cities they’d visit in 34 days -- an exhaustingly ambitious schedule that criss-crossed North America and would cover 22,621 miles. The tour netted the Beatles a fortune -- about $1 million, including a record fee of $150,000 for a show in Kansas City -- and taught them how truly popular they were in the United States.

Their Sept. 14 visit to the Steel City, the band’s only appearance here, would last about six hours and include all the elements of Beatlemania. And it would all occur in and around a funny-looking domed structure built atop the demolished Lower Hill District, a poor neighborhood that once nurtured some of the most talented jazz musicians the world has ever known.

In past years, folks like Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Billy Eckstine and Erroll Garner played until sunrise in the dusty old Musicians’ Club, once located in a spot almost directly underneath the stage where four young men from England would play 12 songs in 30 minutes before more than 12,000 fans.

A tearful fan in Indianapolis pleads with a policeman to carry her fan button to Ringo. The Beatles drew shrieks from more than 30,000 spectators at two Indiana State Fair shows on Sept. 4, 1964. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)

The tour began 26 days earlier in San Francisco. Seconds into that first show at the Cow Palace, fans rushed the stage, trampling a radio journalist. Nineteen people required first aid. Injuries included a broken a leg and a dislocated shoulder. Fans eager to give the Beatles’ their favorite candies hurled thousands of jelly beans at the band. These were hard-shell American jelly beans, not the soft “jelly babies” found in England. The bean barrage twice forced the concert to be stopped. After the show, fans besieged the Beatles’ limousine. The band escaped in an ambulance.

In Seattle, one female fan climbed high above the stage, only to fall and land with a thud in front of Ringo’s drum riser. Vancouver, British Columbia, was pandemonium. A surging crowd crushed those up front. Some girls were so overcome they vomited. Paul admonished the audience, “If you don’t stop, we’re going to have to leave.”

Fistfights broke out in Boston. Gates were overturned, plate glass windows shattered.

And the screaming -- the madness of Beatlemania vocalized by thousands of crazed teenage girls -- drowned out the band’s amplified music and caused some fans to leave concerts.

Producer George Martin attempted to record the Beatles’ performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Aug. 23, only to discover that the screams of more than 18,000 fans were redlining his audio meters. “It was like putting a microphone at the tail of a 747 jet,” he recalled.

At the Pittsburgh airport, fans were noisy but well-behaved. Barricades and 120 police officers kept the crowd of more than 4,000 in check. Most in attendance were teenage girls from Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, though some had traveled from as far away as New York and Kentucky. They held homemade signs reading, “You’re in My Heart, Beatles” and “We Love You Beatles.” One fan took a stab at poetry and penned, “United We Stand, United We Fall for John, Ringo, George and Paul.”

Once off the plane, the Beatles hustled into a black limousine, which then sped down the Parkway West in a motorcade of flashing lights and sirens -- a routine normally reserved for visiting presidents.

Donnie Johnston used his Brownie Starflash camera to shoot this view of Downtown Pittsburgh.
Civic Arena, site of the concert, was built atop a once-bustling community, the city's Lower Hill District. (Pittsburgh Press photo)
Donnie Johnston's priceless possession. (Courtesy of Donnie Johnston)
At top, Sharon Davis wearing her "John cap." At bottom, Sharon and Joan Stan with Elby's Big Boy.

Dawn that day arrived crisp and cool, with temperatures in the 40s. At the Liberty Avenue Greyhound terminal, a handful of teenage girls blinked to wakefulness in a parked bus. They’d spent the night in the vehicle after police shooed them away from the walkways of the Civic Arena, where the girls had planned to spend the night with newspapers serving as protection from the cold. They wanted to be first in line when the arena doors opened Monday evening.

Life stirred in the terminal. A bus pulled in, disgorged its passengers. Off came a tall, skinny red-headed kid named Donnie Johnston. Donnie was exhausted after 11 hours on a bus that seemed to stop at every small town between Culpeper, Va., and Pittsburgh. The smell of diesel fumes lingered in his nostrils.

Donnie lugged a 25-pound, suitcase-sized audio recorder borrowed from the tiny Culpeper radio station where he worked as a part-time disc jockey. He also carried a cheap Brownie Starflash camera.

In his pocket were two tickets. One allowed him into the Beatles concert that evening -- it cost $5.90, a whopping amount for a kid whose family lived on $76 a month. The other cost nothing, but to Donnie, a 17-year-old high school junior, it was priceless.

“Beatles Press Conference,” the ticket read in bold blue lettering. “Civic Arena, September 14, 1964. Admit one.”

Donnie’s life until this moment had been largely confined to Culpeper County in rural northeastern Virginia, where he and his two younger brothers lived with the boys’ grandmother in a house on 2 acres of land. She had inherited the brothers after the boy’s parents had divorced. The newly formed family raised chickens and hogs and lived in a home with no indoor plumbing.

A few hours each Saturday night, Donnie spun rock ’n’ roll records for an AM radio station whose signal was beamed to Culpeper County’s mostly rural residents. The Top 40 was dominated then by what Donnie considered “lovey-dovey girly ballads” crooned by the likes of Bobby Vinton, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell.

The music was safe -- “white and polite,” was the term Donnie used. And it was boring. Few recognized it at the time, but Donnie and millions of other American teenagers were ready to embrace something fresh, with a few rough edges.

They got it in late December 1963, with the release of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” In little more than a month, the song reached the pinnacle of America’s pop charts.

By mid-March, the Beatles held all three top spots, with “She Loves You” and “Please Please Me” joining the still-dominant “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” A month later, the Beatles had 14 songs in the Hot 100.

Donnie played every Beatles record he could get his hands on. He knew the band represented something new and exciting. The music world was changing and he wanted to be a part of it. So when he heard that the band would tour North America in late summer of 1964, he determined to find a way to interview the Beatles.

The list of cities they’d play included Baltimore and Philadelphia, both closer to Culpeper, but Donnie elected to try Pittsburgh. He’d always been a Pirates fan. In fact, he’d sometimes sit under a big maple tree in the front yard of his uncle’s house and listen to Bob Prince and Jim Woods call Pirates games on a KDKA radio signal traveling more than 250 miles.

His radio gig was enough of a credential to secure a press pass. He mailed in $5.60 for a ticket to the Pittsburgh show. Then, he spent half of his savings -- $20 -- for a round-trip bus ticket.

On Sunday evening, Sept. 13, he stopped by the radio station, picked up an audio recorder and walked to the Culpeper bus station. He’d be absent from school the next day, but maybe the school administrators would give him a break. After all, wasn’t this an educational experience?

Beverly Velto's high school yearbook photo. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

At Madonna High School in Weirton, W.Va., three good Catholic girls began their week as always -- sitting in class. On this Monday, though, focusing on lessons proved difficult. For Sharon Davis, Beverly Velto and Joan Stan, it seemed the day would never end.

When at last the school bell sounded, the three hurried home and changed out of their school uniforms (pleated skirts, white blouses and wool blazers) and into more hip, comfortable and Beatle-appropriate clothing.

For Sharon, it was a green corduroy drop-waisted dress with a chelsea collar and a paisley tie. And, of course, a “John cap” -- the Greek fisherman’s hat popularized by John Lennon in the Beatles’ recently released movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” Beverly changed into a pleated skirt, a fuzzy angora sweater that was pulled over a button-down blouse, and knee socks. Joan wore a Mod dress -- a Mary Quant number -- with a big collar and a bow.

Each girl clutched a ticket. This would be a special night, the girls were certain. The concert would be great, of course, but there was this other thing that was equally thrilling: The girls had devised a plan to get the Beatles’ attention. Oh, it was a brilliant plan, hatched in optimistic teenage minds. And if it worked … well, the girls thought, maybe they’d get to meet the four Liverpool lads.

A few days earlier, the girls heard a radio interview in which George Harrison seemed unaware that his band was scheduled to play in Pittsburgh. In fact, he seemed somewhat confused about the location of the city.

So the girls pooled their money and ordered an eight-inch cake from a local bakery. It was to be a white cake with the words, “George, this is Pittsburgh” written in icing on the top. Sharon was the most clever writer of the group, so she composed a letter, using a version of the whimsical language John Lennon employed in some of his poems, like “I sat belonely down a tree.”

The girls could imagine the boys gathered in their dressing room, delighting in the cake and laughing at the clever letter. Perhaps during the concert, Paul would pause between songs, walk up to the microphone and announce, “We’d like to invite some special people to the stage. Sharon, Beverly, Joan, come on down!”

Sharon wrote her address on the letter, just in case the Beatles wanted to get in touch with them some time after the concert.

And how would the girls deliver the cake to the Beatles? This was a detail to be worked out later. Magic was possible. To the three teens, the Beatles were proof.

The band, after all, had made the girls happy after all the sadness that had descended upon them one horrific day 10 months earlier, when a nun at Madonna High School interrupted classes with an announcement on the intercom: “The president has been shot.”

The entire student body marched out of the school and down the block to St. Joseph the Worker Church. There, 400 kids prayed the rosary for President John F. Kennedy under a huge vaulted ceiling. Then, “boom!” Coach Joe Krivak, an ex-marine, pushed open the massive church doors and announced with a voice that filled the sacred place, “The president is dead.”

Students were stunned. Some simply stood there, not knowing what to do, tears streaming down their cheeks. It was all so confusing. Beverly went home to find her mother crying in the living room. So much crying.

Then came these four musicians from Liverpool, with those fantastic haircuts and sleek suits. On a Sunday evening in February of ’64, Beverly and Sharon and Joan and millions of other teenage girls gathered in their living rooms and watched the band on “TheEd Sullivan Show.” The Beatles were so daring and new, and for a while you could forget about first lady Jackie Kennedy dressed in black and little John Jr.’s salute and hoofbeats on a Washington, D.C., street and the question, What we were supposed to do next?

In May, the girls learned that the Beatles would come to Pittsburgh. Sharon received a ticket as a present on her 16th birthday. Beverly and Joan got tickets, too -- both girls working and saving their pennies until they had the necessary $5.90.

And so after changing their clothes on the day of the concert, the girls climbed into a white Pontiac station wagon driven by Sharon’s father, who had agreed to act as chauffeur. Next to him sat Beverly’s father, who’d decided to make the trip, too. They headed to the bakery to pick up the cake before making the trip to Pittsburgh.

Donnie Johnston photographed his newfound friends in front of the Civic Arena. (Photo by Donnie Johnston)
Donnie Johnston at work in the mid 1960s.

Donnie Johnston spent most of the morning exploring Pittsburgh. He’d stashed his heavy recorder in a bus station locker, then walked outside to meet the city. Donnie was accustomed to clear, fresh country air. He would forever remember Pittsburgh as a smoggy place.

First, he walked west, toward the Point, where the tall stainless steel office buildings of Gateway Center offered evidence that the city was in the midst of great change. On one of those buildings he saw the lettering “KDKA.”

This was an opportunity. Announcers Bob Prince and Jim Woods, he knew, were out west with the Pirates. But Donnie was familiar with another name -- Paul Long, a KDKA newsman who on occasion filled in to announce Pirates games.

At the KDKA reception desk, Donnie explained who he was, why he was in town, and asked if he could see Long. Moments later, a bald man entered the room and greeted Donnie with what many Pittsburghers called the “voice of God.” Long was on his way to becoming a legendary anchorman in the city.

The two chatted briefly. Donnie would remember it as a friendly conversation. Then Long gave the newcomer directions to the Civic Arena, and Donnie was on his way.

By now, sidewalks were increasingly populated by teenage girls. Vendors hawked Beatles buttons, pennants, pictures, even wigs.

Donnie met several girls from West Virginia, and for a while they all hung around together, wandering parts of the city, visiting a record store and taking pictures outside the Civic Arena. In one, each girl wears a skirt or dress and a “John cap” and holds a magazine photo of the Beatles. The sun had risen, warming the cool air and forcing the girls to squint. This was turning out to be a great day for the kid from Culpeper County.

Donnie quickly discovered that his job as a radio reporter who would later come face-to-face with the Beatles gave him a sort of celebrity status. Girls began asking him favors. Some had gifts to offer their favorite Beatles. Could Donnie take them with him? One girl asked him to touch Paul McCartney, then find her afterward and touch her with the same hand. At the time, it was a perfectly understandable and reasonable request. The vast Civic Arena parking lot was filling with vehicles -- many of them great finned beasts with chrome bumpers and whitewall tires. Soon it was time for Donnie to say goodbye to the girls he’d met, then retrieve his recorder and enter the arena.

He had no idea what he’d find there. He’d never attended a press conference.

Sharon, Beverly and Joan ran into Jo-L’s Pastry in Weirton while the two fathers waited in the station wagon. The men, both wearing suits -- they always wore suits when going to town -- planned to see a movie while their daughters were at the concert.

The girls paid for the cake, presented to them in a white box tied with string, then returned to the back seat of the Pontiac. There, they opened the box and took a peek. What they saw made them giddy with excitement: Atop the cake were stick figure drawings of the Beatles -- Ringo at the drums, John and George on guitars and Paul with his bass. The bakery even remembered that Paul was left-handed.

It was perfect -- so cute. The Beatles would love it.

Pat DiCesare yearned to be in Pittsburgh on this day, helping manage affairs at the Civic Arena.

Instead, he was a thousand miles away, at an Army base called Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., learning to aim a howitzer so it could launch a shell with enough precision to kill people 5 miles distant. DiCesare calculated wind velocity, humidity, temperature and a variety of other factors to calculate the shell’s trajectory.

It was an odd job for a man in his mid 20s who, less than a year earlier, had been working in Pittsburgh as a record promoter. DiCesare’s job then entailed listening to new recordings, determining what was hip, then getting radio stations and record stores interested in the music.

One day in late 1963, a friend asked him, “Have you heard of this band, the Beatles?” No, DiCesare replied. So the friend played two songs, “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You.” DiCesare would forever remember the date -- Nov. 21 -- and the impact of what he’d heard. He was electrified.

Nobody else was, at least not in the U.S.

In the United Kingdom, the Beatles were already a hit -- they began ruling pop charts in early 1963. Soon, an odd phenomenon called Beatlemania emerged. Teens in England went crazy over the band.

Across the pond, though, the band just wasn’t catching on. A few Beatles recordings -- “Please Please Me,” “From Me To You,” “She Loves You” -- were released in the United States in early and mid-1963, but they flopped. Those crazy British fans were interesting, though. So in November, American news organizations like Time magazine, CBS News and NBC News began writing and airing stories about Beatlemania.

Then, on Dec. 17, a disc jockey named Carroll James at Washington, D.C.’s WWDC played a rare copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Listers loved it. They phoned in repeatedly to request the song.

By the first week in January, Beatles music was broadcast in New York City, and suddenly the jolt that electrified DiCesare in Pittsburgh flashed across the country.

In February, Ed Sullivan waved his arm on national television and tried to speak but the screams drowned him out, and still the boys were confident and cool and charming. America surrendered to it all -- the music, the look, the hair, the attitude. The band returned to England having conquered pop culture in the U.S. with dizzying speed.

It was just the beginning. Everyone knew the Beatles would come back to the U.S. for a more extensive tour. When it became official, DiCesare and his mentor, concert promoter Tim Tormey, determined to put Pittsburgh on the schedule. Doing so wouldn’t be easy, but after a series of phone calls and negotiations, promoters ponied up $5,000 and secured a date. Tormey, DiCesare and three brothers (Howard, Sam and Jason Shapiro) who owned National Record Mart worked together to sell tickets and arrange the logistics of the visit.

By the time the Beatles landed back on American soil in mid August, so much had changed. The country’s facade of Eisenhower innocence -- which had taken a direct hit when Lee Harvey Oswald raised a rifle scope to his eye in Dallas on Nov, 22, 1963, and shot Kennedy -- was now actively crumbling. The world was daily becoming more dangerous, more unsettled.

Americans who had long sought comfort in divisions -- along lines of age, sex and especially race -- watched with increasing anxiety, fear and anger as walls of separation were pulled apart. The result was often violent and brutal.

“FBI Dragging Dix River for Missing Rights Men,” blared The Pittsburgh Press on June 28, 1964. In pictures published in newspapers throughout the country, the three young men -- James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael "Mickey" Schwerner -- looked hopeful and optimistic. Stories of their disappearance in a rural Mississippi county and the ensuing search persisted throughout the summer and became, in CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite’s words, “the focus of the entire nation.”

The summer's biggest stories about slain civil rights workers and the conflict in Vietnam were frequently on the Post-Gazette's front page.

The summer should have been a time of optimism and hopefulness for those seeking racial equality -- on July 2, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination in employment and in public places.

But when the bodies of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were found in an earthen dam in the rising heat of Aug. 4, white America was just beginning to understand what black America already knew -- achieving civil rights, especially in the South, would be a difficult and dangerous undertaking.

Another event with haunting implications squeezed its way into the news that summer. On Aug. 2, a U.S. destroyer fired nearly 300 shells at three North Vietnamese torpedo boats in a place called the Gulf of Tonkin.

The United States was gearing up for a nasty fight.

It was a difficult time for DiCesare, who’d been drafted into the Army National Guard. In May of ’64 he reported for boot camp and by September he was at Fort Sill, using a slide rule to aim a deadly cannon. DiCesare didn’t want to kill anyone, and yet the business of being a soldier dominated his thoughts. For the man who played such a crucial role in making the Beatles’ visit to Pittsburgh a reality, the day of the concert would hold only bitter memories

The Beatles and their managers quickly understood they were criss-crossing a country on edge.

Before a show in Las Vegas, concert managers received an anonymous bomb threat. The Beatles played the gig anyway.

Then came death threats. One in particular disturbed Ringo. After learning he’d been targeted as an English Jew (“The one major fault,” he pointed out in The Beatles Anthology, “is I’m not Jewish”), he angled his cymbals to shield him from the audience.

During a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, producer George Martin and manager Brian Epstein climbed a gantry overlooking the stage and were struck by the band’s position in the amphitheater setting. The two men agreed the boys were easy targets for potential snipers. Flying tomatoes and jelly beans seemed the least of their problems.

Police link arms in an attempt to hold back fans near the Bedford Avenue entrance to the Civic Arena. (Dale Gleason/The Pittsburgh Press)
One young fan jumped down a wall and made a dash for the entrance, but was caught by police. (Dale Gleason/The Pittsburgh Press)

To keep the craziness under control in Pittsburgh, police insisted concert producers hire 100 officers at a cost of $50 each. Hosting the Beatles was an expensive venture. DiCesare would later recall that the cost of securing a concert date with the Fab Four was originally an unheard of $35,000 -- 10 times that of most headline acts. Tormey was able to negotiate the amount to $25,000, or 60 percent of the gross sales, whichever was higher.

Many fans were disappointed to learn that the Beatles wouldn’t be spending the night in Pittsburgh. The city’s hotels refused to accommodate the band.

“We just couldn’t provide the protection,” one hotel operator told The Pittsburgh Press. “The kids would tear this place apart.”

Hundreds of fans lined the Parkway West, waving, screaming and holding up signs as the Beatles sped past. In San Francisco, fans had dangled from overpasses and jammed roads from the airport, reducing traffic to a crawl. Pittsburgh’s crowd was relatively polite and restrained.

Overhead buzzed a KQV helicopter. DJ Steve Rizen had taken to the air to track the Beatles’ progress.

Thousands of fans anxiously waited at the Civic Arena.

Dorothy Babcock, 16, and her friend Helen Farkosh stood near one of the venue’s drive-in entrances. The two girls arrived hours early, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Beatles as they pulled in. Now, as word spread that the Beatles were on their way, Dorothy and Helen suddenly had company. More and more fans crowded around them.

Then it happened. The motorcade came into view.

As it approached the crowd gathered near the entrance, the line of vehicles slowed and a window lowered in the Beatles’ black limousine. Paul popped his head out, smiled and waved. He passed within a few feet of Dorothy and Helen.

As the motorcade moved on, the two girls were stunned. All they could do was scream, “We saw Paul! We saw Paul!”

It was now after 5 p.m. The crowd surged forward. Police linked arms to hold back girls desperate to get close to their heroes.

A girl in a striped dress leaped 10 feet from a wall above the Bedford Avenue entrance, where hundreds of fans had gathered to watch the arrival. Upon landing, the girl miraculously held onto her her purse, then darted down a ramp leading to an entry door. The crowd cheered her on as smiling police chased the girl down. It all seemed like good fun.

But then the police line broke, and dozens of fans swarmed down the ramp. Police could do little but watch. There was no danger. The Beatles had already arrived and the entrance was shut tight.

Beatles fans rush past police and down an entrance ramp at the Civic Arena. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

Inside, the rumble of motorcycle engines echoed off the concrete surfaces of the arena’s underground entrance. Limousine doors opened and out stepped the Beatles. Standing nearby to greet them were two men: Tormey, the concert promoter, and a teenager named Robert Shapiro.

Shapiro was the son of Howard Shapiro, the National Record Mart co-owner helping to promote the show. Robert Shapiro had spent the summer working for Tormey as a road manager for a couple of rock ’n’ roll shows touring the Midwest; now he was giving his mentor, Tormey, a hand on what would be one of the biggest concerts of both men’s lives.

Normally, Tormey was a no-nonsense guy who remained focused on business, but now he seemed a bit nervous and excited. Everyone shook hands and the Beatles began asking questions about the Civic Arena. They were very curious about this domed building with the retractable roof.

Tormey and the Beatles then got down to business. John, Paul, George and Ringo were led to the locker room used by the Pittsburgh Hornets hockey team, which had been lavishly decorated with couches, chairs, lamps, televisions and other items.

Soon it would be time for the lads to meet Pittsburgh’s media.

As the white Pontiac rolled along the narrow, two-lane road called U.S. Route 22, the three girls from West Virginia sat in the back seat and, as Joan would later remember, “sang their hearts out.” Beatles songs, of course. And each talked about her favorite Beatle. Beverly like Ringo; Sharon liked Paul. Joan favored John.

They hit the Parkway West long after the Beatles’ motorcade had passed, then motored through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Traffic near the arena was a mess. The Pontiac slowed to a crawl. Pittsburgh’s sidewalks were now a teeming mass of knee-length skirts, knee socks, hair bands and sweaters skewered with massive round buttons proclaiming, “I Love the Beatles.”

Let us out here! Let us out here!, pleaded the girls from Weirton. The Pontiac stopped. Before Sharon, Bev and Joan departed, however, the fathers turned and cautioned them, “Don’t act silly.”

Then the men went off to watch a movie, “Night of the Iguana,” starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner.

Cradling their cake, the three girls joined the thousands gathered at the Civic Arena. The doors had not yet opened and the crowd was thick around the building’s entrances.

In daylight that was just beginning to fade, the three stood there waiting and holding their cake. And then, perhaps because they were excited or bored or just feeling a bit adventurous, the girls decided to defy the father’s warning against silliness.

They began talking loudly to each other in British accents.

Fans gathered outside the Civic Arena hours before the show. (Photos by Donnie Johnston)

Speaking “British” was something the three teens who’d never ventured far from Weirton had done quite often. Just a few weeks earlier, Sharon and Beverly had launched into the accents while attending the premiere of the Beatles’ new movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” in nearby Steubenville, Ohio. Suddenly, they were surrounded by kids asking questions. It was a hoot!

So why not try it again?

As in Steubenville, the girls were suddenly surrounded.

Fans shouted questions. “Are there cows in England?” was Sharon’s favorite. The crowd grew. Questions came from every corner. The girls parried the queries in their faux accents.

Not everyone was fooled. The girls could feel it -- a rumble of disbelief. Finally, someone shouted, “I don’t believe they’re English.”

A hush fell over the crowd. “We’re done for,” Sharon thought. “They’ll burn us at the stake.”

Then, from somewhere in the crowd, came the voice of a savior. “Yes, they are! I saw them at “A Hard Day’s Night” in Steubenville, and they’re English.”

Testimony that the girls had appeared at a movie premiere weeks earlier in a small Ohio town was taken as proof of their English roots, and so the crowd calmed and the girls, still clutching the cake, slipped away from what Sharon would later call “The Circle of Truth.”

A composite of two Donnie Johnston snapshots shows Paul, George and John at the Civic Arena press conference. Johnston's pictures are rare color photographs of the event.
George Harrison smiles. (Photo by Donnie Johnston)
Kaspar Monahan, drama critic for The Pittsburgh Press. (Pittsburgh Press photo)
KQV's Steve Rizen leans in to ask Paul a question. This picture appeared in a poster published by KQV after the event.

Donnie Johnston entered Conference Room A in the bowels of the arena and was struck by the room’s bland, coldly functional decor -- bare, off-white walls and steel doors. Four chairs had been placed before two drab, gray folding tables that would have been more at home loaded down with casseroles at the local Presbyterian church. Donnie assumed the venue would be a bit more regal.

Reporters and technicians were busy hooking up microphones and stringing cables across the tables. Donnie got busy with his own bulky equipment. Once everything was ready, Donnie placed his finger on the record button and waited. He had one chance at this and he didn’t want to blow it.

Suddenly, a door opened and Ringo, John, George and Paul were ushered into the room.

No screams or gasps of excitement greeted the Beatles. Most reporters assigned to cover the event were men old enough to have daughters in the throng gathered outside. One was Kaspar Monahan, a bespectacled man in his 60s with a wave of gray hair atop his head and a deep vertical wrinkle in the skin between his eyes. He seemed to be either deeply curious or enduring a twinge of pain.

As drama critic for The Pittsburgh Press, Monahan spent the 1940s and ’50s reviewing films and visiting elaborate movie sets, where he interviewed legendary stars like Humphrey Bogart, Doris Day and Jimmy Durante. In 1938, he reviewed “The Wizard of Oz,” then playing at the Loew’s Penn (“Definitely … a picture to see,” he concluded).

Now he was stuck in a small, sterile conference room that was becoming increasingly smokey from lighted cigarettes. Before him were four odd-looking young men from Liverpool. Guys like Monahan remained certain that songs like “She Loves You” and “Please Please Me” would age like room-temperature fish. Sooner or later, America would wise up and get back to real music by true artists like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como.

In an article that fairly grunts with sarcasm, Monahan gave this account of the Beatles entrance:

“No burst of trumpets -- but, heavens to Betsy, suddenly there they are, girls -- and in the flesh. Not looking too rosy either, sorta muddy pale, and those egg-beater hairdos do nothing for them in the way of sex appeal.”

The Beatles were by now accustomed to skepticism and even mockery from the American press. As they settled into their seats, Paul whistled a tune. Cameras clicked. “Look down here, Paul,” a photographer called out. Paul was the epitome of cool. He continued to whistle. Then he began softly singing lyrics.

“Well no one told me about her,” he sang, almost in a whisper, “the way she lied.”

Few in the room could have recognized the tune -- “She’s Not There,” by another British band, the Zombies. The song was then No. 12 on the U.K. singles chart. It would reach No. 2 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, but not until December.

Paul wore a gray-blue suit with a tie. The rest of the band wore gray or blue sport coats -- John’s being darker than the rest, and his shirt louder, with those wild blue polka dots. And, of course, there was the hair, which dropped down over the forehead before abruptly veering right (or, in George’s case, left) at the eyebrows.

Outside, thousands of fans waited for the arena doors to open. Several pressed their faces against the arena’s thick glass and peered in. They could sense something was happening. Reporters inside heard their screams and howls.

After several moments, a male voice called out, “How about the wear and tear on the clothes, boys, how many sets did you have to bring?”

And so the Pittsburgh press corps’ first meeting with the musical group that had become a worldwide phenomenon began with a question about the lifespan of clothing.

It wouldn’t get much better.

“What do you like for women’s fashions?” one reporter asked.

"I like long hair, you know,” Paul said. “And modern-type clothes.”

Another question: “How do you fellas go about writing your songs?"

"We sit down in a room and just pick up a guitar or any convenient thing," John said dryly.

"Then I go, 'Hmmm-hmm-hmm-hmm,' " Paul added.

Then John: "Sometimes Ringo and I go …” And he begins to whistle melodically.

"Would you repeat that?" a reporter requested.

"Yes, “ said Paul. “Hmmm-hmm-hmm-hmm.'"

Very cute. Kaspar Monahan wasn’t happy. He didn’t bother asking any questions. Nothing seemed worthy of jotting down. At one point, someone asked about all those buttons overeager admirers tore off the Beatles’ jackets. “Paul or John or one of them said something funny, for there was a laugh, but I missed the riposte,” Monahan wrote.

Seven minutes into the session, Donnie saw an opening. His voice rose up, higher pitched and obviously younger than the rest, the words bent by a slight Southern twang:

"Ringo, there's a rumor that you're running for president. Do you have any comment on that?"

“No,” Ringo replied, “I’m not running.”

This was followed immediately by a question about Ringo’s tonsils, and whether he’d have them removed in the U.S. (No, Ringo said, he’d undergo the procedure in England.)

Sitting in the second row of reporters was a young woman who had no notebook and was keeping a low profile. Joyce Barniker wasn’t a reporter, she was a 22-year-old recent graduate of Wheaton College whose uncle Howard Shapiro was one of the concert-promoting Shapiros. That connection resulted in a pass to the press conference and, later, a front-row seat to the concert.

Joyce had a good view of Paul. She could clearly see that, in the midst of this noisy and somewhat chaotic press event, he was doodling on a piece of paper.

What on earth was he drawing? she wondered. Joyce determined to get that piece of paper.

Flashbulbs filled the room with quick explosions of light.

Donnie raised his Brownie Starflash camera, a simple device that cost about $8. Donnie knew it made him look like a small-town hick among the professionals using more expensive Nikon models. But he didn’t care.

He moved close and popped off a few images -- George staring into the camera and smiling, John looking down with a cigarette between the fingers on his right hand, Paul leaning forward and answering a question while a man in a suit emerges from behind to offer a drink in a glass with a straw. Donnie’s images are rare color pictures of the event.

The Beatles answered random questions from the crowd of reporters for about 20 minutes. Then began the press event’s second stage. Radio reporters lined up in front of each Beatle to get brief one-one-one interviews for on-air use. After several minutes, the television reporters would get their chance.

Donnie got in line. He had a favor to ask of one of the Beatles. He’d considered asking John Lennon, but Lennon’s sarcastic wit and the withering look he shot at reporters asking stupid questions gave Donnie pause. Maybe Paul would do it, Donnie thought.

He’d have to wait, however, behind KQV’s Steve Rizen, a cowboy-hat wearing DJ proud of his Texas roots. Clutching a microphone, he leaned close to Paul and asked, “Have you ever seen a Texas hat like this before?”

“Yes,” Paul replied.

“You been to Texas yet?” And then, “What is your opinion of Texas?”

Thus began the first extensive face-to-face interview with a Beatle in Pittsburgh -- with talk of cowboys and oil wells.

During the entire press conference, Rizen’s colleague Bill Clark was stationed just outside the room, where he could look inside and provide narration, repeat questions radio listeners couldn’t hear and offer comments and observations. Live broadcasting was prohibited, but Clark’s radio audience got the next best thing.

KQV used special equipment, recently developed by ABC, that allowed the station to air its coverage on a seven-second delay. Those standing outside the arena could listen to transistor radios and hear updates about events happening inside, sometimes just a few yards and seconds away.

From where he stood, Clark could see cheering fans pressed against plate glass windows “two door thicknesses away.” The crush of people was alarming.

“Frankly,” he said, “I would very sincerely urge those of you out there listening to KQV …. that you not press that hard. You’re going to come through that glass.”

Fans outside chanted, “We want the Beatles! We want the Beatles!”

And still they pressed against the glass.

“Take it easy out there,” Clark urged.

One of the arena’s glass windows would give way that day and shatter into thousands of pieces, newspapers later reported, but no one was injured. Replacing the window would cost concert organizers $450.

The room by now, Clark said, was hot, the air filled with cigarette smoke.

Rizen had finished his brief interview by accepting a sip of Paul’s drink -- “7Up, or something,” the Beatle said.

Finally, Donnie’s turn arrived. He stood in front of Paul and made a special request: A girl named Susan from Culpeper wanted a Beatle to say ‘hello’ to her.

“Paul accommodated me in the most gentlemanly manner,” Donnie recalled.

After several minutes, the radio reporters moved aside to make way for television crews. The press conference was nearing its end.

“One final thing for the Beatles,” an announcer said over the public address system, “if you’d just line up (for pictures) with a little girl for the local papers, that would be fine.”

An audio recording of the next several minutes is chaotic, individual voices nearly impossible to distinguish, but one of the Beatles can be heard calling out, “Where’s the little girl?”

Then, in a sing-song manner, as if calling for a lost child, “Little girl?”

A tiny, 17-year-old brunette named Barbara Shapiro emerged in the midst of the Beatles. Barbara -- daughter of Sam Shapiro and a cousin of Joyce Barniker, who’d been watching Paul doodle -- was surprised to be thrust into the enviable role of the “little girl” posing with the Beatles. In fact, the band meant very little to her. She couldn’t understand the fans. All that silly screaming, the hysteria, the worshipful adoration. It was demeaning.

“How’s it going?” one of the Beatles asked.

Under a mix of voices and noise, a young woman can be heard talking and, at times, laughing.

“Let’s sing for her,” a Beatle said. Then, the world’s most famous voices harmonize for a brief moment.

“Lovely,” the young woman said.

Barbara Shapiro during her brief encounter with the Beatles. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Shapiro Macaluso)
These are the sketches doodled by Paul during the Civic Arena press conference.

Barbara Shapiro was in the midst of an odd and eventful day, one that would include moments of celebration and shock. For starters, she was two days shy of her 18th birthday. Her aunt that day had given her an early gift -- a $100 bill -- which Barbara stashed in her purse. Any happiness Barbara experienced on this day, however, was tempered by painful memories triggered by an event just a few days earlier: The unveiling of her mother’s gravestone.

Pearl Shapira Shapiro had died several months earlier after a two-year battle with cancer. It was, for Barbara, a horrendous experience. She’d watched her mother waste away and, in some of the worst moments, vomit blood. There were countless trips to the hospital. All of this was hidden from her younger brother and sister, who wouldn’t be told about their mother’s illness until the day of her death. It was all hush-hush.

“Look at John,” someone called out to Barbara.

Which one was John? Barbara was perhaps the only young woman in Pittsburgh who didn’t know. She’d not paid enough attention to the Beatles to distinguish one from the other.

It was too embarrassing to ask, “Which of you is John?” So Barbara started to turn to her right. There stood Paul. “I looked at him right in the face,” Barbara recalled. “He was absolutely mesmerising. I got stuck on him.”

As for the rest of the Beatles, Barbara thought they needed a serious amount of dental work.

Someone suggested that Barbara pretend to faint, so she threw out her arms and threw her head back in a mock swoon.

Cameras clicked. Finally, much to the relief of Press drama critic Kaspar Monahan, the conference ended after 40 minutes.

Joyce Barniker quickly snatched up the sheet of paper on which Paul had been doodling and saw two rough sketches in ink. Both depicted a bespectacled man. One appeared to be middle-aged, with a wave of hair combed back away from the forehead. The image resembled Monahan, who had been seated nearby. In the drawing, Monahan seems to be yawning.

Barniker wanted to ask Paul to autograph the drawing, but the Beatles were ushered out of the room too quickly.

Two hours to showtime.

Girls pressed against the Civic Arena's glass alarmed some, including KQV's Bill Clark. (Dale Gleason/The Pittsburgh Press)

Fans by now were gathering at the arena in greater and greater numbers, filling the walkways and ramps. Near the entrances, it was madness, with girls jammed against windows and doors. Still, the atmosphere was upbeat. Pictures taken from inside the arena show girls cheering and smiling even as their bodies were smashed against thick glass.

In the midst of the throng, Sharon, Beverly and Joan struggled to protect their cake. Joan held the box while Sharon and Beverly “ran interference.” Miraculously, the cake survived the crush of bodies.

Finally, the doors swung open. The mass of bubbly Beatlemaniacs flooded into the arena.

Once inside, the three Weirton girls wandered through the concourse. Where was the Beatles’ dressing room? They needed to get their cake to the Fab Four.

Fans filed past, moving to their seats. Soon, the opening acts would take the stage. There was little time to waste.

That’s when they saw the balding, middle-aged security guard. He looked like a nice guy. Trustworthy, wearing a uniform. The girls approached him.

“We have this cake for the Beatles,” they said. “Would you take it back to them?”

Sure, the guard replied, and he reached for the box.

Too quickly. Beverly became suspicious.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “How do we know you’re not going to take it home to your wife and kids?”

The man was momentarily startled. He tried to assure the girls of his honesty.

But the girls weren’t having it.

“How do we know you and your fellow security guards won’t eat it?” they asked.

“No, really girls, I promise.”

This back-and-forth continued until “the guy resorted to begging us to give him the cake, so we finally did,” Sharon later recalled.

The three rushed off to find their seats -- since they’d bought their tickets separately, each was seated in a different part of the arena. They weren’t convinced their cake would ever find its way to the Beatles.

A slender 13-year-old old girl whose hair was cut in a bob waited near the stage entrance with a half dozen other teenagers, most of them friends and relatives.

Louise Shapiro, daughter of Howard Shapiro, was disappointed that she’d not been allowed to attend the press conference (in an effort to make her feel better, her cousin Joyce Barniker would later give her one of Paul’s drawings). And now she was about to meet the band.

Being part of a family that owned a record- and ticket-selling business had its advantages.

Louise’s mother and other family members would often use the family’s Lincoln Continental to chauffeur bands around the city. Louise’s brother Robert recalled picking up the Rolling Stones at the Allegheny County Airport and driving the band to the Civic Arena. “They were not very nice at all,” he remembered. “Quiet, and a little bit rude.”

Louise sometimes left notes in the back seat of the vehicle, asking visiting bands like the Beach Boys for autographs or small mementos. Once she received a guitar pick.

Access to the Beatles was tightly controlled. Security was vigilant. Still, Louise’s father and uncles were able to arrange a meeting with the band for Louise and a few others, including her cousin, 17-year-old Bruce Barniker.

The small group was led to the band’s dressing room. Paul immediately extended his hand. Louise had no idea what to do or say. Quiet by nature, she just stared at the band members. She noticed John’s flashy blue-and-white polka-dot shirt -- the one he’d worn on the plane and at the press conference. It struck Louise as quite wild. John had yet to change into his stage clothes.

Ringo was eating. In his right hand he held some food -- a sandwich, perhaps -- so he extended his left to Barniker, who was at first a bit confused.

“It’s OK,” Ringo said, “I’m a Beatle, you can shake my left hand.”

Barniker had with him a promotional picture of the band, and each of the Beatles signed it for him.

After all the handshakes and autographs, the fans were quickly ushered out.

The next day, Louise would open her locker at Peabody High School and ask herself: “Does anybody know how special I am? I got to shake Paul’s hand!”

Donnie Johnston lugged his audio recorder out of the arena and into the crowd. The sun was low on the horizon, the sky blue. Donnie found the girl who asked him to touch Paul McCartney. He touched her. Promise fulfilled.

A thought occurred to him: He had no place to stay the night. This was something he’d not considered -- what he would do once the concert was finished and before his bus was scheduled to depart for Culpeper.

Donnie dealt with this problem in a way that would astonish and probably appall millions of girls: He decided to skip the concert and head back home. He’d accomplished his goal -- interviewing the Beatles, seeing them up close and in person. The concert itself held little appeal. So he walked back to the terminal, carrying his massive audio recorder, his Brownie Starflash camera and his unused $5.90 ticket, and boarded an eastbound bus.

After introducing the Beatles, KQV's Chuck Brinkman (at lower left, in blue jacket) leaves the stage while Ringo takes a seat behind his drums. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Brinkman)
Confetti flies as fans cheer the band. (Dale Gleason/The Pittsburgh Press)

Opening acts for the Beatles on the 1964 North American tour were a mix of African-American and white R&B musicians: Clarence “Frogman” Henry, the Exciters, Jackie DeShannon and the Bill Black Combo. Henry was a New Orleans native best known for his 1956 hit, “Ain’t Got No Home.” The Exciters were a girl group with one male member. Their hit “I Know” reached No. 4 on the U.S. pop charts two years earlier. Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon had a few minor hits -- touring with the Beatles was a big break for her.

And the Bill Black Combo was a blues and R&B instrumental band led by a former bassist for Elvis Presley. Bill Black was a relatively old man in the world of rock ’n’ roll -- he was nearing 40 -- and was a seasoned entertainer. During his time with Elvis, Black clowned so much on stage that he drew the ire of Colonel Tom Parker, who felt Black was upstaging the singer.

A year after the Beatles’ tour, Black would die of a brain tumor.

In Pittsburgh, Black’s combo was the night’s final warm-up act, and was wrapping up its set when Ringo stepped up to his drum kit. In an audio recording of the moment, the Bill Black Combo’s shuffling beat is suddenly engulfed by a wave of high-pitched screaming. A KQV announcer says to his radio audience, “The Beatles are taking the stage, Ringo has sat down at his drums.”

KQV disc jockey Chuck Brinkman stood before a stage mic. “Now, like we at KQV have been telling all you fun-lovers, and I know you’re going to do it,” he said, his voice initially calm but rising in the end to a near scream, “you’re going to be a great audience as KQV presents the Beatles!”

What followed was a sound unlike anything ever experienced in Pittsburgh.

“A terrifying, unending high-pitched scream-shriek-wail,” is how The Press’ Kaspar Monahan described the sound. The voices of more than 12,000 screaming teens all blended into “one abysmal howl,” he wrote.

The Beatles launched into their standard 12-song set list, which began with the primal rocker “Twist and Shout.”

Monahan clasped his hands over his ears. Adults in attendance -- even some of the teens -- plugged their ears with their fingers. Pittsburgh policeman Paul Nydas came prepared: One of several officers deployed near the stage, Nydas wore a set of ear muffs.

For some it was too much.

An 8-year-old Wilmerding girl named Donna Tucker was sitting in the front row with her father and several other relatives. When the noise reached a crescendo, her father and an uncle fled, leaving their seats to seek refuge in the arena concourse. Donna’s grandmother was made of sterner stuff. Dressed quite grandmotherly in black laced shoes, a perfectly ironed house dress, and her hair fixed in a bun, she remained in her seat the entire show.

Mike Trenga at about age 12.(Mouse over the image to see Mike as he looks today.)

Twelve-year-old Mike Trenga, who’d ridden the 77B bus from Penn Hills to the arena, found himself surrounded by girls nearly out of their minds. He yelled at them, “Can you calm down? You’re screaming so loud you’re hurting my ears.” Mike was a lucky lad -- he’d shown up at the arena without a ticket. Much to his amazement, a friendly young man at one of the entry gates allowed Mike and several ticketless girls inside.

“Twist and Shout” was followed by the bluesy “You Can’t Do That,” then “All My Loving.” Not that the set list mattered. For many, the “abysmal howl” of the crowd drowned out the music.

One tune fans did seem to recognize was “She Loves You.” The song’s famous refrain, yeah yeah yeah -- either heard or lip-read by the crowd -- “brought down the house,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alvin Rosensweet wrote.

The situation was ridiculous, Barbara Shapiro thought. She looked up at the stage and saw the four young men with whom she’d earlier been photographed. They were mouthing words, strumming guitars and pounding on drums, but Barbara could hear none of it. She left her seat after just a few minutes and spent the remainder of the show wandering around backstage.

The Beatles performed a 30-minute set. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Roteman)

Sharon Davis could hear the music. This she attributed to the location of her seat, which was high enough to be level with speakers in the arena’s scoreboard. “It helped that I wasn’t screaming,” she said. “I wanted to hear the music. As soon as [the Beatles] started a song, you could tell what it was, and a lot of us would be singing along. We knew all the words. If Paul went ‘whooo’ and shook his head, we screamed.”

Her situation was unusual, though. Pittsburgh Press reporter Connie Kienzle was seated at the foot of the stage, yet her proximity to the band was no help. She wrote that the “only sounds discernible over the bleating of the crowd were Ringo’s drumbeats and an occasional twang of John’s guitar.”

Kienzle wrote a whimsical story from the perspective of a bemused “little old lady” wearing a hat, elbow-length gloves and a hearing aid (which she soon disconnected), and clutching a black purse. “There were little girls, clapping, swaying, crying, screaming and waving,” Kienzle wrote. “They stood on their seats. They implored.”

At one point, an overly excited fan jammed the little old lady’s hat over her eyes. “Land Sakes,” Kienzle’s article reads, “I believe that child is going to have a fit. Look at those tears.”

Still, the four British lads were harmless, she assured The Press’ conservative readers. She described Ringo perspiring as he shook his hair, George and Paul smiling at each other, and John doing a “funny little hop” that sent the screaming to a higher level.

“They seemed like nice boys …” she wrote of the band. “And they certainly are having a good time. But their mother should send them to a good barber.”

Kienzle, the “little old lady,” was just 33 years old and not immune to the band’s allure. In her purse, she’d stashed two of Ringo’s cigarette butts, “pilfered after the press conference.”

Her colleague from The Press, drama critic Monahan, noted how the vast, darkened arena filled with small explosions of light as fans took flash pictures, creating a “weird, kaleidoscopic effect.”

Monahan was not amused by the show. He’d already endured what he considered a silly and pointless press conference; now he was forced to actually listen to the music of the four young men he dubbed the “Mighty Mopheads” and the “Four Apostles of Bedlam.” One can imagine this gray-haired man in a suit -- as he put it, a man of “a certain age and dignity” -- surrounded by giddy, bouncing girls. This was dreadful duty that he approached with a certain fatalism.

He wrote of trudging “out to the arena, where we who are about to die salute thee, Caesar. And die I almost did from the fearful assault on my sensitive tympanums.”

As normal, food flew through the air. Jelly beans and, oddly, popcorn landed on the stage, though nothing as unhealthy as a frozen steak was lofted at the band.

The Beatles wrapped up their set with “A Hard Day’s Night” -- title track from the movie that had been released in July -- and “Long Tall Sally.”

“This is our last song,” Lennon announced before the final number, a fact noted by the PG’s Rosensweet, who was somehow able to distinguish the Beatles’ songs and comments from the screaming.

“No, no, no,” the crowd howled.

After 30 minutes, the Beatles rushed off the stage, down a set of steps, and hustled to their dressing room. Within moments, they climbed into a limousine for the trip back to the airport. The escape plan ran into a snag when police saw fans clogging the Bedford Avenue entrance. So the limousine motored through the arena’s underground passageways to another exit.

Barbara Shapiro remained backstage during most of the concert. Once the music stopped, she decided it would be interesting to see the Beatles’ motorcade leave the arena. So, clutching the purse containing the $100 she’d received as a birthday present, she made her way to the garage door at the bottom of Gate 5, the Bedford Avenue entrance.

The door was open and she could see the crowd gathered outside, straining against a line of police linked hand-to-wrist, trying to hold everyone back. The police line was stretched in an arch and weakening.

This must be the exit the Beatles will use, she thought. So she stood there and waited, thinking she was safe.

She wasn’t.

Suddenly the police line broke and scores of fans burst through, running down the ramp, towards the entrance. Barbara had little time to react. Within seconds the stampede was upon her and Barbara, who stood 5 feet tall and weighed 95 pounds, was knocked to the ground.

The scene was bedlam. Barbara was stunned. Where is my purse? she wondered. Several minutes later, she found it. But when she looked inside, her birthday money was gone. She’d been robbed.

By then, the Beatles were long gone. Their vehicle had used a different exit ramp. Next stop: Cleveland.

Rosensweet, the PG reporter, had already phoned in a story to a rewrite reporter, but had to hustle back to the newspaper office to write a second piece for the late editions. It was too far to walk and, he figured, all the cabs would be taken. So he talked to Larry Maloney, the assistant police superintendent.

“Come on,” Maloney said. “we’ll give you a ride.”

Rosensweet jumped into a police van, but upon exiting the arena, the vehicle was surrounded by fans who believed the Fab Four were inside. For a few brief moments, Rosensweet feared the vehicle would be overturned. Maloney finally convinced the fans that the Beatles weren’t inside, and they stepped aside and allowed the van to pass.

Inside the arena, police had their hands full. Officers linked arms “good naturedly” as young fans rushed the stage seeking mementos or attempting to “put their hands on the dusty boards where their idols had shuffled their feet, to kiss those hands, to sob again,” wrote The Press’ Monahan.

Donna Tucker.(Mouse over the image to see Donna Tucker Bayliss as she looks today.)

Donna Tucker, the Wilmerding girl who sat with her grandmother and other family members in the front row, watched as her cousin Ricky made his way up to the stage to touch an area where Paul had stood. Ricky returned and touched Donna’s hand, which she vowed to never wash.

A police official picked up some of the debris from the stage and handed it down to grabbing girls. Monahan, standing nearby, helped one fan to a piece of paper, which the fan generously offered to divide with the reporter.

“Hell, no,” Monahan gruffly replied -- only to quickly apologize.

Sharon, Beverly and Joan reunited in the concourse after the show. Joan told her friends some thrilling news. She’d just seen the security guard entrusted with the cake. He’d told her he had, indeed, taken the cake into the Beatles dressing room. They loved the cake, she was told, and laughed at the letter.

It was all so exciting -- and improbable. Maybe impossible. The girls were skeptical. How could you trust a guy raised on Sinatra? He’d probably eaten the cake himself.

Still, it was fun to think about. Maybe, just maybe, the Beatles had seen the cake. Perhaps they did read the letter. The idea that the Fab Four could have touched something that the girls had touched, that they’d read the names Sharon and Beverly and Joan … it was almost overwhelming.

Outside, the white Pontiac station wagon with two fathers in the front seat was waiting in its designated spot. The girls climbed in. “How was ‘Night of the Iguana?’ ” the girls asked. Both fathers said they hated the movie. Then began the trip back home.

The bus dropped off Donnie Johnston in Culpeper early the next morning. He walked 2 miles to the radio station to return the tape recorder, then walked straight to school. He was excited to get there and talk to his classmates about his adventure.

But first, there was the issue of his absence the day before. He tried convincing the assistant principal that the trip to Pittsburgh should be considered an educational experience. The administrator wasn’t buying it. Donnie’s absence was ruled “unexcused.” It was the first of his life.

In the ensuing days, Sharon, Beverly and Joan basked in the concert’s afterglow. Their attendance at the show briefly elevated their popularity and status at Madonna High School. Then, over time, everything returned to normal.

A few weeks after the concert, Sharon received a letter in her mailbox. It was from a girl in Pittsburgh whose father worked at the arena. The girl been unable to attend the concert, but made her father promise to bring her something from the Beatles’ dressing room. So he did.

He brought her Sharon’s letter.

Cleveland police Inspector Carl Bear orders George Harrison off the stage of Public hall on Sept. 15, 1964. (AP photo)


The next night in Cleveland was a near disaster. Fans charged the stage and breached a police line. Within moments, two high-ranking police officials rushed onto the stage and forced the Beatles to retreat backstage.

With the band now gone, one of the police officials announced that “the show is over.” Livid fans screamed and howled. Eventually, the Beatles were persuaded to return to the stage and finish the show.

In New Orleans on Sept. 16, the Beatles met Fats Domino and were impressed by his star-shaped diamond watch. During the concert that night, fans once again broke through a police barricade. During his introduction of the song “A Hard Day’s Night,” Lennon remarked, “For our next song … for those of you who are still alive … ”

The next night, the boys struck gold in Kansas City, thanks to millionaire Charles Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics baseball team. He paid the band $150,000 to squeeze into their schedule a show at Municipal Stadium. The Beatles played for slightly more than half an hour and, for each minute, earned nearly $5,000 -- or about the cost of a Cadillac DeVille.

A bomb threat caused a stir in Dallas on Sept. 18. Police found no bomb, but did discover several fans hiding under the stage and in washrooms.

Then the Beatles headed to New York City for a final show Sept. 20 at the Paramount Theater before returning to England.

But perhaps the most famous moment during what turned out to be a tour of historical importance was the band’s mythical meeting with Bob Dylan, who, according to legend, introduced the boys to pot. Certainly Dylan’s influence can be heard in lyrics in later Beatles songs like “Norwegian Wood.”

And the people who came to Pittsburgh that fine day in 1964?

The experience of being trampled stays with Barbara Shapiro Macaluso. She continues to avoid large groups. “That was my last deal with crowds,’ she said recently. “I felt safe, and wasn’t safe.”

She lived in several different places over the years -- California, Florida, even India, where she sought out and met with a guru named Sathya Sai Baba, who had met in the 1970s with George Harrison and, according to some reports, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

She and husband Lenny Macaluso now operate Delicae Gourmet, a gourmet cooking company in Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Donnie Johnston continues to live in Culpeper County, Va., where he works as a writer and as a producer of television documentaries and music. For years he has been a reporter and columnist for the Free Lance-Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, Va.

The Beatles weren’t his only high-profile assignment. He witnessed Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in Atlanta on April 8, 1974, and interviewed public figures ranging from President Gerald Ford to singer Olivia Newton John.

As for the Beatles, he said, “I really lost interest after the first five or six albums, once they got into the psychedelic music. I liked the early stuff.”

Joyce Barniker Berman is retired from more than 30 years of selling real estate and lives in Shadyside.

Bruce Barniker is a consultant to the financial services industry in New York City and lives in New York and Connecticut.

Louise Shapiro, now Louise Silk, is a fiber artist living and working in a loft on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Pat DiCesare’s National Guard unit was never called up for duty in Vietnam. He returned to Pittsburgh and enjoyed a long and prestigious career as a concert promoter. In 1973, his company Pat DiCesare Productions took on a partner, Rich Engler, and became DiCesare-Engler, one of the country’s top grossing concert promoters. The company was sold to SFX in 1998. DiCesare now invests in and manages real estate.

Beverly Velto (left) and Sharon Davis Green in Weirton. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

And the three girls from West Virginia?

Joan Stan, now Joan Catherine Winters, is a retired nurse and lives in Wheeling, W.Va.

Beverly Velto is retired after 35 years of teaching second grade students at Broadview Elementary School in Weirton. The school is located a short distance from her home.

After graduating from high school, Sharon Davis Green studied for two years at Duquesne University, then traveled to Boston with a folk music group. She worked at various jobs -- once she appeared in an advertisement for Bose in Rolling Stone Magazine (the ad depicted her sitting on a speaker). For approximately 17 years, Sharon was a booking agent for music performers. Velto and Davis Green now live in Weirton, in the same houses they grew up in.


Much of the information in this story was gleaned from interviews with those who attended the Beatles press conference and concert at the Civic Arena on Sept. 14, 1964. Accounts of the concert and the events of that day were published in both The Pittsburgh Press and the Post-Gazette.

Other sources include "The Complete Beatles Chronicle" by Mark Lewisohn (Harmony Books, 1992), "The Beatles Anthology" (Chronicle Books, 2000) and "The Beatles: The Biography" by Bob Spitz (Little Brown and Company, 2004).

Several websites proved useful, including,, and Jeff Roteman's KQV website,

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Steve Mellon

Steve Mellon is a multimedia journalist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Other credits

Editing: Lillian Thomas, assistant managing editor, investigations
Copy Editing: Bill Lowenberger
Design: Andrew McGill
Picture editing: Steve Mellon