Stories that feature ‘Brian Epstein’

Irv Kupcinet

This story takes place in 1966. It was told on August 24th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Brian Epstein had told me to set up three separate press conferences before the Comiskey Park concerts. The first would be for television crews, the second for the print reporters, and then all the adults would be shooed away and the band would answer questions from the editors of high school newspapers. When I pushed into the packed room for the first conference to introduce Sherman Wolfe, my public relations man, who was going to run things, I thought for a moment we had it backwards and we’d brought in the high school kids too early. Then I recognized the faces of some of the TV reporters. Not one of them was too old to be a son of mine. I was forty, and I had reached the pinnacle of my career by putting on a chiIdren’s show.
So here, peering over a bank of news microphones, were the villains of the hour: the boys who had dared to link up somehow with the worldwide phenomenon of kids talking back, wearing their hair a bit shaggy, and threatening the underpinnings of proper society. The chance for some fireworks was good, I thought hopefully. Maybe Lennon would back up his assertion, take up the challenge from the O’Connors and the Mableys.
Any such hopes were dashed immediately. The whole point of the press conference was to capitulate, to back off, and from their point of view, they handled it very well. The four boys showed remarkable poise, and even kept their sense of humor.
Irv Kupcinet and I stood together afterwards and watched the room clear, young reporters dashing off in all directions to file their breathless stories. Ignored, we slipped out with Kup’s wife, Essie, and walked over to Maxim’s for dinner.
Irv Kupcinet was a tall, broad-shouldered man who had been a college football star and had a brief career in the pros. He was the best kind of celebrity columnist: he would actually dig for news. Kup would subject himself to these press-conference circuses when he could easily have covered the story from the office. He prided himself on his scoops. He often knew which acts I was going to book before I did. And he was at the top of his field. He knew everybody.
Nevertheless, here we were at dinner, left to ourselves. Nobody had thought either of us interesting enough to tag along with. I couldn’t have pinned it down then, but years later I recognized that feeling. It felt a little like missing a train on which you were used to being the conductor. I was ten years older than the artists and the reporters who were covering them, twenty years older than most of the fans, and Kup was fifteen years older than me. In eight years in the business, I’d made the transition from irreverence to irrelevance.

Brian Epstein

This story takes place in 1964. It was told on June 30th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Norman Weiss, the Beatles’ booking agent at General Artists, had called at the last minute and asked me to meet Epstein myself with a limousine. In my eight years in the business I had occasionally been forced to hire limos for artists, but I had drawn the line at attending them personally. This time I reluctantly agreed, sure that this was the final step in my career as a sell-out.

It wasn’t that I objected to a comfortable ride. The limo was just a symbol of everything depressing about this business. As the crowds and the money got bigger and bigger, the artists were becoming more and more insulated from reality, with layers and layers of retinue and trappings. I didn‘t see why anybody needed more than the average folk singer’s staff of two — himself and somebody to do the night driving.

There was no getting out of this now, though. Epstein had stipulated that the Beatles’ third U.S. tour must begin in Chicago and that my company must handle it, because he had liked the job we had done the first two times, and Epstein was at the very top of the pile right now. He got what he wanted. There was no way for us not to oblige him, even if I regarded it as an imposition.

Brian Epstein walked down the ramp, as nattily attired as ever. I’d like to say it was a momentous meeting between two titans of the industry, but he was not a man to leave a deep impression, and I was just a 40-year-old former steelworker who had found a way to make a living promoting shows. We shook hands and hurried to the car.

In the back of the limo, I began to offer my opinion on how to approach the press conference, but he brushed me off. Epstein made his attitude clear very quickly: he appreciated our support and he regarded us as competent technicians, but we had nothing to contribute to the press conference beyond setting it up. “The lads can handle it,“ he told me. To my surprise, he turned out to be right — they did fine without me.

I got him to the Astor Towers hotel and showed him to his room, and except for the press conference that was the last I ever saw of Brian Epstein; he spent the rest of the time with a young man somebody had arranged for him to meet. He was not available to me or to the agents, or even, as far as I could tell, to the Beatles.

Sellout

This story takes place in 1967. It was told on April 2nd, 2010 by Frank.  1 Comment

If you had told me then that Chicago would remember me as the man who brought the Beatles, I would have laughed at you. It was August 1966. A week earlier, John Lennon had set off an uproar with his offhand observation about art and life. It was all over the papers in this country: “We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n roll or Christianity.”

Maybe he was right, but some people were saying Lennon had put his foot fatally in his mouth this time. The Beatles’ very career was threatened. The press was in a tizzy. A movement was taking shape in the South to ban Beatles records from stores.

Lennon had refused to say anything more in England. But the group had promised a press conference in Chicago to kick off their fifteen-city tour of the United States, and now hundreds of press types were pouring in from all over the world to see if there would be an apology. Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, was flying over to handle the onslaught himself. And there I was at the ramp at O’Hare Airport, waiting for Brian Epstein.

Jack Mabley, in his column for the Chicago Herald-American that day, was thundering that the Beatles should take their money and go home. I had brought in Mabley to introduce the Beatles form the stage at the last concert they did for me, but he had apparently changed his mind about them since then. Len O’Connor, a commentator for the big WGN radio station, added a loud attack on the air. I guessed that if even these guys had had such a profound change of heart, it meant proper society must be pretty thoroughly shocked. Epstein was sure the reporters would have his boys’ heads for it.

They could have them, for all I cared. My main concern at this point was to get this over with and get home. I didn’t have much to say to Epstein about anything. I was much more interested in Vladimir Lenin’s views than in John Lennon’s. I guess I was in the minority on both those matters, but I was used to that.

In any case, I was just the promoter. My job was to put the asses in the seats, and if I did it well, I expected to be left alone.

Norman Weiss, the Beatles’ booking agent at General Artists, had called at the last minute and asked me to meet Epstein myself with a limousine. In my eight years in the business I had occasionally been forced to hire limos for artists, but I had drawn the line at attending them personally. This time I reluctantly agreed, sure that this was the final step in my progress as a sellout.