February 13, 1964


Diplomats were more frenzied than teenagers
By Bruce Phillips*, reporter for the Ottawa Citizen

WASHINGTON -- Britain's Beatles have fled Washington convinced that diplomats are a more uncouth lot than their most frenzied fans.

Washington's papers were too polite to say so, but the truth is the diplomats who met the Beatles at a private party behaved worse than the thousands of teenagers who caught the public performance.

All the teenagers did was scream, which only damaged the ear drums, which one policeman forestalled by stricking bullets in his ears.

But the diplomats -- they grabbed, shoved, fondled, jostled, pulled, and one diplomatic wife even used scissors to cut a swatch from one of the sheepdog hairdo's.

Some were also condescending, marvelling aloud in the hearing of the Beatles that four young toughs from Liverpool do so well for themselves.

All of this the four rock-and-rollers found a little hard to take, and they drew an apology from Lady Ormsby-Gore, wife of the British ambassador, Sir David.

The diplomatic pandemonium took place at the British Embassy early Wednesday morning, after the Beatles had finished their public show downtown.

The occassion was a benefit for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, favorite charity of Lady Ormsby-Gore.

The Beatles didn't arrive until about 1 a.m., and while the 300 guests waited, some of them chanted "Yeah, yeah, yeah," in the cultivated tones of Harrow and old Eton. A major-general had himself photographer wearing a Beatle wig.

When the four entertainers were ushered into the main ballroom from a private reception, they were buried under a charge of diplomats and their wives.

Clawing, too

What greeted the eyes was a scene of hundreds of people in dinner jackets and long evening gowns fighting and clawing to get to the Beatles, waving pencils and slips of paper and demanding autographs, "for the children," as some of them shouted.

An usher vainly striving for order pleaded, "Let them get a drink please...let them get a drink," but he was lost in the shrieking clamor of the crowd.

"We want autographs," shouted the guests, and one woman yelled: "Can they really write?"

One of the Beatles said, "Look, we can't sign for everyone," and from an advancing phalanx of busky young embassy men, someone replied: "Yes you can, and you will."

In the midst of this, one woman in a long dress produced a pair of scissors and snipped some hair off the head of one of the Beatles. She went off, squealing in a half-demented way, "I've got his hair...I've got his hair."

The four finally managed to battle their way to a bar, but they had barely got hold of a drink when some of the embassy people came up and told them to come along and take part in a raffle.

There was more than a hint of the master-servant relationship in one's voice when he said: "Come along, you there, you've got to come and do your stuff."

One of the Beatles, John Lennon, replied shortly: "I'm not going out there until I've had a drink and cooled off. I've just fought my way through that mob."

"Nonsense," said the official, "you come along. That's why you're here."

Lennon finally went, with one matron pushing him from behind like a balky mule.

"A lovely way to spend an evening, " Lennon said later. "Those embassy snobs could take a lesson in good manners from the fans. I liked Sir David and his wife, but I wouldn't give you tuppence for the rest of that embassy lot."

Lady Ormsby-Gore, who had watched the mauling of her four guests, later took one aside and apologized for the scene. "You couldn't have had much fun down there," she said.

The one who had his head shorn, Ringo Starr, merely fingered the spot where the hacking had been and said: "What a riot."

-- Article e-published here by permission of the Ottawa Citizen,
copyright 1964, all rights reseverd.

*Bruce Phillips's lengthy career in journalism focused mainly on political themes and had been working in Washington for the Ottawa Citizen when he reported this article. Because of his unique savvy and journalistic ability (a very comparable and credible reporter to that of 60 Minutes "Mike Wallace") for knowing the right kind of questions to ask so that no stone is left unturned, Bruce was eventually hired by the CTV (the Canadian Television Network) and became host and moderator for the Sunday morning show called "Question Period" -- the American equivalent of "Meet The Press."
Ottawa Beatles Site