The Fest for Beatles Fans

The Fest for Beatles Fans, previously known as Beatlefest, began in 1974. Mark Lapidos, a 26 year old, New York born, New Jersey raised Beatle fan wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the year The Beatles first came to America. His idea was a weekend of events for fellow Beatles devotees in Manhattan. Lapidos also wanted to get The Beatles blessing for this event. In April of 1974, Mark did exactly that. He found his way to the suite at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, where John Lennon was staying. Lapidos knocked at the door, was welcomed in and sat down with Lennon to discuss his idea. In turn, Lennon listened and simply replied, “I’m all for it! I’m a Beatles fan too!” With Lennon’s permission granted, Lapidos was off and running.

The first Fest took place in September of 1974 at the Commodore Hotel in New York City with 8,000 fans enjoying the celebration. John Lennon considered attending the event, but decided not to because he was nervous about the crowds. The event was recognized on the cover of the October 24, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. That year, the charity auction included instruments donated by all four Beatles, Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Forty-two years later, The Fest For Beatles Fans is still going strong. With two Fest’s per year, located in New York and Chicago, fans and followers enjoy a weekend filled with everything Beatles; performances and appearances by celebrity guests, panel discussions with renowned Beatles authors and historians, movie screenings, nightly concerts by Beatles tribute band Liverpool, photo and art exhibits, live auctions, and the ever- popular Beatles marketplace. To quote the lyrics of the Beatles song, "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite," “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

I recently attended my third ‘Fest’ on April 16-17th and thought it would be interesting to talk with various attendees about their experiences with both The Beatles and the Fest. I was granted the opportunity to talk with authors, illustrators, and celebrity guests about all things Beatles. As a younger Beatles fan, it is so incredible that a band was able to impact and touch so many peoples lives. I hope you enjoy reading their stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of The John Lennon Series, a nine-book narrative biography on the life of John Lennon. She is currently working on her fourth book, entitled Should Have Known Better. Her newest book is set for a 2017 release.

Kolby Matusovich: So tell me Jude, how many “Fest’s” have you attended?

Jude Southerland-Kessler: As an author, I have been to 25 Fest’s in total. However, they all haven't been The Fest For Beatles Fans. I’ve been to four different Fest’s, held in different parts of the country.

KM: What does “Fest” mean to you?

JSK: Well, from an author’s perspective, it is an opportunity to promote and sell my books, but from a fans perspective, it’s all about the community. Every year, I see friends and am able to make new ones. Basically, it’s just an all-around good time, set to the soundtrack of The Beatles.

KM: I know it’s an overused question, but I must know. Who is your favorite Beatle?

JSK: John!


KM: What is your favorite Fest memory? 


JSK: When I met Chas Newby, who was the original bass player for The Beatles.

Susan Derbacher & Southerland-Kessler

Susan Derbacher is the illustrator of Southerland-Kessler’s newest novel, entitled Should Have Known Better. She has been a fan of The Beatles since she was 6 1/2 years old and she also happens to be my aunt.

Kolby Matusovich: How many Fest’s have you attended?

Susan Derbacher: 10


KM: How old were you when you first heard The Beatles? 

SD: I was 6 1/2 years old. I was listening to WAVZ on my transistor radio. The opening notes of “She Loves You” filled the air and I was instantly hooked.

KM: So who is your favorite Beatle?

SD: Paul


KM: What is your favorite Beatles song?

SD: “Hey Jude”

KM: What is your favorite Fest memory?


SD: Attending the 50th Anniversary celebration two years ago with my niece.

Mark Hudson is both a musician and a record producer. He first rose to fame in the 1970’s trio The Hudson Brothers. He has also produced and written songs for musicians such as Cher, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, and Ringo Starr.

Kolby Matusovich: What does Fest mean to you?

Mark Hudson: To me, it captures a moment in time where music was incredible, colors were everywhere, and the style and the influence of the UK became popular. People who attend Fest each year are able to see the portrayal of a decade in a single weekend.

Louise Harrison is the sister to Beatles member George Harrison. She is the author of the book My Kid Brothers Band a.k.a The Beatles and also manages the tribute band, the Liverpool Legends.

Kolby Matusovich: Being the sister of a Beatle, I have to ask. How do you think George would react to the Fest?

Louise Harrison: Initially, back in the early days of Fest, the Apple hierarchy was against this, essentially saying that this was “exploiting The Beatles.” I had written to George and told him that it was wrong to be going after these people. Fest is one big family reunion that is full of love. It is filled with a good, positive vibe and the attendees here are behaving in a way that The Beatles would have. The nice thing about Fest is people can meet here and establish relationships that will last a lifetime

KM: What is your favorite solo song of George’s?

LH: “Cheer Down” 

Vivek Tiwary is an author and Broadway Producer. He has produced such shows as American Idiot and The Addams Family. Recently, he wrote a graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle-The Brian Epstein Story, which details the story of The Beatles manager, Brian Epstein.

Kolby Matusovich: How many Fest’s have you attended?

Vivek Tiwary: Well, I would have to say I’ve been to about 10 Fest’s.

KM: What is your favorite Beatles song?

VT: Well, they are all so different that it’s hard to say. But I’d have to say “With A Little Help From My Friends.” It’s sort of my mantra.

KM: What does Fest mean to you?

VT: Most people like to call it a convention, but its really not. It’s a huge festival, essentially a weekend long party. When I first started attending The Fest For Beatle Fans, I didn’t know anyone. Now, it’s like a big family to me. All it takes to be in the family is to come.

KM: How old were you when you first heard The Beatles? 


VT: Well, I like to say that I’ve been listening to then before I was born. But I’ve been a fan and a listener my whole life. 


KM: What inspired you to write the book, The Fifth Beatle-The Brian Epstein Story?

VT: Well, I am a huge fan of The Beatles to start with. But basically, it is amazing to me how Brian can be considered the ultimate outsider in a way. He was gay, Jewish, and living in Liverpool. And he chased the impossible dream. He was able to manage a band that was as successful as The Beatles. Both Brian and his team rewrote pop music. His legacy still lives on.

KM: I overheard you talking earlier about the television show, that is in the process of being created, based off of your book. Care to share a little about that?

VT: Of course! It was picked up by Sonar Entertainment and I just recently sent in the pilot episode. The neat thing is that I have permission from Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison for the creation of the show. We hope to be shooting by the end of the year/early next year.

 

Candy Leonard is a first-generation Beatle fan and is the author of Beatleness-How The Beatles and Their Fans Remade The World.

Kolby Matusovich: How many Fest’s have you attended?

Candy Leonard: I have attended seven Fest’s altogether.

KM: How old were you when you first heard The Beatles?

CL: I was seven and-a-half years old. 

KM: Who is your favorite Beatle?

CL: Well, it’s really like four sides to a square. You need all the sides to form a square, you need all four Beatles to form The Beatles. But, I’d have to say John.

KM: What is your favorite part about Fest?

CL: I would have to say the best part about the weekend is meeting and being able to have stimulating conversations about The Beatles and their music with fans.

KM: What do you think the lasting legacy of The Beatles and their music is?

CL: Well, for starters, their music is still brilliant. It opened our ears to music for the first time and allowed us to learn and experience so many different things: self-expression, ability to question both authority and reality, peace and love, and feminism. They really left their mark on culture in so many different ways. In my opinion, Rubber Soul was the album that really shifted The Beatles from kids to serious musicians. In order to satisfy the consumer, in terms of anything, you have to exceed their expectations. And The Beatles were able to do that repeatedly.

It was quite interesting to be able to meet and talk with different people who attend The Fest For Beatle Fans. To find out what it all means to them. To find out how one band was able to influence and impact the lives of so many people. To find out how essentially a whole new lifestyle was created through the scope of The Beatles and their music.

The Beatles are a group that will continue to inspire musicians-both present and future to test the limits and to enter a new realm of consciousness and creativity. However, I do believe that my grandfather really summed it up the best in only one sentence. “It’s still amazing to me that after all these years, The Beatles still manage to draw a huge crowd and inspire so many with their music and their message.”

Tagged: