Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. –John Lennon
On this day, what would have been John Lennon’s 72nd birthday, I take you on a little journey back to one of my favorite family tales. Also, if you’re wondering why half of your friends changed their Facebook profile photo to John Lennon today, that was my doing.
After graduating college, my Jewfro-rocking dad who you met here earlier was going to get offered a nice job at IBM. The company of the future! He was a math whiz but refused to consider the job – my grandparents were ferklempt. But my dad knew in his bones that he needed to be in the music industry. More specifically: The Beatles Industry. Every since hearing I Want To Hold Your Hand on the radio, he was in love.
Instead, young Mark Lapidos took his college degree over to Sam Goody and got himself a job as a record stocking boy. A place where he could be surrounded with living, breathing, musical artifacts of his time. Within a half a day he got offered a management position. Over the next few years he traveled up and down the East Coast, opening up record stores. He was very proudly the person to physically allocate the layout of each store, to make sure all the record displays fit mathematically perfectly. He spent most of his time at the Sam Goody next to Radio City Music Hall, where he got to meet frequent shoppers like Elton John, Marvin Hamlisch and Don Imus. Sam Goody himself was known to be a difficult boss to work for, but he loved my dad from the get-go. This was music industry.
Then one night, over a bowl of vanilla ice cream, my dad thought of it.
He realized: Someone should really throw a ten year anniversary celebration of The Beatles coming to America. And wait, that person should be him.
The moment it popped into his head, nothing could stop him. He had no idea what he was doing and no prototype for such an undertaking, but that was no problem. Every day during lunch he’d grab a hot dog from the street vendor and take a sock full of dimes out to the pay phone and started making calls.
The first thing he did was book the time and a place, the only two things my dad says are necessary to start with when planning an event. “That’s what people want to know.” Using his personal savings, he booked the New York Commodore Hotel for the weekend of September 7-8, 1974.
But there was something missing before he could truly get started: He wanted a personal blessing from The Beatles. No big deal, right? Well, through all the serendipity in the world and a little help from soon-to-be great friend Harry Nilsson, on April 28th, 1974 Mark Lapidos found himself in John Lennon’s hotel room, face-to-face with his hero.
He told John his idea to throw a Beatles fans convention to celebrate the one decade mark. There’d be films, special guests, live concerts, an art museum and art contest, a flea market, Beatles discussions, look-alike and sound-alike contests, auctions and a charity raffle… a celebration of their music and legacy!
John listened carefully. When my dad was done talking John looked at him and said: “I’m all for it. I’m a Beatles Fan, too.”
Beatlefest, it’s a go.
He said he had a guitar in his attic that he would sign and donate for the Charity Raffle, which he did (John chose a drug rehab center in NYC as the charity). ALL the Beatles contributed signed items to that raffle at that first Beatlefest.
The event was a smashing success (next time, way more tee shirts!) and to my dad’s amazement, it made the cover of Rolling Stone, October 24, 1974.
From there, they started getting letters from all over the country to bring the convention to their city. And so he did. Sam Goody (personally) and the entire Sam Goody team supported him in launching this thrilling new chapter of life, following his passion. He met my mom just one year later, also a die-hard Beatles fan, and together they traveled the country making Beatlefest the career of their dreams.
Nearly forty years later, they’re still doing what they love every single day.
In other words…
You may say I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.
Happy birthday John! And happy birthday Sean!
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