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Interview: Vince Calandra and the day he stood in for a Beatle

Ed Sullivan
Wikimedia Commons

Vince Calandra, who'll be one of the guests at the Fest for Beatles Fans this weekend, was never officially a member of the Beatles, but on Feb. 8, 1964, the day before their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he stood in for one, he told Beatles Examiner. It was George Harrison, who was back in his hotel room ill.

"Neil Aspinall was standing in for (George Harrison) at the rehearsal. And they were actually singing and trying to get levels on the guitars and the voices," Calandra said. "And they had a crisis. Louise Harrison, George’s sister, was at the hotel trying to get through security. And she went to the guards and said, 'Hi, I’m George Harrison’s sister.' And the the New York cops said to her, 'Yeah, lady, and so are the other 5,000 kids out there screaming.' And so they called the studio and they said, “Neil, get back to the Plaza and get George’s sister through security."

It was a Saturday and most of the Sullivan staff was dressed casually.

"We usually didn’t have to wear jackets and shirts and ties on a Saturday, but I was going to the theater that night and I had a dark blazer and a light blue shirt on and no tie. And they were wearing dark jackets. And Bob Precht said, ‘Well, Vince is about George’s size. Vince could go out and stand-in.' "

"I actually went out and Mal Evans also gave me his guitar to hold. And everyone was, like, hysterical," Calandra said. "And then Sullivan comes over ... and he starts laughing. And he said this doesn’t look right. And I think it was either he or Eddie Brinkman came over and put one of those ridiculous, you know, Beatle wigs on my head. ... So I was up there like a good half hour."

Calandra also clarified the legend that Ed Sullivan signed the Beatles after seeing the frenzy on the tarmac in London.

“Yes, it was true he did go to London. And they could not land because of the 5,000-7,000 kids that were at the airport. They were waiting for the Beatles to come back from Sweden," he says. "(Sullivan) was met at the airport by one of his best friends, who was a publicist for United Artists by the name of Bob Goldstein, I think his name was. And Ed wanted to know what the commotion was all about. He was under the impression it was some kind of royalty that were landing. That’s why the airport was so crowded. And Goldstein told him about the Beatles."

Calandra said he doesn't think Sullivan met them that day. "But he went back to the hotel. And he was there when they did the Command Performance for the queen. And that’s when he kind of knew there was something happening."


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