NEW YORK DAILY NEWS by Jim Farber
IT’S A rare fan who got to meet The Beatles.
But at age 9, Trea Hoving did — at what turned out to be a pivotal moment in both the group’s career and the history of concert-going.
Fifty years ago Saturday, Hoving joined 55,600 other screaming fans for the Fab Four’s groundbreaking performance at Shea Stadium, the first pop event ever held in so large a venue. She even got to go backstage to meet the band — well, her father was the Parks commissioner.
“I thought, ‘This is like meeting the Pope,’” she recalls. “This is going to be a holy vision.”
A nervous Hoving spent most of her audience with John, Paul, George and Ringo staring at the floor. “But Paul McCartney came over to me to make me less uncomfortable,” she says. “He had an envelope with a cartoon on it, which looked like a Blue Meanie.”
Then, she had her picture taken with John Lennon, who leaned down paternally.
“Believe it or not, it wasn’t a frenetic scene backstage at all,” Hoving says. “Everyone was just milling around. It was very relaxed.”
Even so, the Beatles fully understood the importance of the Aug. 15, 1965 event, which came during the band’s U.S. tour.
A year earlier, the group had made its game-changing American debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and played Carnegie Hall, but this, in the words of another British group, was something completely different.
“At Shea Stadium, I saw the top of the mountain,” Lennon later said.
Sid Bernstein, who produced the Shea show, got the idea to bring the band to the largest venue possible after seeing how fast Carnegie tickets went.
“He asked the box office people there how many tickets they thought they could have sold if it fit more people,” explains Elliott Gordon, a friend of Bernstein. “They said 200,000 — easily.”
Beatles manager Brian Epstein initially considered Bernstein’s stadium proposal an overreach. “We don’t play to empty seats,” he told Bernstein.
But Bernstein promised to pay $10 for each seat he didn’t sell, so Epstein went along. Bernstein could have lost his shirt but tickets went fast.
By the night of the show, the entire city had Beatle fever.
“We started screaming the minute we even saw Shea Stadium,” says Melani Rogers who, as a young teen, took the No. 7 train from her home Astoria. “It was a sea of teenage girls on the train. Everyone was so excited.”
Rogers, and her best friends Susan and Jenny, had “nosebleed” seats. But one the music started, they sneaked down to the lowest section. “It was so chaotic, nobody was paying attention,” says Rogers. “The only security was on the field, to make sure girls didn’t make it to the stage,” which was in center field.
Scores tried. “We were watching an endless line of girls being carried out for running onto the field,” says Linda Marotte, who, at 11, came with her mom from Staten Island. “Those girls had brass ones.”
“Girls were fainting all around us,” Marotte adds. “I was very alarmed at that. Why are they fainting? They’re going to miss the show.”
Not that anyone could hear the show anyway. “All you heard was screaming,” says Renee Perst, then 13, who attended the concert with Marotte and their moms. “It was just a roar.”
Perst’s family got their tickets through an odd encounter — quite possibly a brush with the mob.
Perst’s law-abiding father worked as a bartender at Delmonico’s, the legendary steakhouse. A regular customer known only as “Blackie” said he had a box of tickets to the coveted event. When Perst’s dad told Blackie that his daughter had a birthday coming, he offered him four tickets, gratis.
And what tickets! “We sat right over the dugout — in the row in front of Ed Sullivan’s family,” Perst says. “We saw everything.”
Upper-deck seats cost $5.10.
The audience that night included another famous person — or at least someone who would become famous. A 16-year-old Meryl Streep was in a gaggle of girls being interviewed by CBS News (now archived for the ages on YouTube). Streep’s friend hogs nearly all the screen time, though the future actress does manage to get one word in edgewise. When the interviewer asks if the Beatles “are on their way out,” she bellows “No!”
All the girls in the stands fantasized about marrying a Beatle, but two fans at Shea that night actually did. Teenaged Linda Eastman — the future Linda McCartney — and Barbara Bach — who later married Ringo Starr — screamed along, according to Gordon, who’s developing a fictionalized TV series about the event.
Contrary to perception, boys also attended the show – taking up 25% to 30% of the audience, according to witnesses. John Hoving, then a 10-year-old cousin of Trea, loved the group as much as his female relatives. He did not, however, scream.
“I just laughed,” he says. “It was so incredible to watch the girls go crazy.”
Of course, millions beyond those at Shea that night went crazy for the group, too.
“They changed the world from black and white to color,” Rogers says. “Their music came to shape all of our lives.”