Dedicated fans will go to great lengths to meet their favorite rock stars, staking out hotels, restaurants and backstage doorways to catch a glimpse. A group of teenage girls took things even further on Aug. 25, 1965, when they rented a helicopter to get close to the Beatles.
The band was in Los Angeles to perform a pair of shows at the Hollywood Bowl. Recordings from those concerts, held Aug. 29 and 30, would later be released on the album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. The days before showtime provided a rare moment to relax for the group. They’d rented a mansion owned by actress Zsa Zsa Gabor on Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills.
The location was secluded and offered much more privacy than any typical hotel could – though they’d already run into trouble with a similar plan before.
A year prior, the Beatles rented a different home, this time belonging to British actor Reginald Owen, during their L.A. stop. Fans discovered the Bel Air location and camped outside, much to the chagrin of Owen’s neighbors: A letter from the Bel Air homeowners association chastised the actor for allowing “transient accommodations,” noting that “a great deal of damage to property and inconvenience to residents” was caused by the Beatles visit.
Teenagers Sue Candiotti, Paula Glosser, Kay Zar and Michele Tummino were among those stalking the Owen residence during the Beatles’ visit in 1964. They followed the group’s car one night, running red lights in an attempt to meet their idols. Instead, all they got was a speeding ticket.
“We vowed at that point, next year, we’d meet the Beatles,” Zar later told ABC in Los Angeles. “My dad taught me a lesson: If you’re going to do something, do it big. We were smart kids who knew what we wanted and didn’t take no for an answer.”
So, when a local radio station revealed the location of the Beatles’ 1965 rental, the girls began hatching a plan. The Benedict Canyon property was difficult to get to, located on the side of a hill. A moat and drawbridge also limited access. (Seriously.) Borrowing a parent’s car wasn’t going to cut it.
Reportedly inspired by an I Love Lucy episode, the girls decided a helicopter would be their best bet. Zar found a pilot in the Yellow Pages who was willing to fly them over the house at the cost of $50 an hour. The chopper was only a two-seater, meaning each girl would have to take a turn hovering over the mansion. Still, the price was right, and a plan was in place.
Band publicist Tony Barrow was lounging by the mansion’s pool when the teens made their initial approach. “Above us in a clear deep-blue Californian sky, we heard the whirling of another low-flying helicopter, which we took to be fetching in yet another batch of television reporters to spy on the goings on by the pool,” he said in the May 1998 edition of Beatles Book Monthly (as reprinted by fan site Meet the Beatles for Real).
“Suddenly, a shrill voice called out through the air, ‘Paul, I love you! Paul, you’re wonderful!’” Barrow added. “Ringo, striking one of his daft poses in a borrowed bathrobe that was a couple of sizes too big for him, turned to Paul and remarked with a straight face, ‘Your lips didn’t move when you said that. How did you do that?’ Paul’s mouth opened wide in mock astonishment as the others laughed. Then we looked up and the truth dawned on us. A chorus of Beatles cried out simultaneously: ‘Fans! Fantastic!’”
Rather than being shocked or concerned by the fans’ antics, the Beatles were impressed. “A teenage girl was leaning out of the helicopter, waving frantically at the Fab Four with one hand and holding in the other the type of horn-shaped loud-hailer that airborne cops used to shout through when they were in hot pursuit of runaway criminals,” Barrow added.
“The helicopter’s rotating blades caused lots of little ripples on the surface of the pool water as it hovered 30 or 40 feet off the ground, whilst its passengers took snaps of the boys or shouted down messages of passionate endearment,” Barrow said. “Far from being annoyed by these adventurous visitors, the Beatles were full of admiration for the girls’ ingenuity. The episode amused the boys immensely and they waved back to each of the girls in turn, shading their eyes from the blazing sun as they gazed upwards. There was no security risk because the helicopter couldn’t possibly have landed on the steeply sloping hillside.”
Various accounts, including one from the band’s former chauffeur, have suggested that one of the girls jumped from the helicopter into the pool. That seems to have been an exaggeration, though one did try, only to be pulled back into the helicopter by its pilot.
Days later, Candiotti, Glosser, Zar and Tummino were able to come face-to-face with the Beatles on solid ground. After their helicopter adventure made them celebrities among Fab Four fans, Capitol Records invited the teens to an Aug. 29, 1965 press conference at the label’s headquarters. Informed of who they were, George Harrison reportedly asked Zay, “Is your father rich or something?”
After some autographs, the girls watched as the Beatles answered questions from the press and accepted their RIAA gold record plaques for Help! Then the band was whisked to the Hollywood Bowl for that night’s performance. None of the helicopter girls would be in attendance, not that they cared. After all, their adventure had already brought them closer to the Beatles than most fans could even dream of.
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