January 29, 2014 8:45 AM
On a Sunday evening 50 years ago (Feb. 9, 1964), the Beatles made their first American splash by performing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” About seven months later, Beatlemania hit the Crescent City when the band played a September concert in City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium.
“It was so incredible, so unbelievable,” said Helen Barkerding Kammer (NC ’72). “They played everything. You could almost hear some of it; I think we heard more than we thought.”
Tickets were $5, the same as the band’s concert at Carnegie Hall.
The crowd — largely teenage girls — eventually stormed the field, past the barricades.
John Shay Jr. (A&S ’69, B ’72) was an usher, manning the walkways. “I was responsible for keeping the girls from going crazy. It was an impossible situation; they charged the field. It was a wild night.”
While in town, the Beatles stayed at the Congress Inn on Chef Menteur Highway, one of the worst-kept secrets ever. The band arrived the day before the concert to a mob scene outside the hotel. It just so happened that Newcomb College’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority was having a rush workshop there.
Kammer’s older sister, Reid Barkerding Noble (NC ’67), was a Kappa. The sorority sisters, she recalled, were allowed to line the corridor, but ordered not to shriek or scream.
Noble, who is currently a captain and commander of the uptown district for the Tulane University Police Department, said she touched Paul’s shoulder with her index finger and he gave her a smile that she said was like, “Is that the best you can do?”
“But we were under orders,” she said.
One younger student, age 10, who defied orders, was Fran Marinello Wild (UC ’94). She asked her parents if she could go to the concert, but her mom said she was too young. Undaunted, she got a ticket and that day told her mom she was going to a friend’s house to play. She had a blast but wound up punished for two weeks.
“I’d do it again, in a heartbeat,” she said.
Editor’s note: Angus Lind is a 1966 graduate of Tulane University, who spent more than three decades as a columnist for The Times-Picayunein New Orleans. This story is excerpted from a longer one that appears in the December 2013 issue of Tulane Magazine, page 29.
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