embraced by George Harrison (he likes blondes and Jackie’s a blonde so awaaaaay we go)-and had been welcomed to the act like a long-lost sister by Paul McCartney-and had been escorted to the stage of the San Francisco Cow Palace on opening night by John Lennon. “Woweeee,” said Jackie, grabbing for a cup of wake-up coffee, “how lucky could a girl get?”
“Jackie, you must be the most envied girl in the world,” I said. “Can you imagine how green all The Beatle fans turned because you travelled with their idols for a whole month and got to know the boys intimately while practically living with them? Don’t spare the syllables-I want the whole rundown on how you got the job, how you wailed with the boys between shows, what you thought of them, what they thought of you. TALK, baby.”
“That,” said Jackie, “is exactly what the first Beatle fan asked me when I escaped from that frantic Cow Palace scene that first night.
“I think I’ve met millions of them since, all asking the most intimate questions. But the strangest thing happens when I start to answer: they get that glazed look in their eyes, like they know all the answers before I start talking! I think I’ve got it figured out. Even though they know it all, they want to hear it over and over-like is Ringo really dating Maureen Cox? Is Paul all that gone on Jane Asher? Is John in love with his wife? Does George play anything but the blonde field? -And on and on. And the things they do!
“I was black and blue. Look.” She showed me an angry-looking mark on her right arm. “That’s my Seattle souvenir. They (fans) saw Paul touch that spot.
“A good instance of how nice they are is what happened in San Francisco on the first day of rehearsals, before I had met them. I was standing in the wings and trembling at the thought of meeting and working with them. Up to then I had met only their manager, Brian Epstein.
“Well, I want you to know that Paul actually came out of his dressing room, long before the rehearsals were supposed to start, walked right up to me, said hello, and asked me all about my singing and my songwriting-and wouldn’t take any throw-away answers because he really, sincerely wanted to know! “And then, to top it, he took me by the arm and brought me back to meet the other Beatles in their dressing rooms, which he didn’t have to do either.
“What could I or any other performer learn from The Beatles? Plenty, mister, plenty. I don’t care what people say about their lowly Liverpool beginnings. They are gentlemen and they treated me like a lady and I only hope, if I’m ever a fraction as successful, that I always extend the same courtesy to other entertainers that The Beatles gave to me-a so-called underdog.
“Know them intimately? I’ve felt like I knew them intimately long before I met them. I became their biggest fan-honest, now listen to me, I’M the biggest!
“I got the job, at least I think I got it,” said Jackie, “because I was so independent about the whole thing. “I don’t think anybody could have just gone out and gotten this job. With The Beatles, there’s no such thing as an agent going to them and saying, ‘Look, you get this girl singer in there.’ As it so happened, I had General Artists as my agents and they’re the same ones who handle the U.S. bookings for The Beatles. But they handle other girl singers too, so it wasn’t just that.
“It was because Brian Epstein, long before I joined the same agency, heard my recordings and liked them, especially after he learned I had written them-I Wanna Go Home was one, for Edison Records. Brian likes performers who double in brass, like The Beatles themselves: writing singing, playing. And so I got the job.
“You’ve seen the show? Then you know mine was the spot just before The Beatles bounced onstage, and that was the toughest spot in the world-but the best too. The best because I was with The Beatles. The toughest because it was very difficult for a GIRL to go onstage at that point, when the other girls in the audience didn’t want to see a girl but four BOYS. So I went on 15 minutes before The Beatles-and let me tell you it was the longest 15 minutes in anybody’s life.
“Since I’ve been with the boys I’ve never gotten so many phone calls or been so sought after. But then I pull myself together and look in that mirror again and say, ‘Look, Sharon Myers (my real name), they came to see The Beatles, not you don’t try to fool yourself.
“And then I’d go to The Beatles and try to thank them, not only for giving me the greatest opportunity of my life but for being so NICE about the whole thing. But when I thanked them, they said shyly. ‘Aw, forget it.”’
I asked about the night she danced away with Ringo.
“It wasn’t the whole night, silly; it was only from midnight till 4 a.m. Or maybe it was 5 a.m. So okay, it was all night.
“It was my birthday. The Beatles found out about it on the plane, when we were flying to Seattle. The other girls in our show, The Exciters, started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. Don’t ask me how THEY found out about it, but they did.
“So then, after we landed, Ringo got the Seattle disk jockey who promoted our show to get all those 14,000 kids in the audience to sing it to me too.
“Why didn’t The Beatles come onstage with me and sing it? Because that’s how polite they are. It was my part of the program. They wouldn’t think of trying to hog another performer’s spotlight.
“The kids mobbed me, as usual, after that show, with the same old questions 'What’s Ringo REALLY like' and ‘Do all The Beatles have girl friends-but I broke away early. I had to. It was 11: 15 at night and I had promised I would be at George’s suite in our hotel at 11:30-because all The Beatles and the rest of the kids in the show were there throwing a birthday party-for me!
“No, it was NOT a wild party. I don’t drink. It’s fattening. Eating like a horse is okay for horses but it’s a sin for people and so’s drinking for those who don’t know how to drink.
“To get back to the party: everybody sang, solo and in groups. I remember I sang some of the songs I’ve written-by special request-and accompanied myself on the guitar. The Beatles sang too, alone and as a team. And I danced with Ringo-
“No, he is NOT shorter than I am! I am exactly five-feet-three-and-three-quarters. But even if he were shorter he’d still be the wildest. He does the Frug, the Swim, the Watusi, all the steps. And does them well. A dreamy dancer.
“And a gentleman, always a gentleman.”
“You said that,” I said.
“I’ll keep on saying it. Even a little thing like smoking-they lit my cigarettes”, Jackie said. “Incidentally, it’s just a nervous habit with me because I don’t inhale. I just liked having The Beatles light my cigarettes.”
I asked if The Beatles inhale.
“I’ve never noticed,” she said. “Who notices things like that when we got so wrapped up talking about show business, new songs, new records, what kind of guitars are best, new movies, all that jazz.”
“And that’s all?”
“That’s all. Look, Mike, I don’t know any trick things to say. I didn’t finish high school, I didn’t go to Vassar, I didn’t go to Smith, all I know is to say what I think. And I think The Beatles are beautiful, beautiful boys, inside and out.
“I think they look like story book characters, like dolls out of Prince Valiant cartoons, onstage and off Their instruments are little like themselves, did you know that? Their guitars are specially made to go with their height.
“And they look like rebels too, like a lot of people would like to look but don’t have the nerve.
“I love the way the boys dress too. They have valises full of beautiful boots, and all kinds of great clothes. Actually, the only thing different about them is that they have their hair a little longer than other people’s. But I’ve heard of men like Bing Crosby and Howard Hughes running around in loafers and sloppy shirts, so WHY all this nagging about The Beatles!
“The Beatles have an upsetting influence on other girls but not on me. For some reason, I found them soothing. That first night in San Francisco, for instance. There I was, standing in the wings waiting to go on in a green fitted jumper with a green, orange and white blouse with puffy sleeves -I call the outfit ‘my little child influence’ -but JUST barely able to stand. My knees were knocking my heart was pounding. I peeked through the curtains. The Cow Palace was packed, 27,000 strong. Those hundreds of policemen, standing around for security reasons. And thinking to my self, ‘be honest with yourself, Sharon-Jackie-after all, why knock yourself out when these fans aren’t here to see you, they’re here to see The Beatles.’ I’m always very honest with Sharon-Jackie, you know?
“Oh, what a night! I waited and waited and got shakier and shakier, until finally I thought, ‘this is ridiculous. I can’t go on. Nobody wants to see me anyway. I’ll just sneak out the stage door quietly and nobody’ll miss me and go back to Hazel, Ky., or Murray, Ky., or Batavia, Ill., or Los Angeles, or one of the other towns I’ve lived in. It isn’t worth all this grief, it just isn’t worth it-’
“But then all of a sudden everything was okay and I straightened up and flew right out on stage, because it was just at that point that The Beatles pulled up at the stage door in their four black limousines with their General Artists agents and the London newspaper and radio correspondents and the whole entourage-and walked up to me and said, ‘Break a leg, Jackie!’ Then they headed for their dressing rooms to get ready and the orchestra leader gave the downbeat for my act and I was ON, completely at ease. You figure it out, I can’t. All I know is-they’re soothing.
“Did I tell you about the night Ringo wanted to go to P.J.’s and Ciro’s to watch Watusi dancers and Brian wouldn’t let him because no previous arrangements for guards had been made. Ringo said, ‘Look, Brian, all I have to do is comb my hair back and nobody’ll know me” That’s the attitude I like. I mean it’s soothing.”
How did Jackie get into show business?
“1 don’t know where I got the drive, unless it was from my mother, Jeannie Myers. She has always encouraged me and let me make my own mistakes, although she is NOT one of those stage mothers you hear about-and, believe me, I’ve made some beautiful blunders by not taking her advice!
“My mother has always known about the heartaches of show business. She is extremely talented herself, and very hip. Her own mother died when Mom was four. Mom’s older sister brought her up. Mom won all sorts of prizes as a swimmer, roller skater and ice skater. She wanted to become a professional. The rest of the family wouldn’t let her. That’s why, when I came along, she said, ‘Regardless of what my daughter wants, I won’t stop her.’ And I guess that’s why I said, ‘Regardless of ‘what happens, I’m going to be a singer!’
“I liked school, but I hated it too, because I wanted to sing and my classmates at Batavia High didn’t understand that. So I said to myself, ‘Later with them, I’m gonna be a star.’
“I took a correspondence course in singing. I didn’t finish that either. I don’t see how those schools can be any good because you can cheat like crazy in the final exams.
“I got an agent, in Chicago, and he got me singing jobs. Every time I left for a tour the other kids acted like I was a real knocked-out character. I can still hear them: ‘Get her, she wants to be a star and the Girl’s Athletic Association won’t even have her!’
“That was when my name was Jackie Dee. The emcees would introduce me like, ‘Here she is now, Jackie Bee, Lee-uh, well, anyway, here she is!’ I swear, all those emcees were studying to be streetcar conductors during the day!
“Well, I finally got from Batavia to Hollywood and my parents are here with me. My father, who used to be a farmer and a very poor one, is now a barber.
“I like people who’ve had it a little rough. I’ve had to work my head off for everything. I believe anybody can overcome obstacles-it’s up to him. If some people like digging ditches, good for them, swing baby. No matter who you are, you stand on your own two feet, kid-you’re a PERSON, a human being, one of God’s children-and you can’t police anybody but yourself. The good Lord couldn’t, and He had everything going for him, so I can’t either.
“And I don’t expect everybody to like me, although I try to like almost everybody. The reason I’m taking flamenco and Tahitian dancing, in addition to acting lessons, is because I love the people of those countries. The Spanish are humble but proud too-you don’t have to be rich to be proud, you know. I like the Tahitians for the same reason. Negroes and Mexicans too. I’m a real nut for minorities. Since I wasn’t born rich, I don’t know anything about going to the country club comes cocktail time, see?
“I’m not one’ of those yattidy-yattidy kids that go the Beatnik route, however. I like the clean, scrubbed look in girls. I try to look that way myself.
“This tour just lit the fire for me with every studio in town. I’ve turned down several cheap movies but my agent, Jerry Rosen, has me up for one of the movies about Jean Harlow. So, after this, I’ll have to say that I owe my biggest break to Brian, Epstein and The Beatles.
“My favorite pop songwriter is Johnny Mercer. I’ll never forget the letter I got from him after I appeared on one of Jackie Gleason’s TV shows. Johnny told me I would go places. So that’s where I’m heading: everywhere! After all, just because you play a cool game of tennis doesn’t mean you can’t play golf.
“Let’s see-The Beatles, Brian Epstein, Jerry Rosen, Johnny Mercer-oh, yes, Doris Day! I owe her a great debt too. I got to know her when her son Terry, who is an artists- and- repertoire man for Columbia Records, accepted some of the songs I wrote. Doris told me all about good grooming and makeup and hairdos and clothes. She’s been just wonderful to me.
“But most of all, Brian and The Beatles. If they hadn’t come to me, I would have gone to them. I feel just like that five-year-old fan of theirs who went to see the show and kicked and screamed and hollered and yelled until her mother finally asked why, if she loved them so much, she was creating all that commotion?
“‘Becuz, Mommy,’ she said, ‘I can’t think of any better way to catch Ringo’s attention!‘ ” •
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