A Beatles Journey: Philadelphia 45 Years After

Beatles WXPN

Through a professional association, I was able to arrange a spot on the guest list for the ‘Beatles by Boggia’ event at The World Cafe Live, Wednesday, September 2, 2009.   The night was a celebration of the anniversary of The Beatles historic 1964 performance at Philadelphia’s Convention Hall.  The evening was hosted by WXPN’s Helen Leicht (Breakfast with The Beatles) and featured a performance by Philly native Jim Boggia and guest speakers Denny Somach and Larry Kane.  Having recently read Larry Kane’s ‘Lennon Revealed’ and currently two thirds of the way through his earlier ‘Ticket To Ride’ I showed up with both books in hand hoping to have them signed.

When I arrived, Denny Somach was on stage in front of a standing-room-only crowd introducing some rare footage of the 1964 Convention Hall show. As The Beatles treated the crowd to Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ I made my way through the room towards the side of the stage where Denny was chatting with Larry Kane. When I first introduced myself to Larry, he thanked me for the book review, signed the books, and graciously posed for a few photos with me.  I think I must have shook his hand four times (sorry Larry) as I thought to myself  “This dude shook hands with Beatles” and so in a way… so was I.  He then had to excuse himself to go onstage and speak.

A lot of what Larry shared with the crowd that night referenced material covered in his books, so I was already familiar with much of it.  But I must say, to hear him tell it in person was so much more… well, personal.  He spoke for about forty minutes, stopping briefly to show a clip of himself interviewing Paul McCartney and John Lennon before finally concluding, wishing everyone well and heading for the ‘green room’ (it wasn’t really green, it was just a door marked ‘private’ just off the stage area).

I kept thinking to myself, “I’ve got more questions to ask this guy” and after some contemplation I made my move toward the private door.  As I approached, the only thing between me and that door knob was Helen Leicht who – when I asked if I could go inside and speak to Larry Kane – simply replied “I’m not in charge” with a warm smile, as if to say “Go right ahead.”

So I cracked the door and poked my head in to see Larry and Denny Somach sitting at a table chatting. They both turned toward the door and I asked if I might come in to speak with Mr. Kane a bit more. Larry just smiled and said “C’mon in.”  I slipped inside, sat down with the two Beatles gurus, and proceeded to tell Larry what an inspiration he was to me, and how much reading his book had really moved me, to which he humbly replied “I’m just a normal guy Craig, but I’ve got to get out there in a few moments and sign some more books so I can’t stay too long.”

Well, I chatted with Larry for what seemed like twenty minutes, and although I would love to share some of that conversation, I think that I’d prefer to keep our first round to myself.  Not that he was guarded about any of his answers, but I think that maybe a few of them might have been of a more personal nature regarding his interactions with The Beatles – specific incidents mentioned in his books – so out of respect to Larry, I’ll keep them to myself.  There was one thing, though, that I found personally interesting, and that I don’t see any harm in sharing.

When I asked Larry why he hadn’t referred to John Lennon as a “friend” in his book ‘Lennon Revealed,’ it wasn’t his answer – essentially along the lines of the need for objectivity in reporting – that gave me pause.  What grabbed me was when he told me that Yoko Ono had asked him the very same question.  Looks like Yoko and I have at least one thing in common.

As Larry got up to go sign some books, he shook my hand again and said “Call me anytime Craig, we’ll talk more” and quietly slipped out of the room. I rejoined the crowd outside the private room, and enjoyed a performance by Jim Boggia & friends doing some Beatles tunes (and doing quite a good job of it I must say).  All in all it was a fun night, and I came away from it feeling like I had really experienced something “Beatles.”  I look forward to listening in on Helen Leight’s Breakfast  with The Beatles radio program, reading some of Denny Somach’s stuff, and picking Larry’s brain in a more in-depth chat sometime in the near future.

Aside from all that, it was quite an enlightening experience to see so many folks gather to hear stories, watch rare footage and listen to the music of The Beatles (with the whole crowd singing along).  It was a very well put together event and it seemed like there was fun had by all.

-Craig Sumsky




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