The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

February 6, 2014

Memories of the Beatles' US television debut

(Continued)

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At age 29, Vince Calandra was a rising young program coordinator on "The Ed Sullivan Show" whose many duties included, on one notable weekend, looking after four musical guests.

Fortunately, he was versatile.

"George was sick. He had a 102-degree temperature," says Calandra. "So he didn't come to the rehearsal that Saturday, and I stood in for him wearing a Beatles wig. When McCartney saw me with a guitar in my hand and a wig, he had a kind of look like, 'I'm glad you have a day job, 'cause you just don't look the part.'"

Standing just offstage for their performance that Sunday night, Calandra describes the sensation as "unnn-believable! Pannnn-demonium! You couldn't hear anything for the screaming."

The show culminated a long day at the theater, where the Beatles had arrived that morning.

"During the day, John seemed nervous, and basically sat around and doodled," Calandra says, "and kept asking for change for the Coke machine. Ringo was reading 'Green Hornet' and watching TV.

"They were all very professional, very respectful," sums up Calandra, who went on to have a long career as a producer. "They weren't like other groups that came in, whose attitude was, 'OK, let's do the "Sullivan Show" and sell a bunch of records and then on Monday morning we're all gonna go to the dealership and buy our new cars.' The Beatles really wanted this thing to work!"

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Leslie Moonves was a teenager growing up on Long Island, N.Y., with no idea that he would one day run the network he was tuned to for "Ed Sullivan."

In fact, just days before the historic broadcast, the CBS chairman and CEO had no idea whom the Beatles were.

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