Fifty years ago this Wednesday, the Beatles appeared onstage at the old Las Vegas Convention Center's Rotunda. They did two shows and all these years later, those who were there still remember that night:
Two of the best PR men in Las Vegas, Herb McDonald and Stan Irwin, arranged to bring the Beatles to Las Vegas in August, 1964 to perform.
“Well, I knew (who) the Beatles (were). So I said yes, but it’s gonna be too big for just the Sahara. I’m gonna put them into the Convention Center. Milton Prell, the owner of the Sahara, says ‘Well, you’re the director. You direct’. And I said, I’m bringing in the Beatles and I’m putting them in the Convention Center. Hotel Sahara and Stan Irwin proudly presents the Beatles. ‘You, you’ll have, you have a sign like that, I’m sure’, Mr. Prell replied.
“And when I put them into the Convention Center, I split the Convention center into segments - - Flamingo, Frontier, Desert Inn, Thunderbird.”
And I called all the owners and I said I’ve reserved seats for you for when the Beatles appeared here. Not one of them understood it or wanted the seats. I was told that the convention center seats 7,000 people. But I put people in back of them also, and I did two shows in one night. The first person to ever do that with the Beatles. And I sat 8,408 people each show. The top ticket was 25 and the average ticket was 12.50.”
“They (the other hotel owners) didn’t know, they didn’t know who we were talking about. They had no idea what Beatles were. You know, they could’ve been bugs as far as they were concerned. Again, I think it was my younger age that kept me aware of that which was going on in the entertainment field.”
“Now it’s about a week and a half, ten days before the Beatles are coming in. Every hotel owner called - - do you still have our seats? That’s because the nieces, nephew and children of the top gamblers wanted to see the Beatles. And this was an ideal place and they were going to cater to them. “
If I weren’t brought up the way I was brought up, I would’ve charged a thousand dollars a ticket and I would’ve gotten it. And the place, of course, filled up and if two events ever filled, entertainment events ever filled the convention center at that time, one was Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the other was the Beatles.”
“We knew the havoc that would be there. So we had the Beatles land at a siding of McCaren Airport. We picked them up into the limos. Police escort into the Sahara. Up into their suites on one floor. We blocked with security that floor, the floor above and the floor below. So a lot of these stories about girls getting in and all that never happened. But it was great promo. Every one of the Beatles was a gentleman, same as Elvis Presley, who stayed at our hotel prior to performing at the International, which is now, uh, a Hilton. Truly to their mark, an wonderful, gracious gentlemen. What I remember most is how I could’ve been killed. We put the Beatles into the Convention Center.”
Bill Conger, Las Vegas Sheriff’s Department, was working that night:
“I was on duty the night when they first came to Las Vegas. And I remember they came in the back door of the Sahara Hotel in, in their limousines. And we were trying to keep the kids back, and - - which was impossible. They just ran over the top of us. But there was only four or five officers there. And thousands of kids. “
Don English was a photographer for the Las Vegas News Bureau:
“We shot pictures of them, you know, at the plane and going to the hotel. Uh, then we shot them at the, the, they appeared at the, uh, convention center. And it was kind of a scary thing, we’re shooting the pictures. Then I talked to one of the policemen who was one of the guards there, and, uh, we reminisced about it and he said it was, it was an unusual experience for him too, the Beatles came out on stage, started, started the, uh, the program and for some reason another, like in mass, the people from the audience just started moving forward, got out of their chairs and started moving forward. And the, uh, the guards linked arm and arm to repress them and somehow they had stopped them and they faded back. But it was a scary, scary moment. “
Hotel Publicist, Harvey Diederich, remembered:
“Got kind of wild, wild for the kids I know. Most of my children went to that show, and of course, they went crazy about it. It was, uh, it was a big score, 'cause they were top of their, uh, top of their role in those days.”
“I’m the only person that realized that if I put on the Beatles, that Convention Center is going to be filled twice. And I did not take into consideration that the Los Angeles contingencies would come because this was an excellent place because of the relationship of gaming to the owner, to the player, to his family, that they would want to see the Beatles. The, the funny thing that happened - - I had 50 police around the stage. And in the first show, a young girl came running down. Aaahh - - out went a policeman and picked her put and took her off to the side. Following that, another lady - - Out went a policemen, picked her up - - she said, ‘Put me down, you idiot. I’m that girl’s mother’.
It was one of those memorable Las Vegas events and I interviewed a number of people who were in the audience that night.
“Oh, the Beatles. Oh my goodness. Um, I remember my mother coming home and announcing, she thought she’d done the wonderful thing for me, and had bought two tickets to see the Beatles. But I didn’t really care for the Beatles, so I was going, ‘ah, I don’t know if I wanna go see the Beatles because, you know, you, it, they’re, everybody screams and it’s so loud, you won’t even get to hear 'em’. “
“She says, well, I bought the tickets, so you’re going. And so I had a boyfriend at the time and I called him, of course, he was pretty excited about going to see the Beatles. And we went to see the Beatles, they performed, in the Rotunda part of the Convention Center.”
“And I’m trying to remember the young lady who performed before them. Dusty Springfield, that’s who it was. Blonde. Pretty, yeah. And the Beatles came out and, of course, our seats were rather high, they weren’t right on the floor, but I do remember seeing the Beatles and it was - - I was very, very glad I went, I was so excited that I’m sitting there, actually seeing the Beatles live and they came all the way from England to be here. You couldn’t hear a word they said, you couldn’t hear a word they sang. I mean, it was total chaos it was, very exciting. And something I’ll always remember.”
“And at that time, I thought that was the biggest crowd I had ever seen in my life. You know and you couldn’t hear a thing. And you couldn’t see much either. I don’t think they even sang, cause they knew nobody could hear a thing. Uh, but yes that was very exciting. The Beatles. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, we’ve had our landmarks.”
“That was when, when they came to town, the lady that worked for my dad for many years, her name was Betty Prichard, because of the affiliation with the Associated Press and also Betty, did a lot of things, you know, like for Sinatra and people like that and with Jack Entratter at the Sand and she was able to get a lot of tickets, buy a lot of tickets, maybe ten tickets.”
“So she asked if I wanted to go and I said yeah, I’ll go out there, you know, to see them, you know, they were just, at the time they were just happening. So I went out and I had to sit way up in the stands and I was with two young girls that were part of the complex that Betty lived in. They were like next door neighbors and they were two really cute, nice, young girls that had on white gloves and were dressed to the T, you know, for, for young kids.”
“And were just very, very lady like and so here I am, I’m sitting up here, you know, way up in the stands. You couldn’t hear a thing. They were, the crowd was so loud, I think Jackie DeShannon was the opener, you could hear a little bit of her ‘cause they didn’t roar. When the Beatles came on, it was like you wasted your, if you had to pay you wasted your money. You couldn’t hear a sound, it was all screaming and yelling.”
"So finally one of the girls turned to me and she said, uh, she said ‘Mr. Ullom, would it be okay if I screamed?’ I said yeah, I’m about ready to scream, I’ll scream along with you. [LAUGHTER] But, I certainly remember you know, when they came to town and I believe that may have been the only time they ever did play in Las Vegas, I’m not sure about that.
"My best friend and I at the time stood in line for those tickets and that line was so long. And we both asked our dates. By the time the concert got here, neither one of us liked the fellow we asked. We were just kinda stuck with him. But. I just remember a lot of screaming. And the presence of these entertainers - - it was way before they were real, real big. Their presence and they were foreigners. They sang funny. But because they were such a breakthrough group, and - - and we did see a lot of entertainment out at the Convention Center. That’s where we would see it. But that was my first grown up thing probably was seeing the Beatles and taking a date.”
“It was a - - it was a fun experience even though he wasn’t the guy I would have taken - - I mean when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I wasn’t sixteen yet ‘cause I wasn’t driving. I might have been fourteen. the thought of have - - knowing someone who could drive a car and get me somewhere was good enough reason to - - to ask him to be my date.”
"We had three acts, an intermission, and then the Beatles. Uh, we had a girl singer, another group - - the names forgive me, I forget. And then the Beatles who performed, uh, 45 minutes onstage. Now again, if I were sharp, I could’ve cut up the stage into one inch pieces and sold those. I could’ve cut up the sheets of their beds and sold those. But, uh, I wasn’t brought up that way.”
"And at two in the morning, we took ‘em out to a plane to depart. The irony of all this is when that the Beatles wanted to see Vegas. That’s why they wanted to play there. They saw the inside of a limo, the airport, elevators in the hotel, their suites, their limo, the convention center, their limo, their suites, their limo, the airport, and the inside of an airplane.”
All interviews property of As We Knew It