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The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl - 1964
The year was 1964 and we were on our way to the Hollywood Bowl to watch The Beatles in concert. In tow was my sister, her closest friend, my younger cousin (about 8 years old at the time) and myself.
I had never been to a theater of the size of the Hollywood Bowl. The amphitheater seating dazzled me. I held onto the hand of my little cousin, Charmaine. If my head was exploding from the sheer grandeur of the outdoor theater, I can't imagine what must have been going through her mind. I imagine she felt scared to death or utterly enthralled.
I was a Beatles fan. I saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show and listened to the endless loops of my sister's LPs. Their tunes were catchy, fun, upbeat. I thought they were nearly as good as The Beach Boys.
Once the Bowl became filled, the atmosphere changed. Instead of being a kind of moon crater it was jammed with living beings from corner to corner -- mostly young girls, of course, but a fair number of boys as well.
From the moment The Beatles walked on stage, the screaming began. I cannot describe what this was like. It hurt. Having a thousand young girls screaming simultaneously was like some kind of torture that might be subjected to prisoners at Guantanamo.
We were seated somewhere in the middle of this madness. My sister brought binoculars, and it was a kick to see the Fab Four doing their act live. They were in good form and went through their numbers by route. Nevertheless, they looked very happy on stage, exchanging glances at one another and dancing around a bit. The problem was that you could barely hear them because of the screaming, which was non-stop.
Around me I saw young girls collapsing. There were attendants on duty to deal with this. It was a distraction but part of the overall experience. You couldn't see The Beatles without girls fainting. They screamed out, "Paul", "George", "John", "Ringo," as if there were any chance that their voices might be heard.
And the Instamatic Kodak cameras were going off everywhere. Even then I realized that the flash capability was only a few yards, and I thought, "What a stupid waste of film." The stretchers kept coming and going up and down the aisles. I couldn't understand it. What was making all these normal girls freak out. It was if they were being witness to Jesus standing on stage.
At the end my sister and friend rushed toward the front, with some foolish notion of being able to watch The Beatles climb into a limo or something, abandoning me and my cousin. For quite a while we waited and waited. When they didn't return, I thought it best to go looking for them. My cousin and I were like two orphans in a turbulent sea. We clung to each other and followed the crowd toward the exit. The mass of bodies literally consumed us. We planted ourselves at a space near the exit and continued to wait ... a very long time.
Finally, my sister and friend located us and we could go on to look for our ride.
The experience was both fantastic and assaulting. My ears rang for days afterwards. The screamers really spoiled the show for those of us who really wanted to hear the music, but there was no helping the situation. Being caught in the middle of such hysterics taught me something about charismatic bodies and the reaction of a collective. The Beatles somehow bypassed the cerebral cortex in girls and went right into their instincts. It was a thing to behold -- although I'm not sure one I'd ever care to repeat.