Palo Alto History. Org

Beatlemania Invades Palo Alto: A Celebrity Story

Everyone likes a celebrity story --- the time they saw Elton Johncoming out of a deli or nearly sharing anelevator with John Travolta.  And while such celebrity encountersaren’t usually all that eventful, they are rarely forgotten by the storyteller --- a brief moment in the glow of a big-time star.   Sometimes cities have celebritystories too, and Palo Alto has a good one.

Of course, it’s not as if Palo Alto has never known famous people.  In the 1940s, romance novelist and Palo Alto resident Kathleen Norris was a household name nationwide.  And these days either Steve Jobs or Steve Young could both be considered “Most Famous Palo Altan” --- depending on whether your interests range toward geek or jock.  But Palo Alto’s biggest brush with the rich and famous certainly came on August 31, 1965 --- when Beatlemania came to town.

In the 1960s, the Cabana Hotel was a minor celebrity hotspot out on El Camino Real.  Built with Vegas flair, the Cabana seemed a little out of place in Palo Alto.  But the far-flung locale was perfect for the concerting Beatles, who by 1965 were more than a little fatigued from out-running their rabidly lovesick fan base.  Following a twin concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the Fab Four were “sequestered” down in Palo Alto, looking for a little peace and quiet.

Still, even in Palo Alto, the Beatles weren’t exactly strolling down University Avenue.  Some 3,000 fans, mostly female, crowded into the Cabana parking lot (some overnight) along with the screaming, crying and emotional breakdowns that seemed to follow the foursome everywhere in those days.  Out-of-control fans crowds passed the Cabana’s outlandish replicas of the David and the Venus De Milo, swarmed across El Camino Real (backing up traffic) and into the Rickey’s lot across the street.  A few girls even slipped past the guards and actually began to climb up the outer grating of the hotel (presumably with the goal of reaching the Beatles on the 8th floor), before being coaxed down again.

Police were everywhere.  In fact, it cost the county sheriff’s office some $11,000 to provide 80 men and 30 patrol cars for the Beatles 25-hour stay.  Palo Alto itself shelled out some $700 in overtime in order to station officers at the Cabana and the hotel’s own security bill was $4,000 after hiring some 200 temporary security guards, including many players from the University of Santa Clara football team.

But most of the action occurred as the Beatles came and went.  Upon arrival, the scene of pandemonium outside the Cabana resembled one of the frantic free-for-alls displayed the year before in their film, A Hard Day’s Night.  Fans climbed onto the Beatles limousine, rocking the car and denting the roof.Years later, one Beatle fan recalled that upon getting out, this most famous rock group in music history simply looked like “four scared kids.”

The next morning, however, the Beatles made a slick getaway.  Plans were announced that the Beatles were to be whisked out of their Room 810 Suite, down the northside elevator, past the Cabana kitchen and out through the service entrance.  Sure enough, two decoy limos and a truck were stationed out front, prompting many fans to wave goodbye to Beatles that they mistakenly thought were inside.

Instead, the boys were sent by police out the southside entrance.  “Where’s the car?” asked Paul, upon arriving --- only to be directed into a white and blue 1.5-ton delivery truck along with John and George.

But as the truck frantically made its way for the Cabana exit, the driver realized he had left Ringo behind --- not the last time the Beatle drummer would feel forgotten --- and had to slam on the brakes to let in the fourth band member.   A photograph of two of Palo Alto female fans --- 14 year-old Rocky Keith and 13-year-old Sue Moore --- was printed in the Palo Alto Times the next day “sobbing with joy” because they happened to see the Beatles exit.  But most of the girls on the other side of the hotel were not so lucky --- and were forced to console themselves by later purchasing pieces of Beatle bedsheets sold in the Cabana parking lot.

The Cow Palace show itself was even rowdier as 28,000 crazed fans twisted and shouted to a 31-minute concert. Before even taking the stage, one teenage girl burst through security and threw herself at the band.  And during the show, more than 100 girls ran for the platform, and a half-dozen girls actually made it to the group.  One 14-year-old dived for John and as she was being dragged off stage was heard screaming, “I’m Michelle, I’m Michelle, You just don’t know at all, John, I want to die here with you!”

At one point, the performance was halted for some 10 minutes as Paul pleaded with the unruly throng to allow police to remove a pregnant woman who had fainted.  She was just one of dozens of girls who became dazed or unconscious during the show and were taken to first-aid stations. Later, the crowd became so frenzied that it took a line of newsmen to lock arms in front of the stage to prevent
the band from being completely overrun.

By 1966, the band decided it was through with the craziness that accompanied their live performances.  After a final Candlestick Park performance on August 29, 1966, the Beatles would never tour again.

Today, the Beatles’ brief stay in Palo Alto is still remembered in the remodeled Crowne Plaza Cabana.  Room 810 has been named the “Beatles Room” and the walls are decorated with images of Paul jumping into the delivery truck and the band posing in the Cabana lobby.  For the Beatles, their stay in Palo Alto must have been one of hundreds of stops in a blur of limos, hotels and narrow escapes.  But for Palo Alto’s teenagers of the 1960s it remains their great celebrity story. []

 Our Reader's Memories:

"There was a wooden gate located behind the hotel that we used as a shortcut to get to El Camino Real. When the Beatles made their getaway, they slipped through the gate onto Glenbrook Avenue into a waiting car. The gate is gone, but the memory of the Beatles on my street will live on forever."


"In August of 1964, several of my friends and I stayed at the San Francisco Hilton where the Beatles were housed. We were fortunate enough to actually meet the "boys" as a result of a chance meeting with one of the Road Managers, Malcolm Evans. Malcolm became smitten with my friend, Irene, and they kept in contact, which resulted in Malcolm inviting us the following year to the Cabana Motor Hotel in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, this time around (1965), I was lucky enough to see the group, again, but I ended up sleeping alone in our hotel room, because Irene spent the night with Malcolm. Hard to believe it's been such a long time, especially since I don't feel any older than the 17 I was then. Great memories."


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The Cabana around the time of the Beatles visit.

The Beatles on stage at the Cow Palace on August 31st, 1965.

The opening of A Hard Day's Night.