This week, for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m sharing the end of Chapter 25 of Adicia’s story, “Ernestine and Girl Are Beatlemaniacs.” It takes place on 9 February 1964, the day The Beatles first performed on Ed Sullivan. On the first day of 1964, Ernestine, the four Ryan siblings, and their friend Julie moved into an abandoned apartment in the Meatpacking District with help from Allen. To their delight, they immediately made friends with Betsy van Niftrik, the girl who lives across the hall, and discovered Betsy and her parents are very progressive and have no problems with six kids squatting across the hall in an apartment that looks boarded-up and unoccupied from the outside. The six of them were squatting in the basement of Allen’s West Village apartment since their original squat in The Bowery was raided in August of ’62, and they only sometimes came up to Allen’s to sleep and eat, since they didn’t want to impose on him by having eleven people in a two-bedroom apartment. They get by through begging and doing odd jobs, and help from the van Niftriks and Allen. In spite of Allen’s pleas for Ernestine to come to live with him, Lenore, and their three sisters, Ernestine insists her place is with Julie and the Ryans now.
Ages: As of February ’64, Ernestine, Girl, and Betsy are all 11 years old (going on 12), Julie and Boy are nine (going on ten), Baby is six (going on seven), and Infant is four (going on five). The now-absent Mr. and Mrs. Ryan never really wanted kids, and let their four kids be raised by the squatting community they moved around with. Therefore, they named them what they were, and since the name Girl was already taken, they named the second girl Baby and the third one Infant. Later on, Girl becomes Deirdre Apollonia, Boy becomes David Edgar, Baby becomes Fiona Líobhan (Lee-VAHN), and Infant becomes Aoife Saoirse (EE-fa SEER-sha).
A little before 8:00 that night, the six of them trot across the hall and into the van Niftriks’ apartment to watch Ed Sullivan. Betsy shows Girl, Ernestine, and Julie some newspaper articles she cut out about the British group that’s going to be on the show tonight. The girls think they kind of look similar, since they all have brown hair and the same haircut, but they agree with Betsy that they are pretty cute. Betsy is a little surprised they have haircuts on the long side for a man, but Ernestine tells her there were a number of men with hair that long back in the West Village and Greenwich Village. Mrs. Troy would probably lecture them about being interested in male singers with long hair, but thankfully she’s not here now to spoil their fun. Someone who was born in 1923 doesn’t know jack about what’s popular nowadays, anyway.
“Here they are!” Betsy shouts as Mr. Sullivan is introducing them.
She and the other three girls on the davenport sit at rapt attention as the band begins their first song, which is called “All My Loving.” Ernestine thinks it’s pretty rude how the majority of the girls in the studio audience are screaming. Even if you really like a band and are excited to see them perform, that’s no excuse for screaming nonstop. They’re probably screaming over the entire performance and making it hard for the band to hear themselves play, and are missing the entire show because all they’re doing is screaming.
During the next song, a cover of what Mrs. van Niftrik says is a Broadway tune, “Till There Was You,” there are close-ups of each member of the band, providing each one’s name. Ernestine rolls her eyes when a caption appears under John’s name, saying, “Sorry girls, he’s married.” As though any of the girls in the audience or watching at home stand a chance of marrying someone that much older and that famous. She and Girl both think he’s the handsomest, besides, married man or not. The others are cute alright, but John seems to have a more mature face, like a handsome adult man, not a man still carrying the look of a cute, soft-faced boy into early adulthood. Girl also feels a special energy coming from him, an aura she has a very good feeling about.
After the third song, “She Loves You,” there’s a commercial break, and then a magician named Fred Kaps performs some tricks. Infant and Baby are more interested in the magic tricks than in The Beatles. Boy seems more interested in the tricks too, feeling the musical stars of the evening are more for girls.
Performing next are some of the members of the play Oliver! After the opening musical act, Ernestine and her friends can’t help but feel bored and anxious for The Beatles to return. A day ago, they never would’ve been so picky about what they did or didn’t watch on television, never having watched it before, but now everything seems somehow different, like a special kind of magic has been worked upon them by these cute visitors from across the ocean.
Finally The Beatles return and sing “I Saw Her Standing There.” Julie decides she thinks Paul is the cutest member of the group during this song. Their final song of the evening is the one Betsy told them about, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Ernestine, Julie, and Girl think it does sound fantastic, and hope they can buy their own copy if they can hustle up enough money after they’ve bought some food for the week.
The final performers of the night are Wells and The Four Fays, who are doing some kind of comedy routine. The four girls on the davenport barely care about them at this point. All they can think about are the four cute young British musicians who just stole their hearts and did something to them they can’t find words to explain. All they know is they feel really different now.
“I don’t feel sad anymore,” Ernestine announces. “There’s been such a black cloud hanging over everyone since we lost President Kennedy, but now it’s like the bad spell has been broken.”
“I think I feel the same way,” Betsy agrees.
“Do they have a full LP do you know?” Girl asks. “After tonight, I could listen to those fellows singing the phonebook!”
“They have an album called Meet The Beatles,” Betsy says. “I’ve been saving up my money so I can buy it. LPs are about three bucks, which is two bucks more than a single, but I like them so much I don’t care how much I have to pay.”
“When can we see them again?” Julie begs.
“I think they’re going to be on again next week,” Betsy says.
“Can we come over again next Sunday night, Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik?” Girl asks.
“You girls are welcome any time you like,” Mrs. van Niftrik tells them.
“Do you have a favorite yet, Betsy?” Ernestine asks. “I like John.”
“So do I!” Girl says. “We haven’t been best friends for almost two years for nothing! It’s like we’re sharing a brain at this point!”
“I don’t know who my favorite is yet,” Betsy says. “I think I’ll have to see them again and read a little more about them before I make my decision.”
“Paul is cute,” Julie says. “He has pretty eyes.”
“I didn’t know you was into that girly stuff,” Boy says.
“What, just because we don’t do other girly stuff doesn’t mean we can’t do one girly thing in our lives?” Girl challenges him. “Why can’t we fawn over cute guys in a band?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you looking this happy, Julie,” Ernestine says. “I guess the special magic these guys brought over the ocean with them healed even you.”
“Maybe we can even see them in concert!” Betsy says. “I’m sure they’ll be playing here in New York. After all, they’re right here in the city as we speak, right in the CBS studio.”
“Maybe if they’re here over the summer, you can go to a show as a summer vacation present,” Mr. van Niftrik says. “You do deserve something nice as a reward for your upcoming sixth grade graduation.”
“That would be the best present ever, Dad!”
“We’ll start stepping up our begging and odd jobs to earn money for our own concert tickets!” Girl says with bright eyes.
She, Ernestine, Julie, and Betsy look around at one another with happy expressions and the same special feeling in their souls. They have no idea exactly what just happened, but they do know they’re never going to be the same again after tonight.