Beatles ’64: we saw them standing there

NEW YORK, N.Y.–“I was a teenager who loved rock ‘n roll, especially Elvis,” says Art Hindle. The veteran Canadian actor, who starred on such shows as E.N.G. and Dallas, was one of millions who tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show exactly 50 years ago. 
“My girlfriend insisted I sit there and watch the Sullivan show that night,” says Hindle. “To me, it looked like they never heard of Brylcreem, but it sounded like rock ‘n roll so it was all good–except that feeling of jealousy by the way my girlfriend was reacting. That next week I was experimenting with a hair style with no Brylcreem.”
I was just six years old the night The Beatles made their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, but it was such a big deal my parents let me stay up to see it live. I’ve been a Beatles fan ever since. Here’s my account of that night in this feature I wrote for The Canadian Press.
One of my collectibles from those days is a Billy B Honey glass featuring cartoon images of the “Billy B-eatles.” A (barely) animated, Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series premiered the next year. The Beatles won fans of all ages, and those of us who fell for them at six will still be singing, “yeah yeah yeah” at 96.
Among those also watching that night was the man who now runs CBS, CEO Leslie Moonves. “I was 14 then,” says Moonves, who T spoke with during the recently Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. He joked that he’s seen clips from that Sullivan show “probably eight billion times” since then.
Moonves’ witnessed the historic moment at his parent’s house. “I remember talking the next day to my best friend who was like a music fanatic,” he says. “I remember him talking about how significant it was because I wasn’t nearly as culturally astute as he was. He was the one who said, ‘You gotta tune in to this group.’”
Tommy Chong from Cheech & Chong guesses he was watching TV in Vancouver the night The Beatles broke. Chong, 75, was in a band at the time. “I started a little before The Beatles,” he says. “I was into Chuck Berry and all that.”
Chong, guesting on an upcoming episode of The Millers, says he eventually met all four Beatles. He even played with George Harrison on “Basketball Jones,” a cut on one of Cheech & Chong’s comedy albums.
The notorious pot head says he also once shared a joint with George, but Ringo—then in rehab–told him no no no no, I don’t smoke it no more.
John Lennon he met at record producer Lou Adler’s house. “I went into a bedroom to smoke a joint and I looked down and John Lennon’s sitting on the floor. I lit up a stinky joint and offered John some and he said no, he couldn’t do it because of the immigration problems he was going through.”
Famed TV director Jim Burrows (Cheers, Friends, The Millers) watched that Sullivan show while a student at the Yale School of Drama. “When I heard their records,” says Burrows, 73, “I went to my roommate and said, ‘You gotta hear this band.’ They were unbelievable.”
Later in 1964, Burrows went to a Beatles benefit concert at the Paramount Theatre in New York. “Steve and Edie opened up for them,” he recalls. “You couldn’t hear a note of what they were singing for all the girls screaming”
Sting, 62, cheered The Beatles breakthrough in America from England. “It had a huge impact on me,” says Sting, 11 when the Beatles first broke in England. “Like me, they were boys who went to grammar school. So they had an education, and they conquered the world with their own songs, which gave a whole generation of Englishmen the permission, if you like, or the idea to attempt the same thing themselves.
“Nobody made it the way the Beatles made it, but they really were the template on which we based, all of us, based our lives. So I have a personal debt of gratitude to The Beatles, their music too, not just what they did in their careers, but their music educated me. I love the Beatles.” 
Not everybody caught The Beatles on Ed Sullivan that night. Robin Williams, now 62 and starring in The Crazy Ones, says he “never saw it. I think my dad used to watch Gunsmoke. That was it.”
Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, 37, was born more than a dozen years after Beatlemania. But, like “every kid who picks up a guitar or tries to sing,” he says, “I’m a huge fan.”
CBS celebrates the 50th anniversary tonight with The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles. The two-hour special airs Sunday night at 8 on CBS and City–50 years to the hour of the famous Sullivan broadcast.

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