The Washington Post has the cute story of 6 sixty-five-year-old men, discussing a prank they pulled off 50 years ago: they impersonated a band called the Cyrkle, and made everyone believe they were opening for the Beatles, in order to sneak inside the DC Stadium in Washington, to see the Fab Four for free during their last show in 1966!
These six intrepid kids, John Koehler, Bob Booth, Timothy Harr, Tom Hinton, Ed Merrigan and Mark Wesh, dressed up as fake band members and managers, rented a limo and a few fake groupies and got so good at it, they even asked for a motorcade escort by the DC police. And it worked!
A few of them recently talked to the Post, on the 50th anniversary of the concert. They were all childhood friends and Beatles fans, and they figured out the prank together. The Cyrkle were actually a real band managed by Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, which had a very successful song ‘Red Rubber Ball’, co-written by Paul Simon, and the six kids thought this ruse would be the perfect way to get in.
‘There was all of this publicity leading up to the concert about the tremendous security that was going to be provided,’ Bob Booth told the Post. ‘In part, it was because some comments that Lennon made about the band being bigger than Jesus had recently been publicized. It was a big brouhaha — the KKK was going to picket, or something like that — and all the headlines were saying “Tightest security ever.” I think we wondered, well, how tight is it really?’
They paid the limo $25.50 for three hours plus a few ‘extra for the driver to keep his mouth shut’, wore turtlenecks and blazers, adopted a British accent – a terrible mistake as the Cyrkle were not from England but from Pennsylvania – and got away with ‘murder’.
‘We don’t look anything like them,’ said John Koehler. ‘But then again, who knew what they looked like then? All you knew was that you’d hear them on the radio. There was no YouTube, no VH1, no color TV.’
These kids had so much swag that one of them called the police, pretending to be the manager and said: ‘We’re opening for the Beatles at D.C. Stadium two days from now. We’re going to be staying at the Shoreham, and we’d appreciate a motorcycle escort to get us safely there.” I don’t know if this was a normal call for the D.C. police department, but they bought it. They put it on their call sheet.’
The prank worked, with more or less unexpected episodes, but their confidence level stayed unshaken during the whole thing. Tom Hinton and Ed Kerrigan even decided to see whether they could sneak into the Beatles’ dressing room, and told the instrument guy who was already there:
‘Oh, we’re the group that was hired to impersonate the Cyrkle. And they went, “Oh, okay.” Like they didn’t know about it, but it made sense to them. And then, within about 30 seconds, the door opened and in walked the Beatles.’
And then they told everything to the Beatles, how they had gotten in and Ringo, of course, thought it was funny, like the rest of the Fab Four. But when the real Cyrkle arrived, ‘We ’fessed up pretty quickly,’ said Bob Booth, and the Cyrkle also thought it was funny because ‘by this point we were telling them the ruse was about meeting them, not about meeting the Beatles,’ said Tom Hilton.
Security escorted them out of the dressing room and they watched the show from the dugout, ‘We were the closest seats other than the ring of policemen all around the stage. Security was tight,’ said Bob Booth.
Of course in 1966, all you could hear were girls screaming, and nothing else… it was ‘deafening,’ said Timothy Harr. They ended up hitchhiking home, but what a fantastic story these kids had! A story for a lifetime.
You can read the full interview on the Washington Post page.
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