Felice LaMastra's Firsthand Account of the Beatles Junior Press Conference
By 1966, touring had become routine for the Beatles. Gone were the early days when they were giddy with the excitement of their newfound worldwide success. Not only had they
grown a bit more serious and were more weary of touring by 1966, but their press conferences seemed to be plagued with a single preoccupation from the press -- the fallout from John Lennon's
infamous Jesus remark made earlier in the year.
The Beatles' visit to New York City in August of 1966 would give them a taste of something very special and out of the ordinary. In addition to the more traditional press conference with the New York City press, the group
held a Beatles 'Junior' Press conference, consisting only of their young fans. John Lennon and Paul McCartney both acknowledged that the idea for the special fans-only event
came from the Beatles, themselves.
Feeling as if she had never won anything in her life before that moment, Felice LaMastra suddenly found herself chosen as one of the incredibly lucky Beatle fans with a special
pass that allowed her admittance to
the Beatles Junior Press Conference at the Warwick Hotel...
to be in the same room with her idols... to have the opportunity to talk with them about anything she wished to say.
Felice remembers that New York City radio station WMCA held a contest, the winners of which
would attend the conference. She vivdly remembers the incredible life-changing excitement that the Beatles stirred in those days, and what it felt like to actually be in their presence.
How did it happen? What was it like? How did it feel? What did it mean? Felice remembers it all.
You may also be interested to click here for additional photos and the complete transcript of the Beatles' Junior press conference at the Warwick Hotel in New York City on August 22th 1966.
- Jay Spangler, www.beatlesinterviews.org
Q: "What do you remember about the Beatles Junior Press conference at the Warwick Hotel in New York City in 1966? How did that come to be?"
FELICE: “My recollection was that it was around August 20th that WMCA Radio DJ Gary Stevens announced on his show that the Beatles wanted
to have a press conference with the fans asking them questions instead of the regular media reporters... that they felt it would be more
fun and that they would finally be asked some different questions for once. So Gary told his audience that there would be a contest held
where you could win the chance to attend a Junior Beatle Press Conference and ask the Beatles a question. All you needed to do was mail a
postcard with your name, address and phone number in to WMCA Radio Station for a chance to win."
Q: "How many winners were they going to select?"
FELICE: “Gary said that 75 postcards were to be picked out of some sort of bin, and those winners would be able to attend this Beatles
Junior Press Conference for the chance of a lifetime… to ask the Beatles any question they’d like. The conference was to take place just
a few days later as I recall. I decided that I would mail seven cards in so that would give me more of a chance to get picked.”
Q: "There were more winners than just those 75 selected by WMCA radio, correct?"
FELICE: "Yes, there was a similar contest that was held by the official American Beatles Fan Club, and they had picked 75 of THEIR
winners from their club as well. So the entire conference wound up consisting of 150 attendees."
Q: "So you'd have to be very lucky to be one of the lucky ones."
FELICE: "Yes, it was outrageously lucky. I could not believe how exciting this opportunity was. Especially for a huge Beatles fan
like me. I adored them, and here I was being offered a chance to win entry into the same room as them….and even a chance to ask a
question. Nothing could be better than that."
Q: "I can't imagine how that must have felt... like an overdose of anticipation."
FELICE: "Being a 15 year old kid from New Jersey, who never got close to winning anything in her life, and who was totally and
completely in love with the Beatles, I ran over to my neighborhood church and knelt in front of the Sacred Heart statue, praying
desperately to win for three solid hours... because everything happens in three’s, I was always told. I prayed harder than I ever
prayed in my life with such passion that I actually remember crying and pleading with God, because I wanted to win so bad."
Q: "So you were just waiting to see what came in the mail then."
FELICE: "Yes, and the anticipation was overwhelming. The mail arrived, but not a trace of any Special Delivery mailings. So I ran
to the phone and called WMCA and asked if I had won the contest. They said, 'No, I’m sorry, but if you didn’t receive
the Special Delivery by now, that means that your post card was not picked.' My heart sank big time, and I was totally depressed.
I remember crying on my parents' bed for what I recall was about half an hour straight. Then suddenly, I hear my Mother coming into
the house yelling, 'Felicia, you got something in the mail.' "
Q: "That must have been a serious adrenaline rush."
FELICE: “To put it lightly, yes! I knew it had to be the Special Delivery... the LATE Special Delivery... but the Special Delivery
regardless. I found out after the Conference, that in just 48 hours, WMCA Radio received 48,000 post cards as I recall, and I was
one of the 75 winners picked.”
Q: "So you went from total depression, to...."
FELICE: "I was ecstatic. I have never been happier about anything else in my life like I was at that moment. It is beyond words
how overjoyed I was to win. I worshipped the Beatles. They were the best thing that ever happened in my life. So winning this
contest was just like heaven."
Q: "What an incredible moment that must have been."
FELICE: "It was indescribable. I was so incredibly excited. I then begged my Mother to at least buy me a good dress to wear...
one that looked Jane Asher-like, of course. And she did, believe it or not. But there was no family camera to bring, so I did
not have a camera with me during the conference, and it turns out that we WERE allowed to take pictures... something unheard of
Q: "So you were looking mod in your new dress."
FELICE: "Yes, as much as I could possibly pull off. I remember even ironing my long hair like girls used to do in the 60’s. I
wanted to look so great and 'with it' for the Beatles."
Q: "What do you remember about the big trip to New York City that day?"
FELICE: "Besides an overwhelming amount of anticipation and a feeling of total bliss, I must admit there was one thing that put a
damper on things, and that was being forced to leave some of my closest girlfriends behind as I was allowed into the conference.
My friends had accompanied me on the bus trip from Hoboken, New Jersey to New York City, and we were all crazy with happiness up until
the security point where you had to show your 2 special passes. At that point, obviously, I was forced to wave goodbye to my
friends as I continued on towards the Warwick Hotel’s entrance. It was a very heartbreaking experience for me not to be able to
take them along. I recall one friend made a tribute book to Paul and asked that I give it to him at the conference. Believe it
or not, I did get to hand it to one of the managers before the conference began, and I asked that he give it to Paul. He
apparently did, because I saw Paul thumbing through the book right at the conference table, and he even looked impressed at
what he was reading! Later on, sometime after the conference, my girlfriend received a response from someone in Paul’s camp
thanking her for the book."
Q: "It must have been a fan and media zoo outside of the hotel with the knowledge that the Beatles were inside."
FELICE: "Arriving for the conference was like arriving at an event where the President of the United States was appearing along
with the Oscar Award Show going on at the same time and in the same place! That’s how many fans and security surrounded all
blocks around the entire perimeter of that Warwick Hotel area in mid-town Manhattan. New York literally came to a stop in that
section of the City. It was amazing. The excitement was overwhelming. You could actually feel the air having almost a thick
quality to it, thick with an emotional high and energy, if you know what I mean. There were fans standing shoulder to shoulder
screaming and carrying on, but being held back by continual barricades separating them from any hotel entrance. The loud excitement
of the fans permeated the New York air, but as far as I can remember, no 'crazy' incidents to speak of took place, at least at those
moments. I do recall that a day or so before, there was a fan who threatened to jump off a New York building if she wasn’t allowed to meet
the Beatles. Besides the fans, the press most likely saturated the entire area, however, my main focus was very concentrated on just
getting myself as quickly as possible into that hotel."
Q: "Beatles events in earlier years were not as secure as one would have thought... but by August 1966... this was in midst of all the
controversy of Lennon's 'Jesus' statement by this time. How secure was security at the Warwick Hotel that night?"
FELICE: "No one was allowed past a certain perimeter of the hotel area. All fans and the public were held back by barricades. Cops were
all milling around that section, so I approached one, doing my best to quietly tell him that I had special passes to attend a Beatles
conference inside the hotel. Obviously, I was paranoid that some fan next to me would hear and jump me for the passes. Then,
when I very carefully showed him the identifications, he directed me past the barricades and towards the hotel. This seemed to me to be
quite a long walk, in a way, but I believe it indicated that security’s main objective was to keep everyone far back from any hotel
entrance. When I continued to get closer and closer to the Warwick door, there were plain clothes guards that approached me to see the
passes again. These men, along with the regular uniformed police, stopped me around 3 or 4 additional times as I approached the door.
When I actually got to the building itself, they lead me into what appeared to be the back entrance and then down into what seemed to be a
basement. I got a little frightened at that point, thinking, 'Where the heck are they taking us?' At that point, I was in a small group
with some of the other winners that happened to be entering the building at the same time as me. We were led up a flight, down a hallway,
around a corner and finally into the Warwick Press Conference Room."
Q: "What are your memories of entering that room?"
FELICE: "When I walked in, the lights were really bright. They were the kind that you would see on a movie set. Seeing those lights
made it all come together in my mind that this wasn’t a fantasy, but it really was going to happen. Plus the room had a definite buzz
to it… an electricity. The kids already in the room were pretty loud, and there were some adults milling around. The first thing I
thought was, 'I’m running for the best seat I can possibly get!' So I grabbed a seat in the 2nd row, a little to the left of dead
center, and it was around 10 feet away from the Beatles' conference table. I was thrilled that I got such a good seat."
Q: "What happened next?"
FELICE: "Before the Beatles came out, I saw Gary Stevens in the front area. He was making sure things were going OK. I also saw Brian
Epstein and Neil Aspinal walking around the front area as well. Gary and the other adults were trying to quiet the screaming kids down.
However, everyone was pretty much continuing to talk and kind of scream, as we were all waiting for the Beatles to show up. No one was
really listening to the adults, and I think they were starting to get kind of pissed at the kids. Then, we were all handed a little gift
packet. It contained four individual and professionally-taken pictures of the Beatles that were all personally autographed! I think
there might have been one or two other items as well in the gift envelope."
Q: "What happened as the Beatles entered the room?"
FELICE: "The 150 winners went wild with screams when the doors behind the Warwick conference table opened and the Beatles all appeared.
I remember the four of them kind of jumping down a step on to the level of the conference table and then taking their seats. The room went
ballistic. Kids were screaming their heads off. It was magical."
Q: "What were you thinking and feeling at that moment?"
FELICE: “I cannot really describe how unbelievable that moment was for me. My idols, right there before my eyes! And so close, even.
About 10 feet away. How amazing the feeling was. All four Beatles looked even better in person than any photograph or movie I had ever
seen them in. Paul has what I call ‘Liz Taylor hair,’ jet black and beautiful and darker than all of the photos we’ve all seen. And
although he seemed totally shaven, I recall that he still had this dark 5 o’clock shadow on his face, indicating how black his hair was.
He was divine looking, of course….amazingly handsome. And John’s hair looked way lighter than photos and movies had shown. You could tell
he was originally a kind of blond kid when he was very young. He, too, was gorgeous and so sexy and irresistible. It was just amazing to be
in his presence. Ringo and George had a kind of richness to their faces, really attractive, with Ringo’s big, beautiful, blue eyes piercing
through you, and George’s deep, dark stare making him so appealing. I felt so incredibly lucky and thankful
for this moment, that it is truly hard to express how happy I was in that room.”
Q: "I assume it must have been chaos trying to hold a teenage press conference with the Beatles in the same room."
FELICE: "There were constant pleads from Gary and the other adults and the managers to please quiet down. The kids, unfortunately, did not
listen and kept on screaming. I had never really been a screaming fan… I was more of a cryer. I didn’t believe, even at that young age,
that my loud screaming should be overpowering their music during a concert or hearing what they were answering during an interview. So if
I screamed, it certainly wasn’t like most of the girls, lasting through practically the whole interview. Therefore, those kids were starting
to really piss me off actually, because I just wanted to hear every word that the Beatles said."
Q: "What do you remember about the questions and answers?"
FELICE: "The Beatles' four individual personalities really came out in the way they answered questions. As all Beatle fans know, John has that
sharpness and wit about him, and Paul is the one who explains answers more fully. George and Ringo tend to speak up a lot less than John and
Paul do. I remember one of the fans presenting Ringo with a white spider-type toy for his son Zak, and Ringo seemed very appreciative of her
thought. I also remember one of the more outgoing type fans saying something comical and making all of them laugh, especially John."
Q: "Did you get to ask a question?"
FELICE: "Yes, I did. I was extremely nervous about asking my favorite Beatle, Paul, a question. So, as to not lose it completely, I decided
that if I did get a chance, I would direct a question to my second favorite Beatle, John. Being young and quite shy, I couldn’t seem to think
of an appropriate question, so I resorted to asking if a certain newspaper article was true or not. This article had stated that John ordered
a guitar from a manufacturer in Hoboken, New Jersey, my hometown. Thinking that this seemed a bit odd to me that John Lennon would order a guitar
from little old Hoboken, I decided that I would ask John if it were true or not. I must admit, that if I had been a bit older, I would actually
have asked something different. In any case, when I did ask John the question, there was so much loud screaming going on from the fans in the
room, that he didn’t understand or hear my full question... I think half due to the kids screaming and half due to Hoboken being kind of a weird
name to throw at an English guy. I seem to remember being asked to repeat the question multiple times. I noticed Neil Aspinal wanting to help
clarify, leaning over and whispering in John’s ear that Hoboken was a town in New Jersey. At that point, John said, 'Oh, OK, well no, that’s not
true. And, you shouldn’t believe most of what the papers write about us. Most of it is not accurate.' "
"At the very end of the conference, something happened that indicated that the article might have been half true after all. Unbeknownst to John,
and to me, a guy marched up to the conference table just as the Beatles were leaving and presented John with a guitar. Apparently, it was a
custom-made gift for him from a Hoboken guitar company to be presented at the conference. So the newspapers got it half correct, because John
did not order it, nor did he know anything of this presentation. Meanwhile, I’m witnessing this taking place, and thinking, ‘Wow, this must be
related somehow to the question I asked John!’. Obviously, there was no way I would have been allowed to run up to the table and communicate my
thoughts on the subject. The next thing that took place was the Beatles exiting through the Warwick door behind conference table.”
Q: "What an amazing experience and wonderful memory that day must have been."
FELICE: "A shy kid from Hoboken who adored the Beatles more than life itself actually got to sit 10 feet away from all 4 of them for the entire
conference and even got to speak directly to John Lennon! The feeling was indescribable. Remember, especially in those days, you couldn’t even
get remotely close to the Beatles, let alone sit in the same room and even speak to them! This was heaven for a real Beatles fan. I had just
received the best gift that I ever could have received in my life. The only thing better would have been to leave WITH the Beatles as they
exited the Warwick Conference Room that day. It was truly the best day of my life."
Q: "What happened once the conference was over and the Beatles made their exit?"
FELICE: “It ripped my heart out to see them leave. I wanted so bad to run through the same door that the Beatles were exiting. As all the
fans were leaving the press room, one of the girls -- who I had met while walking into the Warwick -- ran back towards the table and grabbed the
ash tray that Ringo had been using during the conference. She started running out of the room with it. I grabbed her and begged her for at
least some of the contents. She reluctantly gave me one of Ringo’s cigarette butts and ashes. I was ecstatic. At that point, we continued
exiting out of the Warwick Conference Room, completely high on happiness. Short of meeting the Beatles personally, just them and me, nothing
could compare to this experience. I was so very grateful.”
Q: "Did you also have tickets for their 1966 concert at Shea Stadium?"
FELICE: "Yes, I went to the concert the next day. Believe it or not, I think I went alone, due to my girlfriend’s parents not allowing them to
attend. I recall riding and then exiting the New York train to Shea and being scared about getting lost, but it actually wound up being very
easy, because I just followed the crowd and the yellow lines on the subway floor leading everyone to the Stadium. I had really bad seats, pretty
high up in the stands, but was still so thankful that I was there that day. When the Beatles came out, they looked like four little ants really,
because I was so very far away, but it was still exciting as hell. I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. The feeling in that
stadium was outrageously exhilarating. The screams were deafening, and it sounded just like an extremely loud jet engine or siren-type noise that
was right on top of you and never, ever stopped through the whole concert. It actually hurt your ears. I have never heard that kind of sound at
any event in my entire life. The electricity and energy in the air was amazing. Again, a day I will never, ever forget.
Source: Interview with Felice LaMastra conducted by www.beatlesinterviews.org