Few people are able to turn their obsessions into full-time careers.
Mark Lapidos, founder and organizer of the annual “Festival for Beatles Fans” (formerly BeatleFest), is one of the lucky few.
“I fell in love with the Beatles from the first time I heard ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ in ’64. In 1973 I just said someone should do something to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America. I thought that was historic.”
After getting the blessing of none other than John Lennon himself, Lapidos realized that had found his life’s work, and the Festival for Beatles Fans was born the following year in New York City.
In 1978, Lapidos moved the annual festival across the Hudson River to Secaucus where it has been celebrated ever since.
And so, this upcoming weekend, 5,000 to 6,000 Beatles enthusiasts will make a pilgrimage of sorts to the New Jersey Crowne Plaza Meadowlands Hotel to commune with other fans for Lapidos’ 34th festival.
New faces, old friends
Lapidos admits that keeping the festival fresh and interesting after more than three decades can sometimes be a challenge. This year, however, he is excited to have five members of the cast of the movie “Across the Universe” coming to the festival, including star Evan Rachel Wood.
The movie is a coming of age musical set entirely to Beatles songs.
“The five of them will be performing their songs from the movie live on state on Saturday night, something they’ve never done before,” Lapidos said last week.
The concert is among a handful of festival highlights for post-Baby Boomers who didn’t live through the British invasion of the ’60s but who have come to appreciate the music of their parents and grandparents.
Beatles Karaoke, trivia competitions, and name that tune are other events Lapidos expects to be popular with younger people.
“We have something for all generations, including puppet shows for the really young,” Lapidos said.
Pattie ‘Layla’ Boyd appears
Boomers like himself who remember watching the Beatles’ history-making appearance on the Ed Sullivan show are “interested in the special guests. That’s who they all want to see. People who are part of the history, their take on it, their perspective,” Lapidos explained. “This year we’re honored to have Pattie Boyd.”
One of the “it” girls of the ’60s, Boyd is among the best known Beatles women for having been married to George Harrison.
“She was part of the Beatles’ very inner circle,” Lapidos said. “She knew them very well; she knew their wives. She knew all the people around the Beatles. She was on the set of ‘Hard Day’s Night.’ That’s where she first met George.”
Boyd later married Eric Clapton, who supposedly wrote the song “Layla” about her.
Other special guests scheduled to appear at the festival include members of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle group Wings, original drummer Denny Seiwell, and guitarist Laurence Juber. Also appearing will be festival staples Liverpool, a renowned Beatles tribute band.
Seiwell and Juber will be performing Wings songs, as well as speaking about their days working with McCartney.
Money raised for charity
Lapidos expects fans to come to Secaucus from all along the eastern seaboard over the three-day festival, with some coming from as far away as New Hampshire and North Carolina. Fortunately, fans on the West Coast and in the Midwest needn’t drag themselves cross-country to pay homage to their favorite band; there will be separate Beatle festivals in Las Vegas and Chicago later this summer.
As in the past, there will be several charity raffles held throughout the weekend with lots of Beatles memorabilia up for grabs. Money from these raffles goes to support the Spirit Foundation, started by John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono in 1978 to aid women’s charities, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Since it was founded in 1974, the Festival for Beatles Fans has raised a total of $500,000 for these organizations.
The festival is dedicated in memory of Lennon, who was shot to death in New York City in 1980, and George Harrison, who succumbed to cancer in 2001.
The festival will be held from March 28 through 30. Registration is $32 for Friday and $47 for Saturday or Sunday. Children 6 through 12 get in for half price; children under 5 are free. Special rates are available for multiple days. For more information, call 1-866-THE-FEST, or visit www.thefest.com.