Life’s most treasured moments are an amalgam of the traditional and unexpected. Like Christmas morning, a fabulous meal, or the most memorable Hollywood film, any sensational experience will blend elements you anticipate with ingredients that surprise and delight. Take the Fest for Beatles Fans at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency O’Hare coming up August 14 through 16: some features of the Fest never change, and their excellence draws us back, time and again. Other features are shockingly new, and they rouse us from our reverie to make us think, consider, laugh, and enjoy.
Here are the “10 Best of the (Upcoming) Fest,” both traditional and brand new. Any one of these is worth the price of admission. All of them together, however, make The Fest for Beatles Fans one hell of a great time for any devoted Beatles/nostalgia fan.
10) Emcee Terri Hemmert
The Fest’s #10 is a #1. Terri Hemmert has been the Fest’s emcee for 40 years now, and she is magical! A beloved Chicago area radio personality for WXRT, her career spans some incredible accomplishments! She was the first female “morning drive” personality in Chicago (1981). She’s been the host of “Breakfast with The Beatles” since 2002. She teaches “The History of Rock and Soul” at Columbia College Chicago, and (drum roll, please) she was inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2010. Terri’s sweet, sparkling personality makes the Fest feel like home, and her interviews draw out the best in every special guest. Meeting Terri and chatting with her about her night at the White House with Sir Paul is something every Festgoer should do! You will fall in love.
9) Insightful discussion panels
Fest organizers Mark and Carol Lapidos leave no stone unturned to bring in the world’s top Beatles experts to confront timely topics and consider new takes on historical events. And three of the best this year are:
- Susan Ryan’s Women Historian’s Panel (featuring a rotating cast of several top female Beatles historians, including Kit O’Toole, Tina Kukla, Sara Schmidt, Lanea Stagg, Karen Duchaj, Kathryn Cox, Katie Jones and Erika Abrams) which will tackle the topic of “The 50th Anniversary of Help!” and “The 20th Anniversary of the Anthology and What it Means to the Fandom” in two separate panels, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. This panel has received rave reviews every time it has been presented over the past three years in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Mark it on your Fest calendar as soon as you arrive!
- Chuck Gunderson, Bruce Spizer, and Al Sussman’s panel on “The Beatles in 1965.” Looking back on this landmark year 50 years later throws new insight on a fascinating subject, and since all four experts have written books on this very topic, the discussion should be riveting. Don’t miss it!
- Jim Berkenstadt and Jude Southerland Kessler’s discussion of “The Incredible, Unbelievable Events of The Beatles First World Tour, 1964.” From embarking on the tour without Ringo Starr to John’s Aunt Mimi tagging along for the festivities, this tour was most unusual. See rare photos and hear the story!
8) Featured guest Bob Eubanks
You may know him as the lively host of television’s The Newlywed Game, but Beatles aficionados also know him as the man who brought the Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965 and to Dodger Stadium in 1966! As the only living promoter to bring fans the Fab Four during all three US tours, Bob has great stories that he will share when he is interviewed by Terri Hemmert on the main stage.
7) The Faboratory
One of the new and exciting features of the Fest is the groovy Faboratory where guests are invited to dissect songs, play Beatles games, invent the future of being a Beatles fan, and use their imagination. And in Chicago, one of the stars of the Faboratory is author Lanea Stagg who penned all three books in the Recipe Records series! Lanea will be serving Savoy Truffles (one flavor for each Beatle!) from the delectable recipe in her Recipe Records: A Tribute to the Beatles book! She’ll be talking about how to make these yummy delicacies and urging you to sample each one with “Trippy Pink Punch!” all set to the musical accompaniment of Scott Erickson.
6) Featured guest Jack Oliver
President of Apple from 1969-1970, Jack Oliver worked hand-in-hand with Derek Taylor and the lads! His stories of the last days of the Beatles at Apple are poignant, personal, and one-of-a-kind. Jack also has incredible true tales of his years producing concerts and tours for the Eagles, James Taylor, Carole King, and Cat Stevens. You won’t want to miss listening to Jack talk and meeting him as well. He’s a prince of a guy!
5) Featured guest and author Ivor Davis
An important primary source, Ivor Davis was the only journalist who toured with the Beatles for the entire North American Tour in 1964. His close personal relationship with all of the Beatles (especially John) and with Brian Epstein make Davis’s stories riveting. But his wit and warmth make him a real crowd favorite wherever he goes. Festgoers will also be able to get signed copies of his book, The Beatles and Me on Tour when they stop by his booth in the Marketplace. Meet Ivor and walk away with a smile.
4) Bands, bands everywhere!
(And lots and lots to drink — with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge!) If you’re not the concert-going type but like to perform the Beatles’ catalog, join the many, many talented, impromptu groups who fill the lobby and the lower exhibition floors. Live music is performed there at any hour of the day or night! These warm, friendly people know every single Beatles song ever performed in any venue, and they want you to sing, dance, or play along! Bring your own instrument and zest! There’s no charge to join in!
3) Kit O’Toole’s book launch party and the live “Kit and Kaboodle” show
As Contributing Editor of BeatleFan magazine and one of the most in-depth and prolific writers for SomethingElseReviews.com, Kit O’Toole has long been respected as a Beatles researcher and journalist. But now, finally, she will be releasing her first book, Songs We Were Singing (with cover art by Beatles artist, Enoch Doyle Jeter), and it’s about time, I say! Her official launch party will be at the Chicago Fest! So come by her booth in the Marketplace and get a signed, dated first edition of her book! Kit’s collection of essays on the music of the Beatles will impress even the most jaded fan. She “knows her shite,” as it were.
As an added bonus, hear Kit speak with Jude Southerland Kessler ( a.k.a. “Kaboodle”) at their popular “live Kit and Kaboodle Show” in which they will tackle the topic: “John Lennon’s Political Songs: Righteous or Rubbish?” Covering “Revolution,” “Woman is the N—— of the World,” “Give Peace a Chance,” and “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” these two Beatles historians will examine all aspects of John’s peace movement and the powerful, “ear worm” songs that made his crusade infectious.
2) The Marketplace
Beatles books a-plenty (examining the lads considered individually and as a group) signed by their authors on the spot! T-shirts, authentic Beatles boots and jackets, artistic Beatles bracelets and necklaces in sterling silver, Beatles wallets, laptop bags, bumper stickers, jean jackets, framed artwork, rare CDs and DVDs, unusual collectibles, photographs, rugs, games, dolls, and memorabilia of any sort. Nowhere can you find a better place to shop if you’re a Beatlemaniac. I could live in the Fest marketplace (and I do!). “Replete” is the word.
1) The incredible live music!
The Fest used to have one big blow-out concert on Saturday night. But it was so incredibly popular that now there is a concert for Sunday Festgoers as well. With classic stars such as Liverpool, Mark Rivera, Billy Kingsley of the Merseybeats, Terry Sylvester of the Hollies and the Swingin’ Blue Jeans, the house rocks… uh, literally. But when Mark Hudson takes the stage, all hell breaks loose! The man is an unstoppable rocker-shocker. He will, more than likely, slide into heaven playing a lead lick and singing with gutsy Lennon-like bravado. No one can do “Working Class Hero” like Hudson and Pig Light Show’s remarkable jumbo-tron performance is a work of art. If their light show doesn’t bring you to tears, you’re steel and glass, man. Steel and glass.
From the edgy Faboratory to the long-established and well-honed concert series and retinue of Beatles authors and speakers, The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans has something for every age and taste. Art collections, puppet shows, look-alike contests, dances, trivia games, seminars. This isn’t just a Beatle Fest… it’s a Beatle feast. Mangia!