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Witness to last Beatles concert remembers

Photo: Apple / HC
A 1969 photo shows the Beatles playing their final concert for a small audience on the roof of the Apple Records headquarters in London

One time, I was on a Continental (remember them?) flight from New York to Dallas. My boarding pass said Seat 33B, near the back of the plane.

Sitting in Seat 33A was Tennis Hall of Fame player Mats Wilander.

I LOVE Mats Wilander. I pattern my whole ridiculous baseline game after him. I felt like saying to him, "You have no idea how unlucky you are, buddy. I'm sorry, but your life is going to be a miserable hell for the next three hours."

I unloaded every question I could think of. What kind of racket do you use? Why are you flying to Dallas? Why are you sitting in coach? What was it like playing John McEnroe at Wimbledon? Remember when you beat Ivan Lendl in five sets at the U.S. Open in 1988? That was awesome!

I thought he was going to jump out of the plane somewhere over Arkansas.

Last week I was feeling sorry for Ken Mansfield for the same reason. Back in the ' 60s, Mansfield was the U.S. manager of operations for Apple Recordsthe Beatles' record label.

On Jan. 30, 1969, the Beatles climbed to the rooftop of Apple headquarters at 3 Savile Row in London and gave their last live performance to the public. Only 12 or so people, other than the Beatles, were invited up on the roof for that historic event.

Mansfield was one of them.

I did a phone interview with him last week. Poor guy never knew what hit him. I made him re-live every moment of that 42-minute concert down to the barometric pressure. If you have a bootleg video of the concert, or click on YouTube for bits and pieces, that's Mansfield in the white coat between Yoko Ono and Ringo's wife (at the time), Maureen.

"The rooftop concert was put together so fast. I was with the Beatles before they came out on the roof. They were using one of the offices as a dressing room. They were talking about what songs they would do, in what order. When they came out, they had a startled look on their faces, like 'What have we got here?'

"For the first part of the concert, I'm sitting against a chimney. It was 1 p.m. We did it then because it was lunch hour and we wanted people in the street to hear them. It was freezing cold up there. We're talking about a six-story building, in January, in London, and there was a lot of wind.

"You can see me sitting with Maureen Starkey, Yoko and Chris O'Dell, who was the only other American up there. She's from Phoenix, and she was Paul McCartney's assistant."

(I know, Yoko was an American, too, but I didn't want to stop Mansfield from telling his story.)

"Later on during the concert, I was moving some stuff around, and you can see me standing against a wall with Kevin Harrington, who was an Apple staffer. It was so cold that John Lennon was shivering and George was having trouble playing because his hands were freezing. Here's something that I've never seen in any photos or videos of that concert. George had me light three or four cigarettes and just hold them so he could put the tips of his fingers near them for warmth.

"We knew the end of the Beatles was very near, but we didn't know this would be their absolute last performance. Something magical was happening, a part of music history. I would like you to look at their eyes. John and Paul are communicating with each other with looks. It's like they're saying, 'This is how we started. This is who we are.'

"When it was over, we all left, and nobody talked about what we just saw. It took us years to realize just how important that event was. Those of us who were up there that day have been bonded forever. It was so special we were there!"

On Sept. 16, Mansfield will be here as guest speaker at Come Together Houston, a celebration of the Beatles. The event is organized by Love Street, a charity that brings live music shows to young patients and their families at Texas Children's Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children.

(page 2)

Come Together's night of music and memories starts at 7 p.m. in the Crystal Ballroom at the Post Rice Lofts (formerly the Rice Hotel), 909 Texas in downtown Houston. Three bands will perform hits from the ' 60s, Dayna Steele will be the fab host, and food will be provided by Mikki's Café. There will be an auction and all the usual charity gala stuff, except the clothes will be a lot more fun at this one.

Tickets are $100, which includes dinner. Tables start at $2,000. Click on www.cometogether houston.com for details.

Today's trivia: Canada hastwo official national sports. Hey, it's a big country. Hockey is the official winter sport. What is the official summer sport?

• By popular demand, the Houston Fringe Festival has added a third performance of Live Ate, the performance art piece by local poet and playwright Ken Jones. Live Ate is a one-act play about a U.S. promoter who stages a hot-dog eating contest in a starving nation in Africa. The contestants gorge themselves on franks and buns while the audience is dying from malnutrition and hunger. It's a little edgy, but I get the message.

Performances are 6:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Frenetic Theater on Navigation. Tickets are $10 at the door. There would be a certain irony if the audience threw tomatoes at the actors.

• You know me and food bargains. Now that I'm eating salads like a crazy man, I've been buying those bags of washed, prepared salads in supermarkets. I was getting the bags with "double carrots," but my personal Hollywood trainer (by email) Valerie Waters says carrots have too much sugar, and I should concentrate on less sugary vegetables.

Party pooper.

The salad bags usually cost around $2.79 to $3.29 in supermarkets.

The other day I needed a toilet plunger (totally different story) and went to the 99 Cents Only store. Whoa, they sell the same exact Dole salad bags for 99 cents - duh. Great, now I can eat three times as much.

• You know what I'm noticing a lot lately? Ads for doctors and lawyers … and they're posing next to a piano.

That's odd. I've never seen an ad for Barry Manilow in concert … and there's a stethoscope around Manilow's neck.

Trivia answer: lacrosse.

ken.hoffman@chron.com

Listen to Ken on AM radio station 1560 "The Game" from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays.

 

Last Updated: 08/20/11 08:56
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News Summary

On Jan. 30, 1969, the Beatles climbed to the rooftop of Apple headquarters at 3 Savile Row in London and gave their last live performance to the public. Only 12 or so people, other than the Beatles, were invited up on the roof for that historic event.