Between performances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles made their Carnegie Hall debut on February 12, 1964. With the help from our friends at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, we are enlisting Beatles fans from all over the world to assist Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Rose Museum Director, Gino Francesconi, in identifying the mystery lady holding what looks to be a camera from The Beatles debut concert nearly 50 years ago.
Read what Gino has to say about the photo in the interview below and join in the search to help us uncover the mystery. If you think you know who the mystery lady is, leave a message on our Facebook page.
What can you tell us about the photo?The photo comes from a booklet called The Beatles at Carnegie Hall, which documented the group’s trip to the US, but mostly focused on the two Carnegie Hall shows. It contains a number of photos of The Beatles outside the Hall, in the Hall, and rushing out of the Hall. Individual photos from the booklet have circulated for decades.
How long have you been searching for the mystery lady with what looks to be a camera?I can’t tell you how many times I looked at that photo without noticing the lady with the camera. Then one day—about 25 years ago when we were curating one of our first Carnegie Hall exhibitions—we blew up the image very large, and whoa …
I contacted Sid Bernstein, whom I had known for years from my days working backstage at the Hall. He was the man who had the idea of bringing The Beatles to the US. By the time Ed Sullivan got to them for his show, Sid had already signed them up for their US tour. I thought for sure he would know who that mysterious woman sitting in the stage seats was, since he controlled the additional seating. But he couldn’t recall other than perhaps she and her companions were friends of Mayor Robert Wagner and Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
Have you been able to find some of the other people in the audience?In 1991, I had the opportunity to ask Paul McCartney if he knew the mysterious woman on stage. Paul was here for the US premiere of his Liverpool Oratorio, but he didn’t know who she was. I didn’t think he would, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Over the years, I was in touch with several people who were at the concerts. Many saved their ticket stubs, yet no one was willing to part with them. We were contacted by one of the police officers who was on stage with the group right near that lady with the camera. He also assisted them out the backstage door.
One of our former staffers in the booking department told me she went in to the Hall to see what all the fuss was about. All she could see were the mouths of each Beatles member moving, but she couldn’t hear them because the audience was screaming so loudly. I was thrilled when we acquired the only known Carnegie Hall program (where Paul is misidentified as John McCartney!). The program book is autographed by all four members of The Beatles, so I have always been positive thinking that someday we will find the lady with the camera, or she will find us. Perhaps even someone connected to her would get in touch.
If you are able to identify the mystery lady and locate the film, what would it mean for you and the Carnegie Hall Archives?If we found her and the film exists and is viewable? Wow! Not only would we have a wonderful piece of documentation for one of Carnegie Hall’s most famous concerts, but every Beatles fan in the world would probably want to see it! We’ve searched for other items in our history that seemed impossible to find—such as a ticket from Opening Night 1891, or the silver trowel that Mrs. Carnegie used to lay the cornerstone in 1890—and we found them. So I am hopeful to find her and solve the mystery, or at least a part of it.
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