The long and winding road of Beatles fandom is about to pass through Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, where the Toppermost tribute band will mark the 50th anniversary of the quartet’s last Detroit appearance.
The concert — set for Saturday evening, Dec. 3, complete with dinner and dancing — already has stirred long-held memories of those who heard the Brits at Olympia Stadium in 1964 and 1966.
Karen Tintori Katz, a member of the Shaarey Zedek Empty Nesters planning the event with the Sisterhood and Men’s Club, can personally connect the hit “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” to Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr.
In her teens, Katz was co-president of the Michigan chapter of the Beatles Fan Club with Tara Sarkisian Applebaum and met backstage with the band for a half hour — an encounter she maneuvered and realized was a turning point in her life as 1960s Beatlemania took hold.
“I decided that if I could meet the Beatles, I could do anything,” explains Katz, a published fiction and nonfiction author who lives in West Bloomfield and continues to love the Beatles’ music.
Katz’s quest for that meeting began after she wrote an editorial for the Detroit News in response to a local “Stamp Out the Beatles” campaign. She worried an unanswered campaign would keep the quartet away from Michigan, and she longed to see the English stars in person.
In response to that editorial, Katz got 1,071 letters and circulated a pro-Beatles petition that numbered more than 31,000 signatures. She tried to forward the petitions to the musicians but failed by going through local disc jockeys, Beatles management and even a connection she made with Harrison’s mother (that continued with exchanged letters).
But this teen devotee would not give up.
After getting tickets to that last Detroit concert — she saw an earlier one in Detroit and another in Toronto — Katz brought the petitions with her, moved through backstage crowds and talked to Tony Barrow, band press manager, who introduced her to McCartney.
“Paul was my favorite, and he asked if I would like to show the signatures to the others in the dressing room,” she recalls. “I thought it wouldn’t be cool to try to get autographs as I talked to George and John. Ringo was resting on a sofa and asked, ‘Can the others tell me about it later, luv?’ They all held the petitions and gave them back to me. I have them to this day.”
Katz, attracted to the musical range and depth of lyrics she has introduced to her approving grandchildren, believes that one of the best, and unexpected, results of these experiences was developing a lifelong friendship with Applebaum.
“Karen and I would make up stories putting us into the Beatles’ lives,” recalls Applebaum, a Commerce Township resident who has worked in administration for Tamarack Camps. “I was a good student, but I skipped school once to meet Karen so we could buy tickets for the Beatles concert.”
Applebaum’s favorite song is “Imagine,” and she has the word on necklaces that also have the birthdates of her four grandchildren. Although not a member of Shaarey Zedek, she is one of many anniversary ticket holders — and album buyers — who attended at least one of two Olympia performances by the Beatles.
Part Of Their Lives
For retired teacher Karen Katz Diem of Bloomfield Hills, the Beatles were so important that they entered into two family events. Their song “And I Love Her” played as she and husband, Mark, shared the first dance at their wedding six years ago. A concert remembrance was part of the eulogy at her dad’s funeral one year ago.
“I was 11 years old when I saw the Beatles at Olympia,” says Diem, a Shaarey Zedek member who practiced piano by playing Beatles songs. “My dad, Thomas Nessel, was a Beatles fan himself, and he surprised my younger sister and me with tickets to their performance.
“The packed crowd was hysterical, and a young woman behind us passed out. My sister had to sit on my dad’s shoulders to see the stage. I mentioned this performance in my father’s eulogy to explain just how he thought of everything to make our childhood so sweet and exceptional.
“The Beatles remain my favorite musical group because of their energy and freshness. I believe they have held the pulse of what makes us human.”
Andi Benderoff Sklar, a wellness counselor living in West Bloomfield, danced to “In My Life” with her son, Brent Wayburn, at his wedding. She remembers going to Beatles’ concerts with her late mother, Beverly Benderoff, also a fan, and two best friends.
“My grandfather had a connection to Olympia so he could get tickets,” Sklar recalls. “Because of all the screaming girls, I couldn’t hear the music at the first concert even though we were in the fifth row. At the second, I still couldn’t hear, but we could take pictures. Wendy Spira, who now lives in Nashville, holds on to those pictures.”
Larry Lawson, a retired radiologist with a side career as an entertainer working on radio with Dick Purtan and for Mitch Albom, has been the emcee for a Beatles tribute concert at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights. He took note of the audience enthusiasm when the band joined him onstage.
“I always loved the music and went to the Olympia concert in 1964,” he says. “Kids threw jelly beans on the stage because they knew the Beatles liked them.”
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is Lawson’s favorite Beatles song because of the tone of George Harrison, his favorite Beatle. Another Beatle, Ringo Starr, helped win him $15 in a radio station-sponsored lookalike contest, where his looks most resembled the famous drummer.
“I took my younger sister, Minde, to the concert,” says Lawson of West Bloomfield. “She still talks about it.”
Cheryl Katz Weiss, a resident of Farmington Hills and director of education for the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, thought being a Beatles fan made her like everyone else. At the 1966 concert, she screamed along with the rest of the crowd.
“Karen Katz is my sister-in-law, and when I got to know her, she told me about meeting the Beatles,” Weiss recalls. “I couldn’t get enough of the story. I know every word to every Beatles song. As I watch the two surviving Beatles in later years, there’s such a fascination in seeing where life has taken them.”
The Beatles will be celebrated 7:45-11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield. $36 until Nov. 30; $40 afterward. For tickets, contact Tobye Bello at (248) 357-5544 or email@example.com.
By Suzanne Chessler | Contributing Writer