Remembering 1964

by Q. William Bacon


After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the American public realized that no celebrity was safe from any man with a rifle and a craving for notoriety. Despite increased security, all celebrities came to be seen as locations of imminent violence. So, when the Beatles visited America several months later to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, nobody wanted to attend the show for fear of witnessing a slaughter or being caught in the line of fire.

The prospect of the world’s most popular entertainers playing to an empty theater on the nation’s highest-rated television show was seen by the Johnson administration as a very public vote of no confidence and a political disaster. So the FBI rounded up several hundred teen-aged girls to fill the seats of Ed Sullivan’s studio for the live telecast.  But the plan backfired, as television viewers were horrified by the sight of the four mop-tops playing happily while hundreds of girls screamed in terror.