The loud "BRINGGGG!" of my alarm clock decided to go off just as soon as I forgot that I had it set sometime in late February, 1965 in a dorm in California State University in Sacramento. Probably the twenty-second or something. However, that doesn't really matter now. What mattered was what I was nearly falling out of bed to do later that day. Well, the real excitement would be tomorrow, but still, today would be pretty big too. It was hard to believe that a sheltered little Jewish girl born and raised in Brooklyn, New York (how I could be sheltered and live in Brooklyn I will never know) was in for something as big as this. I didn't even feel tired as I rocketed out of bed and into the dorm living room where my roommate, Martha was sitting.
"Morning, Sandra," she said as she tied up her long, pretty blonde hair with a black ribbon. "Need help packing?"
"I have most of it done already," said I, Sandra Cohen. "Just gotta get dressed and do something decent with my hair. After that, I'm off to the airport!"
"I have to say I'm jealous," said Martha, rolling her blue eyes. "But excited for you too. I mean, just think about it! You're the only photography student selected from any university in California to photograph The Beatles in the making of their new film!"
Yep, you heard right! All of this fuss being put up, all of this excitement, was for me, eighteen-year-old college freshman, Sandra Cohen, to fly to England today, and the Bahamas tomorrow, to shoot photos on site of the filming of The Beatles' second feature film. Of course, I knew when I had been chosen. I had a touch of modesty due to my hate of the common human ego, but I knew I was a very decent photographer for being in my first year of formal training. I'd been working hard for this moment.
"Yeah," I said. "This'll be a big hit for my career, for sure." I grabbed a slice of toast that Martha had hanging out on the dining room table on a plate. "Gotta get dressed now. Hey, Martha, maybe you can help me fix my hair or something, it's a mess already." It was true; my brown hair was a curly, frizzy nightmare all over my head.
"Sure thing," said Martha. I nodded and went back to my room to change out of my pajamas and into something businesslike and professional. I searched through my closet and suitcase for something that would look presentable…nope, that new mini skirt I got outside of the supervision of my Jewish parents that usually had my in a stranglehold would have to wait. Jeans? Too casual. That cute black dress started to look very friendly too, but I settled on a nice, prim, proper pencil skirt, while collared shirt, and blazer, colored grey and oozed professionalism. However, it did absolutely nothing for my appearance with my hair the way it was. I was insistent on making a good impression on the rest of the crew. Yeah, sure The Beatles would be there, but my entire career, if it was starting now, would not revolve around impressing cute boys.
"Okay Martha, I'm ready," I called. Martha came walking into my room, and she must have had some sort of plan, because before I was ready for anything, she slammed my head down onto the ironing board and used the iron to completely straighten my mess of hair.
"Still think it needs more," said Martha, contemplating.
"No, really," I said. "I don't want to look like a go-go girl floosy, I want to look like a professional!"
"Oh Sandra, don't be a square," said Martha. She combed the front of my hair down over the front of my face and took the pair of scissors off of the counter. She snipped away, leaving me with bangs hanging right above my brown eyes. "You see! You want to look your best!"
"I suppose it's better than it was before," I said, admiring my new look. "My mother would murder me if she saw me like this…"
"Well, I think your mother needs to loosen up," said Martha. "You need me to drive you to the airport?"
"Well duh," I said, applying some tasteful eyeliner and mascara. "What do you think I'm gonna do, drive there myself and leave my beloved car in the parking lot for God knows how long? Get a clue, Martha."
"Alright, alright, geez," said Martha. "You gonna wear your glasses?"
"Nah," I said, folding the up and putting them in my little black purse. "I'll just look like any other dorky student. I really want this to work Martha, you have no idea." If I was going to see all of these important high-ups, including The Beatles, I was going to see them in style, even if it meant barely seeing them at all. Without glasses, my vision was pretty fuzzy, but I could still see decently.
"I think I do by now, Sandra," said Martha. "Come on, I'll help you get your bags and we'll be out of here soon enough." Making sure all of my bags were packed and we had all of them, Martha helped me lug them out to her car, one of those clunky, powder blue, Volkswagen Microbuses that were just becoming popular. Martha herself was one of those bohemian children just coming out of the rubble of what had been the early sixties. Her long hair and mostly vacant (but not stupid) expression said it all, most of the time. When the bags were safely in the back seat, Martha and I piled into the front, and she drove off to the airport.
"Now, don't forget about me when you go off to your fortune and fame," said Martha as we neared to the airport. "I love you, my sister."
Ah, well that was the bohemian coming out. "I love you too, Martha," I said. "And trust me, with my parents' training and all, I may as well start to get homesick the second I step onto England soil."
"Don't let that stop ya," said Martha as she pulled into a parking spot. "Well, we're here. I'll help you bring your things in, but after that, I'll leave you to it!"
"Right," I said. Martha and I unloaded her van and dragged them through the parking lot and into the airport. "Man, I can't believe this is actually happening…hey, watch it Martha, you have the bag with my camera!"
"Sorry Sandra," said Martha, who had just lightly bashed the suitcase into the wall after losing balance. "I've got it…now where do we go?"
"Over there," I said, ushering Martha over to the bag checking area.
"Do you set me free after this sister?" asked Martha, putting the bag she was carrying onto the shelf.
"Yeah," I said, doing the same with the other bag. "The other two are carry-ons, ma'am."
"That'll do," said the lady at the desk, loading my bags onto the cart. "Proceed to the next line."
"Guessin' this is goodbye for now," I said, looking at Martha.
"Guessin' so, Sandra," said Martha. "See you when you're famous sister!" She embraced me lightly and planted a kiss on my forehead under my newly cut-by-her bangs. "Don't forget about me now!"
"Unlikely," I called as I walked off. "I'll write, Martha!"
"You better!" Martha called as we parted ways. I soon found myself going through the security line, and into the terminal gate…this was actually happening. It felt so strange to be alone, but so right…through the terminal speakers a song was playing. I listened closely and heard it to be The Beatles' song, "Help!", the title track from the film I was going to photograph. It was a catchy little John Lennon tune. I'm not going to lie, I did enjoy The Beatles very much. I had a chance to see them in concert once last year, and let me tell you, I would have enjoyed it much better if I could actually hear the music over the hysterical screaming teeny-bopper fans. There were many types of Beatles fans; there were of course the screamers, there were the criers (the ones who were just over the screamers in the point of hysterics, either upset that they knew they couldn't get any closer to their dream boys or frustrated that the screamers wouldn't stop screaming), and then the fans that came to hear the music, like me. At the concert I went to, I sat in my seat and attempted to listen. I would have enjoyed it if I could actually hear them. Who knew, I may have a chance to hear them when I got to the set.
Soon, the voice over the loudspeaker began to call the passengers to start boarding the plane. Lucky me, since I was on priority media business, I got into the first group of boarding and, well whaddya know, first class! As I walked down the aisle and behind the curtain to my first class airplane castle, I ignored the dirty looks from old, frazzled businessmen. It was a rather nice looking place, comfy-looking chairs, a larger bathroom, and some rich-looking people. I didn't care to talk to any of them; I just chose a fluffy chair and sat down, looking out the window and waited for the takeoff.
After a moment, another girl, who looked to be my age, came into the first class area. She was a little shorter than my five-foot-five, had dark hair teased up as high as the sky with bangs much like mine, huge brown eyes lined thickly with black, and she was looking right at me.
"Excuse me, miss," she said in a Liverpool accent. "Is anyone sitting next to you?"
"Oh, no, go ahead," I said, gesturing to the empty seat next to me. The girl sat down and I noticed a wedding band on her left ring finger. With her other hand she gently stroked her belly. Was she pregnant and married that young?
"So, what's your name?" she asked, looking up at me.
"Sandra, Sandra Cohen," I said. The girl's eyes got wide, if it was even possible for them to get wider.
"Oh, I was wondering when I was gonna meet you!" said the girl. "You're the photographer for the new Beatles movie, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I am," I said, a little confused. "How do you know all of this? Am I that big yet?"
"Well, no, not just yet…" said the girl apologetically. "It's just that, I'm Maureen Starkey, Ritchie's wife!"
"Ritchie…you mean Ringo?" I asked.
Maureen nodded. "Well, I think 'Ringo's' rather silly," she said. "I call him Ritchie, but still, one and the same."
"Wow," I said. "Well, what are the odds?"
"I'd say fifty-fifty," said Maureen. "So, are you excited to meet them?"
"Yes, I am," I said. "But not as excited as I am to finally start my photography career. This could be big for me!"
"Anyone who works with The Beatles has a big break sooner or later," said Maureen. "That I can tell you."
"I hope you're right," I said.
"So Sandra, where do you come from?" asked Maureen. "Come on now, let's hear your story!"
"Well, Brooklyn, New York, born and raised," I started. "Got into photography when I was quite young, ten or so. I stole my father's camera and went around the house shooting pictures of the cat…I don't think she liked it much."
Maureen giggled and motioned for me to keep on going.
"I was the head photographer for my high school newspaper," I continued. "And well, here I am today. Not much of an epic tale."
"By the end of all of this, I'm sure you'll have quite the epic tale on your plate," said Maureen.
"That's what I'm hoping," I said, looking wistfully out the window. I was really hoping for that…with Mr. and Mrs. Cohen as your parents, adventures were not allowed. I'd never consumed alcohol, smoked a cigarette (or worse, for that matter). I'd had boyfriends, but my dear ol' Jewish parents saw that their hands (and other parts of their body) never went below my shoulders. I had hoped college would help me break loose, but so far nothing had happened to me that made me feel like the legal adult I was. Maybe my parents had the campus bugged…
"Y'know, I've always hated planes," complained Maureen, fidgeting in her seat. "And it doesn't help that little Zak here is on the way…only about a month or so along, but he still makes it painfully obvious."
"Oh, well, congratulations," I said. "How do you know it's a boy so early?"
"Oh, I don't," said Maureen, shrugging. "That's just what Ritchie and I are hoping for!"
"Well, good luck to you both," I said. Maureen did look pretty uncomfortable in her seat, now that I started to pay attention. She also started to look rather pale and sickly. "Hey, Maureen, are you doing okay?"
"Just a little queasy," said Maureen. "Excuse me, Stewardess? Yes, can I please have some ginger ale? Oh, thank you."
"Anything for you, dear?" asked the Stewardess after she handed Maureen her drink.
"Just a coke," I said. I got my drink, and we both sat in silence for a while. I waited until Maureen looked a little better and then asked her, "So…what are they like. You know…The Beatles?"
Maureen smiled. "They're terrific Sandra, all of them, not just Ritchie," she said. "I love them all…except John can be a royal pain in the arse sometimes, but other than that, they're a very enjoyable bunch."
"Good to know," I said. "I'll have to get along with them; I'm going to be around them for quite a while."
"It won't be a problem," said Maureen. "And if they start to get on your nerves, I'll set em straight!" In a way, Maureen was starting to remind me of Martha. Maureen was definitely not a bohemian like Martha, but she was just brimming with personality. I'd probably be getting along with her very well.
"Why, thank you," I said. "Are they all married?"
"Well, Ritchie obviously is," said Maureen with a cutesy look in her eye. "And John is too, but the other two, no. Paul has a girlfriend, but as far as anyone knows, George is the only single one. Why? Looking to nab one up?"
"Oh, no," I said. "Just curious. I'm going to the filming to make a professional image, and I just figure I should know more about the boys as well."
"Trust me, you'll find out plenty about them," said Maureen. "They don't shut up."
I smiled and laughed a little. "Yeah, well, I've seen 'A Hard Day's Night' and all, even though it's not really the real them there."
"It's close enough, believe me," said Maureen. She checked her watch. "Oh my, I'm going to have the worst jetlag in the world. Sandra, when you're pregnant, don't fly, it's the worst thing you can do to yourself."
"I'll make a note of that," I said. Maureen, looking kind of sick again, drifted off to sleep in the next few minutes, and I did the same. I had no idea how much longer was in this flight, and I didn't care…because another flight to The Bahamas was right after this. This trip had better be worth something.