The 36th Annual Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago was held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont on August 10th through 12th. Organizers Mark and Carol Lapidos offered their usual mix of live entertainment, celebrity guests, interviews, art and photography exhibits, and a huge marketplace. The format may be familiar but it’s still fun; a testament to the staying power of The Beatles, as well as those who celebrate them.
WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert, who has long served as The Fest’s Master Of Ceremonies in Chicago, was not around when I went on Saturday. Sadly, her mother Betty passed away on August 12th, so it’s possible Terri was called away to be with her a day or so earlier. Whatever the case, I extend my deepest sympathy to Terri, and I’m sure the Beatles community in Chicago and beyond do as well. Writer/producer Martin Lewis, who usually shares hosting duties with Terri, had much more to do this year, and he handled it well. I’ve always enjoyed Lewis’s style of interviewing. He’s insightful and can get laughs without cutting off his guests or making jokes at their expense.
Singer-guitarist Spencer Davis was also a last minute cancellation, due to illness, and was replaced with former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber. Other guests included sax player, Tom Scott, who played on three George Harrison albums and one Ringo Starr album, in addition to his solo career and acclaimed work with Joni Mitchell. Musician-producer Mark Hudson was back again, to discuss his experiences with numerous famous musicians, including Starr. Later on Saturday night, Juber, Scott, and Hudson were impressive playing with the Beatles tribute band, Liverpool. Also veterans of The Fest, Liverpool are easily one of the best Beatles tribute bands around.
Freda Kelly, the official secretary of the worldwide Beatles fan club for 10 years, and the subject of a new documentary, Good Ol’ Freda made her debut appearance at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. She seemed a bit quiet in her interview with Lewis, but was more outgoing while meeting fans and signing autographs. David Bedford, author of Liddypool, a combination history and guide book, proved to be a friendly and informative source for all things related to The Beatles' home town. I also enjoyed meeting Dublin, Ireland artist Georgina Flood, whose amazing portraits of The Beatles can be purchased as portraits or on t-shirts. I’ve known her through Facebook, and she came across just as charming in person. Eric Cash, another extremely talented artist who specializes in The Beatles, was back once again this year.
Comic artist-writer Sean Ward’s Tomorrow Never Knows book immediately caught my eye, and Ward was happy to sign the copy I purchased. He covers The Beatles’ entire career with 62 pages of clever drawings and dialogue.
Scattered throughout small rooms on the first floor and lower level, there were exhibits like Bob Bonis's The Lost Beatles Photographs; a collection of photographs taken by Ringo Starr’s personal photographer Rob Shanahan; and photos taken by Roger Farrington of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their Double Fantasy recording sessions. A gallery of fan art that would be judged in a contest on the following day. The group of amateur musicians who perform Beatles songs under the stairway to the lower level have gained a loyal following over the years, and they had a lot of people singing along with them on Saturday.