Without the determination, magnetism, vision, good manners, respectable clothes and financial security of Brian Epstein, no one would ever have heard of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. In Liverpool, in December 1961, Brian Epstein met the Beatles in his small office and signed a management deal. The rest may be history, but it's a history that Epstein created, along with a blueprint for all pop groups since.
Out of the public eye, Epstein was flamboyant and charismatic. He drank, gambled compulsively and took drugs to excess. But people remember his wit, charm and capacity to inspire affection and loyalty. That's when he wasn't depressed, even suicidal. Epstein was Jewish in a society filled with anti-Semitism. He was homosexual at a time when it was a crime to be gay, and from his teenage days to the end of his life he suffered arrests, beatings and blackmail--all of which had to be kept secret.
In In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story, Debbie Geller tells the story of Epstein's complicated life through the reminiscences of his friends and family. Based on dozens of interviews--with Paul McCartney, George Martin and Marianne Faithfull, among others--plus many of Epstein's personal diaries, this book uncovers the truth behind the enigmatic young man who unintentionally caused a cultural revolution--and in the process destroyed himself.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Debbie Geller lives in New York City and is a freelance television producer and writer.
Anthony Wall has been the series producer of the Arena documentary series since 1985. He lives in London and is an award-winning director and producer of television and radio.
Debbie Geller (1952-2007) was a BAFTA Award-winning television producer and writer. She is the author of In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story.
Anthony Wall has been the series producer of the BBC Arena documentary series since 1985. He lives in London and is an award-winning director and producer of television and radio. He is the editor of In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story.
Read an Excerpt
Could Try Harder
Stella Canter: My father Isaac was born in Lithuania in a village called Hodan. He arrived in England when he was probably about eighteen or nineteen, somewhere round there. He came to Liverpool and eventually met my mother, who lived in Manchester with her parents. I think my mother was born there but her parents came from abroad also. I think they were from Poland. My mother and father moved to Liverpool when they got married and they had six children. I came very late on, eleven years after my next sister. Harry was the third eldest. I think he was about sixteen years older than me. I had a sister older than him and another brother and then two more sisters between him and me. So I came as rather a shock.
My father was in the furniture trade. He had a furniture shop and he worked very hard. He used to go in exceedingly early and work all the hours that God gave him because in those days, I suppose, that was the only way to make a living and he had six children to support. It was very hard work.
Eventually he bought another shop, which was next to the furniture shop and which he called NEMS. It was a music store and the word NEMS actually stood for North End Music Stores. He made a way through the two shops so that you could get from one to the other. Eventually, they had another shop and two more shops in town also called NEMS.
Rex Makin: Brian's grandfather started the business that was a furniture store. They certainly didn't have much in the way of musical instruments but I suppose they had an odd twang or two.
Harry was born in England. The family lived in Anfield, which was by the football grounds, as a number of families did, and that is why his business was near by in Walton or County Road, the north end of the city.
I think that you might describe the store as very enterprising from someone who recently arrived here and had aspirations for a business progression.
Aunt Stella: Queenie came from Sheffield. She was eighteen and she may have met Harry in Bournemouth on holiday – I'm not absolutely sure. Maybe they met at a dance. I do know that he was absolutely nutty about her; she was very pretty and they were very much in love. Then they got engaged and eventually married.
I know that Queenie was eighteen when they got married in 1933. So Harry must have been twenty-eight, twenty-seven, because I have a picture in my mind of my brother at twenty-seven. For me he was always twenty-seven.
Rex Makin: The route from the City upwardly was from the centre. You started off with the gentry living in Sefton Park and from Sefton Park people moved up to Colderstones, Childwall and Mossley Hill.
Harry and Queenie definitely moved up in the world when they moved to Queens Drive. They lived at 197. I later moved next door at 199. The particular stretch of Queens Drive that we lived in might be described as the Bishops Avenue of Liverpool. Prestigious people lived here and the houses were somewhat above the normal standard for the age. It grew from the late twenties onwards and you can see by the architecture how it developed. We lived in the better, if I may call it the swisher part.
The dual carriageway wasn't always here. When I came to live here forty years ago there was a single carriageway. There were two lines of what appeared to be forest trees. When the city chopped all the trees down and they made a dual carriageway, the whole character was changed.
Aunt Stella: They built their home for themselves. They lived on Queens Drive. It was a detached house with five bedrooms and plenty of living rooms and so forth. It was very nice indeed. A lovely garden.
I thought it was a beautiful house and I suppose they did too. In those days that house was not as it is now. Queens Drive is now a very built-up area but it wasn't when they first built the house. There wasn't very much around there at all really when they first moved there. It was pretty open. I think their house was probably the last house along the road there. Now there's a big pub on the corner and there are other houses and shops very close by, but they weren't there then.
Uncle Meier: Harry and Queenie took continental holidays – that was highly unusual. I didn't see the South of France or, should I say, the Mediterranean until I was in the forces. We couldn't afford holidays in the South of France in those days but I think Harry and Queenie probably could because at that time Harry was in business with his father and his elder brother, Leslie. Of course they had quite a business in Liverpool and probably could afford a holiday in the South of France where we lesser mortals couldn't.
Rex Makin: They were very well known and very well respected and took their part in the local community. Harry was involved with Green Bank Drive Synagogue where he was a regular worshipper. He was also one of the founders of the Old Age Home and became a treasurer.
Aunt Stella: Brian was born a year after Harry and Queenie were married and actually he was born on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That was 19 September. I presume it was in 1934. Then two years later Clive came along and they were a very happy family. It looked in those days that the Epsteins were a golden family, quite like a fairy story. Unfortunately, later on things became very sad.
Joe Flannery: Brian's father was in the retail furniture business. My father made furniture for Brian's father's business and of course that's how we knew each other. Two young lads, their fathers in the business and we came together.
I would be taken to Brian's house in Anfield Road. He had a nursery, of course, which I didn't. He had nice toys. I only had wooden toys that my father would make from scrap.
Brian had an advanced copy, I should think it was, of the Coronation coach that would be coming out for the forthcoming Coronation of our present-day Queen's mother and father. I fell in love with this coach because it was made of tin. It would have been about seven or eight inches long but it had six white horses, this beautiful little copy of the Coronation coach, and I liked it very much.
Of course, children like to take things home with them or borrow them, or, as we said, have a lend. I said, 'Can I lend this?' The answer was definitely not. You could feel the tension, or probably Brian's mother could feel the tension between us because she did ask, 'What's the matter?' and I said, 'Well, I want to lend Brian's Coronation coach.' She said, 'Lend it to Joseph. It can't come to any harm.' But it immediately did come to harm because he put a stop to it. His foot went right onto the coach part and trampled it.
Aunt Stella: I would think he was quite an old-fashioned little boy really. Both Clive and Brian were exceedingly well brought up. They were very polite. Perhaps they were little rascals at home but certainly when they were out they were very well behaved when they used to come to my parents' home, or anyone else's home for that matter. I think people used to say, 'They're lovely little boys.' They were always very nice.
I remember once chatting to him. I think I was baby-sitting and he was on his bed. He must have only been about seven or eight and he said, 'Tell me, Auntie, how is Mrs so and so?' He sounded like a little old man. I thought it was very funny.
BRIAN EPSTEIN'S SCHOOLS
– Prestatyn Nursery School, North Wales
Evacuation to various parts of Wales and the North of England during the war years caused my education to be disastrously broken.
In 1944 I returned with my family to our home in Liverpool and I started out at my fifth school, Liverpool College. It was planned that I should complete my entire education here, passing from the lower to upper school. After approximately a year I was expelled for being a lazy pupil, unwilling to pay attention and concentrate in the classroom.
A design for a theatrical programme which I had drawn in a mathematics period was produced as evidence. When my mother, distressed and weeping, pleaded with the headmaster that I should be given another term, he replied, 'Madam, we have no room here for your problem child.' It was known that anti-Semitism was an important factor.
At that time I feel sure I could not have worried greatly on my own behalf but I have no doubt that I felt the effect of my family's distress.
Much later, in a course of psychoanalysis I discovered that it was at this school, following my expulsion, that I can first remember my feeling for other male persons and a longing for a close and intimate friend on an entirely platonic and emotional level.
BRIAN EPSTEIN, A MEMOIR
Uncle Meier: At Brian's bar mitzvah, which was held at Green Bank Drive Synagogue, I found he knew his party piece, and his performance was very able and very competent. He was obviously well educated in Hebrew and Hebrew liturgy. Later on at the reception I also got the strong impression that he had a degree of refinement and culture which was unusual in a boy of his age and he had a good deal of self-assurance. It did occur to me that he was going places, even then. I felt that he was going to make a mark somewhere, even at the day of his bar mitzvah.
He appeared different and he was different in the sense that he'd acquired a sort of style about him which was absent in other people in their young years. I can't exactly say exactly what it was, how it came out, but he certainly spoke beautifully. He had a great deal of charm.
I was next sent to a Jewish Preparatory School in the South of England. Here I spent an occasionally happy and normal period although I was considered somewhat backward in my studies. The matter of always attaining low marks, being bottom of the class and receiving poor reports and other factors contributed to my thinking of myself even then as a failure, dullard and inferior person.
As I could not pass the examination for a major public school, I was finally accepted at a minor public school in the south-west. The school was a singularly fortunate choice in that I found the progressive and new ideas of the school (a greater degree of freedom was one of these) very suitable.
Naturally my first term at a public school was slightly marred by the ragging – being a Jew and not showing a great keenness for sport, the boys had good enough reason for my persecution. However, even amidst all this I found myself taking a serious interest in painting and thus deriving great pleasure. I was keen and encouraged. My work was considered extremely promising. To my delight a number of my works were bought by members of the staff.
In my second term, my academic studies showed signs of improvement. This, I think, came from a new-born confidence I found in myself. I even began to play games and tasted the delights of congratulation from friends after a successful sprint or a game of football. By my third term, I had acquired respect from both friends and teachers. For the first time in my life (and the last) I was not made to feel ashamed of being. I began to think for myself. The first half of that third term was, I think, perhaps the only content period in my life.
Rex Makin: The Jewish community in Liverpool is a very old community. It's the oldest outside London and has a very rich tradition. Liverpool is a cosmopolitan city and not particularly anti-Semitic. We have the terrible sectarian business between the Catholics and the Protestants but it didn't really matter so far as Jews were concerned whether you were a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew.
Derek Taylor: The stratification of Liverpool society was plain to see and everybody knew it. You'd hear phrases like 'Jew Boy' from people of my father's generation who had a Victorian to Edwardian childhood. Anti-Semitism had always been there, but it wasn't that bad.
There were an awful lot of Jews in Liverpool at various levels, showbusiness and trade, and they were perfectly assimilated. It was always cosmopolitan. There wasn't a lot of racism either. There were a lot of people who were treasured because they were different. The Chinese were treasured because they brought a lot of colour into Liverpool life. There were a lot of Chinese restaurants, opium dens and things that seemed exciting.
In those days it was still such a big port, much in decline, but there were still a lot of liners coming in and going out.
Rex Makin: Brian's feelings about his Jewishness were ambivalent. His second name was Samuel but he rather disliked that, although today it's very fashionable to have a biblical name. He did not have an affinity with Jewish matters, whatever the cause was. I believe it was because he was the subject of anti-Semitism at school and perhaps other places as well. It gave him a kind of inferiority complex.
He went to a minor public school and I think there was endemic anti-Semitism there, as was the fashion, and misfortune perhaps, of that age.
At half term, my parents, who suspected with dislike both the school and the artistic element around me, phoned to say they had managed to have me accepted at Wrekin College, a wonderfully modern and clean public school nearer home in the north. Recently referring to a diary which I kept at the time, in a preface to the year 1949, I found I had written in reference to the forthcoming term at another, my ninth, school, 'I go only for my parents' pleasure.' Even then I realized how wrong this arrangement was and I regret that those words have a malicious sound. But I do not condemn or blame my parents for this or for anything else encouraging my upbringing. Their wrongdoings were committed unknowingly and with the best intentions and with love and devotion. And whilst the result, myself today, says little for the good of my upbringing, who can say with certainty that I was not born with a disability unfit for society to tolerate?
My wonderful new school proved to be fair enough. Lack of encouragement lessened the time spent at my easel. Games were the rule of the day. I enjoyed these at times and played with a fair degree of success. I disliked the fact that, as I then thought, my time for painting, acting and listening to music should be wasted in such frippery. Loneliness and lack of friends (which are two different things) entered my life to stick. I can remember endless turmoil and debate in my mind that I should need to 'walk to tea alone' whilst the other boys passed by laughing and joking in twos and fours. And later, on the not so infrequent occasions I was with another boy, I invented stories to prove my non-existent popularity.
After the first three weeks of my sixth term, I wrote a long letter to my father telling him that I had decided to become an actor and that I wished to train in London. I added that I hoped he would understand and that I was sorry to disappoint him by not going into the family business. A week later he came to tell me this was impossible and that it would be stupid to give up going into the business and security. I was furious and in a rage of temper demanded that I should leave school at the end of the term. As I was only being educated for business life I saw no purpose suffering any longer at school. My parents argued with me and asked me to stay on but I was stubborn and left at the end of term.
Joe Flannery: Brian and I were of different faiths so naturally we were friends through the businesses but we didn't meet socially or through school or anything like that. So there was a big time lapse between when we first met with the Coronation coach and Brian going to public school and things like that. We didn't meet for quite a long time but then I took a shop on a road further along from the Epstein shop. It would have been about half a mile away and I got a bit curious, because now I'm a young a man and I've got my own business, and I went along to see the Epsteins. Mr Epstein said to me, 'You remember Brian, don't you?' I said, 'Oh yes.' I didn't forget my young adolescent days.
Going back a little bit further, I was working in the Adelphi Hotel as a commis waiter in the French restaurant there. I wanted to go away to sea like the rest of my mother's family did and I had to have some experience in silver-service waiting. One night, I was delighted to re-meet with Brian who was out with his mum, dad and his brother Clive having Friday night dinner. I was allowed to wait on them with bread rolls.
I wasn't allowed to do any silver service because I was only learning but Brian said to me 'Please don't stand at the table talking to me because my mother doesn't like it,' which I was too young or naïve to protest. I would probably say to myself today: servants or waiters can't stand talking to the élite, because that's what they were. They were like nobility to me and I really liked to watch them and mix with them. For him to say to me, 'Don't stand talking to me,' didn't upset me. I just immediately said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I won't do that.'
Excerpted from "In My Life"
Copyright © 2000 BBC.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Table of Contents
1. Could Try Harder,
2. A Magic World,
3. Prodigal Son,
4. Love Me Do,
5. The World Comes to Liverpool,
6. Big-time Operator,
7. The Talk of the Town,
8. Private Lives,
9. Uncharted Waters,
10. High Stakes,
11. The Fire This Time,
12. Uppers and Downers,
13. All You Need Is Love,