As a 13-year-old New York City schoolgirl, Irene Katz fell in love with The Beatles as did most of her peers. Her favorite was Paul McCartney. When she discovered the group was coming to New York for their first American visit, Irene just had to see them and give them (especially Paul) the chance to see her! What she couldn’t know then was that her face would become one of the most memorable images of American Beatlemania, seen in countless films, documentaries and TV shows.
Knowing that her parents would never allow her to spend all day on the Manhattan streets screaming for an English rock ‘n’ roll group, she cooked up a scheme. She told her parents she was going to stay at a girlfriend’s house, studying Friday night and all day Saturday, but early Saturday morning the girls high-tailed it to the Plaza Hotel and stood screaming words of love towards The Beatles’ rooms, hoping that “The Fab Four” would notice them.
Irene knew she had to stand out from the crowd, so she decided to make a distinctive sign. She thought of a very British expression: “The King is dead, long live the King.” That led her to devise a contemporary adaptation: “Elvis is dead. Long live The Beatles.”
The sign was a standout and drew the attention of TV news crews covering the event, zeroing in on her and making it the lead item that night on the New York City evening news. Consequently, that meant she was busted when her parents saw their daughter on TV. However, that didn’t stop Irene from sneaking out the next day to scream outside the Beatles hotel again.
The following Wednesday (February 12th 1964) Irene saw the Beatles from the decidedly better vantage point in the audience at the group’s debut New York concert at Carnegie Hall.
Time marches on and Irene grew up but never stopped being a Beatles fan. Through the decades, that news footage of the teenaged Irene and her sign continued to be featured in movies, documentaries and TV programs.
Then one day in 2002 she attended a Paul McCartney concert where she suddenly spotted a familiar face right behind Paul as he sang “All My Loving.” There on the giant video screen throughout most of the song was the young Irene Katz in all her Beatlemaniac glory with her memorable sign. As it turns out, McCartney had selected that exact footage for one of the key video montages that plays during his concerts worldwide. So it was that Irene’s teenage fantasy of touring the world with Paul and being with him ever night had actually come true. Today, at 63, the young grandmother is still a Beatles fan and on stage behind Paul at every concert around the world.
Irene Katz will be a special guest at the upcoming 2014 Fest For Beatles Fans, taking place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on February 7th through 9th.