In 1965, the entire world had gone insane, over a group of musicians from England called The Beatles. They were scheduled to fly to New York and appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, a weekly variety program that featured everything from vaudeville acts to slapstick comedy to operatic arias to rock music. If what you did was remotely entertaining, regardless of what it was, it could be on the Ed Sullivan show.
This show was so popular it made total sense to have the Beatles appear on this venue, their first in the US. First of all, it aired live and secondly, pretty much everyone in North America with a TV set was already watching it every week. So…bring on the Beatles!
The country just flipped upside down, and, “Beatlemania” gripped the nation. Their music was all over the radio. Disc jockeys kept a running countdown of when the show would broadcast, and, used the phrase “Beatle Time” to add emphasis, not that it was needed. Insanity ruled the day and everything was Beatles.
Thousands of screaming teenage girls, flooded the streets below their hotel, begging for them to come out. John Lennon was actually married at the time, and, some girls interviewed were hoping his wife would die so that they could marry him. Brutal, of course, but they were crazed over these Beatles!
Me? – I could care less. Seriously, I didn’t know who they were and didn’t want to know. Nothing about them interested me, so, I continued to wander about the world in my innocent adolescent haze, dreaming about ponies, fire flies and fairy cottages in the woods.
Generally, when the Ed Sullivan show came on, I was asleep already. Sometimes my parents would let me stay up to watch something special they thought was appropriate for me. Any time a little character was scheduled to appear on the show, named Topo Gigio, I was allowed to watch. I LOVED Topo Gigio!
He was a tiny, naïve, sweet, adorable, cute Italian mouse. His name, Topo Gigio translated to Louie Mouse, and he had been created by an artist named Maria Perego. His voice was comical and sweet. Guiseppe “Peppino” Mazzullo was the talent behind that aspect of this little character.
To me though, he was not a puppet, he was as real as real can be.
Whenever he would appear on the show, he would be on his own little stage, set up off the floor so that Ed Sullivan could interact with him. He was tiny, maybe 5 or 6 inches tall with chubby cheeks and round ears way up high on his head. He’d wear the most adorable little costumes and I was entranced the entire time. He'd saunter over to Ed Sullivan and say “Hello Eddie” in that soft, squeaky voice of his.
They chatted about all kinds of things like art and music. Whatever they talked about always had Topo saying funny things because of his naiveté about the world that made the audience, and me, laugh. It was all part of his charm.
After they nattered for a few minutes, Topo would yawn and his little bed would appear behind him on his pint-size stage. Oh so shyly, he would ease his way over to Eddie and ask him for a kiss, nearly trembling he was so bashful, then sweet, little Topo would slide into his tiny bed and drift off to sleep.
I was so enthralled. I LOVED Topo and every time I saw him on the show, I would beg my parents to take me to New York to meet him. Their response was always the same.
I’m still waiting.
Anyway, the night was approaching for the Beatles to appear on the show. LIVE!
My parents had said nothing to me about being able to stay up and watch it, which I thought was odd, since these Beatles seemed so important to everyone. But, no, I was ushered off to bed, and I did as told, until they walked away. My brothers and sisters and I (at that time, 5 of us) lived on the bottom floor of the house. Upstairs, in the civilized world, was where my parents lived.
We had this cool recreation room, filled with toys and stuff to make forts and books and our own TV. I stayed in bed long enough, in the dark, with my bedroom door cracked open, until I could hear the opening music for The Ed Sullivan show.
Quietly, in the dark, I crept down the hall, and, hid behind the door. I had a clear view of the TV through the crack between the door and wall. My older brother and sister were watching and thankfully oblivious to me being there.
The show droned on and on. I nearly dozed off a few times and then, finally, it was time for the Beatles!
Now, wide awake, and pressed up against that crack to see the TV and Ed Sullivan as clearly as possible he pointed with his arm, swinging it off to the left. The camera followed it, one of his trademark moves, and then, there they were.
The Fab Four burst into song and shook their heads making waves about their faces with the long locks.
My mouth was hanging open. What the hell was this crap!?
Oh my God, I was HORRIFIED! Who were these goofballs, dancing and singing and gyrating about? These couldn’t be the Beatles!
But it was them.
I finished watching, just mortified, then crept back to my bed in the dark feeling robbed and defeated. This just wasn’t right.
All day long I had planned to hide and watch them, because, I knew for certain, they would be just like Topo Gigio. In fact, I am sure they were friends and Topo might even be there with them. I pictured them as being 5 or 6 inches tall with big funny boots, clomping about while they did a clumsy, comical tap dance. They would have cute little hats which they would tip to Eddie and the audience. Why wouldn’t they? They were little “beetles”.
It was going to be so wonderful.
Over time I forgave Eddie and grew to like some of the songs the Beatles did. Topo eventually disappeared from the show, and, my hazy dreams of ponies and fireflies were gradually replaced with boys. The memory though of what I was sure the Beatles would look like is still as solid as ever in my mind.
Now, wouldn’t that have been something to see…singing and dancing beetles from a littles girl’s imagination. I know Topo would have loved it.