- Timeline More from year 1966
- Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila, Philippines
More from year 1966
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When we left Manila The Beatles and most of our touring party felt lucky to have escaped with our lives in the wake of horrendous scenes of carefully orchestrated violence and bitter hostility directed against us at the airport.Tony Barrow – From “John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story” by Tony Barrow, 2006
The day before, The Beatles had played their two concerts in Manilla. They also didn’t join an invitation by the Philippines’ First Lady, Imelda Marcos, because of miscommunication within their entourage. On this day, they awoke to chaotic scenes as a result of the misunderstanding, and were threatened when leaving the country to fly to India (where they expected to spend a few days relaxing before travelling back to London).
The Beatles woke up early on 5 July in readiness for their flight to Delhi in India. After their requests for room service had gone unanswered, Evans went down to reception and found that all security protection inside the hotel had disappeared. The morning newspapers carried front-page stories condemning the Beatles for their failure to attend the engagement at Malacañang Palace. The tour party faced further intimidation initiated by Marcos loyalists. The Bureau of Internal Revenue presented a tax bill on the band’s concert earnings, which were still held by Ramos; this was despite a stipulation in NEMS’ contract with Cavalcade that any such tax would be paid by the local promoter. All assistance from the hotel staff was withdrawn, as was any police escort through the city traffic, leaving Epstein to call ahead and plead with the pilot of their KLM flight to delay his takeoff. On the way to the airport, their Filipino drivers appeared to forget the route; in another example of what Aspinall termed “obstacles [put] in our way”, a soldier sent their cars repeatedly around the same traffic roundabout.
“You treat like ordinary passenger! Ordinary passenger!” they were saying. We were saying: “Ordinary passenger? He doesn’t get kicked, does he?” – John Lennon, recalling the treatment the Beatles received at Manila Airport after inadvertently snubbing the Marcos regime
In Peter Brown’s description, when they arrived at the airport, it resembled an “armed military camp”. Aside from a heavy army presence, hundreds of irate citizens lined the path into the terminal building, where they harassed and jostled the tour party as each member walked by. Inside the terminal, on the instructions of Willy Jurado, the airport manager, the escalators had been turned off, and the band and their entourage were denied any assistance with musical instruments, amplifiers and luggage. The crowd from outside the building were then permitted into a glass-walled observation area, from which they continued their haranguing of the Beatles. The tour party moved into a large departure lounge, where uniformed men and others that Harrison recognised as the “thugs” from their arrival in Manila, began beating and kicking them, moving them from one corner of the room into another. Jurado later bragged about knocking Epstein to the ground and punching Lennon and Starr in the face, adding: “That’s what happens when you insult the First Lady.” Along with Alf Bicknell, Evans received a particularly thorough bashing after he intervened to shield the four band members from their attackers.
The tour party were finally allowed to board the aircraft. According to Barrow, the harassment continued as they crossed the tarmac leading to the steps up to the plane. Some of the band’s fans were also present; when they expressed sympathy for the Beatles, they too attracted scorn from the mob. McCartney recalled that, such was their relief once inside the cabin, “We were all kissing the seats.” An announcement then called Epstein off the plane to finalise the unpaid tax demand. Barrow and Evans were also told to disembark. After their passport irregularities had been sorted out, they both re-boarded and the plane was able to take off. Lewis then got into a heated argument with Epstein regarding the concert takings. Epstein admonished Lewis for focusing on money, given the ordeal they had all just endured, and asked him: “Who was it that screwed up the party invitation?”
“Beatles Held for Taxes: BIR detains rich mopheads”, screamed the front page of the Daily Mirror on July 5, 1966. Revenue Commis-sioner Misael P. Vera warned that The Beatles would not be allowed to leave at 3:30 p.m., as scheduled, “unless they pay the income tax they realized from their performance yesterday.” The income tax liability was estimated at P22,000.
At eight in the morning, a representative of the Bureau of Internal Revenue arrived at the Manila Hotel, bearing an envelope for Brian Epstein. The bill was said to be for $80,000.00. Vic Lewis, who had negotiated the contract with Cavalcade International, was dispatched to explain matters to the taxman. He explained that under the contract and all contracts between The Beatles and local promoters, it was always the local promoter who would shoulder all income taxes connected with the tour, whoever is assessing it. Vic Lewis failed to convince. He called Epstein and suggested that they leave the country pronto. Epstein agreed. He just needed to wait for the share from the gate receipts from Cavalcade International. No one from Cavalcade International arrived with an envelope for Brian Epstein.
The boys were awake. They ordered breakfast from room service. When no trays of food arrived, they sent their road manager Malcolm Evans, to see what was holding breakfast. There was not a Manila Hotel employee in sight when Evans arrived at the lobby. When finally someone appeared at the front desk, he gruffly announced that there was no more room service for the Beatles.
[Meanwhile Paul McCartney and George Harrison were interviewed by the Manila Times.]
There remained a throng of die-hard fans waiting at a cool distance near the Manila Hotel. They would have no doubt jumped at the chance to help The Beatles unload their 60 pieces of luggage from their suites and load them into their cars. The hotel bellhops and porters had vanished. Barrow hailed the driver of the baggage truck as “the last adult in Manila loyal to our cause.” Epstein was concerned that their plane, the New Delhi-bound KLM Flight 862, would be forced to depart without them. He called the KLM office and asked to speak directly to the pilot by skyphone. He pleaded with the pilot not to leave them stranded in the Philippines. The pilot promised he would wait as long as he could.
John described the ominous ride to Manila International Airport: “All along the route to the airport, there were people waving at us, but I could also see a few old men who were booing us. There was a group of monkeys, you can’t call them anything else, waiting for us as we were to fly out of the country.” The old men had always been against them. During their first American tour in 1964, the reviews they received from the Sinatra generation were brutish. The talk show host David Susskind called them: “The most repulsive group of men I’ve ever seen.” The right-wing icon William F. Buckley said: “Not merely awful, but so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical…that they qualify as the crowned heads of anti-music.”
In the Daily Mirror, Airport General Manager Guillermo Jurado said that there would be no special security arrangements for The Beatles. “They will get what they deserve,” warned the airport manager, like a godfather announcing that the once-favored son no longer had his protection. When the Beatles arrived at the airport, the escalators had been turned off. The group was slowed down as they lugged their equipment. Several teenaged fans were present to send off their idols, but they were overshadowed and over-shouted by a mob of an indeterminate number of non-fans. “Beatles alis diyan, Beatles go home!” the mob shouted. “Nakakahiya kayo!” the fans would scream back, in near tears.
Who comprised this mob of Beatle-haters? D.C. Dayao of the Manila Chronicle, (owned by the family of Marcos’s then-Vice President, Fernando Lopez) claimed, “[t]he crowd consisted of youths and elders who happened to be at the airport to see or meet some passengers. There was no previous announcement of the mopheads’ departure or the plane they would take.” Balderdash. Jean Pope of the Sunday Times Magazine said that the airport mob stood as proof “that the Filipinos worship their First Lady.” Gag. Ringo figured that “[t]hey were most probably customs men, because they were all wearing the same clothes and carried guns.” Neil Aspinall recalled that the thugs had been wearing Hawaiian shirts; the same sartorial trademark of many a populist Filipino politician. The hundreds of security forces who two days earlier had escorted the Fab Four into Manila were missing, but maybe they still remained on The Beatles detail.
This was the first time The Beatles were inside the Manila International Airport, as they had bypassed the terminal when they arrived two days earlier. Those who wanted to harm The Beatles were stationed at every exit of the customs/immigration area and the quarantine area that every ordinary passenger had to pass through. The mob stalked the entourage at every nook of the airport. Paul remembered, “We got pushed about from one corner of the lounge to another.” Brian Epstein, Vic Lewis, Tony Barrow, Neil Aspinall, Peter Brown and Mal Evans all banded together to protect the boys at all costs. Someone kicked at Epstein, he fell down, his ankle seemingly sprained. He also received a punch in the face. Mal Evans was kicked in the ribs; he was bloodied by the time he got to the plane.
John heard someone in the crowd exclaim that The Beatles were being treated just like any ordinary passenger. He reacted in disbelief. “‘Ordinary passengers? What? He doesn’t get kicked, does he?” D.C. Dayao of the Manila Chronicle reported that Ringo was able to duck a punch, just before he, George, and John made it past the immigration area. Paul had already sprinted ahead of everyone else.
“I’m sure nobody got badly hurt, but that was because we didn’t fight back,” Neil Aspinall said. “If we had fought back it could have been very bad. It was very, very scary, and nothing like this had ever happened before—and nothing like it has ever happened since.”
Vic Lewis said, “I remember running across the tarmac with my hand on my back, thinking that if a bullet hit me, it wouldn’t hurt me so much…It looked like a battleground.” Seventeen years later, a man did get shot at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, the political opponent Ferdinand Marcos feared the most.
The group had already boarded the plane and was awaiting their Argo-style escape when an ominous message pierced through the loudspeakers. “Mr. Tony Barrow and Mr. Malcolm Evans must return to the departure building.” The publicist and the road manager deplaned, uncertain of their fates. “Tell [my wife] Lil I love her,” Evans asked the rest of the group, only maybe in jest. Nine years later, the cops did shoot Malcolm Evans dead, but those were Los Angeles cops and Evans was holding an air rifle when he was shot. He had left Lil by then.
It turned out there was a plausible excuse for holding Barrow and Evans. Since The Beatles entourage had not gone through the normal immigration procedure when they had arrived, the papers of Barrow and Evans had yet to be processed. Perhaps they could have been detained further if the Marcoses wanted to. By this time though, Benjamin Romualdez was at the airport, deployed to take charge and end the drama. He would later hold court at his own embassy in Washington D.C. as Philippine Ambassador to the United States, but then, he was powerful enough simply as Imelda’s brother. Romualdez confronted one of the goons at the airport, telling him to let the Beatles be. He was not listened to, not even after the man was told that he was talking to somebody from Malacañang. “I do not give a heck whoever you are.” Then someone told the agitator, “He is Romualdez, the President’s brother-in-law.” As the Manila Chronicle reported: “A look of awe came over the youth who [slided] away.”
They remained unnerved in the plane while waiting for Barrow and Evans to return. Epstein was hurting, bleeding. Vic Lewis came over. Did Brian get their share of the gate receipts? That’s nearly 50 percent of the performance fee, you know. Epstein erupted at Lewis. “Is that all you can think of, Vic? Bloody money at a time like this?” Lewis was having none of it from Epstein, all of this was Brian’s fault. He may have been the advance man charged with arranging the on-the-ground arrangements, but he believed it was Brian who had screwed up the invitation. He charged at Brian, “I’ll fucking kill you!” The others had to separate them. Lewis and Epstein barely spoke to each other again, but within a year, it was Vic who replaced Brian as managing director of NEMS Enterprises. Vic Lewis did get his own “Mister Brian Epstein,” honored by Her Royal Highness, The Queen in 2007, two years before his own death at age 89.
At 4:45 in the afternoon, with Barrow and Evans on board, The Beatles soared over the Manila runway. There was applause. George quipped: “The only way I’d ever go back to that place would be to drop a dirty big bomb on it.” He never did become zen about the Philippines. “He tried to kill us, President Marcos,” George would remind the NBC Today audience in 1986, after the dictator’s villainy had garnered global attention. “We did snub [the First Family],” he now could admit. […]
Just after eight that morning a man in a shiny suit carrying a brown briefcase came to deliver an envelope for Brian Epstein: ‘Here is your bill for the income tax due on The Beatles’ fee.’ Our contract with Cavalcade, as with most concert promoters outside the UK, was very precise on the matter of local taxes. The responsibility for payment belonged with the promoter. Ramon Ramos Jr was contractually liable for the settlement of any tax bills. But the taxman insisted that the full fee was taxed as earnings regardless of any other contracts. His words were confirmed by the Manila Daily Mirror headline: BEATLES TOLD: PAY NOW, LEAVE LATER. The newspapers carried hostile headlines such as FURORE OVER BEATLES SNUB DAMPENS SHOW and IMELDA STOOD UP: FIRST FAMILY WAITS IN VAIN FOR MOPHEADS. According to a palace spokesperson, The Beatles had ‘spit in the eye of the First Family.’ It was also reported quite erroneously that The Beatles had requested an audience with Imelda Marcos in the first place, the one press story that brought forth hollow laughter from the boys.Tony Barrow – From “John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story” by Tony Barrow, 2006
The next morning someone brought in a newspaper, and on the front it just said in massive letters: BEATLES SNUB PRESIDENT. Oh dear! ‘Well, we didn’t mean to,’ we thought. We’ll just say we’re sorry. We were scheduled to leave Manila that morning, and as we were leaving the hotel everyone was a bit nasty at reception, so we had to scuffle out as if we hadn’t paid our bill.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
We got down to the airport and found they’d turned the escalators off. So we had to walk up the escalators. ‘What’s wrong?’ – ‘We don’t know – were not sure.’ ‘Would someone take the luggage, then? There don’t appear to be any luggage people around.’ It was a case of, ‘Carry your own luggage.’ All right – let’s get out of here, then, if that’s what it’s going to be. Behind a huge plate-glass window, the sort they have in airports, and on the taxi rank outside there were all the Filipino taxi guys banging on the window – and we’re all going ‘gibber, gibber’.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
We were quite frightened. Most of the aggression (luckily for us) was directed towards our people. I think Alf got thrown down the stairs violently by one of them. But mostly it wasn’t overt – though they were annoyed.
We felt a bit guilty, but we didn’t feel it was our cock-up. Now, knowing more about the regime, what I think is that they had ignored our telling them we weren’t coming: ‘Let them just try and not come – we’ll make it difficult for them.’
There was a group of nuns in the corner of the airport, and when all the fisticuffs broke out, and with the taxi drivers behind the plate-glass window, we went over to the nuns. (It was rather a nice little shot – nuns and Beatles in the corner. We had a lot in common in many ways: black outfits, and little groups obviously in the same mould.) We stood behind them: ‘You’ll have to get through them to get to us. You’ll have to get through them, mate.’
They didn’t actually protect us; they just stood there looking a bit bemused. Whenever they moved, we moved the other side of them.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
We were taken to the airport from the hotel, I think, in five or four cars.I was in a car with Alf Bicknell and with someone else I don’t remember now. We had guns pointing at us. I think The Beatles in their car had the same thing. We got to the airport. Normally, The Beatles were taken straight to the airplane but as I remember, they had to queue up, present their tickets, which they didn’t have with them. All the time, the people at the airport were getting very violent towards The Beatles. Paul, or Ringo, I don’t remember, had got a beautiful chess set in Tokyo, someone hit it and smashed it all over the floor. He was very upset by that. Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, all of us who were not Beatles, were trying to protect them, stop them being hit. It was terrifying actually because the police would do nothing. Finally we got on the plane and none of us said a word, just “Get the fucking airplane off the ground.” Yeah,it’s true. Once it was in the air,phew! We said we would never get back to Manila!Robert Whitaker – Photographer – From Beatlefan #108, Sept-Oct 1997
When The Beatles joined us, Filipino thugs, some in military uniform, closed in on our party from all sides. Guns were brandished and fired into the air, makeshift cudgels and coshes were waved in our faces. Someone shouted in English that The Beatles were not special and deserved to be treated just like ordinary passengers. John said: ‘Ordinary passengers? They don’t get kicked and thumped, do they?’ There was no alternative but to run the gauntlet of the menacing mob. Brian Epstein was punched in the face and kicked in the groin. The roadies got the worst of it. Mal Evans was kicked in the ribs and tripped up but he staggered on across the tarmac towards the aircraft with blood streaming down one leg. We did our best to shield John, Paul, George and Ringo from direct blows. Vic Lewis and I were the last to go. He held an open hand across his back saying it might protect his spine from a sniper’s bullet.Tony Barrow – From “John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story” by Tony Barrow, 2006
When we got on the plane, we were all kissing the seats. It was feeling as if we’d found sanctuary. We had definitely been in a foreign country where all the rules had changed and they carried guns. So we weren’t too gung-ho about it at all.
Then the announcement came over. Tony Barrow had to go back into the lion’s den, and they made him pay an amazing airport-leaving Manila tax that I think they just dreamed up. Strangely enough, I think it came to the same amount as the receipts for the trip. I think that was the story.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
I remember when we got back home a journalist asked George, ‘Did you enjoy it?’ And he said, ‘If I had an atomic bomb I’d go over there and drop it on them.’
It was an unfortunate little trip, but the nice thing about it was that in the end (when we found out what Marcos and Imelda had been doing to the people, and the rip-off that the whole thing allegedly was) we were glad to have done what we did. Great! We must have been the only people who’d ever dared to snub Marcos. But we didn’t really know what we were doing politically until many years laterPaul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
As soon as KLM flight 862 aircraft rose up from the runway at 4.45pm that afternoon our entire party broke into spontaneous applause. George leant across the aisle between his seat and mine and said to me: ‘The only way I’d ever go back to that place would be to drop a dirty big bomb on it.’ Paul asked me if I had recorded Brian’s television statement and if so could he hear it. I told him: ‘I have it on a cassette. You can hear the newsreader’s introduction but the rest is a blur. They blotted out the whole of Brian’s explanation.’ Before Paul left the Manila Hotel in a typical gesture of PR goodwill on behalf of the group, he did a radio interview apologising for The Beatles’ failure to meet Imelda Marcos and saying that they knew nothing of her lunch party. At all times, even in adverse conditions, Paul carried an ample supply of oil for pouring onto troubled waters. Back home in London he gave the press a graphic account of our departure: ‘We were being pushed and banged around from one corner to another. With the escalators switched off we couldn’t go anywhere very fast. When they started knocking over our road managers everyone was falling all over the place. I swear there were at least 30 of them surrounding us.’ George had the final word. Asked on his arrival in London what was next on the group’s agenda he replied with only the merest a hint of a smile: ‘We’re going to have a couple of weeks to recuperate before we go and get beaten up by the Americans.’Tony Barrow – From “John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story” by Tony Barrow, 2006
From PhilStar, October 9, 2011:
[…] Was Mrs. Marcos really behind the unwelcome treatment the Beatles were given upon departure as alleged by most books and Beatle historians? Although Mrs. Marcos is a personal friend and has graced my concerts and dinners, I never had the guts to ask her about the real score with The Beatles […] I mustered all my guts and asked Mrs. Marcos the big question that has put me in quandary for decades: Did she have anything to do with The Beatles manhandling issue? I expected a negative reaction but I was pleasantly surprised when she reacted otherwise and started narrating about the incident. So after 45 years, Mrs. Marcos is setting the record straight with the following statements:
“Being a big fan of The Beatles, I made representation with the Philippine promoter to invite them to lunch at Malacañang Palace so that I can personally welcome them to our country together with my family and friends who are also big fans. Honestly, I was disappointed with their non-appearance but later understood that there was a miscommunication and bore no grudges.
“When I heard they were being manhandled at the airport on their departure, I immediately ran to the airport to have it stopped. I remember reprimanding the airport manager Mr. Willy Jurado.
“I would never dream of hurting the world’s No. 1 band. Whatever motivated the people to treat them that way was not my doing. They could have done it out of sympathy and I think it was wrong. I abhor violence.” […]Danee Samonte
LENNON: I thought I was going to get hurt — so I headed for the monks!
JOHN LENNON summed up the Beatles’ feelings about the Manila affair when he said back in London on Friday: “No plane’s going to go through the Philippines with me on it. I wouldn’t even fly over it.“
At a 6.30 a.m. Press conference at London Airport the Beatles described the most terrifying experience of their career when they walked the gauntlet of Filipinos at Manila Airport. The Filipinos thought the Beatles insulted the President’s wife by not attending a reception she gave for them. But, explained the Beatles, they were NEVER INVITED!
PAUL jeering and jostling at the airport was the work of a group of troublemakers and not the thousands of fans who saw them off.
“There were about thirty of these thugs, some of them with guns, waiting for us, and it was very obvious they were trying to get us,” he went on. “They were pushing us around and chauffeur, Alf Bicknell, ww pushed over on his back. I WAS FRIGHTENED — AND SAD, I THOUGHT ‘WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, YOU IDIOTS?’ — BECAUSE WE KNEW WE HADN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG TO DESERVE IT. BUT IT WAS NO GOOD SAYING THAT — OR SMACK! It was very cowardly because there were thirty of them and only ten of us. The police didn’t do anything and the promoters’ men guarding us left us. The President has sent us a telegram saying he was sorry this happened. He’s like us — just some poor fellow in the middle of it all. It was a big misunderstanding, and we tried to clear it up with people concerned. I was shopping in Manila wien suddenly I was told we were supposed to have been at this reception. There was never an invitation for us. The promoters got the invitation and thought we were bound to want to go and see the President, not thinking of our time schedule. I can’t believe we got involved in political things. What have I got in the politics of Manila?“
John recalled: “All along the route to the airport there were people waving at us, but I could see a few old men booing us. When they started on us at the airport I was petrified. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO GET HURT, SO I HEADED FOR THREE NUNS AND TWO MONKS THINKING THAT MIGHT STOP THEM. AS FAR AS I KNOW I WAS JUST PUSHED AROUND BUT I COULD HAVE BEEN KICKED AND NOT KNOW IT.“
Said George: “They were waiting for us to retaliate so that they could finish us off. I was terrified — it was very bad. These thirty funny-looking fellows with guns had obviously arranged to give us the worst time possble. They were like the Gestapo and looking for a fight.“
And Ringo commented: “Manila was the roughest reception we’ve ever had. Being booed by thirty people out of two thousand isn’t too bad. but they really had it in for us.“
AS PAUL RUEFULLY REMARKED: “AND WE JUST WENT THERE TO SING!”From Disc And Music Echo – July 16, 1966
Beatles’ India Fan Welcome Cools Off Manila Spanking
NEW DELHI, India (AP) — Manila newspapers continued belaboring the Beatles today for standing up the Philippine president’s wife, but the singers had the consolation of a welcome from Indian fans in the pattern that they’re used to.
A surging crowd of several thousand enthusiasts nearly engulfed the moptop quartet Tuesday night as they arrived by plane from Manila. Police formed a human wall to hold off fans who clawed at the British entertainers and pelted them with flowers.
“I thought everyone took it real cool here,” said John Lennon as he entered the sweltering customs lounge at the airport.
The welcome was in sharp contrast to the jeers and curses the Beatles encountered on leaving Manila, where Filipinos still fumed over what they considered a slight to the wife of President Ferdinand E. Marcos
The quartet tailed to make a scheduled appearance Monday at the Presidential Palace. Their claim that they did not know they were expected and an apology from the British Embassy did little to sooth ruffled feelings. Attendance at their two concerts Monday night totalled about 75,000 persons, half the number expected.
More than 500 persons booed the singers as they prepared to depart from Manila airport Tuesday. No porters would carry their luggage and one of the party was shoved to the ground by an airport worker.
President Marcos regret over the airport incident and called it a “breach of Filipino hospitality.”From The Herald Statesman – July 6, 1966
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