Kennedy Airport celebrates 50 years since Beatles landed

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

Beatlemania became a full-on frenzy 50 years ago with the arrival of John, Paul, George and Ringo at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and last week the group’s fans gathered inside the iconic TWA terminal to mark the anniversary.

“Here are the important things about today, about 2014: Sunday mornings, ‘Breakfast with the Beatles,’ half of my listeners are children and teenagers,” Ken Dashow, a DJ on the Q104.3 classic rock station, told the crowd of Beatles fans gathered inside the famed Eero Saarinen-designed TWA terminal.

“How does that happen? How does a rock band from 50 years ago get to the third generation and now onto the fourth generation? Because the music will always be cool. It wasn’t about the haircuts, about the suits. The message — “All You Need Is Love” — will always be cool,” he said. “They changed the game.”

It was the height of the Jet Age when the Fab Four arrived aboard Pan Am Flight 101 at the newly renamed Kennedy Airport Feb. 7 and held their first American news conference underneath the vaulted ceilings of what was then the International Arrivals Building.

As much as it was a landmark moment in the history of rock-‘n’-roll and American pop culture, the band’s trans-Atlantic flight was emblematic of a world becoming ever-smaller.

“JFK Airport looks very different today than it did 50 years ago upon the Beatles’ arrival, with the exception of this wonderfully restored TWA flight center that we’re in today — a testament to our history here at the airport and the promise of commercial flight in the 1960s,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.

The Port Authority director added that within the coming months he expected to make a long-awaited announcement as to what the future holds for the renovated, landmarked TWA terminal, which served as the jumping-off point for several days of talks and concerts across the city commemorating the arrival of the Lads from Liverpool.

Lord Mayor Gary Millar of Liverpool was in promotional mode as he helped the Port Authority dedicate a plaque in the terminal commemorating the anniversary.

London and Liverpool, he said, have had a good-natured competition going on for the past five decades as to which city can claim the Beatles as their own, and in order to drum up tourism for his north England city the mayor was promoting the hashtag #BeatlesLiverpool on Twitter.

“I think you need to come. I think you need to forget about London, which is really nice,” he said, adding some 60 million people travel to his city each year. “Liverpool: a city of 500,000 people in a region of 1.5 million people, that is 45 minutes away from an airport that you can get to from here. There are flights every day from this airport to Manchester.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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