Sunday 18 March 2018

Why the Dublin girl told lusty Beatle George to 'shag off' . . .

Martin Scorsese's controversial documentary 'George Harrison: Living In The Material World' will soon be premiered in Liverpool. Author Colm Keane, who wrote a book on the Beatles' concerts in Dublin in 1963, is not surprised by the revelations of Harrison's serial affairs

Love me do: The
Vernons Girls (l-r)
Jean Owen, Maureen
Kennedy and Frances
Lea, toured with the
Beatles in autumn
Love me do: The Vernons Girls (l-r) Jean Owen, Maureen Kennedy and Frances Lea, toured with the Beatles in autumn 1963

When the Beatles strolled into the bar of Dublin's Groome's Hotel, following their sell-out shows at the Adelphi in November 1963, it wasn't just drinking Guinness that was on their minds.

Instead, it was the prospect of meeting the Dublin girls that had enticed them to hide in the back of a laundry van, safe from crazed fans, and travel the short distance from the nearby Gresham Hotel.

A large party of actors and actresses from the musical Carrie, which was on down the road at the Olympia, were already in the bar when the Beatles arrived. An unexpected success at the Dublin Theatre Festival, the musical was written by Wesley Burrowes, who would later become chief scriptwriter for both The Riordans and Glenroe.

"One thing I remember very well was that we had a wee girl with us in Carrie who used to be in The Riordans as well," Burrowes told me in an interview for my book The Beatles Irish Concerts.

"George Harrison came over to her and asked her would she like to dance. She told him to 'shag off'. Afterwards, when she realised who it was and what she had just turned down, she was very mortified."

That it was Harrison -- the 'quiet Beatle' -- and not the precocious Lennon or the socially-attuned McCartney who made the running that night was no surprise. Although only 20, he had already developed a reputation as the group's Lothario.

Lennon, at 23, might have been the sharpest practitioner in the girl-pulling stakes; McCartney, at 21, was every adolescent girl's puppy-faced dream date; but it was Harrison who had both the cunning and sharp eye of a gigolo or a rake.

Lennon and McCartney were often more preoccupied with writing songs than chasing skirts, so Harrison made every effort to be available to the group's star-struck fans.

His preference, as he put it, was for 'small blonde girls' who, apart from good looks, could 'share a laugh'.

Unlike McCartney, whose social aspirations drove him to pursue an eminent medical consultant's daughter, Jane Asher, or Lennon, who could bluff with the best about contemporary art, Harrison's tastes in girls -- along with a predilection for egg and chips -- were seen more as 'aven't a clue' than 'avant-garde'.

George also tried it on with the Vernons Girls, a support act on the 1963 autumn tour, one of whom, Frances Lea, he fancied.

Another of the trio, Jean Owen, described to me a memorable event that happened on that tour. "George came knocking on our dressing-room while we were putting on our make-up. He came in. He said, 'All right, girls?' Maureen said, 'George, get out of here.' He said, 'Girls, come on, we can't get any women. You could just stand there. You wouldn't have to do anything.' 'Get out!' We threw him out."

Just weeks after the 1963 autumn tour, Harrison was back on the rampage in England, striking up a liaison with one of Phil Spector's Ronettes who were touring Britain following their chart success with 'Be My Baby'.

Introduced to the three New Yorkers at a party in London, Lennon befriended Ronnie, the group's lead singer, while Harrison teamed up with her sister Estelle.

The affair was short-lived as Harrison was soon pursuing blonde, blue-eyed model Pattie Boyd on the set of A Hard Day's Night, where she worked as an extra. After marrying her, George insisted that she should give up her modelling career and remain at home, while he spent increasing time at the Apple offices.

He was, as Pattie later wrote, "sexy, good-looking, witty and famous, an irresistible combination".

Just as importantly, Apple was staffed with young, impressionable, pretty girls. The strain ultimately contributed to Pattie leaving him for Eric Clapton.

While still married, however, George had perhaps the most extraordinary of his numerous affairs -- with Ringo's wife, Maureen Cox.

He announced his love for the drummer's wife at dinner one night, in the presence of Pattie, Ringo and Maureen. Everyone was speechless. Ringo stormed out. Pattie burst out crying. She was even more crestfallen, on another occasion, when she returned home to find George and Maureen locked into a bedroom.

So zealous was Harrison's quest for casual sex by this stage that he once suggested to road manager Neil Aspinall that the two should swap wives.

Aspinall, although amused, was happily married and turned down the offer. The Beatles' personal assistant Peter Brown, when summing up George's sex drive, said: "He seemed to want to seduce every woman he laid eyes on."

No surprise, then, that Scorsese's documentary has uncovered evidence of the star's serial philandering. It is well known that he was once involved in an affair with an office junior -- if not many office juniors -- at his company Handmade Films.

It is also common knowledge that he had several affairs while married to his second wife Olivia Arias, who he first encountered at another of his companies, Dark Horse Records, where she worked as a secretary. Bill Harry, the long-time friend of the Beatles and founder of Mersey Beat magazine in the 1960s, recently estimated that Harrison's affairs ran into the 'hundreds and hundreds'.

The truth is that the number will never be known, nor does it really matter. But whatever it is, it is certainly one less than it might have been but for a sharp dose of Irish sexual morality encountered by George on a dark rainy night in the back bar of Dublin's Groome's Hotel in 1963.

George Harrison: Living In The Material World will be premiered in Liverpool on October 2 and will then go on general release

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