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October 24, 2014

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Longtime promoter Sid Bernstein, 95, brought The Beatles to the U.S. in 1964

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell at the fifth-anniversary celebration of The Beatles Love by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage on June 8, 2011.

I became friends with music producer and promoter Sid Bernstein back in 1964 when he brought The Beatles to Carnegie Hall in New York for the first time just four months after I’d arrived as an immigrant in the Big Apple. Thus this tip of the typewriter in tribute to the impresario who died last Wednesday in Manhattan at age 95.

We remained in touch over the years, including when he brought the British pop group to Shea Stadium for their memorable 1965 concert. He gambled $6,500 on their two-concert booking in Carnegie Hall on what was Lincoln’s Birthday — Feb. 12 back then.

Simultaneously, Ed Sullivan booked The Beatles for Feb. 9, and Capitol Records tied in the release of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to coincide with both. It was a masterstroke, as the Liverpool lads became superstars.

Back then, I also was writing for British music newspapers and covered the shows and interviewed the foursome and manager Brian Epstein, who I’d also talked with back in his Liverpool furniture shop when I worked on the Daily Mail.

Sid went on to present other British bands including The Kinks and The Animals in Times Square and downtown music halls. He brought The Beatles back to Shea in 1965 for a $180,000 fee before they ended their performances with the same-year North American tour.

Sid’s attempt to get them to come out of retirement with a $1 million offer failed. When I published Go Magazine in the late 1960s, Sid would always start our conversations with, “It’s Sid Bernstein calling.” He presented tours of everybody from James Brown and Judy Garland to Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac.

Sid said, “I always loved good music and people. It shouldn’t just be about money. It’s an art. It should be about loving what you do.”

RIP, Sid. You were one of the best in one of the toughest of businesses, a remarkable, soft-spoken kind and gentle man who will always be remembered as the man who brought The Beatles to the USA.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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