It was September 8, 1964. The Beatles, the most popular act in all of show business, were in the midst of their 1964 summer tour, their first major tour since achieving international stardom. This to be the U.S.-Canada leg of the tour; the boys had just played September concerts in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit, before moving on to Canada and their concert in Toronto the previous day.
All was well on the tour so far, the Beatle routine was rolling smoothly along as usual- the fainting, the crying, the hysterical teenaged girls, the screaming fans, the 30-minute or so concert by the Fab Four, the mad exit of the latest city and on to the new stop for more of the same.
The Beatles' day started with the boys' morning arrival at Dorval Airport in Montreal. It was raining and 5,000 rain-drenched fans had waited patiently to catch a glimpse of their mop-topped idols. There were 117 Royal Canadian Mounted Police were on-site to control the crowd.
Unfortunately, the Beatles were quickly swept away in two minutes flat because of the bad weather, leaving the expectant fans disappointed. But this was small potatoes compared to what what coming next.
What followed was to be one of the strangest, oddest, weirdest chapters in the long, colorful, unbelievable story of the Beatles. The Beatles, or to be exact, one Beatle, had received death threats.
Most Beatle fans are aware of the death threats Beatle John Lennon received in 1966, when he proclaimed that "the Beatles were more popular than Jesus," but few realize that Ringo was the first Beatle to actually receive death threats.
It seems that a group of radical French-Canadian separatists, assuming that Beatle drummer Ringo Starr was Jewish, had put out death threats on him. Why the assumption? Ringo's inordinately big nose. (!!!!)
The Fab Four were scheduled to play two concerts at the forum in Montreal that evening, one at 4:00 pm and one at 8:30 pm. The opening acts did their performances, in turn and as usual. The Righteous Brothers, the Bill Black combo, the Exciters, Clarence "Frogman" Henry and Jackie DeShannon all sang their perfunctory songs, each getting their perfunctory applause, while, as always, the fans anticipated the coming of the real show. Now it was time to see and (at least, try) to hear the Beatles.
Ringo was to recall the day: "Some people decided to make an example of me, as an English Jew. The one major fault is, I'm not Jewish. Threats we took in our stride, I mean, suddenly there would be a few more cops. But this was one of the few times I was really worried. We were playing the gig and, as always, I was on a high-riser. I had the cymbals up towards the audience to give me a bit of protection. I usually had them flat."
Ringo continued: "I also had a plainclothes policeman sitting there with me. But I started to get hysterical, because I thought, 'If someone in the audience has a shot at me, what is this guy going to do? Is he going to catch the bullet?' I found this was getting funnier and funnier all the time, and the guy just sat there."
The plainclothes cop was to stay camped beside Ringo for the both entire concerts that day.
That strange day, the 21,000 screaming, weeping, ecstatic fans cheered on their heroes, none of them realizing the implications of what was going on behind the scenes. Police sharpshooters were stationed at various checkpoints around the forum. Fortunately, the two concerts went off as scheduled and without a hitch.
After the second concert, the Beatles quickly descended the stage (one would assume Ringo descended quicker than the others). In their wake, the Beatles left 21,000 satisfied fans, including 12 girls needing treatment for "hysteria, cuts and bruises," plus one police officer recuperating from a bitten thumb.
The Beatles had been scheduled to stay the night in Montreal and depart the next morning. But the boys unanimously decided to get out of Dodge (er, Montreal) ASAP. (You think?) The police detective never left Ringo's side from the moment he arrived to the moment he boarded the Beatles' plane. Hundreds of Canadian Beatle fans and 500 policemen watched the Fab Four's plane depart Canada.
Fellow Beatle George Harrison was to recall: "We went to Key West (Florida) from French Canada, where we thought Ringo was going to get shot. A Montreal newspaper reported that someone was going to kill Ringo, because they didn't like his nose or something. Ironic, because he was probably the most British of the Beatles. We decided, 'F**k this, let's get out of town.' We flew out a day early, instead of staying the night in Montreal."
On the plane to Florida, the Beatles flight was re-routed because of an oncoming hurricane. (It's never easy being a Beatle, is it?) The flight was re-routed to Key West, instead of the originally intended Jacksonville.
Aboard the flight, the boys relaxed and got into a pillow fight. At one point during the flight, talk of the recent events in Montreal arose. Ringo reiterated, "I am English, but I'm not Jewish."
Ringo was to recall the two Montreal Beatle concerts as "the worst gig of my life." The Beatles were never to return to Montreal.