Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Fifth Beatle Gets Married

Two months ago the BEATLE NEWS page of our Monthly Book recorded the wedding of 26-year-old Greek electronics wizard Alexis Mardas. The Beatles have known Alexis -- "Magic Alex", who now heads their Apple Electronics company and has devised the luxurious recording studios built into the basement of the new Apple headquarters -- for several years.

One afternoon in July Alexis walked around the Apple offices declaring his intention to get married the following day. Next morning at half-past-eleven he was busy telling everyone to get into taxis and follow him to the Greek Orthodox Church at Bayswater, West London.

Six weeks later, on Friday, August 30, came a second Apple-type wedding, arranged with equal speed. This time the bridegroom was Neil Aspinall and the bride was 24-year-old Suzy Ornstein, daughter of a top movie executive.

Neil's wedding took place at Chelsea Register Office in London's famous King's Road. Best Man was Alexis Mardas and the bride was given away by Peter Brown, a Beatle executive who is also a director of NEMS and was formerly personal assistant to the late Brian Epstein.

Neil had known Suzy for just over a year. They met at a party last year and if you have spotted Neil amongst a Beatle crowd at discotheques or film premieres in the last few months the very pretty little girl with the long, straight, dark hair at his side was certainly Miss Susan Ornstein.

If anyone can honestly lay rightful claim to the title Fifth Beatle it must be Neil Aspinall. "Nel" has been the Beatles' closest on- and off-duty buddy for the best part of eight years. He was at school--Liverpool Institute--with Paul and George. His best-friend in those days was Pete Best, the boy who became the Beatles' drummer for a couple of years at the beginning of the 'sixties.

Although he was a fan of the Beatles, Neil never had any ambition to join one of the hundreds of beat groups which were building up on Merseyside in 1960 and 1961. Instead he stuck to his task of training to be an accountant after leaving school with an impressive set of eight G.C.E. examination passes.

Then Neil began to drive the boys about in a battered old van, acting as their part-time helper, setting up some of the equipment in the score of different clubs, hall and palais places at which the Beatles made their earliest appearances in and around the city of Liverpool. Eventually they offered him the full-time position of Beatles' Road Manager. Neil accepted, quit accountancy and began to travel everywhere with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Job Changed

Later on the group needed not only Neil but Mal Evans to take care of them on tours. So Neil's job changed and while Mal looked after stage suits, instruments, amplifiers and other equipment, Neil spent his time with the four boys, making sure that the wrong people were kept out of dressing-rooms and that the right people were allowed in, seeing that the Beatles got to and from their dates with minimum inconvenience, giving them telephone "wake-up" calls when they had an early session.

After Brian's death at the end of August 1967, the Beatles decided that it would be impossible to replace him with another Personal Manager. On the other hand they needed someone totally reliable to head their new Apple operations. That's when they decided to appoint Neil as Managing Director of Apple Corps Limited. And that's when Neil took over the weighty responsibility for co-ordinating all the varied activities of the Apple group of companies, a task which he continues to carry out.

If it hadn't been for Peter Brown there wouldn't even have been a reception after Neil and Suzy had been through their brief Register Office ceremony. Neil was all for keeping things nice and quiet and just getting the marriage over without a lot of fuss. But Peter organised a secret reception, an afternoon party at a restaurant just a bit further down King's Road. There, to Neil's surprise, all his closest friends and business buddies assembled to toast the bride and groom with champagne and to take a splendid salad-type lunch which was served at tea-time! Amongst the guests were Paul, Ringo and Maureen, most of the top Apple people like records boss Ronald Kass, films chief Dennis O'Dell, Mal Evans, record producer Peter Asher, Alistair Taylor, Derek Taylor, Terry Doran and Tony Bramwell, plus Beatles' Press officer Tony Barrow and the group's American representative, Nat Weiss from New York.


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