Wednesday, 29 May 2019

DIARY OF A BEATLEMANIAC : AN INTERVIEW WITH PATRICIA GALLO-STENMAN


Diary of a Beatlemaniac (Cynren Press, 2018) isn’t your run of the mill accounting of the journey of just another Beatle fan. Southwest Philly’s own Patricia Gallo-Stenman landed a gig penning her own column, Teen to Teen while still a teen herself.  In simply trying to wrangle a press pass the author unwittingly took the first step in an award-winning career, which would take her as far as northern Europe from the shores of her native America.
The author sat down to speak with Bob Wilson, and recounted insights into an amazing career, and her new work.  

Beatles Magazine: You seem to have been a natural writer from early on. Would you describe your early efforts?
Patricia: My love for writing dates from grade school when I wrote for our elementary school newspaper. I did start scribbling down my thoughts in a small black diary/journal in December 1962 at age 13. Early in 1964, “My Little Black Book” started to incorporate news of the Beatles and Beatlemania.

Beatles Magazine: When did you first become aware of the Beatles, and what was the reaction of your inner circle of friends?
Patricia: The very first time I became aware of the Beatles was during the1963 Christmas Season when our Sunday newspaper magazine ran a black and white photo essay of the popular English group and their hysterical fans. I also saw a short clip of the Beatles on the Jack Paar TV show. The very first reactions from my high school friends followed the Beatles’ Sunday evening February 9, 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan TV show. We all chose our favorite Beatles then and there.

Beatles Magazine: How many times did you see the Beatles live, and what memories are strongest in your mind relating to the shows?
Patricia: I was fortunate to see the Beatles live in concert three times: September 2, 1964 – Philadelphia Convention Hall. August 16, 1966 – John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. August 23, 1966 – Shea Stadium New York. Memories: Not seeing the stage at Philadelphia Convention Hall as everyone on the main floor was standing on wobbly folding chairs and falling over. Huge crowds attended the other two stadium concerts with sticky summer humidity and music piped over loud speakers.

Beatles Magazine: When following a band so avidly, the interaction with other fans can be a large part of the experience? Does this hold true for you?
Patricia: Our high school group of “Beatle Buddies” closely bonded together from the start. We supported each member of our team, had lots of fun, and understood what the others were experiencing. For example, we hovered over our shocked Beatle Buddy at the time her fave Beatle got married thousands of miles away. We attended Beatles’ films together (several times) and bonded at Beatle birthday parties, concerts, outside hotels, at school and wherever Beatle stuff was sold.

Beatles Magazine: The term ‘Beatlemania’ has been used so frequently, that we may forget the nuance of what the term represents. How would you describe a ‘Beatlemaniac’, and ‘Beatlemania’ in general?
Patricia: In my memoir, I outline what exactly IS a Beatlemaniac, and look at the difference between a Beatlemaniac and an ordinary fan. True first-generation Beatlemaniacs lived, dreamed and schemed to celebrate and meet their favorite group, whereas typical fans merely enjoyed the music and films of the Beatles. I believe it is the difference between being a fan-atic and being a fan. We were addicted to the thrill of ALL things Beatle.

Beatles Magazine: When you look over this work as a writer, is there a section that you enjoy the most?
Patricia: Rather than a favorite book section, I feel the “growing-up” saga makes the book so special to me. Starting as a very young 13-year-old, then onto an adventurous Beatlemaniac, and finally a more-mature university student, it bridges this coming-of-age tale. It is truly a memoir in three-life stages where the Beatles played a starring role.

Beatles Magazine: Would you please tell us about your coming to know Victor Spinetti? 
Patricia: Actor Victor Spinetti was our muse. Our Beatle Buddies met Victor on September 16, 1964 after I wrote a letter to him. He was starring in the British theatre production of Oh! What a Lovely War in Philadelphia prior to its NY Broadway run. Victor had already appeared in A Hard Day’s Night; wherever he went, Beatle fans followed him. He would entertain the fans at the theatre after rehearsals. Victor enjoyed telling stories of the Beatles. He was so kind and giving. Later, when I interviewed him the final time for my book, he explained that he knew how it felt to actually yearn after someone that you love and you will probably never meet. We founded the Official Victor Spinetti Fan Club of America O.V.S. F. C.A. Chapter 1 in late September 1964, and it existed for three years. Our friendship with Victor is intertwined throughout the book. Victor was an extraordinary gentleman who certainly did not mind his “extra” fame due to the Beatles. It was an honor that he and I remained friends until his passing on June 18, 2012 at 82.

Beatles Magazine: What would be your favorite album, individual Beatle and song?
Patricia: I am afraid that choosing a favorite Beatle album or song is akin to picking a favorite child. I cannot even attempt to choose one over the other. But, yes, I can pick my favorite Beatle. I chose Paul on the evening of February 9, 1964 when the group first appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV Show. Today, it is still Sir Paul. It was simply love at first sight.

Beatles Magazine: Is there something that you would particularly like the reader to come away with when they have finished your book?
Patricia: I would like the readers of my memoir to come away with the knowledge that we first-generation Beatlemaniacs were multi-dimensional. Despite what you see in grainy black and white newsreels, we did much more than scream at concerts and faint outside hotels. We enjoyed such a rich experience back in the mid ‘60s using our creativity whether it was plotting to infiltrate the Beatles’ hotel rooms, founding fan clubs, or attacking journalists who panned our group. Our side of the story needed to be told in full. The “Screaming Girl” is a stereotype. According to anchorman and author Larry Kane (who wrote my foreword), “The story has never been told in a first-person way – until now.”

Beatles Magazine: Where can fans look to obtain the book, and what’s up next for you?
Patricia: Diary of a Beatlemaniac can be obtained on Amazon, through Cynren Press (my publisher), via my website diaryofabeatlemaniac.com (autographed copies)or at some local bookstores.I recently returned from appearing at the NY Metro Fest for Beatles Fans followed by an East Coast Book Tour. Next up: Local book event summer venues and Beatles at the Ridge music festival, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in September. Thinking about attending Liverpool’s Beatle Week in September 2020.

By Bob Wilson

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