‘I Love You, Paul!’: Family Believes Their Mom Is ‘Adrienne From Brooklyn’ From Viral Beatles Clip

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
The Beatles performing at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York on August 28, 1964.  - Credit: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
The Beatles performing at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York on August 28, 1964. - Credit: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

“I don’t care what anybody thinks! I’ll love the Beatles forever and I’ll always love them. Even when I’m 105 and an old grandmother I’ll love them,” the girl in the video gushes. She has a thick New York accent, as dense as an overgrown weed patch in an abandoned lot in Flatbush, and her hair is pulled up underneath a black beret.

“And Paul McCartney, if you are listening, Adrienne from Brooklyn loves you with all her heart. I love you, Paul! And please come to the window so I can just see you. I saw you smoking before and I kissed the limousine you walked out of. But I love you and I want you, Paul. And Ringo, you can walk out too, because I like you,” she gushes.

More from Rolling Stone

The video of Adrienne was taken by CBS News in 1964, when the Beatles visited the United States for the very first time. Though it has been making the rounds in Beatles fan circles for years, it was prominently featured in Ron Howard’s 2016 documentary Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years, and started making the rounds on TikTok last year. On Friday, Sir Paul McCartney responded: “Hey, Adrienne, it’s Paul. Listen, I saw your video. I’m in Brooklyn now. I finally got here,” he says in the video, advertising a Beatles photo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. McCartney’s video went viral, with fans speculating in the comments as to what had happened to Adrienne from Brooklyn, hoping she would come across the video.

It’s easy to see why the clip gained so much traction. For anyone who has ever been a fan of any musician at any point in their lives, who has screamed their lungs out to their songs and wept over them on the bathroom floor, Adrienne from Brooklyn’s ardor is symbolic of the fierce and undying love between a teenage girl and her favorite pop star, which is so strong that nothing as quotidian as time or space or distance or the vagaries of the human condition can weaken it. To those looking for a feel-good online story, the prospect of reuniting Adrienne from Brooklyn with her idol seemed irresistible.

Now, after reviewing photos and video footage, as well as public records verifying various biographical details consistent with what we know about “Adrienne from Brooklyn,” Rolling Stone can exclusively reveal what is quite possibly the identity of the real Adrienne from Brooklyn — and though her story does not offer the ending Beatles fans and TikTokers were hoping for, it nonetheless serves as a testament to the indefatigable power of fandom.

“When I saw it, when I heard it, I was like, ‘that’s Mommy,’” Nicole D’Onofrio tells Rolling Stone on Saturday.

A mother of four from Staten Island, D’Onofrio originally saw the interview featuring the young woman she believes to be her mother while scrolling through TikTok with her seven-year-old daughter. “I was like, ‘Wait a second. Play that again,’” she says. She sent it to her three older siblings, including her brother John. “It looked like her and sounded like her, with that heavy Brooklyn accent,” John, a retired NYPD officer, tells me. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, mommy is Adrienne from Brooklyn.’”

Courtesy of the D'Onofrios
Courtesy of the D'Onofrios

Adrienne D’Onofrio was born on July 29, 1951, the daughter of a Swedish father and an Italian mother. According to John, her father died when she was 11 years old, and she and her two older siblings were primarily raised by their mother in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, then a middle-class, predominantly Italian neighborhood. “She never left Brooklyn,” John tells me.

Because Adrienne’s mother worked long hours, John says, she spent a lot of time playing hooky, skipping school to see Murray the K at the Fox Theatre. John says he distinctly remembers her telling him about sneaking out of school to see the Beatles arrive in New York City on their first trip to America, the moment that was captured in the iconic CBS News footage. “I remember her saying she got on the train to see them, and it was only a nickel, and if you had 50 cents you were able to get a 10-cent hot dog and a pack of cigarettes,” he says.

Adrienne met her husband, Harry, a first-generation Italian immigrant, when they were both sophomores at FDR High School in Brooklyn. He was her best friend’s brother, and to hear D’Onofrio tell it, the two fell in love instantly, riding the subway to Coney Island to go on dates.

In 1967, when Adrienne was just 15 years old, she got pregnant with John, prompting her to drop out of high school. (She and Harry both eventually got GEDs.) Because the Catholic Church refused to marry Harry and Adrienne until they both turned 16, they were married in October 1967, and she gave birth to John in December of that year. She ultimately had four children: Nicole’s two older sisters in 1969 and 1977, and Nicole in 1981.

Nicole says her mother threw herself wholeheartedly into stay-at-home motherhood, joining the PTA and cooking dinner for the kids every night while her husband worked for her father’s construction company. “She took us everywhere. She did everything for us,” she says. “She was the mom who helped with every science project. If she had one last dollar, it would be yours.”

In September 1992, just a month shy of Adrienne and Harry’s 25th wedding anniversary, Adrienne was diagnosed with lymphoma. “The doctor said she had stage 4 cancer, and she just gave up,” John says. “That was it. She didn’t even have the chance to get radiation treatment. [She] called and left me a voicemail: ‘Johnny, I’m dying.’ It was terrible.”

In late October of that year, Adrienne and Harry had a 25th anniversary party.  In footage from the party, she appears frail but happy in an oversized white fur coat, her hair cropped short. A few days later, John says, she developed pneumonia and was taken into Lutheran Hospital, where she slipped into a coma. She died in 1992, at the age of 41.

“I had her until I was 11,” Nicole says. “But in those 11 years she was more of a mother than anyone could be.” Their father Harry died of liver cancer in 2012.

After Adrienne died, the siblings say, they found all of their mother’s old Beatles records from the closet — the only records, John says, their mother would play around the house (though she did also like the Rolling Stones and Herman’s Hermits). One of them, John says, had “Adrienne and Paul” scrawled on the sleeve, a heart drawn around it. Adrienne had also gifted her niece Beatles commemorative coins celebrating their 1964 trip to the United States, photos of which were shared with Rolling Stone.

Because Adrienne and most of her family members who would have been alive in 1964 are deceased, the D’Onofrios know there’s no surefire way to confirm her identity. They also know that the tragic ending to Adrienne’s life is not the one that Beatles fans were expecting, as Nicole’s husband, Mike, learned when he replied to a few fans on TikTok with details about his mother-in-law’s identity. “I felt a little bad being so definitive about it, whether people believe it or not, because she had passed away a long time ago,” she says. “And people seem really disappointed by that.”

On the other hand, Adrienne’s children are aware there’s perhaps no better testament to her mother’s short life than a 60-year-old viral video recorded at the prime of her youth, in full thrall of the emotional journey that accompanies that stage of your life, when everything matters so deeply and nothing seems like it’s ever going to change. For Nicole in particular, who is currently battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, stumbling on the video is like “getting a message from Mom coming back saying: Look, I’m around, I’m here watching over you,” John says. Adrienne from Brooklyn may not have lived to be a 103-year-old grandmother — but in a way, her adolescent love for Paul will survive far beyond that. “It’s a nice new chapter in her life, after being gone for so long,” says Mike.

As for how Adrienne from Brooklyn would have felt about her onetime teenage obsession responding to her declaration of love, 60 years after the fact? “She would be ecstatic,” says John. “She’d have to clear it with my father, though. My father would have gone, ‘Sir Paul better have a talk with me before he talks to you.’”

Update Saturday, May 4, 2024, 6:44 p.m. An earlier version of this story stated Nicole D’Onofrio has three children. She has four.

Best of Rolling Stone