By now, everyone already knows that this month marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first trip to America. This fall we'll reach another milestone — the 50th anniversary of the tale of the "Beatles runaway."
We touched upon the story of Elizabeth Freedman, now known as Elizabeth Jones, in our earlier post about the rush of Beatles memorabilia for sale tied into the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first U.S. visit, and thought it would be a idea to get the story directly from her.
While the then 13-year-old Elizabeth was known as "the Beatles runaway" in the press following her disappearance and meeting with the Beatles, she says the name is a bit inaccurate. "It wasn't really to see particularly any one band," she says. "It was the whole music scene in London that I was looking for, not the Beatles in particular, but I certainly was a big fan of theirs. I never dreamed I would get to meet them by going there."
Before she took off to London, Elizabeth saw the Beatles in concert at the old Boston Garden, but also checked out the Animals in concert, staked out their hotel, and ended up sharing a hamburger with singer Eric Burdon. She was inspired to take the trip to London after seeing a story in the newspaper about two other girls who ran away. "I just decided that I could do that, too," she recalls. "I thought, 'That's a pretty cool thing to do.'"
So she withdrew money that her grandparents had given her from her bank account, went into Boston to get her passport and smallpox vaccination, and bought a plane ticket. "The whole time I was expecting that someone was going to look at me and stop me, because I was too young, but no one said a word," she recalls.
Elizabeth booked her trip and a hotel for her first few nights in London through a travel agent, but later got a room at a boarding house. "I had a good time," she says. "I went to clubs, I went to the theater, I went out to eat. At that time the dollar was pretty strong, so my money went a long way." She also caught a show at the Palladium featuring Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, and Petula Clark.
Although her father had passed away, Elizabeth wasn't necessarily having trouble at home with her mother and her college-freshman sister at the time. "I suppose I was too young to really think about my mother and that she'd be really worried," Freedman says. "As a kid, you don't really think about the consequences of your actions."
In the short time she was there, Elizabeth managed to land a boyfriend, and he spotted a blurb in the newspaper about her story. "He turned me in and told me the police were on their way," she recalls. "By the time I got to the police station, my mother was there. She had flown over to London to look for me, and there was all kind of press outside. I was totally amazed. I had no idea I would be of any interest to the press whatsoever."
That's also when Elizabeth learned about the offer to meet the Beatles that producer George Martin had floated if she were found. Making good on the promise, the Beatles invited Elizabeth and her mother to their show at Astoria - Finsbury Park on Nov. 1, 1964.
After the show, Elizabeth and her mother went backstage for about 15 minutes and met the Beatles. "They were very charming," she recalls. "I remember that John took the pen that he used to sign my albums and pretended that it was a gun and went, 'Bang, bang, bang,' at the cameraman, which is kind of ironic now. And I remember there was a bowl of grapes in the dressing room, and George said, 'Here, take the whole bunch.' We ate hot dogs. They were all very sweet and very charming and joked around a lot."
Elizabeth had two albums with her, "A Hard Day's Night" and "With the Beatles," which she had all four Beatles sign. Until now, she's held on to that "A Hard Day's Night Album," but it's now up for sale through BeatlesAutographs.com for $60,000. (As for the signed copy of "With the Beatles," she gave it to a friend she lost track of. Mitch Blaustein, a man claiming to be that old friend, contacted us via Facebook. He says he sold that album in 1993 for $2,000 to help fund his son's Bar Mitzvah.)
Elizabeth was laid off from her job working as an attorney last summer, and can frankly use the money from selling the cherished keepsake. "It does seem like a good time right now because of the anniversary," she says. "There has been a couple of news stories about Beatles albums selling for big money, so I'm hoping to get some good money for it."
But the memories of her days as a preteen runaway and unwitting celebrity? Those are priceless.