Preparations had begun early for the Apple Christmas party, which was going to be epic. A 43-pound fowl billed as the Largest Turkey in Great Britain had been procured for the occasion, according to Richard DiLello, who was “the ‘house hippie’ (formally termed Client Liaison Officer; a sort of in-house youth consultant and gofer) at Apple’s Savile Row headquarters from 1968 until 1970” (says Wikipedia). DiLello’s book The Longest Cocktail Party is the authoritative insider’s book on Apple, one that I probably should have read, but you know; so many Beatles books, so little time.

Fortunately the part of the book that deals with the Christmas party is available online. In addition to the turkey, DiLello says, “not only was there was going to be a conjurer, a Yuletide tree, acres of food and oceans of drink, but John and Yoko agreed to dress up as Father and Mother Christmas and hand out presents to all the children.” Meanwhile, though, two other people were also preparing for the party: Frisco Pete and Sweet William, the Hells Angels that George had somewhat inadvertently invited to visit England. Cue the ominous music.

DiLello describes the atmosphere on Savile Row today this way:

The children’s party was scheduled for 2:30 in Peter Brown’s office. At six o’clock the adults’ version of the children’s party would begin in Neil [Aspinall]’s office. By 11 o’clock the Press Office was filled to overload [with] the Christmas-season glut of good time Charlies on their record company to record company marathon sprint for alcohol, inside talk and free LPs. Of all the record companies in London, Apple was number one on the list for abandoned cordiality and excessive generosity.

By 11:30 the Black Room was swollen to standing room only proportions with hashish smokers puffing their brains out while the front office catered to the scotch and Coke brigade. By noon all pretense had been dropped and the hash heads were indistinguishable from the juicers.

Chaos, chaos all around … a hundred children gorging on ice cream, cake, and sausage rolls, clamoring for entertainment. Fortunately Ernest Castro and April, “entertainers to the Queen and Duke of Cornwall and the late Sir Winston Churchill,” have been hired to divert the kiddies with their “live wire routine of silvered voice projections, sleight of hand wonders and barnyard beast imitations.” Afterward John and Yoko appear in costume to hand out presents.

And I’ve been trying not to just quote DiLello’s whole chapter, but some of it is just too good. To wit:

Unrattled by the greedy stampede for toys, John Lennon stood calmly in the middle of the room, deadpan, muttering through the false beard on top of his own beard, “Ho, ho, ho.”

No sooner had the children been sated than the adults began to grow restless. The dinner had been planned for 7:00 sharp, and though throughout the day the guests had seen many heaping plates of food come and go, nothing was to be served until the appointed hour.

Cue Frisco Pete, who has been growing drunker, hungrier, and angrier by the minute. Finally he can wait no longer to Air his Grievances; looming menacingly over John and Yoko he demands, “What the fuck is goin’ on in this place?! We wanna eat!”

Now is this a case of the uncouth Americans unwilling to be patient, or the uninhibited Americans voicing the discontent of a hungry crowd too polite to speak up? In either case, says DiLello,

John Lennon, at this moment in his life a squeamish vegetarian, looked up at the frightening figure of Frisco Pete in total bewilderment. He knew nothing of the release schedule on the Largest Turkey in Great Britain.

At this point the editor of the New Musical Express tried to intervene, and got punched in the face for his trouble. (It should be noted for the record, though without prejudice, that George — theoretically the Angels’ host — was nowhere to be found at the moment of crisis.) John appeared to be next in line for a knuckle sandwich, but Apple honcho Peter Brown managed to calm the savage foreigners with assurances that sustenance was imminent.

No doubt the assembled crowd was horrified to witness such disgraceful behavior; not just rudeness, but physical violence! But I’ll bet that after a long day of drinking, smoking, and socializing, they were also fucking starving.

I will leave you for the day with one last passage from DiLello’s book. Happy Festivus to all, and to all a good night.

Frisco Pete was the first to reach the main table where the Largest Turkey in Great Britain sat. Before the waiter had a chance to work up his best carving voice to say, “And would you like white or dark meat, sir?” Pete grabbed a firm hold on the poor dead bird’s body and without any further ceremony ripped the turkey’s left leg from its torso. It easily weighed four pounds and more closely resembled a caveman’s hunting club than a turkey leg. The hordes were right behind him in full force. By midnight there was nothing left but the washing up.

 

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