The People Under the Stairs
by Henriette Moustakis
If I were to describe what Beatlefest means to me and the reason I still go after all these years, it would be the PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. No, I am not referring to a terribly made horror flick. I am referring to the unknown individuals that patron the area under the lobby stairs at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. But, I’m jumping ahead. I must start from the beginning.
I first began going in 1982 when it was still at the Hyatt Chicago downtown. It was a cheap way to spend a day. And I always was a Beatles fan. I have been since I first saw them on Ed Sullivan. The first year I did the events. The second year I did the people. That’s when I began to live.
I was fortunate to find a large group of people who always jammed. This was when there were small islands of jammers. On that particular day we sang for almost four hours and I lost my voice. I never had so much fun.
At the end of the day we took each other pictures and exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet next year. We did, and for many years after. We became very tight. I saw them age and gain weight. I saw the men loose their hair. One of my buddies, I will call him Carl, wore hats with brims that kept getting bigger every year. He finally lost so much hair he shaved it all off. He became our Michael Jordan. Carl became the main reason I went every year. I felt like we had a karmic tie.
Our group grew older every year but we didn’t care. We were the people in the song “Those were the days” by Mary Hopkins. We even shared hotel rooms. I had male roommates for many years. One year, at the Westin, there were so many people my rent for the WHOLE weekend was only $18.00. Needless to say we ran out of toilet paper VERY fast. And sleep was non-existent. We were always talking, laughing or jamming.
“Then the busy years went rushing by us. We lost our starry notions on the way”. We all grew up and apart. One by one our lives changed. Some married. Some just grew tired. And some just grew up and away. My little family was gone. “If by chance we’d see each other at the fest, we’d smile at one another and we’d say, “Those were the Days, my friend.”
Now I only go with one friend and her daughter and it’s not quite the same. It has become a day out with the girls. I miss my group. Beatlefest was a weekend I could let my hair down. Now we don’t know anyone. The faces look familiar but the experience of knowing names and people are gone.
The jammers never left. There used to be a group that jammed under the swimming pool. But after 9-11 they stopped coming. They came from Jersey. And since the hotel has remodeled, the pool is now gone.
But all those years there were always one group of people who never moved. Through the years members have changed but their mission have stayed the same. I can’t speak for the Hyatt downtown or the Palmer House, but at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare they are the PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. They spend the whole weekend singing. That, and the afternoon away with my friend, keeps me going.
As I look at their faces I realize I don’t know any of them. Some I may have seen grow up from babies. Some are just Day Trippers, like me. But the one thing we have in common is the music. I can sit there and get lost, just like I used too.
I miss my old friends. They don’t come anymore. They all have moved on. Even the Beatles seem distant. Maybe it’s just me but they don’t seem to be as important to me as they once were. “Life happened to me while I was busy making other plans.”
When I am under the stairs, I can still time-travel. And I don’t need a TARDIS. When I sing, I forget the twenty-five years that have passed. I close my eyes and still see me as I used to be, before the grey hairs. At last years fest I couldn’t help thinking I was at an AARP convention. Everyone looked so old. And then I looked at me and discovered I was the one who was old. The Beatles will be forever young. I still see them as the four lads on the train asking the famous question, “Hey! Who’s the little old man?” When I sing the songs the words are very different for me then they were before. The Beatles were there when I grew up. We grew up TOGETHER.
Yes, I’ll admit Beatlefest has become a place of commerce. Prices are too high. It isn’t worth the ticket value anymore. And the hotel is outrageous. It has become too commercialized. Maybe it always was but my friends made me forget that. Maybe, since I am alone, I see it for what it has REALLY become. This year I had to be reminded it was coming. Years ago, I never would have forgotten.
The flea market is the same. I haven’t bought anything new in years, just a calendar and an occasional mouse pad. The guests are always the same and becoming more unimportant. Pretty soon the featured guests will be the neighbor who talked to a Beatle when they met over their garbage cans. It has come a VERY expensive afternoon out.
The only thing that reminds me of my original purpose for going is the PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Everyone forgets who they are and just gets lost in the music. I forget about the prices and life in general. I feel alive again. I feel young and I haven’t felt that in years.
I can’t begin to analyze why the Beatles still have appeal after 50 years and I won’t even start to try. They were a good group that shared their magic with us. Maybe it was the sixties. Maybe it was growing up. Maybe it was a combination of all the above. Whatever, they are here to stay, at least in my heart.
I have forgotten most of the lyrics and I often close my eyes and just listen. There are no words to explain how I feel. I’m floating. It becomes an out-of-body experience, and the only reason I still go.
I will never know their names. There are just too many. But I will remember their faces and I will remember how they make me feel. If there are any of them reading this article, I would like to thank them for reminding me of the real reason I go. I want to thank them for making me feel young. I can’t freeze time but when I’m there, it feels like it.
||About the Author - Henriette Moustakis|
I have been in love with the Beatles since I was 8. I have always loved writing and have about 40 screenplays on the net. They can be found on Fanfiction.net. My pen name is girlmoustakis. I love birds, especially cockatiels. I have one called Bozo. He is named after a famous clown from Chicago in the sixties. He is human. Visit me on Myspace
Here is the secret Beatles songbook they use under the stairs at Beatlefest Chicago. Get it before the next fest