Updated 

Beatlemania nearly ruined by Lennon’s lust


Hush money kept the Beatles’ groundbreaking U.S. tour in 1964 from being scuttled by a scandal in Las Vegas, according to a British journalist who traveled with them.

A $10,000 payment went to the mother of two teenage American girls, said Ivor Davis, author of the new book “The Beatles and Me on Tour.”

The mother was irate when she learned her underage daughters, who went missing until the wee hours, were found in John Lennon’s suite at the Sahara hotel, where the Beatles were staying.

“They paid her off to keep her quiet,” Davis said in a telephone interview. Beatles’ management worried that the image of the band “cavorting with underage girls” was a potential public relations disaster, he said. In his book, he wrote that it “threatened to sink the entire American trip.”

The Beatles’ two-show concert at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Aug. 20 was their second stop on a 23-city tour.

Davis, then an entertainment reporter for London’s Daily Express, was invited but unable to attend an event Tuesday at the convention center to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ only shows here.

A permanent plaque will be unveiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, along with a temporary multimedia exhibit by Las Vegas News Bureau, the photography arm of the LVCVA.

Davis, whose tour duties included serving as George Harrison’s ghost writer during the tour, said Lennon later told him he was disappointed he didn’t get to see the sights in Las Vegas.

Because of the intensity of Beatlemania, “They couldn’t go anywhere,” Davis said.

So the party came to them. The Sahara surprised them with slot machines in their suite, No. 2344.

Lennon made a crack, “Gambling was evil, like a preacher man,” Davis said. But “he was just pulling their leg. He called me at 3 o’clock one night and said, ‘Let’s play poker.’ ”

Liberace, the superstar piano virtuoso, and pop star Pat Boone and his daughters were among their visitors.

“They really wanted to meet Liberace,” Davis said. “They expected him to be dressed flamboyantly, but he looked like a regular guy. John said he looked like a bellhop.”

Lennon “was in awe,” Davis said, “that they dug out the desert and put up all these casinos. He was a counter-culture guy, but he admired that.”

FRANK MARINO: UNDER OATH

After 30 years in Las Vegas, drag icon Frank Marino feels like he’s sitting on top of world these days.

“I really feel I am where I should be,” said Marino, the star of “Divas” at the Quad. “I feel like my career is mimicking Cher’s, on a smaller scale. She had to lose everything to get everything back even better.”

Marino will be the next guest Sept. 28 on my quarterly “Conversations With Norm,” which benefits programs at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

The 2 p.m. event is held in Cabaret Jazz, with proceeds going to the children’s education and outreach programs. Tickets are $25 and $35. Call 702-749-2000.

We shot promotional photos in the Mob Museum courtroom last week because Marino said he’s opening himself up to all questions, which is why he requested the event be billed “Frank Marino: Under Oath.”

He’s bounced back from the closure five years ago of “La Cage,” the long-running show at the Riviera that producer Norbert Aleman shuttered when the recession took its toll.

Marino said the recent success of “Divas” in Reno has led to the decision to go with a second production.

“We were booked for a 10-week run in Reno that everybody thought we would fail,” Marino said. “They got me so nervous about it that I cut it to eight weeks before we even opened.”

The show set box office records, he said, and “we did so well they’re having me back for three months in a row next summer.

“I just came back from a one-month show in Laughlin. I played two days in Atlantic City, and I sold out two 1,500-seat arenas. So the show is finally getting the respect it should get, because people realize I’m not trying to sell a lifestyle but rather just a form of entertainment.”

THE SCENE AND HEARD

Meet your favorite local celebrities today at Sam’s Town in the “Out of the Gutters, Too!” fundraiser for the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Red carpet starts at noon; bowling begins at 1. Preregister at nevadaspca.com for $20 or $30 at door.

SIGHTINGS

Boxing legend Roberto Duran, among a group at the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame’s VIP reception at Blvd. Cocktail Company at The Linq on Friday. Also there: actress Rosie Perez, retired boxing referee Richard Steele, unbeaten boxer Jessie Vargas, Mike Tyson’s wife, Kiki and George Foreman’s sons, George Jr., and George IV. ... Mayor Carolyn Goodman, kicking off the “Eight Days of Beatles Celebration” by recreating the Fab Four’s Abbey Road crossing Friday on Fremont Street near the El Cortez. The procession included entertainer Paul Casey, who is producing the downtown celebration, and two showgirls.

THE PUNCH LINE

“Here’s what I’ve never understood. Why do leakers expose national security information? Why not leak stuff like the Colonel’s fried chicken recipe? I would like to have that.” — Jimmy Kimmel

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.