In January of 1975, Linda, JoAnn and Evy decided that they were going to make their almost yearly pilgrimage to London that coming May and asked me to come along. I had heard stories about their prior trips, how they would go for three or four weeks at a time and rent a flat instead of staying in a hotel. Somehow it just happened that the flat was walking distance from Paul’s neighborhood. They would save money by shopping at the local market and making dinner at home a few nights a week, then go out for an evening walk after dinner. Sometimes (always), the stroll would lead them to Paul’s house on Cavendish Avenue, where they would just “pop by” to see if anything was going on. To me, It sounded like the perfect way to spend an evening.
I wanted to say yes to their invitation on the spot, but I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible. Like many families, mine was often strapped for money and a trip like this just seemed out of reach. As the months went by and May got closer, the girls had excited conversations about their upcoming plans. They were going to be gone almost three weeks, so itineraries were created to make the most of each day. I sat with them wondering what it would be like to go along on their adventure. I went home thinking that I should ask my folks anyway, even if I knew what the answer would be.
As I’ve said before, my parents were amazing. When I sat them down to ask that all important question, they didn’t say no. In fact, they thought it was a great opportunity for me to travel abroad. School was almost done for the year, and because they trusted the girls would look out for me (Linda, JoAnn and Evy were ten years my senior and their prior visits to England made them great travel guides), Mom and Dad were not really worried about their sixteen year old daughter being let loose on an unsuspecting London. Mom also completely understood the Fab Four aspect of this journey and knew how badly I wanted to go. I was told there was some money that had been set aside for me (as a wee one, I did television commercials and made a few bucks), and if I wanted to go on this amazing adventure, it would have to be done using those savings. This was like winning an all expenses paid dream vacation. I was just fine with the idea.
My airfare was $250 round trip, and it was my first time on a plane. We left on Thursday, May 8th, 1975 from Kennedy Airport via British Airways. I was doing laundry and packing right up to the very last moment, literally, and in the years since, my family has never let me forget it. We were already late as my Mom, Dad and I rushed out the door, hailed a taxi and headed to the airport. About ten minutes into the ride, I realized the one thing you don’t want to realize when you’re already on your way - I had left the tickets at home. Yes, really. I have never, ever done that again in my life, however, this was the very first trip and I didn’t have the benefit of prior experience. We turned the cab around and headed home again, much to the pleasure of the taxi driver who was happy to take us anywhere we wanted to go. After bursting through the door of the apartment, running down the hall into my room, grabbing the tickets and zooming back out again, we set out for the airport once more. We were on the way, for good this time.
The flight left New York at 10pm. The plan was that we would sleep on the plane and land the next morning at London’s Heathrow Airport, ready to enjoy our first day. That was the plan, but I think I slept about five minutes. The excitement was just too much. These days, I fly as little as possible because I just don’t feel comfortable in flight. I am the proverbial white-knuckler and always prefer an isle seat. In 1975 however, I could barely peel my face from the window of that huge British Airways jet. I was amazed by what you can see from the windows of an airplane. The most astounding of my views was seeing the sun rise up right next to me, seemingly from nowhere. Very soon, my feet were going to be walking in places I’d only ever heard or read about.
We landed at Heathrow, and as soon as I was released, we grabbed a taxi to our flat. Did I say released? Yes, I did. When I got up to an Immigration Officer to have my passport stamped, I was immediately pulled out of line and detained. They separated me from the girls, who were desperately trying to find out what was happening to me, but were told nothing. The officer decided that I was smuggling drugs, and even though I told him that was ridiculous, he didn’t believe me (to be fair, I suppose he’s heard that before). The problem was, I was wearing a body oil (perfume) called Patchouli, which was very big in the mid-seventies. It was a sort of musky, sandalwoodish scent, but what I didn’t know was that it was also used by folks to cover the smell of pot when trying to pass through customs. After immigration went through all of the (fresh from the laundry, but still damp and hastily packed) clothes in my suitcase, they decided I meant no harm. Once I was allowed to be reunited with the girls, we got the hell out of there.