On February 7th, 1964, The Beatles landed in New York City. The next day, February 8th, The Beatles were photographed in Central Park. Debbie Waugh was there. Her father was Andrew Fyall, a reporter with The London Daily Express. Although Debbie was only five years old at the time, she still remembers that day.
Q - I guess you know you were part of The Beatles bubblegum trading cards.
A - Yes. I need to re-visit that with my parents because I can't remember the whole story. They were not happy about that because that all happened without any of their permission, the publisher of my photo. I know they did go to court at the time and I'm not sure how that was resolved. I'd forgotten that whole aspect of it. They were sort of taken by surprise by that because they were not notified that that would be happening.
Q - I always wondered who you were.
A - You probably know that in 2004 they had all the hoopla about the 40th anniversary of The Beatles coming here (America). The New York Post did a story. My picture with The Beatles appeared. They put the question out, "Who was this little girl? If it was you or you know who it was, contact us." My husband and I didn't see it, but several of our friends did and contacted me and my father in Scotland to tell us. So, that was kind of exciting. I'd sort of forgotten about the whole thing. So, I did call The Post and interestingly the woman who picked up sounded very skeptical and informed me, "You can imagine how many people have been calling us saying they were the little girl." (laughs) But in the interim I think I was able to give enough background information and the photographer who took the pictures, Harry Benson who is still very friendly with my parents, had also informed my father about this Post thing. He had called them to vouch for me. So, the identity was revealed. (laughs)
Q - Was your father also taking pictures on that day in Central Park?
A - No. Certainly not in a professional capacity. I don't even know if he had a camera. I don't think he did that day. We had just gone along because of his then colleague. My father at the time was a reporter for The London Daily Express. His colleague and friend Harry Benson was actually travelling with The Beatles for that first U.S. tour. It was Harry who got us closer to them that day they were doing the photo shoot in Central Park. My parents went, but my father was not actually taking shots. We relied on other people who took pictures for ourselves.
Q - Where did your father work out of?
A - He was posted to the New York office for six years in the early '60s. For me, that was between the ages of two and eight.
Q - Did he cover show business for the paper?
A - No. He was a foreign correspondent in fact at the time. So, much of the time we lived in New York he was travelling. He was covering stories all over the place, but certainly all over the U.S. It would be more features that he was involved in, not specifically news at all.
Q - Did your mother ever tell you, as the years have past, that your father would come home and talk about what was going on in the British music scene?
A - Well, I think they both would have been aware of it at the time. She never specifically told me that. They knew what was going on.
Q - Realizing that you were only five years old, do you recall seeing a picture of The Beatles or hearing their music prior to going to Central Park?
A - Not really. I recall clearly that morning getting up and getting dressed and my parents telling me "We're going to the park to see The Beatles." It stuck in my mind I suppose because they were so excited, but it didn't really mean anything to me at the time.
Q - If your parents were excited, does that mean they were Beatles fans?
A - Oh, yes. Absolutely. And in fact, my father in addition to just being there that day, he had actually been given the task of being the ghost writer for George Harrison, who was supposed to be doing a daily column of his impressions of Americans during the time they were here. He didn't travel with them. I know he had to go to the hotel to speak with George Harrison each day they were in New York. I'm not sure if he kept up a phone conversation with him. I know they went down to Washington (D.C.). I'm not even sure where else they went on that particular visit. That was how my Dad was further involved.
Q - Did your father have tickets to see The Ed Sullivan Show?
A - Good question. I don't know. But if he did, I know he didn't go.
Q - Whose idea was it to have John Lennon put you on his shoulders?
A - It was actually Harry Benson. I remember very clearly I was standing with my parents. Harry came up and he took my hand and pulled me away from my parents, which was no problem 'cause he was Uncle Harry to me at that time. He said "c'mon, I want you to meet some friends of mine." And he handed me to John Lennon. I remember looking out and seeing all the photographers. I remember feeling afraid, nervous. My parents standing off to the side could see this. My father always recalls my trembling lower lip. (laughs) Then I remember looking out at one point 'cause I lost sight of them and I was upset. I remember catching sight of them and my father waving to me and mouthing the words "It's alright. We're here." It seemed to me at the time they were much further away than in fact they were. Looking at pictures subsequently, we do have some shots taken at an angle where I can see both my parents in the shot and they were actually very close. But at the time, it seemed like they were much further away. But that re-assured me. I remember, I think it was Paul who asked me my name and how old I was. I remember responding "Debbie. I'm five." And then I remember John Lennon saying something like "Do you mind?" and with that, hoisting me up onto his shoulder at that point. He had just been holding me.
Q - I would guess that one of the photographers shouted to John to put you on his shoulders.
A - Could be.
Q - John was there. Paul was there. Were the other two Beatles there?
A - No. Just Ringo. George Harrison was not there that day. He was apparently sick with a cold. So it as only the three of them in Central Park that day.
Q - That photo shoot didn't last very long, did it?
A - No. It was a very cold day. I remember that. You can see it in the pictures. It looks like one of those freezing New York days. Very little sense now of how long the whole thing was. I'm sure it was just a few more pictures. I don't even remember him putting me down or what happened after that. But I do remember quite clearly being lifted up and that's kind of where it fades to black. (laughs)
Q - After that day, did you ever see or talk to any of The Beatles again?
A - I never did. I might've had an opportunity when they had that big event in New York in 2004 and they brought people in who had been with The Beatles or in some way interacted with them or encountered them during that trip. I had been invited to that event, but it actually coincided with a family trip to Scotland. So, I missed that. So, I believe that might've been my only opportunity. I believe Paul McCartney attended that. I might've had the chance, but I missed it.
Q - Do you ever tell people, when you see the picture taken of you and John, "Hey, that's me!"?
A - When I'm browsing in a bookstore and I happen to see a book about The Beatles, I always pick it up of course. I flick through it to the appropriate time frame and I always get such a kick. It's happened a couple of time when my picture pops out. That's always exciting. I want to nudge the person standing next to me, although I never have. I forget who authored the book, I have it at home on The Beatles and my picture is in there. I guess the first print run, it was mistakenly captioned as Julian Lennon. (laughs) I don't have the version that has me as Julian Lennon. My sister does. She mentioned it to me. She had seen some interaction online between people who had brought this up and someone brought out "no, it's not Julian Lennon." That's somebody else, which was me! There have been a couple of places where my name had been given and others where I'm simply indentified as a young fan. But I thought it was quite funny. I know in subsequent printings they corrected that. I have a great photographic memory of that day and a great conversation piece and it hangs up on my kitchen wall at home. Guests who come for the first time do a double take. They look across the room and they see it and you see them walking closer and thinking "whose this? How did this come about?" So it's always been a very nice conversation piece for me in my life.
Q - Yes, but you have to tell that story over and over again.
A - Yes. Absolutely. Our sixteen year old daughter greatly appreciates it. She loves to tell her friends. I'm thinking, given who it is, even my grandchildren when the come along, should appreciate it 'cause I'm sure even my grandchildren will know who The Beatles were or at least I certainly hope they do. (laughs)
Debbie With John Lennon
(Shown for educational purposes only
no copyright infringement intended)