Gary James' Interview With Beatles' Publicist
Jerry Pam is an L.A. publicist to the stars, but we're not going to talk to Jerry about just any star.
Back in 1964 and 1965, Jerry Pam handled publicity for The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night and Help. Jerry spoke with us about his time with the Fab Four.
Q - Mr. Pam, since you handled publicity for both of The Beatles' films, you must've been an employee of United Artists Films. Would that be correct?
A - That is basically correct, yes.
Q - Have you always been a publicist?
A - No. I started out as a newspaper man. I started out in Australia. I went out from England to Australia. I was in Australia for 3 years and I did newspaper work. I came here (Los Angeles). I was brought over here by Spiro Skourais, the president of Twentieth Century Fox to work in the international publicity department of Fox. The had the crisis and they fired everybody. So, I never did start. My first job was on the Hollywood Reporter here. Then I got a job in The Beverly Hills Citizen. I was the entertainment editor. I also went and worked for The Valley Times, which was another daily newspaper here. Then I gave it all up and went to work in publicity. I had various partners and so forth and I've been in publicity ever since.
Q - So, this is all before you worked for United Artists?
A - I never worked for United Artists. They were clients. I had by own publicity office.
Q - What was the name of that publicity office?
A - Jerry Pam Publicity. I'm now Pam P.R. Publicity. So, I changed the name because I had a partner in between.
Q - How is it that you were selected to do publicity for The Beatles' films?
A - Because I knew Walter Shenson (producer of The Beatles' films). That's a very long story. You got time?
Q - How long will it take?
A - Well, I'll be very brief. While I was the entertainment editor of The Beverly Hills Citizen, I met Walter Shenson, who was a publicist at Columbia. He came over one day and said "I want to play this photograph on your drama page with a caption." So, I used it. The next day the managing editor called me up to his office and said "you used a horizontal." I said "what's a horizontal?" He said "this is a family newspaper. You can't have a man on top of a woman." It was a shot from Here To Eternity with Debra Carr and Burt Lancaster, which was taboo. So I called him and said "you son of a bitch, you almost got me fired!" He said "that's one I own you." Eleven years later, I get a call from him and he says "Jerry, what are you doing these days?" I said "I'm no longer doing newspaper work. I'm doing publicity. I have my own office. I've gone through various stages." So he said "Well look, I own you one. I'm gonna do a movie and I want to know if you can handle the movie!" I said "Yeah, I've done a couple." So he said "I'm starting the movie..." and he gave me the dates. I said "well, who's in it?" He said "we've got nobody in it." I said "you want me to publicize a movie without a title and nobody in it?" He says "yes." I said "Somebody's gotta be in it!" He said "Yeah, I got a group called The Beatles." I said "I've never heard of them." He said "You will. Next February they're going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show and they're going to be gigantic." So the first move was The Beatles one. I kept his name alive in the trade papers, which is what he wanted. They did their own tours here, so I worked on the Dodger Stadium concert and also The Hollywood Bowl.
Q - Did you go on the road with The Beatles?
A - No, I didn't go on the road.
Q - When you started publicizing A Hard Day's Night, were you a fan of The Beatles?
A - Well, I was fascinated by them. If I had known then what I know now, I would've done a lot of things differently. Also, I certainly would've saved a lot of the memorabilia I had. I've got photographs with them. So, at any rate, I thought they were terrific. United Artists didn't give a shit. They had the soundtrack album and they said we'll make our money on the soundtrack album. We don't care if the picture works or not.
Q - Were The Beatles personalities pretty close to what we say in A Hard Day's Night?
A - I think so, yeah. Very bright. That was the amazing thing that I felt. They were very, very bright and fun.
Q - What exactly did you do to publicize The Beatles' films? Did you have to make a lot of phone calls to entertainment editors at newspapers?
A - Everybody was just interested. They thought long hair...they're full of shit. Forget it. It was rough. I even had a screening for the Academy and 12 people showed up.
Q - The Academy of...?
A - Motion Pictures and Sciences.
Q - How many people could've shown up?
A - A thousand.
Q - And only 12 people attended. That's terrible.
A - Yeah. Until the kids started bringing their parents who were producers or big shots in this town, it was very, very tough to get anybody excited. What really turned the tale I think is when it opened in New York. There were only 6 papers in New York at that time. They had 14. Then it was down to 10 and eventually it was 6. All 6 reviews were excellent. And so suddenly people began saying this might be something interesting. Maybe we should go and see it. It got 2 nominations.
Q - Didn't I see something that said they're making A Hard Day's Night into a DVD?
A - No, no. The DVD is already done by Miramax. They're gonna release it with interviews with Richard Lester, the director and Walter (Shenson, the producer)
Q - Richard Lester is still around, isn't he?
A - Oh, yeah. I handled the re-issue of the picture. In December of 2000, they re-issued A Hard Day's Night. Miramax took it over. Originally it was with United Artists. Then, 15 years after that, Walter Shenson got the rights. So, he gave it to various cable stations. Miramax made a deal with him. I handled the opening in November of 2000. I got a call from the L.A. Times. They said "Didn't you handle the original?" I said "Yes." They said " Well, this is 37 years later." I said "Yes. I'm getting old." So I must be the only guy that ever handled a picture 37 years apart.
Q - And it shows The Beatles are not getting old. They're as vital as ever.
A - That's right.
Q - What did The Beatles think of the reaction to their film, by their fans? Did they ever say?
A - They were very excited. Very pleasantly pleased about it. They thought it was terrific.
Q - Now, we've got to talk about Brian Epstein. He's one of my all-time favorite people to talk about.
A - Why?
Q - He brought class to Rock management.
A - There was no doubt that he was a tough son of a bitch, you know...really tough. Gradually as time went on, I think towards about '68, '69, they were getting a little tired of him.
Q - He actually died in August of 1967.
A - I know he died from booze and alcohol. Did he die in '67?
Q - He certainly did.
A - I know there was a problem because they were talking about going to another agent. I think it was Allen Klein or somebody. Another manager.
Q - Did you still handle music personalities these days?
A - No. I got out of the music business. I handled Brenda Lee, Joe Tex, The Beach Boys. I just decided that I couldn't be being with them at 2 o'clock in the morning and be in my office at 8:30 AM. They just don't go to bed.