BERNSTEIN VERSUS THE BEATLES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had a friend named Helen who was tall, thin, blond, classically beautiful and always stylishly dressed and coiffed. She could be a bit ditzy but she was a wonderful friend with a wide circle of people who loved her. She was fiercely loyal and would go to great lengths to help, protect, or defend her friends.

Helen in 1979

Helen lived in the same Park Avenue apartment building in New York City as Leonard Bernstein and the two families became close. Bernstein was a world-renowned conductor and composer whose works ranged from classical pieces to Broadway shows, like “On The Town”, “Wonderful Town”, and his most iconic, “West Side Story”. He conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for many years and gave popular TV lectures on classical music. In addition, he was an author and a pianist and a flamboyant personality.

Coincidentally, Linda Eastman’s parents also lived in the same building as Helen and Leonard Bernstein and Linda Eastman, who married Paul McCartney. When Paul and Linda visited her parents, word would get out and large crowds of avid Beatles fans would gather outside the building in the hopes of getting a glimpse of Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman in their early years together

One such day, Helen was out with Leonard Bernstein and they returned home to find Paul’s fans congregating outside their apartment building. For some reason, Helen saw Paul McCartney’s fans as a slight to her friend, Leonard Bernstein. So she got on her soapbox and started to lecture the crowd on what a brilliant and creative musician Bernstein was. She listed his composing credits as well as his conducting accomplishments and told the crowd that they should be honored to be meeting him!

Beatles’ fans

Her stump speech for Bernstein went right over the young girls’ heads. But it’s the sign of a true friend when someone goes to bat for you even when her words fell on deaf ears. But I always loved the image of this elegant beauty schooling a bunch of Beatles fans on classical and Broadway music!

15 thoughts on “BERNSTEIN VERSUS THE BEATLES – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

    1. Helen was a real character! She was fearless when it came to defending herself or her friends and family. She once threatened to stand in a hospital hallway and scream until her friend got the medication she needed!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sort of reminds me of when I was working in the Steinway building which was right across from the Russian Tea Room — all down the street from ABC Net which was in Columbus Circle. Not only did I get to meet Garry for lunch (very cool), but I met anyone who was working at the studios. A bunch of quick encounters with Sidney Poitier (too embarrassed to ask for an autograph — never could do that) and I got to have lunch sitting (at a counter) next to George Hamilton. Being from New York, I had to be cool about rather than jumping up and down and gurgling.

    Poitier is really TALL by the way, and Hamilton is so tan he’s gone fully brown.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never got Bernstein’s side of the story. It might have been embarassing for him – but it may have felt great to hear himself lauded to young people who didn’t know him.

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    1. Me too. I remember Bernstein’s lecture series on TV. I was mesmerized. I think he educated a whole generation of kids on classical music.

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