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Good Ol' Freda then and now
by Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series
In 1962, a skinny, savvy Irish Liverpudlian lass was hired by Brian Epstein to work as a secretary for his North End Music Stores. It was, quite possibly, the best investment Mr. Epstein ever made (and he made some record-shattering investments!)
The story of that courageous, smart, innovative and honest young woman, Freda Kelly, is being told in a brand new film - out this week on Magnolia Pictures - called "Good Ol' Freda!" And this is one movie you'll not want to miss, even if you have to drive a bit to see it.
Freda Kelly was a graduate of a Liverpool secretarial school and a tremendous fan of The Beatles. In fact, she attended The Cavern Club for the lunchtime session almost every day that The Beatles hit the boards. So when Epstein invited her to work in NEMS, she was delighted. But in truth, it was Brian who was getting the better end of that deal.
For months, Freda had been running a Beatles fan club out of her own home, accepting hundreds and hundreds of letters and diligently answering each one (despite her father's chagrin). But as 1962 saw the boys hit the charts with "Love Me Do" and the spring of 1963 saw the rise to #1's with the recording of the Please Please Me LP, the volume of mail became too overwhelming to handle. NEMS had to assist.
|Freda Kelly (center) at the South by Southwest Film Festival last March|
Using her strong but charming personality, Freda encouraged volunteers to help her process Beatles Fan Club membership cards. She also ran a staff at NEMS who assisted her in dealing with the burgeoning deluge of mail, requests, and membership sign-ups. But never one to whine, Freda found a way to get the immense job completed well and on time.
Furthermore, her employees (all loyal Beatles fans themselves) were not allowed to run willy-nilly in the unusual job. Freda strictly forbade forging signatures or sending out fake souvenirs to the fans. She supervised each volunteer with an eagle eye and iron hand. In the documentary, "Good Ol' Freda" viewers will see exactly what happened to one group of volunteers who tried to "fudge a wee bit" on the items sent to loyal Beatles fans.
As The Beatles climbed to British fame throughout 1963 and were poised to conquer America in 1964, Epstein realized that he had to move his headquarters to London. But a touching personal event in Freda's life - a deep family loyalty - led her to reject the offer of a job in "The Smoke" (as London was called, back in the day).
What occurred next was a testament to Epstein's genius. He fully realized that Freda Kelly was far too valuable to lose, no matter what he had to do to keep the clever young girl on his staff. And the adjustments he made to keep Freda Kelly as the head of The Beatles Fan Club will make you cheer.
For the next 7 years, Freda Kelly not only made sure that all fan mail was answered and all membership cards were processed, but she became a close friend and confidant to The Beatles and to their families. Of course, in that role, she was privy to many "family secrets" that no one else knew.
Sleazy offers to sell The Beatles' personal information and private dealings were rampant. And in "Good Ol' Freda," viewers will see her response to the fantastic lures of wealth for information. Her reaction to the proposals of easy wealth is quite unique...in fact, singular. In a world of double-dealing and dishonesty, Freda Kelly is remarkable.
This film was shown at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans in early August since many of the fans present worked hand-in-hand with Director Ryan White and producers Peggy McCabe and Kathy McCabe to fund the film via Kickstarter. And on hand for the premiere was Freda Kelly herself.
When the show ended, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. (You'll be crying, too...don't think you won't!) And when Freda was issued onto the stage to the deafening roar of a long, long standing ovation, grown men were weeping openly.
Without being dramatic, let me say frankly: This is a film that every human being should have to watch in order to be considered human. It's a film that mothers and fathers should take their children to see to understand the concept of integrity. It's the finest film I've seen in ages, maybe forever.
Freda Kelly proved that a person of any age - even a very young person - can handle tremendous responsibility with great ease. She proved that honesty produces a life free of regret. And she demonstrated that humility is the most beautiful garment one can wear.
Go see this movie. Drive to see it. If you can't see it in a theater on 6 September (or in the weeks to follow), watch it on ITunes or On Demand! And when it comes out on DVD in December, buy a copy to show your children and friends. It will make you proud to be a Beatles fan. It will inspire you to be a better you.
Note: Freda will be interviewed on my radio show, The John Lennon Hour on Beatlesarama this Sunday, 8 September, at 8 pm ET. Listen to her talk from the heart and then go see the film. You'll never be the same again, I promise.
To see a the official movie trailer and find out more about Freda Kelly, go to www.goodolfreda.com.
Published September 5, 2013
This article is Copyright © 2013, Jude Southerland Kessler, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission