I have been a Beatles fan since I was 5 years old. When I was a kid I didn’t know anyone outside my family who loved them or knew anything about them. I was always really hard core in my devotion to them.
Fans of any band are eager to see, read, and hear anything about them. But there are not a lot of performers who have such universal appeal as The Beatles. I doubt that in 50 years anyone will be lined up outside a standing room only showing of a documentary about the secretary for One Direction. At the 2013 Cleveland International Film Festival, however, there were massive crowds waiting to get in to see Good Ol’ Freda, an excellent and fascinating documentary about Freda Kelly, the woman we never heard about until now who worked for The Beatles throughout their career. Everyone wanted to see the movie and have a chance to see the woman herself, for Freda was gracious enough to attend and participate in a Q&A afterward. She had done the same the previous night at the Cedar Lee Theater on Cleveland’s east side, again to an anxious and excited crowd of fans.
Good Ol’ Freda is amazing, truly. It’s the story of the luckiest Beatles fan in the world. It’s exceptionally well put together and interesting, even if you’re not a huge Beatles fan. As I watched it I kept wondering why we had never heard of this woman before. Freda started out volunteering for—and then running—the Beatles fan club. She was a teenager from Liverpool and went to all their gigs, and they became friends. Eventually, Brian Epstein asked her to work for him, so she not only ran the fan club but she handed The Beatles their paychecks. (I am trying to find a way to do this with Foo Fighters…)
Freda is a very humble lady, and she never wanted to cash in on her friendship with the Fab Four. She even gave away most of her Beatles stuff to fans a few years after they broke up! She thought they should be the ones to have it. There are some scenes in Good Ol’ Freda where she’s in her attic going through the one or two boxes of Beatles stuff she saved. Can you imagine? That’s all she has left, aside from the memories. Her daughter barely knew about Freda’s incredible past. How could a person keep all that to themselves?
I respect her for doing that, of course. She doesn’t think it would be right to dish the dirt on her friends. But even if she just wrote a book about her everyday life in the office, Beatles fans would eat it up! You don’t need to tell us any scandal, Freda. Just tell us what it was like to be in the middle (but out of the spotlight) of all that. Freda still works as a secretary. I would have signed a book deal by now so I could retire!
After the movie was over director Ryan White took the mike to start the Q&A. He first thanked some of the people who helped with the film, and he asked them to come up to the front of the room. Everyone sitting to the right of me stood up, including Freda! Holy crap! They had been sitting in our row the whole time. It was pretty cool.
Freda said a few words, and seemed overwhelmed by all the attention she received that night. A lady in the audience, who was probably Freda’s age, became very emotional as she told Freda how much The Beatles meant to her when she was growing up. After the Q&A was over, Freda went over to talk to her. How sweet! The friend who got me into the screening asked if I wanted to talk to her. I said I would have no idea what to say. Besides, there were a million people waiting to talk to her. We were seeing another film in the same theatre shortly after Good Ol’ Freda was over, so I told my friend that if Freda were still around when I came out of the bathroom that I would say hello to her.
Well, there she was, outside the theatre, talking to reporters and fans. She was about to walk away when I tapped her on the shoulder and asked if I could get a quick picture. She kindly agreed, putting her arm around me to pose. I leaned in and told her that I’m only 40, but I grew up listening to The Beatles, too. She enjoyed that. Freda was a lovely lady, and the closest I’ll ever get to meeting a Beatle! Definitely one of the highlights of my life.
Run to see Good Ol’ Freda if you can! It will make you happy. And maybe you’ll meet Freda, too.