Many know James Cuorato as the silver-haired CEO of the Independence Visitor Center, or as chairman of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, now working to revive the Market East corridor.
Few know he lives a second, secret life:
He's a Beatle. In fact, he's Ringo.
At the Hard Rock Cafe this month, Cuorato, 61, banged a driving beat on the drums, transformed in a dark wig and Ed Sullivan-era suit as his tribute band, the Beat Tells, performed an exacting re-creation of the lads from Liverpool.
For more than two hours, the band rocked through note-for-note renditions of three dozen Beatles classics - with Cuorato delivering a Ringoesque vocal on two Starr standards, "Boys" and "Act Naturally."
"Ringo! Ringo!" fans shouted, drawing from Cuorato a modest wave that revealed big, colorful rings on his fingers.
He came off stage sweating and exhilarated. "It was just great," he said.
Cuorato's role in the Beat Tells is more than that of timekeeper: it's the culmination of a dream that began 50 years ago in a Northeast Philadelphia basement, improbably achieved through a reply to a want ad and a reunion with a lost friend.
Now, when people learn that Cuorato, a grandfather, portrays a twenty-something Ringo on stage, "I get these looks, from surprise bordering on shock."
The Hard Rock is near the west end of Market East, six blocks from the Visitor Center on Independence Mall. In Cuorato's office there, the only hint of music is a Beatles calendar on the wall and a miniature drum set on a shelf.
He dresses for business: blue or gray suit, white shirt, black shoes. He's equally formal at the Redevelopment Authority, which last month approved a deal to grant control of the rundown Gallery to a developer who plans a $325 million renovation.
On stage, Cuorato trades Boyds suits for Beatles style - knit tie, drainpipe trousers, and Cuban-heel boots. The simulation extends to the equipment - Rickenbacker guitars, Vox amplifiers, and Ludwig drums.
A mid-show costume change puts the band into tan "Shea Stadium" concert-era jackets, reproduced down to the Wells Fargo badge on the chest of Paul McCartney, portrayed by Jim Miller, a food-service worker from Baltimore.
Creating a Liverpudlian illusion requires a certain fanaticism, from learning each lick of the music to studying hours of videotape to mimic the Fabs' mannerisms.
"It's all about practicing, you know?" said Mark McCloskey, 57, a seafood executive by day, the band's John Lennon by night.
The Beat Tells' George Harrison is out with a back injury, replaced by a series of rent-a-Georges.
The Beat Tells aren't a unique reproduction. A legion of tributes arose after the Beatles disbanded in 1970, and many are expert.
Rain performs a Broadway-quality greatest-hits concert that features multiple costume changes. The Fab Faux, another top band, skips the Beatles-like appearance and concentrates on playing the band's most complicated music.
The Beat Tells perform as the early and mid-career Beatles, roughly covering "Please Please Me" through Revolver. The tunes, unlike those that followed, can be re-created with two guitars, a bass, and drums.
"For me," Cuorato said, "it's a way to keep doing something I love, and playing the music I feel was the best that was ever made."
He grew up in a twin home on Tolbut Street, his mother a homemaker, his father handling supplies at the Frankford Arsenal.
By age 9, he was attuned to the rock music coming from radio stations WFIL and WIBG, becoming a Beatles fan before the band exploded into American consciousness during its 1964 Sullivan show appearance.
Cuorato began hanging out with a friend who owned a drum kit, and bugged his parents to buy him his own. It arrived on Christmas 1966, shortly before Cuorato turned 13.
He taught himself to play - and never stopped, drumming in bands through college. He graduated from St. Joseph's University in 1975, becoming a city project manager who helped build the Gallery in 1977.
The demands of work and family - and attending Drexel University at night to earn an M.B.A. - took him away from drumming. As years passed, the demands grew.
As deputy commerce director in the mid-1980s, Cuorato handled negotiations to relocate businesses to build the Convention Center. In 2000, Mayor John F. Street named him commerce director.
Cuorato stayed a Beatlemaniac. And he missed drumming. While serving on the board of the Philadelphia Music Alliance in 2004, friends including Sigma Sound Studios founder Joe Tarsia encouraged him to pick up the sticks.
The first couple weeks were brutal. Cuorato felt like an aged athlete whose body could no longer summon the fluid moves of youth.
"By the third week," he said, "I started to think, 'I can do this again.' "
He tried out for a Beatles band, making it to final auditions before losing out to another Ringo.
In 2010, after becoming head of the Visitor Center, he answered an ad from someone seeking to form a Beatles band. Cuorato arrived at the Newtown house, where the guitar player looked him up and down.
"You're Jimmy Cuorato," the man said.
It took Cuorato a minute to recognize the guitarist - McCloskey, who had lived across the street when they were kids.
They hadn't seen each other in 40 years. Neither knew that the other was obsessed with the Beatles.
"I think Jim would excel at anything he did," McCloskey said. "He's really the same in the Beat Tells as in his day job. . . . The difference is, he's behind the drums in the Beat Tells, and at Independence Hall he's out front."
At the Hard Rock, the Beat Tells played 35 songs, far more than the Beatles, who played 11 or 12 songs in each of their U.S. concerts.
Among those shouting for encores was Ivy Barsky, CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History. She's a Beatles fan, she said, but a bigger Cuorato fan.
"His work at IVC and his work on the drums are pretty similar," she said. "He approaches what he does with great authenticity, and rigor, and joy."
You know that can't be bad.
"He's better now than he was as a teenager," said brother John, a retired Defense Department employee. "If I close my eyes, it sounds like I'm listening to the record."