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Larry's 'Ride' with the Beatles

Veteran newsman dishes on sex, drugs & the Fab Four at the Franklin Institute

John, Paul, George, Ringo - and Larry Kane.
John, Paul, George, Ringo - and Larry Kane.Read more

WHICH ONE of these doesn't go with the others?

Partying with hookers. Smoking pot. Homosexual seduction. Larry Kane.

If you said "Larry Kane," you're wrong, because that was a trick question. The first three are among the juicier elements of "Larry Kane's Ticket to Ride," the venerated local TV newsman's entertaining and often eye-opening program about his decades-long relationship with the Beatles.

Produced by local rock-music archivist Denny Somach, "Ticket to Ride," being presented every Friday and Saturday this month at the Franklin Institute, is a multimedia program that offers the ultimate insider's account of life in the whirlwinds that were the Fab Four's 1964 and '65 North American tours.

It's also an often-touching story of how a nice Jewish boy from Miami formed lasting bonds with the four musicians from Liverpool, England, who were among the most celebrated and influential individuals of the second half of the 20th century.

Not that any of this will be news to those who have paid attention. During the past decade or so, Kane has forged a second career as a Beatles memoirist (some local media wags have jokingly referred to him in private as "the Fifth Beatle"). But the subject matter is so engaging, the details so vivid and the viewpoint so unparalleled, that there is little in the live presentation that seems redundant.

Using material from his two Beatles-themed books, 2003's "Ticket to Ride" and 2005's "Lennon Revealed," as well as archival film footage, photos and his own priceless stash of taped interviews, Kane, 67, weaves a fascinating tale of an epochal time: The out-of-the-blue explosion of the Beatles in 1964 - and his peripheral role in it.

Kane's presentation is chock-full of juicy tidbits about life on the road with the Beatles.

Considering his decades-long public image as this market's most sobersided TV journalist, it's more than a little surprising to hear Kane's stories of women offering their bodies to him just so they could meet the band, of how Beatles manager Brian Epstein tried - and failed - to coax him into bed, and how the four "Mop Tops" were likewise unsuccessful in their attempts to get him to smoke marijuana.

But maybe the most surprising part of the story is how Kane had no desire to avail himself of the journalistic coup of a lifetime that was mistakenly offered to him in 1964.

At the time, he was 21 and working as a fledgling newsman for WFUN-AM, a top-40 station in his native Miami. When he learned of the Beatles' impending tour stop there, he wrote to Epstein on company letterhead requesting an interview with the band. Though, as Kane was to subsequently learn, Epstein was a marketing genius, he was unschooled back then in the ways of American media and mistakenly believed that Kane was "the biggest broadcaster in America."

As a result of this misperception, the invitation to be part of the Beatles' traveling party was proffered to Kane, who did his best to reject it.

During last Friday's opening-night presentation, Kane told the audience he had gone to his boss and said, "I can tell you right now, why would I want to travel with a group that will be gone by November?"

In a phone chat the following afternoon, Kane elaborated on why he was adamant about not wanting to accept Epstein's offer.

"I felt it was much better for a DJ to do," he explained. "What the heck would I do? Even though I was a young guy, my orientation was [hard news]. I thought this was a pop-music story.

"It was," he conceded, "a visionary mistake on my part."

Luckily, Kane wound up losing the argument. In mid-August 1964, he put on the only suit he owned, packed his 40-pound, reel-to-reel tape recorder and headed to San Francisco to begin the adventure of a lifetime.

One of the first stories he tells in the show is how a drop-dead- gorgeous stewardess (as female flight attendants were called back then) offered herself to him in exchange for an introduction to the group. The easy availability of sex on the tour is a theme repeated throughout the program. (When the entourage hit Atlantic City, a prominent local citizen - whom Kane refuses to identify because he's still alive - came to the old Lafayette Hotel with 30 prostitutes in tow for the traveling party's amusement.)

Despite the regular temptations (and the hormonal needs of a normal 21-year-old male), Kane says he abstained from participating in the debauchery. Even then, he was a serious journalist who instinctively knew that using his privileged situation to have sex was a serious breach of his profession's ethics.

"Taking advantage of people through [the Beatles] was not a good thing," he reasoned. "I felt it was not a good thing for me to do." He added that his reporting duties took up a lot of time that otherwise could have been used for more carnal pursuits.

Not that Kane holds himself up as a paragon of virtue more than four decades later.

"Did I regret [not indulging in sex while on tour]?" he asked at one point in the phone call. "I'm not going to lie to you. Yes."

Interestingly, Kane admitted that neither of the tours he covered convinced him that the Beatles were more than a flash-in-the-pan destined to be forgotten as soon as the Next Big Thing hit the pop-music realm.

The realization that the group was a true force for the ages came, he said in the interview, in mid-1967, when the group, which had retired from performing live, released its watershed "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album. "When I heard 'Sgt. Pepper,' I knew things were going to change for them."

Kane's relationship with the Beatles continued long after the 1965 tour (he had to pass on the 1966 road trip because he had joined the military). One of the most interesting segments in "Ticket to Ride" is a clip from a May 1968 TV interview he did with John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Kane described it as the last media appearance the two icons made together.

And there is much in the show devoted to the special relationship Kane and Lennon shared in the 1970s (including footage of John's 1975 trip to the Channel 6 studios, where he filled in for Jim O'Brien on the weather report).

Which is why Kane can't be accused of engaging in hyperbole when, early in "Ticket to Ride," he promises the audience he'll tell "the inside story of what was truly the greatest story across the universe."

"Larry Kane's Ticket to Ride," Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St., 8 p.m. Fridays, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays through March, 215-448-1254, events/ticket2ride.html.