Paul McCartney’s return to Seattle Friday for his highly anticipated Safeco Field show is stirring some embarrassing memories for iconic Seattle DJ and concert promoter Pat O’Day.
O’Day was the program director and promoter of two Beatles shows at the old Seattle Coliseum (now KeyArena) on August 25, 1966. But several weeks before, he got a visit at KJR radio from a young woman who said she had to talk to him in private.
The woman told O’Day she was the assistant manager of a local answering service.
“She said ‘Pat here’s what’s going on. I have evidence Paul McCartney is going to get married to Jane Asher when the Beatles are here in Seattle.'”
O’Day’s interest was piqued. But he couldn’t believe it, until the woman showed him some pretty compelling stuff.
The woman said her contact was the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, and gave O’Day a London phone number he later confirmed was registered to Epstein. She claimed she had been asked by Epstein to help coordinate McCartney’s wedding. She had documents and receipts showing the British consulate had been contacted to provide someone to give the vows and conduct the ceremony, the tuxedos were ordered, the Spanish Ballroom of the Olympic Hotel was reserved, the wedding cake had been ordered.
The woman also had confirmations of hotel reservations for Jane Asher – a young British socialite known around the London music scene – and her mother, along with flight confirmations for the Ashers from London to Seattle.
“I look at all this and she, just as sincere as she can be, said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody,'” recounts O’Day. ‘I just couldn’t keep it to myself and had to share it with you,’ she told him.
If it was true, O’Day was sitting on one of the biggest stories in music ever. So he had his news guy Chuck Bolland, “Check it out thoroughly.” Everything did indeed seem to check out. They decided they had to go with the story.
“I held it up until that morning [of the concert] when we broke the news.” Even though it was way before the instant spread of information on the Internet, it didn’t take long for the word to get out all over. By the time of a scheduled press conference with the Beatles that afternoon, news crews flocked to Seattle from all over.
But even before the press conference, O’Day started getting an inkling something was wrong. Asher and her mother weren’t on the scheduled flight.
“Anyway, that was worrisome right there. But what the heck?” he says.
O’Day introduced the Beatles to the press, and McCartney was quickly asked about the supposed wedding.
‘It was… it’s a joke. Who started this? Anyone know? Does anyone know?'” asked McCartney. ‘I just got in today and found out I was getting married tonight. No, she is not coming in tonight as far as I know.’
‘And if she does, we are going out tonight anyway… so we’ll miss her,’ joked George Harrison.
“And Paul looks at me like ‘Pat, this is your radio station, you tell me what’s going on.’ And I said ‘Paul, all I know is what I know,'” O’Day laughs. “I said, ‘It was my news department, it wasn’t me.'”
O’Day says he had no clue what had happened, but it became clear there would be no Seattle wedding after racing down to the Olympic Hotel to see if anything was happening. He was told there had been a reception scheduled, but it had been canceled.
“And I’m saying ‘oh my god, did my breaking it wreck it for Paul and Jane.’ And I’m just feeling guilty as sin.”
Suffice it to say there was no wedding, and the Beatles flew to LA leaving a lot of flustered people behind.
The story quickly died down. But O’Day always wondered what really happened. He learned several months later when he was asked to emcee an awards dinner at a University of Washington fraternity.
During the ceremony, the president of the national Sigma Chi fraternity presented an award to the Seattle chapter.
“The Sigma Chi house of Seattle was given the grand award of Sigma Chi for pulling the greatest stunt of that year of any chapter. The stunt was the marriage of Paul McCartney and they had planned the whole thing,” O’Day laughs.
He had been had in what would become a legendary hoax. The fraternity revealed it had cooked up the complex caper months before, and even staged car washes and other fundraisers to pay for it.
One of the house members was spending the summer in London and set up the phone number under the name Brian Epstein. They had reserved all of the facilities and services and put down deposits. And the caper was getting the young woman from the answering service, a girlfriend of one of the house members, to deliver the goods.
“So at the end of that evening at the University of Washington I was given the turkey award by Sigma Chi for having fallen for that stunt,” O’Day says.
O’Day would later send a note to McCartney explaining what happened. He’s never heard back from Sir Paul, but he hopes the former Beatle forgives him. All these years later, he hopes McCartney finds it as funny as he does.
“It was one of those moments you never forget.”
Paul McCartney plays Safeco Field Friday night at 8 p.m.