Kauai hotel preserves Beatlemania for the ages
Mike Hough, a native of Birmingham, England, talks about the Beatles as if they were old friends. He can rattle off little-known anecdotes about their concerts and weddings. He knows the lyrics to many of their songs and the stories behind them. He owns and has read countless books and articles published about the legendary British quartet.
It's no surprise, then, that Hough has set aside a 350-square-foot room at Kauai Country Inn to display Beatles memorabilia he's collected over 45 years.
He conducts tours of the Beatles Museum, open only to guests of the inn, on Monday afternoons and Friday mornings.
"Many times, guests will ask if they can take the tour at a different time, and if I'm not busy I'll do it," he says. "It's a lot of fun and people love it."
On display are hundreds of Beatles items: pins and posters, mugs and music boxes, caps and clocks, phones and photos, ties and toys (including, of course, a Yellow Submarine). There are Beatles badges; pendants; rings; radios; and stamps from all over the world, including the United States, Russia, Isle of Man and the republic of Burkina Faso in Africa.
Also exhibited are every album the Beatles released on vinyl, eight-track and cassette tape, and CD; every movie they appeared in on DVD, videotape and/or laser disc; and, dubbed onto DVD, a set of 20 short, fun movies -- the forerunners of today's music videos -- originally made on 8-mm film to promote the release of all their new singles in the 1960s.
Among Hough's most prized possessions is a shiny black Mini Cooper S formerly owned by the group's manager, Brian Epstein.
"It has just 17,000 miles on it," Hough says. "Brian and all four Beatles had identical cars with minor cosmetic differences."
The mint-condition car flaunts special features such as a sunroof, wooden dashboard, twin carburetors and gas tanks, leather bucket seats, electric windows and a souped-up engine that could hit 120 mph in top gear.
Says Hough, "It also has an unusual feature for its time: a quarter-inch audio jack, the kind they use on guitars, which was mounted on the dashboard, probably for a portable tape deck."
In 1984, Hough saw the car parked in front of a small lock-and-key shop in Santa Monica, Calif., on the first day it had been put up for sale.
"It was chained to a concrete post, which I thought was cruel and unusual punishment for a Mini Cooper S," he recalls.
After thinking about it overnight, Hough returned and purchased the car from the shop's owner for $4,000, charged on his American Express card.
"The price included a box of junk that had been in the trunk since the seller's father had bought the car at an auction at the docks in Long Beach 17 years earlier," he says.
A month later, in one of his "clean and tidy phases," Hough went through the box. At the very bottom of it, in a white envelope beneath bits, clutch plates, a tennis racket, and brake and light parts, was the owner's logbook, which listed Brian Epstein's name, of 24 Chapel St., in London.
At first, Hough thought it couldn't be the Brian Epstein, but he recognized the address as one the Beatles had frequented.
"I immediately put the car in my living room because where else are you going to put it?" Hough says. "It's a work of art, not a car anymore."
There's a story behind every object in the Beatles Museum, and Hough shares as many as guests want to hear.
"I can spend five minutes or two hours on the tour with people, depending on their level of interest," he says. "I often can't get them to leave. They'll say, 'Can I please go through your albums? I just want to look at them, touch them. Can I sit in the car? Can I take photos?"
Hough notes that people in their 50s and older most appreciate the opportunity to browse.
"The younger guests come with their parents just so they can say they did it, but it's obvious they're thinking, 'What's the big deal? It's a bunch of stuff about old or dead people who played music before we were born.' For the rest of us, it's a shrine."