Sid Bernstein, the soft-spoken impresario whose long career included bringing the Beatles to New York City's Carnegie Hall in 1964 and Shea Stadium in 1965, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 95.
His death was announced by a spokeswoman, Merle Frimark.
Mr. Bernstein had built a varied career by early 1963, when he became fascinated with the Beatles after reading British newspaper coverage of the hysteria that typically erupted at their concerts. By then he had presented a West Coast tour by Tito Puente and concerts by Miles Davis, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, Nina Simone and Ruth Brown.
But getting the Beatles was not easy. At the General Artists Corp., where Mr. Bernstein was earning $200 a week booking and promoting concerts, he was unable to stir up any interest among his colleagues, particularly after the agency's representative in London assured him that the group was strictly a local phenomenon.
Mr. Bernstein persisted, telephoning the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, at home in Liverpool in March 1963 and proposing they perform at Carnegie Hall. Epstein, who died in 1967, found the idea tantalizing but had reservations. The group's early records, released in the United States on small labels, were getting no airplay and were not selling well, and he had no intention of having the Beatles fail in America.
Mr. Bernstein offered $6,500 for two shows and proposed a date three months away. Epstein said he would not bring the group to New York before 1964, assuming they had made headway in the American market by then. Paging through his desk calendar, Mr. Bernstein proposed Feb. 12 -- a national holiday (Lincoln's Birthday in those days), when youngsters would be out of school. Epstein agreed, and Mr. Bernstein quickly booked two shows for that night.
As it turned out, Ed Sullivan had booked the group for three consecutive appearances on his Sunday-night variety show, where they appeared on Feb. 9. Epstein, meanwhile, persuaded Capitol Records to release the Beatles' single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in late December and to commit $40,000 to promoting the group and its album "Meet the Beatles." (Capitol, the American affiliate of EMI, the band's British label, had earlier turned down their recordings.) The Carnegie Hall shows sold out quickly.
After his success with the Beatles, Mr. Bernstein presented the Rolling Stones at Carnegie Hall. But complaining that the Stones' fans were rude to the ushers, stood on the seats and generally made a mess of the stately hall, the Carnegie booking manager banned him from presenting shows there for several years. Instead, Mr. Bernstein presented the Kinks, the Animals and other British bands at the Paramount Theater in Times Square and the Academy of Music in lower Manhattan.
In October 1964, Mr. Bernstein approached the management of Shea Stadium about a Beatles appearance. Stadium officials doubted that he could sell 55,600 tickets to a pop concert, but he knew better. The show quickly sold out. The Beatles received $180,000 for the show on Aug. 15, 1965; Mr. Bernstein said that after expenses he made a profit of only $6,500.
Mr. Bernstein booked the Beatles for a second Shea Stadium concert on Aug. 23, 1966. But because of the furor over John Lennon's assertion that the band was more popular than Jesus, and perhaps also because of the fickleness of the teenage audience, thousands of tickets went unsold. The Beatles were fed up with live performances by that point, and when their 1965 North American tour ended, they retired from the stage, deciding to devote themselves instead to recording.
Sid Bernstein -- he rarely used his full given name, Sidney, was born in New York on Aug. 12, 1918. He was adopted by Yiddish-speaking Russian immigrants who called him Simcha, which means joy or gladness in Hebrew. In 1943 he joined the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. While he was stationed in France after the war, he set up and ran a nightclub for American soldiers.
Upon his return to New York, he began organizing singles weekends in the Catskills, as well as weekly dances at the Tremont Terrace, a Bronx nightclub.
By the early 1960s, around the time he was presenting Judy Garland and others at Carnegie Hall, Mr. Bernstein was also overseeing shows by James Brown and other rhythm-and-blues performers at the Paramount.