On this date “the fifth Beatle” BRIAN EPSTEIN died (b. 1934). He also managed numerous other groups like Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and solo artists like Cilla Black. The Beatles recorded a demo in Decca’s studios — paid for by Epstein — which he later persuaded George Martin to listen to. Epstein was then offered a contract (after Martin had auditioned the group) by EMI’s small Parlophone label, even though they had previously been rejected by almost every other British record company.
Though Epstein was Gay, it was not publicly known until a long time after his death, although it was an open secret among his friends and business associates. Paul McCartney said that he and the other Beatles knew that Epstein was a homosexual, but they did not care, because Epstein greatly encouraged them when record companies turned them down, and used to take them to late-night drinking clubs they had previously never had access to.
Although Lennon often made sarcastic comments about Epstein’s homosexuality to friends and to Epstein personally, nobody outside their closed circle was allowed to comment on it. Ian Sharp — one of Lennon’s art school friends — once made a sarcastic remark about Epstein but was sent a letter by Epstein’s office within forty-eight hours that demanded a complete apology. Sharp apologized but was then completely ostracized, and was told by McCartney in a letter to have no contact at all with any of them in the future.
There were rumors of a brief sexual encounter between Lennon and Epstein when they both went on a four-day holiday together to Barcelona, Spain in April 1963. Lennon always denied this, telling Playboy in 1980: “It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship.” Lennon’s first wife Cynthia also maintains that Lennon’s relationship with Epstein was platonic.
A fictionalized account of the Spanish holiday was portrayed in the film 1991 The Hours and Times. Lennon’s friend and confidant, Peter Shotton, claimed in his book, The Beatles, Lennon and Me, that under provocation from Epstein, Lennon did partly give in: “I let him toss me off, and that was it.” Biographer Hunter Davies also recalled Lennon telling him he had consented to an encounter “to see what it was like.”
Writer Albert Goldman expanded on both claims in his The Lives of John Lennon, alleging a longtime affair between the two men. Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose at his home in London in August 1967. The Beatles’ early success has been attributed to Epstein’s management and sense of style. Paul McCartney said of Epstein: “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.”