Guard The Beatles
By Margot Winick
Imagine being assigned to guard and escort The Beatles and their entourage while they are coming to town to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Sgt. Buddy Dresner of the Miami Beach Police Department got that assignment on February 12, 1964, in the form of a memo detailing the activities of the band while they were in town, including a press conference and dress rehearsals prior to the live show on Sunday, February 16, at the Deauville Hotel.
The assigning memo stated that The Beatles would enter the hotel using the south service elevator, the same one that had been utilized by President John F. Kennedy when he visited days before his assassination. In fact, it was Sgt. Dresner who had supervised the guard detail for the President’s visit.
For Dresner, this assignment meant canceling a much-needed trip out of town for Valentine’s weekend with his wife, Dottie, but he promised to make time for her on Valentine’s Day. Because guarding the most famous band in the world was going to be demanding around the clock, Dresner decides to stay overnight in the Deauville Hotel on Valentine’s Day. Only Buddy’s wife Dottie knows. After all, what would his young children who are Beatles fans think if they knew their father was watching their every move?
During his watch, Dresner has to think on his feet – and with very limited resources – find clever ways for The Beatles to avoid bumping into the press and adoring fans whenever they enter and leave the glitzy hotel. Sgt. Dresner is so busy protecting the group, he neglects to do something special for his wife on Valentine’s Day until George Harrison reminds him. George sends her flowers in Buddy’s name.
Over the next few days, Sgt. Dresner entertains The Beatles as well as protects them. Among the local activities he engages in with them, he takes them a house where they jump in the pool and are photographed by “Life” magazine, and to the 5th Street Gym to meet Cassius Clay, who is scheduled to fight Sonny Liston in two weeks. Buddy takes them fishing, watch American TV shows, takes them to a drive-in movie starring Elvis Presley, and chaperone Ringo, Paul and George when they went out to have cocktails at a local bar. (John and Cynthia stayed in the hotel). All in all, he spends a total of nine days with them. These nine days are putting a strain on the Dresners’ relationship, and The Beatles decide to help Buddy make amends. One evening, Dresner cleverly sneaks the Fab Four and company out of the hotel to go have a home-cooked meal at the Dresner home with Dottie and their three children. The children, Jeri, 12, Andi, 9, and Barry, 6, and think that relatives are coming over for dinner. To their surprise, in walk The Beatles. Jeri, 12, sits next to her favorite, Paul, at dinner and when he kisses her forehead, she doesn’t wash it for a year, says her brother Barry. Barry is enamored with Ringo, and gets to play with his rings. Ringo helps Barry cut open his baked potato, and makes it look like a flower, Barry recalls.
After dinner of roast beef, potatoes, salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert, The Beatles spend time in the Dresner living room with the children. The Beatles, who have been taking photos like tourists during their entire trip, take photos with the children, as does their photographer, Dezo Hoffmann, but the Dresners do not. “It was a rule with my father, that we were going to treat them like our guests,” says Barry. “It was The Beatles’ first association with real Americans ... it was we who were documented by The Beatles themselves! Who could ever say that?”
The Beatles never forgot their connection with the Dresners, and continued correspondence for years. In fact, there are references in two Beatles songs that immortalize the time shared with Sgt. Buddy Dresner, according to Barry. One is the line “…quit the police department, and [get] a steady job,” from the song “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” a nod to a line that was uttered by the comedian Don Rickles, whose act The Beatles and Dresner caught at The Deauville.
Another is “…so Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes,” from “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” Dresner watched the scifi TV series “Outer Limits” and stated that if he had one of the guns used by the alien in the episode “The Children of Spider County,” he would “zap” criminals. John Lennon took a piece of artwork given by fans, and wrote the word down. The Beatles all autographed that canvas, and gave it to Buddy as a gift.
Today, Barry Dresner, who lives in Los Angeles, is trying to get a film of “Buddy and The Beatles” made, and is also hoping to recoup the photos taken by The Beatles of his family on that unforgettable night. Visit his website for more details buddyandthebeatles.com