By Wayne Harada
Sorry to learn that entrepreneur Sid Bernstein has died in his sleep today (Wed Aug. 21) of natural causes in Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He turned 95 last week, according to his Isle pal, Tom Moffatt, and he went peacefully with wife Geraldine (Geri) at his side.
“I wanted to send him fresh malassadas for his birthday,” said Moffatt, since it was one of Bernstein’s favorite treats whenever he visited Hawaii. “But it’s hard to get it there fresh.”
Bernstein was best known nationally as the man who brought The Beatles to Shea Stadium in 1965 and 1966, concerts that galvanized the Beatlemania frenzy, at a time when stadiums were mainly for baseball and football. He loved John, Paul, George and Ringo from afar, first reading about their uncanny rapport with audiences in the British press, then seeking out Beatles manager Brian Epstein to try to book the act in America — a gig Epstein thought impossible. But a hysteric, screaming audience of 55,000 filled the first Shea visit, raising the bar on concert extravaganzas.
A fierce and dedicated promoter, Bernstein earlier also presented the Fab Four at Carnegie Hall, the first rock act to play that fabled venue, and the timing was perfect: The Brits had been booked the same week on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
Bernstein was that kind of show biz wizard, thinking outside of the box, taking risks, always confident that he could make the impossible possible.
But Bernstein’s reach also extended to Hawaii, and I saw some of his mentoring magic and his prowess at making things happen. He was a devoted fan of the Islands, a regular vacation spot. He was managing The Young Rascals (later, The Rascals), so arranged concerts here during their heyday — their “My Hawaii” hit was a Rascals songs resulting from one of several gigs, and the group had Beatlemania-type appeal with requisite screeching fans.
Bernstein always stayed at the then-Kahala Hilton, his home away from home, “where he fashioned a Bernstein burger with cheese and fried onions,” said Moffatt. Bernstein also had pals and aides fetch him malassadas from Leonard’s Bakery and seek out rare egg cream sodas here.
Bernstein’s imprint touched numerous superstars over the decades, including Judy Garland, Jim Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Dion, Bobby Darin, Chubby Checker, and Duke Ellington.
I remember, too, when Bernstein presented local talent Warren Marley at the Hawaiian Village — and bought a full-page ad in the daily paper as part of the send-off. It was an extraordinary promotion for a singer-pianist working in a Waikiki lounge, but that was the Bernstein style.
Besides his wife, Bernstein is survived by six children.