Beatles’ secretary in documentary film


This video is called Good ‘Ol Freda – Interview with Freda Kelly, Head of the Beatles Fan Club.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

27 May 2013

Good Ol’ Freda

Good Ol’ Freda is a charming documentary by filmmaker Ryan White about the Beatles’ fiercely loyal secretary, Freda Kelly. The title comes from the group’s 1963 Christmas message, aimed at their fans, in which George Harrison first thanks their secretary in Liverpool and the four shout, “Good Ol’ Freda!” The Beatles—Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr [whom Freda affectionately calls “Richie” in the film]—was the most successful pop group in history, selling more than one billion records.

In 1962, Freda, then a shy 17-year-old Liverpudlian, was asked by the band’s manager Brian Epstein to serve as its secretary. A devoted fan since the musicians’ early days performing at the city’s famed Cavern Club, Freda held the job for 11 years, until after the Beatles ended their 10-year relationship.

Freda arranged bookings, did the payroll and diligently answered fan mail, which at the height of Beatlemania escalated to between 2,000 and 3,000 letters a day. She not only had a personal friendship with the legendary artists, but also with their families. During the closing credits, Ringo says in a video testimonial, “Freda was like part of the family.”

Director White comments in an interview: “The amount of personal attention and true affection that she served the Beatles’ fans with—teenage girls, mostly—will probably go unmatched throughout music history.” A number of amusing anecdotes prove the point.

Freda, who neither made money nor sought notoriety as a Beatles’ insider, explains in an interview: “I didn’t want to talk about it [her experiences with the group]. I was in a different life then. I closed the door.”

The unassuming woman, now in her late 60s, has for the last 20 years worked as a secretary for a law firm in Liverpool. Wanting to explain the Beatles’ chapter of her life to her grandson, Freda approached filmmaker White, a family friend, whose uncle Billy Kinsley had been in the Liverpool band, The Merseybeats. Like the Beatles, the group performed early on at the Cavern Club. White’s aunt also worked with Freda for the Beatles fan club.

“I could have been a millionairess if I had kept things like photographs and autographs,” she says at one point in the film. Instead, she handed them out to fans, always cognizant that she had been one herself.

Good Ol’ Freda also functions as a lively and straightforward account of the relatively humble origins of the British pop music scene in the 1960s. The film’s touching moments speak to the solidarity and generosity of spirit that characterized working class Liverpool at that time.

Because the music was an organic part of life, it would have never occurred to Freda to cash in on her “dream job.” It is Kelly, with her many fascinating stories told with modesty and authenticity, that makes the documentary so endearing. She is cast from solid stuff, truly uninterested in celebrity and ego-boosting. Many friends and even family members were unaware of her unusual past: that, at one time, she was the world’s most envied clerical worker.

In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Freda was asked what she hoped would be achieved with the film. “Clear the debt,” she said, speaking about the cost of making the film. “Seriously, I would like to walk away and have everyone get paid for what they’ve done, because they’ve all worked for nothin’ and worked flippin’ hard. They’ve worked so many hours, and you should be paid however much an hour—not a fantastic rate, but the going wage!”

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