ELKHART — Gina Smith’s earliest memory as a child is watching The Beatles take the stage for the first time on “The Ed Sullivan Show” when she was 3 years old.
The Fab Four had landed in the United States for the first time on Feb. 7, 1964, and there they were — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison — on the black-and-white screen of Smith’s television two days later. That was 50 years ago.
“I’ve never known my life without The Beatles,” said Smith, 53. “From 3 years old, I just fell in love with them.”
Smith collects rare photos of The Beatles, and a few will appear in “Some Fun Tonight,” a new book being released Friday, Feb. 7, by author Chuck Gunderson, who contacted Smith through a friend. The two-volume set is brimming with photos and stories chronicling the band’s time on tour from 1964 to 1966. A few photos Smith provided for the book include images of the band in ‘66 relaxing poolside with friends at a home in Los Angeles that they rented while on tour.
“They’re very intimate photos,” Smith said.
Smith keeps an eye out for rare photos on eBay and at estate sales. Sometimes people contact her because they know she collects memorabilia, including albums, magazines, dolls and video footage.
Smith has seen McCartney perform at least 50 times. She has also met the singer at book and album signings.
“The first time I met him, it was surreal,” she said. “Here’s this guy that has meant so much to me all my life. I wasn’t crying or anything, but it was emotional, and he was so sweet and just held my hand so tight. He’s just a wonderful guy, and he does so much.”
In October, Smith traveled with friends to Los Angeles where Hollywood Boulevard was closed down for a concert to promote McCartney’s latest album, “New,” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Smith has also seen McCartney play in Hamburg, Germany, and his hometown, Liverpool, England.
Through her travels, Smith has developed friendships with fellow Beatles fans.
“I remember one time we were waiting on the street in New York, and Paul was doing a signing on a Monday, so we started gathering on Saturday afternoon,” Smith recalled. “You meet people that way, and I’ve made lifelong friends. We’re scattered across the country, but we have such a bond. That’s one of the coolest gifts of being a Beatles fan, the friendships.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.