Union Jacks, Beatlemania add up to fun with a British flavor


From left, Doug Jones, head of the Florida Museum of Natural History; Michael Blachly, director of Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; and Rebecca Nagy, head of the Harn Museum, prepare for their upcoming British Invasion Party and Concert.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:16 p.m.

Facts

British Invasion party and concert

The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band, will perform a concert at the Jan. 29 fund-raiser.

  • What: A three-stage party at the Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art and Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, all with a British flavor and a concert by Beatles tribute band The Fab Four. Dress is "creative British black tie." The celebration is a fund-raiser for the The University of Florida Cultural Plaza.
  • When: Saturday, with cocktails starting at 5:30 p.m., concert at 9 p.m.
  • Where: UF Cultural Plaza, SW 34th Street and Hull Road, on the UF campus.
  • Cost: $150 per person ($100 is tax deductible) for the party and concert. Tickets for the concert alone are $30.

  • You'll find red, white and blue martinis - shaken, not stirred, of course - more Union Jacks than almost anywhere outside of the British empire and enough Beatles' nostalgia that those gathered around the University of Florida Cultural Plaza may be inspired to sing a chorus of "With a Little Help From My Friends."
    Saturday's British Invasion Party and Concert is a celebration and a fund-raiser, a gathering of friends helping the Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art and Phillips Center for Performing Arts that collectively make up the UF Cultural Plaza.
    At the center of the party is a concert by The Fab Four, a Beatles' tribute band with a reputation for doing a show that's as uncannily close to the originals' as it is entertaining.
    "Their interpretation of the Beatles' career is frighteningly accurate," says Michael Blachly, director of the Phillips Center.
    Blachly makes that statement having seen the real Beatles live in concert in 1964 in Red Rocks, Colo. He caught The Fab Four's show in Los Angeles. Just getting into the show was a challenge.
    "When they play in L.A., whatever club or room they happen to be in, the line goes out the door and around the block. They have this unbelievably strong following," he says.
    The show follows three stages of the group's career, "Meet the Beatles," "Sgt. Peppers," and "Let It Be." Helping set the scene, there's even an "Ed Sullivan" character to make the introductions.
    "It's almost like a small Broadway production; they become The Beatles," Blachly says.
    And because hearing those tunes and sitting still may not be humanly possible, the organizers have a solution.
    "The orchestra pit is open for dancing," says Judy Blachly. "Being able to dance is a big part of the fun, too."
    Judy Blachly, Ilene Silverman-Budd and Kelly Henderson-Thaxton co-chaired the British Invasion organizing committee that worked with more than 100 volunteers who have attended to all the details to bring a bit of Britain to the UF campus. Judy Blachly is the wife of Michael Blachly. He jokes that over the past month most of their conversations have started with the words "British Invasion."
    The party, which supports all three entities of the UF Cultural Plaza, ties them together for a three-stage party.
    "Our goal is also that they'll come back," says Silverman-Budd. "It opens the door to getting people there."
    Silverman-Budd says her Beatles' memories include singing back-up to her older sister, Susan, in air-band renditions of their tunes.
    She also remembers her father, Joe Silverman, not quite getting all the hoopla about the song, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," saying "What kind of lyrics are those? They say the same thing over and over again."
    As she's pitched the party plans to people in the community, she's heard many Beatles stories and memories, but one other character has drawn a lot of attention.
    "The appearance of Ed Sullivan has captivated a lot of people I've talked to," Silverman-Budd says.
    The evening kicks off at the Harn, where there will be a martini bar with Union Jack-matching red, white and blue cocktails, a sitar player and '60s movies playing in the background. With the sound of trumpets, "Palace Guards" will then lead the group next door to the Florida Museum of Natural History, where they will get to see Big Ben, stop in at a British pub or squeeze into a call box (one of the big red British phone booths) before having dinner.
    The dress for the evening is "creative British black tie," which leaves a lot of leeway, from James Bond dapper to Beatles-esque mod. Silverman-Budd says her husband, Harvey, has ordered a special tie just for the occasion. Will he have a matching Nehru jacket?
    "No, we're not going that far," she says.
    After dinner, the trumpets will again sound to lead the entourage to the Phillips Center for some serious rock 'n' rollin'.
    The preparation is nearly complete for the evening. Henderson-Thaxton says seeing people pitch in and help wherever they were needed was a real reminder of what she loves about Gainesville. While Saturday night should be fun, the journey to The British Invasion has been enjoyable, she says.
    "Watching people get excited as it's come together," Thaxton says, was her favorite part of the process.
    Gary Kirkland can be reached at (352) 338-3104 or kirklag@gvillesun.com.

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