76°F
weather icon Clear

Bumped by The Beatles

Last week, local glassblower Don Thompson, also known as “Crystal Wizard,” sat at his workstation in Boulder City Antique Market, conversing casually with tourists who had no idea that 50 years ago he was hanging out with The Beatles.

For most of his life, Thompson, 76, was half of a unicycle-riding comedy duo called The Volantes. And on Feb. 16, 1964, thanks to what Thompson said was “a good manager,” The Volantes found themselves booked to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in Miami Beach, Fla.

Also on the show was a certain young English rock ’n’ roll band, scheduled for its second American television performance. The Fab Four’s first American appearance, also on “The Ed Sullivan Show” but filmed in New York City, was a week earlier on Feb. 9, 1964.

“They were just guys who came over from England,” Thompson said. “They had manners. They were the nicest guys you could meet.”

Thompson said at the time he preferred crooners to rock ’n’ roll bands and was not familiar with The Beatles.

“I didn’t know what it was,” he said.

However, Thompson said he was impressed by the performance.

“I loved their music,” he said. “The music was something you could dance to.”

The Beatles played “She Loves You,” “This Boy” and “All My Loving.”

The band later returned to perform “I Saw Her Standing There,” “From Me to You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Thompson’s act was scheduled to follow the legendary performance, something Thompson said was “no big deal” to him.

The Volantes performed for the studio audience, but unfortunately the act did not make the television broadcast, Thompson said, because The Beatles played longer than they were initially scheduled.

“We never got on TV,” Thompson said. “The Beatles were the most important.”

Although Thompson’s mother was upset, he said he didn’t mind being cut from the broadcast.

“It was just a nice thing to be on the show,” he said. “We met a lot of nice people.”

The official Ed Sullivan website does not mention The Volantes’ appearance on that historical day, only listing the other acts as Allen and Rossi, singer/dancer Mitzi Gaynor, acrobats The Nerveless Knocks and monologist Myron Cohen.

But Thompson has proof.

After the taping, Paul McCartney asked Thompson if he could have his picture taken on Thompson’s unicycle.

“He just wanted a picture of himself to show his friends in England,” Thompson said.

The photo shows McCartney perched on the unicycle, held upright by Thompson and his partner, Scott Beldin. John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr crowded around.

Thompson said he doesn’t remember who took the photo and he doesn’t think McCartney ever even saw it. But if he ever gets a chance, Thompson said he’ll show it to him.

“If I see Paul, if he’s playing in one of those joints in Vegas, I’m going to take that photo and show it to him. And he’ll die,” Thompson said.

Thompson, however, doesn’t make too much of his unusual place in history.

“It’s just a memory I have, and I have a lot of fun with it,” he said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Best Bets, Sept. 16-22

1 FROM JAZZ TO COUNTRY: Spend the evening with musician Michael Perry at Cleveland’s Lounge, located downstairs at the Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona St. Listening to Perry is like stepping back into the days of old Las Vegas; he performs music from multiple genres including standards, oldies, classic rock, pop and country. Most recently, he was the lead singer for Journey2Boston and Mimic and performed with the southern rock band Second Helping, along with Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Roger Fisher of Heart. His performance begins at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Best Bets, Sept. 9-15

1 STARS, STRIPES AND SYRAHS: The Best Dam Wine Walk returns to the historic district downtown Saturday. Those attending are encouraged to dress in their finest patriotic attire; prizes will be awarded. Check-in is from 4-6:30 p.m. at My 4 Sons Comics Cards & Games, 1308 Wyoming St. and the festivities continue through 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and must be purchased in advance through eventbrite.com.

Best Bets, Sept. 2-8

1 CARS AND CARE: Chilly Jilly’z will celebrate its eighth anniversary with a benefit car show from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. There will be prizes and drawings; there is a $20 fee to enter the car show. The Patio will be open during the car show. Proceeds will aid the restaurant manager’s mother, who recently had a stroke. The eatery is at 1680 Boulder City Parkway.

Film fest accepting submissions for 2021 event

The Dam Short Film Festival, which will return for its 17th year in February, is now accepting submissions for the 2021 event.

Weekend’s Best Bets, March 19

1 BLOOMIN’ FUN: After winter rains, the desert surrounding Boulder City and throughout Lake Mead National Recreation Area is in bloom. The southern end of the park has seen the most wildflowers. As temperatures warm, the flowers will begin to bloom in the northern parts.

Weekend’s Best Bets, March 12

1 PATRIOTIC PANCAKES: Help raise funds for the local American Legion, Post 31, and veterans by joining members for breakfast Saturday. Scheduled from 7-10:30 a.m. at the post, 508 California Ave., the menu includes pancakes, sausage, orange juice and coffee. Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for children.

Weekend’s Best Bets, March 5

1 ‘MALEFICENT’ MOVIE: Boulder City Library will show “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” at 6 p.m. Friday. The film tells the story of Maleficent, who travels to an old castle for the wedding of Aurora to Prince Phillip. While there she learns of a plot by Aurora’s future mother-in-law to destroy the land’s fairies and she joins a group of outcasts to stop her. Those attending are welcome to bring snacks, comfortable chairs and blankets. The Friends of the Library will have snacks and books available for a donation. The library is at 701 Adams Blvd.

Weekend’s Best Bets, Feb. 27

1 HISTORIC TALE: “Harriet,” the story of Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery in 1849 and then helped hundreds of others through the Underground Railroad, will be shown at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the community room of the Boulder City Library, 701 Adams Blvd. Snacks and drinks, along with comfortable chairs and blankets can be brought to the screening.

Weekend’s Best Bets, Feb. 20

1 RIVER HISTORY: Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum’s Third Thursday educational lecture series resumes tonight with a presentation about the Colorado River by local resident George Rhee. A native of Geneva, Rhee has taught at UNLV in the physics and astronomy department since 1993 and also works on climate, water and energy research. The museum is inside the Boulder Dam Hotel, 1305 Arizona St. Call 702-294-1988 for more information.

Weekend’s Best Bets, Feb. 13

1 MOVIE TIME: The Dam Short Film Festival returns for its 16th incarnation today, Feb. 13, and continues through Sunday, Feb. 16, at the historic Boulder Theatre, 1225 Arizona St. More than 145 films in a variety of genres will be shown. The festival also includes a meet and greet event, a mixer and an awards party. Special screenings of the award-winning films are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 17. Visit https://damshortfilm.org/ for a full schedule and more information.