Meeting George Harrison at LAX

I had the great fortune to meet George and speak with him. He was as warm, gentle and funny as his close friends have stated in the days following his death on November 29, 2001. I miss him very much. I hope this reminiscence helps you through the loss we share.

In May 1987, I had to fly from LA to Boston on business. I got to the airport a little early and went to the American Airlines Admiral's Club to kill some time. Since I was in the travel industry at the time, I had entrée to the club even though I was far from being a big shot. When I entered, I saw a guy I knew who worked there and he said, "Guess who's here today? George Harrison!"

So he points to this longhaired guy with really big sunglasses sitting in a remote corner of the Club. His hair was kind of wavy and I thought he looked more like a George Harrison wannabe than the real thing. Still, it did kind of look like him. A woman, probably a “meet and greet” type from a travel agency or American Airlines, was hovering near him.

I knew what I had to do.

In spite of it being 7:30AM, I went to the bar and had a glass of wine. As I finished, the woman who was shepherding George left, leaving him alone. Good timing - the wine was starting to take effect on my empty stomach. I summoned up as much nerve as I could and, keeping my arms at my sides in as non-threatening a manner as I could muster, walked up to George and said, "I started playing guitar 20 years ago because of you and I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to something that's given me a lot of enjoyment for a long time."

Instead of brushing me off, he looks up and asks, "Do you still play?" So I joked "Yeah, more to piss off the neighbors than anything else." He grinned and invited me to sit down. I sat next to him. He's looking at me and I'm looking at him, and 20 years of questions as to who played this and what guitar was used on that song just evaporated. And we're sitting there staring at each other. I noticed he was wearing these goofy tennis shoes, like the ones you see him wearing in "Magical Mystery Tour." Finally I said, "Do you still have the Rickenbacker 12-string you used in "Hard Day's Night?" and he emphatically said, "Oh yeah!" like he’d have to have been crazy not to keep it. So much for giving away guitars! We talked about The Guitar for a while and I asked him if that was the first one they made. He said it was the second, that some American woman had the first (which I later read about in one of the books on Rics).

The Beatles albums were being released on CDs at that time and I think "Revolver" was the latest. I asked him about one of the songs I always loved (although never a hit) that I heard on the way to the airport, "And Your bird Can Sing." He said he had just gotten the CD himself and said, "Oh yeah, I just was listening to that. It was a good song." I asked him how he played the lead, since I could never figure it out and he said, "Oh Paul played one of leads and I played the other." My cordial response was "I've been trying to figure that lead out for two decades and now you tell me it took *two* of you to do it!" We both laughed.

When I asked about the 360/12, he also said, "A friend of mine - do you know Tom Petty? - (I nodded my head - I had actually heard of him) has one just like it."

Anyway, we talked about 20 more minutes about guitars and music, and then a woman came to escort him to his flight. He got up, we shook hands (very gentle handshake, like you see him give Ed Sullivan), he smiled that famous toothy smile and said "Take care, nice talking with you," and left.

I felt proud not to have asked for my idol's autograph. Just two musicians chatting about guitars and music.

I hope this story brought you a smile. It does for me every time I think of talking with George Harrison, ex-Fab, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and nice man who took time to treat a fan like a friend, all those years ago.

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Lewis Lustman in the 1980s

Submitted on March 16, 2002

© 2002 Lewis Lustman. All rights reserved.

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