By J. Rentilly
FOR THE LAST 40 years, Freda Kelly has
lived a mild-mannered existence in Wirral,
Northern England, serving as a girl Friday at a
number of law offices, managing
files, making appointments and typing up legal briefs at 50 words per
minute. You’d never guess that, from
1961 to 1972, Kelly, now 68, was Miss
Moneypenny to the greatest rock
band in the world. Indeed, starting at
the tender age of 17, Kelly became a
part of The Beatles’ inner circle,
serving as the band’s secretary, working closely with manager Brian
Epstein and handling the band’s fan
club, a gig she enjoyed until the
band’s dissolution in the early ’70s.
Though Kelly has resisted countless offers over the years to spill all, she’s
recently found herself in the spotlight, the
focus of the documentary Good Ol’ Freda,
which premiered last spring to a five-minute
standing ovation at Austin’s esteemed South
by Southwest film festival. The film, directed
by Ryan White and out this month on DVD,
finds Kelly for the first time sharing her decade
of adventures with the Fab Four.
The Costco Connection: How did this
film come about?
Freda Kelly: I’ve laid low for 40 years and
now, wow! (Laughs) It started off as a little
DVD for my grandson, Niall, which escalated
beyond all proportions!
CC: When you joined The Beatles’ organization, they were just a bunch of boys with
a big dream. Did you have any idea where
things were headed?
FK: Not a clue. I did know—from the
local scene in Liverpool, The Cavern and the
social clubs and the ballrooms in town—that
there was something special about them.
They just stood out. But nobody—
even them, I think—[visualized]
what was to come. And now they’re
the greatest band in history.
CC: Do you have a favorite
memory of your time with the band?
FK: The Town Hall in Liverpool
in 1964 was exceptional. It never
really hit me how famous they were.
But at the Town Hall that night, their
homecoming after being in America,
I heard the noise and the shouts
when they walked out onto that balcony and I looked out the corner of
the window and saw all of Liverpool,
some 200,000 people. I was just so pleased for
them there, and for their parents. Liverpool
was acknowledging them.
CC: How did the boys change over time?
FK: Naturally, we all change slightly over
time, but to me, they really hadn’t changed that
much—even with all the success. Liverpool
folk have their feet on the ground. I think they
coped with stardom very well, compared to
other people, and I think that’s because
of the type of people they were.
Of course, the world views them
today as these genuine icons, and they
are, but they were also human beings—
ordinary people with ordinary backgrounds. They just happened to have this
CC: Still, things must have changed?
FK: When I took over the fan club, this
was 1962, I don’t think they’d even released
Scan or click
here to watch
a trailer for
Good Ol’ Freda.
(See page 5
“Love Me Do” yet. The mail was just 100 let-
ters a week, if even that, and then the num-
ber-ones happened on the charts and we were
looking at 800 or 1,000 letters a week! That
was a little change! (Laughs)
CC: What were the fan requests like?
FK: They wanted the usual: autographs
or photographs, or to come to their weddings
or to ring in for a cup of tea. Then they
wanted a piece of clothing. Eventually, I was
asked for hair. I kept away from that initially,
but the requests kept coming in, so I got
crafty and I always wanted to fulfill the
requests as best I could. There was this one
barber who cut the boys’ hair, and I worked
out a deal to sweep up after the haircuts—
he must have thought I was some kind of
lunatic at first—and I’d pick up the pieces
of hair and put it in envelopes and send it out
to whoever wanted it. (Laughs)
CC: Everyone knows the secretary keeps
it all together.
FK: When I was at college, I had a professor who told me, “A good secretary is a nag,
because if you keep on harping, the boss will
eventually do what you want him to do!”
(Laughs) Take that anyway you like, but I
always did my best. C
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based writer.
Good Ol’ Freda will be
available on Blu-ray in
Good Ol’ Freda explores one woman’s
experiences with The Beatles
Left to right: Freda Kelly
today; with Paul McCartney;
with Ringo Starr and George
Harrison; and George
BEATLES PHOTOS COUR TES Y FREDA KELLY