Being original Beatles drummer Pete Best has never been easy, but it was especially tough in 1964 when Beatlemania swept the world and he had to watch from the sidelines. In March of 1964, the Beatles had the top four songs on the Hot 100: “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me.” They were four of the most famous people on the planet, but when Pete Best walked onto the set of I’ve Got a Secret that month nobody knew who he was.
He introduced himself to the panel as Pete Best from West Derby in Lancashire, England before whispering his secret to host Gary Moore. “I left my job two years ago,” he said. “I was one of the Beatles.” The panel was merely told his secret involved something he did. Bess Myerson (Miss of America of 1945 and a staple of 1950s television) immediately noticed his haircut. “Could you be a new kind of bug that we’ve imported from England?” she asked. “Do you have anything to do with your predecessors, the Beatles?”
Bill Cullen was up next, and like many Americans at the time, he was fixated the Beatles’ haircuts, thinking he might be their barber. He did get Best to say he still “vaguely” had something to do with the Beatles. Betsy Palmer (who went on to play Jason Voorhees’ mother in the original Friday the 13th) had a much better question. “Did their used to be five Beatles, Peter?” she asked. “And you were one of them?”
Once Palmer guessed the secret, Moore asked him to explain why he left the group. “I thought I wanted to start a group of my own,” he said. “And at that time, I didn’t think they’d go as big as they are now.” We can forgive Best for stretching the truth a bit here and not admitting that he was fired. He did form Pete Best and the All Stars and release a record on Decca, but it was a flop and, just a few years later, he was slicing bread in a bakery for $43 a week.
Best has kept his sense of humor over the years though, and in 2008 went on Howard Stern to judge a “Big Loser” contest. The other judge was original American Idol co-host Brian Dunkleman. The two of them get along famously as Stern brought out a sad parade of people with tragic stories. Best and Dunkleman had to decide whose story was the saddest. Had he stuck with the Beatles, he never would have made it near the set of I’ve Got a Secret or Howard Stern’s Big Loser contest. That may not make up for getting fired from the biggest band in rock history, but it’s something.