The Beatles and Muhammad Ali
The Beatles visited Miami Beach (5,000 fans greeted them at the airport) to tape their final live 1964 appearance for Sullivan, at the Deauville Hotel. More significant, in some ways, than that performance was something else the Beatles did while in town. Heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston and challenger Cassius Clay were preparing for a fight at Miami Beach's Convention Hall. Liston – a foreboding, seemingly indomitable man – was heavily favored, while Clay, who was loud-talking and disrespectful of his opponent, was expected to be brutally overpowered. Photographer Harry Benson arranged for the Beatles to meet Clay at his training gym – an atypical kind of summit, except that both the Beatles and Clay were regarded as flaming comets of the moment, renowned as anomalies. Clay was late for the meeting, and the Beatles grew irritated. "Suddenly," wrote Lipsyte, "the door bursts open and there is the most beautiful creature any of us had ever seen. Muhammad Ali. Cassius Clay. He glowed . . . he was perfect. . . . And then – if I hadn't known better I would have sworn it was choreographed – he turned and the Beatles followed him . . . out to the ring and they began capering around the room. They lined up. He tapped Ringo. They all went down like dominoes. It was a marvelous, antic set piece." Clay and the Beatles reveled in the joy of their irreverent ascendancy. Benson's photos capture an early moment of a new history and its new heroes.