Special Introduction to Beşinci Beatle – Brian Epstein’in Hikâyesi
(Turkish Edition of The Fifth Beatle, published by Çizgi Düşler 2017)
HAVE YOU HEARD? THE WORD IS LOVE
By Vivek J. Tiwary
“The Beatles are going to be bigger than Elvis!”
It was a bold, visionary, and seemingly ludicrous thing for Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein to say in 1961, when the Fab Four were an average Liverpool band that had been rejected by every record label in the music business. People laughed at him.
But in just a few years, Brian Epstein engineered Beatlemania and turned the Beatles into the greatest pop act the world has ever known. It was then he made a second visionary statement that has been largely overlooked—but was in fact bolder, more inspiring, and not only dangerous but borderline seditious. During a media appearance, after dashing lovestruck fans’ hopes by revealing that the Beatles would one day be married, Brian added: “And someday, I might be married too!”
No one paid much attention to that proclamation. The media recorded it, thinking it a lighthearted joke. But it was hardly a laughing matter. Because what the public didn’t know was that Brian Epstein was gay. Same-sex marriage should have been impossible for Brian to imagine. Because in 1960s England, gay men and lesbians weren’t even allowed to openly walk the streets. It was a felony to be simply attracted to a member of the same sex.
Now while homosexuality is considered “a legal act” in a number of countries including Turkey, intense discrimination against the LGBT community is hardly a thing of the past. In many of the United States, LGBT individuals are still treated as second-class citizens both under the law with respect to legal protections and benefits, and in their local communities and workplaces. As a result, a national campaign called Freedom For All Americans is underway to secure comprehensive non-discrimination protections for all LGBT individuals nationwide. Similarly, in Turkey LGBT discrimination protections have been legally debated but have never been legislated, and a 2015 research paper still found widespread LGBT discrimination, sometimes leading to “violence from relatives, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, employees, teachers, and even members of the Turkish police.” The Turkish military still openly bars homosexuals from serving, and there have been an increasing number of Turkish LGBT murders deemed “honor killings.”
Honor was incredibly important to Brian Epstein—he was a man of his word, and few would disagree that he brought great honor to his family, his country, and perhaps even the world by bringing us the Beatles and helping to spread their great message of love around the globe. Yet Brian himself died lonely and far too young, at the age of 32, and also partially due to his sexual orientation. His actual cause of death was an overdose of pills—but he became addicted to such pills after they were prescribed to him by Doctors to help “cure” him of his homosexuality.
The law said Brian had to hide his own love away—so he directed his energy to working tirelessly to spread the Beatles’ great message of love across the globe. And in so doing, Brian Epstein made the world a far richer place for love than it would have been without him. Can you imagine a world without the Beatles?
What Brian Epstein accomplished with John, Paul, George, and Ringo is historic and well-covered in The Fifth Beatle—but I hold that it is not only the Beatles that Brian Epstein should be remembered for. It’s the personal obstacles he overcame while pursing his dreams that makes his story truly inspiring, truly important for the world to know, and truly why I spent over 20 years researching and writing The Fifth Beatle.
I was born in New York City, a first generation American in a family originally from India. Young people of my background and ethnicity who have some means and opportunity are expected to become doctors or engineers. We aren’t supposed to write comic books and produce Broadway musicals! But Brian’s steadfast belief in himself and his dreams inspired me to believe in my own dreams and to pursue a career in the arts that I’ve been fortunate to enjoy for the past two decades. I can honestly say that I do what I love, and I have Brian’s example to partially thank for that.
And in my personal life, the Brian Epstein story has been even more inspiring. My wife Tracy is half-Italian, half-Irish—and it’s not farfetched to imagine a place where a brown man like myself is simply not allowed to marry a white woman like Tracy, regardless of the depth of our love. Let me be clear that I know our circumstances are not nearly as difficult as the obstacles Brian and other homosexual, bisexual, and transgender people have had to overcome over the years and continue to face—but emotionally, Tracy and I feel we can deeply empathize. We’ve always believed that finding each other was a blessing, but the fact that we have celebrated our love by getting married and building a family together is a basic human right.
I don’t think of “The Fifth Beatle” as an activist book—but I hope that it is an inspiring one. I hope that my Turkish readers will walk away from the pages that follow wanting to pursue their own dreams, and to do something that will make a genuine difference not just in their country, but in the whole world. Let’s make it a richer place for love, as Brian Epstein did.
Vivek J. Tiwary
New York City 2016