From: ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me – The Life of ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot’ (published by Macmillan)
England and all-things-English had been an obsession with Cass for years, almost equaling her fixation on John Lennon, so the idea of finally going to the country that she had fantasized about for so long seemed better than it was possible to imagine. She adored all things British -- from King Arthur and the Round Table to Dunhill cigarettes and tea and crumpets.
When Cass finally did come to visit London, she couldn’t have timed it better. By the summer of 1966, London had taken over from Rome, Paris, or New York as the world’s hippest metropolis. Suddenly the most exciting developments in virtually every field seemed to be coming out of London. It was now home to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones while Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon, and David Bailey were trailblazing a revolution in women’s style and photography. There was also a new generation of London-born actors such as Michael Caine and Terence Stamp breaking new ground in British films. Consequently, the world’s celebrities were now flocking to London, and on any given evening at one of the capital’s fashionable nightspots, you could stumble across a gathering of assorted Beatles, Hollywood stars, showbiz legends, and bright young meteors reveling in the sheer thrill of it all.
This was what Cass and the rest of the group were about to discover, and on arrival in London, they were installed in a magnificent townhouse apartment on Berkeley Square, one of central London’s grandest and most prestigious garden squares. With floor-to-ceiling windows opening out onto the square below, the flat was furnished with antiques and the living room featured a grand piano, an extensive library and an original Regency fireplace.
Cass had a room at the top with spectacular views across London, and she couldn’t have been happier. What was more, within a few days of their arrival, the group discovered that Mick Jagger and his girlfriend, Chrissie Shrimpton, were living in the apartment below.
For Cass, simply being in the city where The Beatles lived was a truly English heaven in itself. It hadn’t occurred to her, or indeed the rest of The Mamas and the Papas that they might come to meet the group. But Cass would indeed meet her Beatles, albeit not quite under the circumstances she may have wished.
Within a few days of arriving in London, Cass had developed a severe cold and was forced to stay in bed one evening while the others went out on the town. The group’s British record company RCA had put their names on the door of one of London’s most exclusive and fashionable members’ clubs--Dolly’s, described in a guidebook of the time as “a zingy and ear-shattering place” full of “gyrating dollies and their guys.” Located in a basement in St. James’s, Dolly’s was a regular haunt of the stars of the day and so it was the obvious place for the group to visit on a night out. As it turned out, that particular evening, John Lennon had had the same idea.
Sitting in one of the booths alongside the club’s decorative mannequins in beads and sunglasses, Doherty was the first to notice. Just around the same time that Lennon noticed him. “It’s dark and I’m looking around and I see John Lennon looking at me going, ‘I know you. Aren’t you . . .?’ and I did the same thing to him! ‘Aren’t you?’ ‘We are, aren’t we?’” he says in a Lennon-style Scouse accent. And then, “Yeah we are!” they both said in a manner straight out of A Hard Day’s Night. “I asked him if he had any grass,” says Doherty, “’cause we were hitting the whisky pretty good, but there was no grass in England; there was a lot of hash but it’s harsh on your throat and I don’t wanna smoke hash. So I said, ‘Has anybody got any plant? Any weed around?’ Lennon says, ‘Oh, just a minute. Paulie’s got some,’ and calls the studio and Paul McCartney showed up at Dolly’s with a bag of weed, and we all went back to the house to smoke it!”
In the limo on the way back to Berkeley Square, Denny thought of Cass lolling in her sickbed and told Lennon, “There’s somebody back at the house you gotta meet. She’s not gonna believe this. Cass just loves you.” Lennon was intrigued. “On that song that I wrote, which of the girls is whispering ‘John’?” he asked Doherty. “Cass,” Doherty told him. “The big woman?” asked Lennon. “Yes,” said Denny, “the big woman.” “Oh,” Lennon replied, sounding disappointed. “Pity.” But he was nevertheless keen to meet her.
As soon as they got back to the apartment, Denny went to see Cass, who was upstairs, moaning to herself at the injustice of being stuck in bed with a cold while the others hit the town in groovy London. “John Lennon’s downstairs,” Doherty told her. This was not Cass’s idea of a joke. “Fuck off and leave me alone!” she told him. “I don’t feel good. Sonofabitch! Don’t do that.”
“No! No . . . John Lennon and Paul McCartney are in the living room!” Doherty insisted.
“Dennis!” Cass shouted.
“I swear on my mother’s life,” Doherty protested. “I swear to die!”
Paul McCartney was by this time attempting to play the grand piano downstairs only to find that the keys didn’t work. Determined to get a tune out of it one way or another he decided to get inside the piano and pluck away at the strings instead. Cass heard strains of McCartney’s plucking wafting upstairs and surmised that someone was clearly downstairs. “I’m telling you,” said Doherty. Finally Cass relented and agreed to come down and see for herself.
Meeting one’s idols can be daunting and Cass had been besotted with Lennon since she had first discovered the Beatles in 1963. She had fantasized about meeting the godlike one endlessly, and when the time finally came, she was not disappointed. “Hello, beautiful,” said Lennon as she came down the stairs, and within minutes the two of them were getting comfortable by the fireplace, with Cass in rapt wonder. “I have this image engraved on my mind,” remembers Doherty, “of the two of them looking at each other in the firelight and she’s like--gone. The look on her face is just adulation--‘Oh my God! I’ve died and gone to heaven!’ They just sat there and talked and babbled. And I didn’t intrude. Nobody could. That was it!”
As dawn broke, they eventually said goodbye and watched from the balcony as Lennon headed off. Just how much better could life get?