Sid Bernstein Presents...

Life Is What Happens When You're Busy Making Rockin' Plans

Viewers should not go into the poignant documentary, "Sid Bernstein Presents..." with preconceived notions. The film reveals daunting information about the world famous promoter who brought the Beatles to America and turned the entertainment industry on its ear.

At 87, Sid Bernstein makes a fascinating subject because he has a willingness to allow his life to be depicted with honesty. By showing Bernstein as someone who is financially unstable, a food lover and a pack rat, the film exposes his greatest vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies. The film also shows Bernstein as someone who is everything his reputation promises; a kind, gentle, mega-successful promoter who shaped rock and roll and nearly lived the American dream.

Evan Strome and Jason Ressler, who share the production and direction credits, courageously bring us into all the nooks and crannies of Bernstein's life. The pair are willing to poke into just about everything, as the film even shows Bernstein getting ready in the bathroom.

Viewers are introduced to Bernstein's wife, Gerry, and their six children, all of whom are quite personable. Some provide interviews that are tremendously moving and likely to evoke laughter and tears. It is apparent that love is abundant among the family, but there is also some craziness as a result of the music industry.

The six children grew up in a household where wannabes invaded the privacy of their home to visit their famed father. Like fictional sitcom families, such as The Huxtables or The Brady Bunch, the Bernsteins sometimes met celebrities much of the world can only dream of. One example that speaks volumes is the fact that former teen idol David Cassidy posed with the Bernstein family in a picture during the height of his career.

A disturbing problem is that Bernstein didn't get to experience the fruits of his labor financially. He was driven to succeed in the business out of a strong passion for music.

The Bernstein family suffers harsh consequences. In a telling moment, one son shares how Bernstein once took $1,995 from his hidden stash of $2,000, but left a promise note indicating he would repay it one day.

Bernstein's wife once left him for five months primarily because of the financial stress. Though they are now closer than ever, financial instability still haunts them. The couple's landlord sends eviction notices to them as their children grapple with how to provide relief.

Bernstein's situation seems quite ironic and unexpected since he achieved extraordinary success as a promoter. He grew up with Jewish middle class parents in New York and was a self starter.

Since the beginning, Bernstein had an ear for finding a group or artist that had the talent to make it in the entertainment business but, just as importantly, he had right-on instincts on how to promote them.

Without hearing a solitary note, Bernstein made his most renowned move when he began to arrange for the Beatles to come to America. The move came after he read about the band in a British newspaper. Bernstein had the magic touch and still does. A favorite part of the film was seeing him make an announcement at Shea Stadium, the day the Beatles performed a sold-out show some 40 years ago.

Bernstein became the father of the British Invasion and also brought over The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Moody Blues and numerous others.

Many of these historical moments are captured through old movies to the backdrop of a fabulous sound track.

Sid Bernstein paved the way for us to experience the greatest music provided to the world. It's no surprise that he was a dear friend of the late, great John Lennon. They shared a vision that music could bring people together.

The film's most prominent interviews include a diverse array of stars such as Lenny Kravitz, Shirley MacLaine, Steven Van Zandt, Paul Anka, Dick Clark, The Rascals, Jerry Vale, Phoebe Snow and The Animals.

The interviews seem to be refreshingly uncensored.

James Brown gives the stand-out interview of the movie and sheds new light on Bernstein's impact on society.

Brown states that Bernstein was the first to make strides to improve racial relations by promoting rock concert events that brought blacks and whites together in mainstream venues.

Old movie footage shows dignitaries who were on the forefront for racial equality, such as the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and the late President John F. Kennedy. Bernstein was in good company with his beliefs and actions.

Maureen Shames

Maureen Shames has written for the Sentinel, a Greater Media Newspaper in Middlesex County, and was Editorial Assistant of The Jewish Voice of Greater Monmouth County. She has also freelanced for the Asbury Park Press and The Atlantic City Press. As a hobby, she enjoys honing her writing skills by writing music reviews, and these are her true passion! She has written reviews for the Greasy Lake website of Bruce Springsteen concerts, and for Beatles cover band websites such as the Fab Faux and the Fab Four.