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All you need is space: Dunedin’s Beatles Museum to expand

Bill DeYoung

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Dr. Robert Entel, left, with his Penny Lane Beatles Museum co-founder Colin Bissette. Entel is wearing a pair of John Lennon's own sunglasses from the early 1970s. Photos by Bill DeYoung.

Just as Dr. Robert Entel’s collection of Beatles memorabilia outgrew his home, it has now become too big for the museum he established in a Dunedin art gallery space four short years ago.

His collection, to paraphrase a song from the Sgt. Pepper album, is getting so much bigger all the time.

Entel, a radiologist with Morton Plant Mease Healthcare, is moving the Penny Lane Beatles Museum to 2046 Bayshore Blvd, a few miles north of its present location at 730 Broadway, downtown.

It’s a significant growth spurt for the museum, which is dedicated entirely to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, their music and their impact on the world.

The present site is a cozy 560 square feet. When the doors open at the new place, a former First Bank location, the Penny Lane Beatles Museum will take up 4,300 square feet.

Entel and his contractor intend to tear out and enclose the old bank drive-through, which will balloon the total to around 6,000 square feet.

That’s a lot of fab gear.

The current location is packed wall-to-wall with memorabilia.

Currently, “I’m only exhibiting maybe 20 percent of the memorabilia,” Entel said. “Most of it’s in storage. We’ve got three pinball machines, a huge Yellow Submarine jukebox, a slot machine. We have the drum set that Ringo played in a Super Bowl commercial in the year 2000. So much other memorabilia, hundreds of things that we just don’t have the space for.”

He recently purchased, among other things, a jacket Lennon wore during the group’s 1968 visit with meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, one of Harrison’s guitars and an initialed “travel bag” that belonged to McCartney.

They’ll all go on display alongside countless posters (some vintage, some from later years), gold records, dolls, toys, 0riginal clothing, photographs and album covers (many of them signed), merchandising ephemera and musical instruments.

Over the years, Entel explained, visitors would see all the stuff in his house “and they’d say ‘Dr. Entel, why don’t you open a museum?’ I’d say well, I’m a doctor and I know nothing about museums.

“How do you start a museum? Is there a Start a Museum for Dummies book?”

But start it he did, with the help of longtime friend Colin Bissett, an Englishman who’d worked for years in theatrical booking and promotion.

Like the Fab Four themselves, he came from 1950s Liverpool. As a schoolkid, Bissett’s swim coach was an older boy named Alan Caldwell, who later changed his name to Rory Storm. He fronted a rock ‘n’ roll band, the Hurricanes, which featured Ringo Starr on drums.

Bissett was also close with the Best family – mother Mona, and sons Rory and Pete. The latter was the Beatles’ actual drummer – until they dropped him for Ringo.

A Hofner violin bass autographed by Paul McCartney.

In the museum’s first year, it was granted non-profit status. “It’s like any other museum,” Entel said, with a board of directors.

He is chairman of the board. “I’m the founder, it’s my overgrown hobby. But it’s not my museum, it’s a not-for-profit. I donated all my memorabilia, and the stuff that I’m buying now is purchased through the museum.

“I had it all appraised and I donated it. I said to myself ‘What do I need this for? It doesn’t have to be mine. I’m not profiteering on this.’ I just enjoy having it available for the community. For people with memories of the Beatles.”

Entel grew up in Dunedin, so there was little chance the museum would relocate to another city. “I was waiting for the right spot,” he said.

He provided the $1.6 million the 501(c)3 needed to purchase the former bank building.

There’s a lot of work to be done, he said, between architects, contractors and more. With a little luck, the Penny Lane Beatles Museum will throw open the doors to the new location this fall.

In the meantime, it’s still in the art gallery space at 730 Broadway, eight days a week (well, four – it’s closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

“The best part of this is seeing the reaction of people,” Entel said. “Most museums, the people go in, they look at one piece. Everything’s quiet, you can hear a pin drop. You have a security guard standing there.

“This is vibrant and exciting. People will come and point and say ‘I had those shoes when I was a kid’ or ‘I went to that Shea Stadium concert.’ It’s like they’re in another world.”

Penny Lane Beatles Museum website

 

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