Raleigh woman kept her friend's Beatles secret, but now it's a movie

dmenconi@newsobserver.comApril 3, 2013 

  • See the film

    What: Ryan White’s “Good Ol’ Freda”

    When: 2 p.m. Friday

    Where: Carolina Theater’s Fletcher Hall, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham

    Cost: $15

    Details: fullframefest.org

Back in 1986, Colette Winterburn was back in England to visit her native Liverpool and had a chance to connect with an old friend – Freda Kelly, who had spent most of the ’60s working for the Beatles as their secretary. When Winterburn arrived at her house, Kelly had a peculiar response.

“She yanked me by the shirt and took me behind a closed door,” says Winterburn, who lives in Raleigh now. “And she told me, ‘Not one word! Nobody knows a thing about it.’ She had stayed as private as she could so that nobody would be hanging on her. After the Beatles, she’d gone back to work as a secretary somewhere else, doing what she did. And nobody else knew.”

After four decades of keeping to herself, however, Kelly is finally telling her story in “Good Ol’ Freda,” a documentary that screens at Full Frame on Friday (it’s also one of four Full Frame films to be sponsored by the Durham-based Southern Documentary Fund). Billed as “one of the last true stories of the Beatles you’ll ever hear,” it’s filled with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about “The Lads.”

Winterburn is several years younger than Kelly, who saw many Beatles shows at the Cavern Club before the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, hired her. Winterburn had a teenage brush or two of her own with John Lennon when he would come visit his future wife Cynthia Powell at the store on Penny Lane (yes, THAT “Penny Lane”) where they both worked.

Winterburn and Kelly remain close friends, although there have been some stretches when they were out of touch after Winterburn left England in the 1970s for Australia and eventually America. When director Ryan White approached Kelly about telling her story, Winterburn was someone she confided in about her misgivings. With Winterburn’s urging, she ultimately decided to do it for her family.

“Her motivation was just for it to be a memento for her grandson,” Winterburn says. “A DVD about something his grandmother had done in her youth, and she kind of can’t believe it’s become this big deal. She’s somebody with integrity to the nth degree. She could have been a multi-millionaire selling the secrets she had, but she was not that person. There’s nothing smutty or negative in the film.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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