“The awful tension of being locked up in each other’s lives snapped the other night at a TV rehearsal and Beatles John and George swung, at very least, a few vicious phrases at each other,” Paul reads shortly after Lennon and Harrison take good-natured jabs at each other in a mockery of the gossipy news.
But the first item brought out less than good nature in Harrison. The tabloid account about George’s assault on a French photographer makes the guitarist frown as much as giggle. He is both amused and bemused. The incident is mentioned in an online day-to-day Beatles diary, but the entry gives the same information we get in the documentary. It is confirmed in Keith Badman’s book, The Beatles: Off the Record, which says M. Charles Bébert testified in court about the incident. But it was reported.
“BEATLE George Harrison was fined 1,000 francs (tB5 sterling) at Nice today for assaulting a French Press photographer,” reads the un-bylined headline “Beatle George Harrison fined £B5,” which ran in the Belfast Telegraph on Jan. 21, 1969. The news item reported Charles Bébert “told the court that Harrison tripped him outside a nightclub in this French Riviera resort last May, causing him a knee injury which needed seven stitches. He originally intended to claim 15,000 francs in damages from Harrison, but photographers had dropped the action. Harrison was not in court today and sent an apology through his lawyers. Hebert [sic] alleged the incident occurred when he took a flash picture of Harrison and the Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr and their wives leaving the nightclub early one morning.”
Photographer Charles Bébert “belongs to the golden edge of picture-making where the professionals know how to become friends with celebrities,” according to the bio for a 2021 exhibition of his works at the Picture and Photography Theater in Nice, France. “His way of working was very easy to do: not spying on stars like paparazzi, and stealing their private life, just having fun with them.”
The incident in question appears to be both less fun and more paparazzi-like, though quite by accident. It happened when the photographer was returning to the restaurant La Pignata, on the heights of Fabron in Nice. “I see George Harrison and his wife. I start to shoot,” Bébert told Christophe Cirone of Nice-Matin magazine in 2021. “They go inside. But there are so many people that they immediately come out.”
Not wanting to lose a moment, Bébert scrambled to catch a better view, only to get much too personal a close-up. “The moment I ran, he tripped me up,” Bébert remembered. “I got back up. I was going to hit him. I know it’s George Harrison, but he doesn’t know my name is Bébert.”