Roll over Tango, Beatles museum hits Argentina

The world's tango capital is dancing to a new beat at Latin America's first museum devoted to the Beatles, displaying items from boots to wigs and even condoms stamped with John Lennon's picture.

Although none of the 2,500 articles on display actually ever belonged to a member of the Fab Four, thousands of visitors have already poured through the doors of the Buenos Aires-based museum since it opened a few weeks ago.

"Many people think I'm obsessed, but collecting is a passion, a virus which is hard to overcome," said Rodolfo Vazquez, 53, the master of the collection.

He has already entered the Guinness Book of Records for owning the biggest Beatles collection in the world - some 8,500 pieces.

Now a third of his collection is up for public viewing at the permanent exhibition, with the contents to be renewed every year "to keep the Beatles' flame alive," he said.

There are photographs and autographs, miniature Beatles figurines, examples of some of their first records, including discs distributed in 1960s by the Vee-Jay Records company when the Beatles crossed the Atlantic and took the United States by storm.

There are some historical pieces, such as one of the 5,000 bricks sold at auction when the Liverpool club "The Cavern" where the Beatles first performed, was demolished in 1983.

And among the objects on display is a letter from Mary "Mimi" Smith, Lennon's beloved aunt, describing the young boy she raised, and one from George Harrison's sister, Louise, about a concert at London's famous Palladium.

There are also hundreds of pens, watches, brooches and chewing-gum packets dating from the days when Beatlemania was at its height and the marketing gurus had a field day.

"For a collector, all objects are important, but the most precious piece for me is an autograph from Lennon dating from 1972," said Vazquez, who is also the owner of a bar called The Cavern Argentina.

Vazquez, who first caught the Beatles' bug 10 years ago, acknowledges his collection is far from complete.

But his biggest dream? "The thing I would most like to do is to one day shake the hand of Paul (McCartney) or Ringo (Starr)," he said with a sigh.

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