Alex Mardas, mostly known only by his moniker of Magic Alex, was a member of the tight-knit inner circle of The Beatles from early 1967 to early 1969. He was largely responsible for the disenchantment of The Beatles from transcendental meditation, mostly in the name of saving his own reputation, as well as the absolute failure of Apple Electronics, the electronics branch of the Beatles-founded Apple Corporation. Oddly enough, the tale of Magic Alex's involvement with The Beatles is quite funny in places.
Not much is known about Alex's early life; the given name itself may be false. What is known is this: throughout 1966 and 1967, The Beatles as a group were heavily into psychedelic drugs of a wide variety, particularly LSD. In early 1967, most likely during an evening following recording on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, John Lennon was at a party where he was provided a decent quantity of LSD by Alex. While John was feeling the psychedelic effects, Alex took the opportunity and described to John his largely fictitious interest in electronics, describing a variety of things such as a device to visually display music. Alex was somewhat charismatic, and given the things he was describing and John's mental state, Lennon decided that he quite liked Magic Alex and took him under his wing.
Over the next few months, Alex quickly built influence among the band members, most strongly with John, but also with George Harrison as well. He became a regular and colorful member of their entourage, following them around pretty much everywhere. The Beatles gave him several moderate amounts of money to live on and to build some of the devices he had described; largely, these were failures. Alex was still able to maintain his reputation, though, by essentially attaching flashing lights to ordinary household objects, and occasionally wiring something more complex out of what would be essentially a Radio Shack kit. He would usually wait to give his "demonstrations" when the band was quite high on psychedelic drugs.
As 1967 wore on, Alex became more and more brash, eventually claiming to people around him that he was the combination of Marconi and Edison combined. The group largely put up with this simply because they found it entertaining, particularly John, who was quite fond of the fellow. Eventually, John began to trust Alex's advice quite a lot, and it was this trust that Alex abused and eventually found himself cast out from the group.
During 1967 and early 1968, The Beatles slowly became involved in the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the transcendental meditation movement. In February 1968, just after the group founded the Apple Corporation, they placed business manager Neil Aspinall in charge of the business and went to India to study at the Maharishi's ashram at Shankaracharya Nagar. Alex, fearing that his influence in the group might be waning, spent February and March convincing Neil Aspinall that the group was in trouble in India. And to a certain degree, they were. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both became disenchanted with the Maharishi while there and returned to London much earlier than expected. With this event, Neil Aspinall became convinced that John and George may have been in some sort of trouble, so along with Magic Alex, they travelled to India.
Upon arriving, Alex quickly cemented his position by promising to build George Harrison a solar powered electric guitar and build John Lennon an electronic device the size of a trash can lid made out of common electronic components that could provide enough power to electrify most of southern India and power a radio tower strong enough to broadcast the Maharishi's message across the entire world.
Obviously, Alex couldn't do this, so he had to think of a way out of the situation. His solution was clever: throughout April and May, while he was supposedly working on these inventions in India, he slowly planted seeds of mistrust in the minds of John and George, turning them slowly against the Maharishi. When a film crew suddenly arrived with the supposed purpose of shooting a film with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as the star and John and George as secondary characters, Alex used the surprise of the moment to convince John and George to get out of there. And escape they did, returning in the early summer of 1968 to London.
Having a lot of faith in Magic Alex and his decision-making abilities, John and George persuaded the rest of the group to form a division of Apple called Apple Electronics and place Magic Alex in charge of the division. The group agreed and Apple Electronics was started. Money was poured into the company, but obviously Alex had only the most rudimentary of electronics skills. Rather than trying to make it work, though, Magic Alex showed everyone that he still had one more trick up his sleeve: throughout the rest of 1968, he made the approximately ten million pounds poured into Apple Electronics utterly disappear.
When the bookkeeping commenced in early 1969, The Beatles were already having enough problems of their own with the Get Back project, and when the news of the massive losses at Apple Electronics came about, the group was livid. Alex was fired and was basically barred from the studio and any place of Apple business, and the group largely dismissed him from their social circle as well. On that note, Magic Alex faded into obscurity, remaining with The Beatles only as a running joke of sorts.
Magic Alex is one interesting example of the idea that if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.