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Regular commenter Victoria has patiently untangled the saga of John Lennon’s diaries, sorting through books and clippings to present us with an account worthy of film noir. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did. BTW, forgive any typos or funky formatting; I’m having terrible trouble with the backend. Just note any in the comments and I’ll fix.—MG
There are certain Beatles-related artifacts that are known to us, yet remain tantalizingly out of reach: one famous example is Japanese Jailbird, Paul McCartney’s 20,000-word account of his nine-day-long imprisonment in Japan in 1980 due to a pot bust. But the Holy Grail of unavailable documents is surely the legendary Lennon diaries, the journals that John kept from 1975 until the end of his life. These diaries assume particular interest given how contested this period of John’s life has been, a topic discussed numerous times here on Dullblog. This is a matter of historiography as well as fan interest: as Beatles meta-historian Erin Torkelsen Weber writes on her site,
One of obfuscating aspects of Beatles historiography is how crucial primary sources, such as Lennon’s diaries, are privately held, and therefore unavailable to the point of inaccessibility.
And—spoiler alert—inaccessible they remain. However, the Lennon diaries have a storied life of their own. What follows is an attempt to summarize the information that is available about them, and trace their strange and convoluted history, involving a cast of characters with overlapping and often contradictory stories. This is an epic tale, filled with thefts and extortions, potential mistruths and distortions, multiple sets of diaries, and even collusion with a shady ex-diamond merchant.
So, what are the Lennon diaries?
John Lennon began keeping a journal in 1975, writing in yearly volumes of The New Yorker Diary . There were five volumes in total, with 1976 being an exercise book that was inserted into 1975.
John recorded his thoughts in what seems to been an idiosyncratic and relatively scattered, yet detailed, manner. In his 1991 memoir The Last Days of John Lennon, Frederic Seaman (more about him shortly) gives this description of his 1980 diary:
It was full of cartoons which John had altered in a clever manner. The handwritten entries surrounding the illustrations suggested a colorful catchall log of mundane details of domestic life, philosophical ruminations, spiritual conflicts, poems, song fragments, sexual yearnings, and dreams. John appeared to have a remarkable ability to tap into his subconscious mind. Many of the entries consisted of minutely detailed descriptions of his dreams.
Robert Rosen (more about him shortly too!) has also talked about the diaries’ contents in various interviews (here’s an example), which include John’s expressions of his love for Sean, his jealousy towards Paul, his obsessions with the occult. Rosen says,
He wrote about everything, you know, what he ate, what he dreamed, what time he got up in the morning, when he went to the bathroom, what he watched on TV, when he had sex, how much money he was spending, his relationship with Yoko, his relationship with Sean, what he thought about everybody else, especially Paul, just on and on and on. […] On many days, it just seemed like a total stream of consciousness.
From the information that we have about the content of the diaries, it seems that what they contain is personal and not always flattering to John or others, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any real smoking gun in there. Probably the main “headline” we know about is John’s apparent glee at Paul’s arrest in Japan, though other sources have him reacting differently. (Personally, I don’t think this is necessarily a contradiction: people are more likely to vent their petty moments of schadenfreude in a private diary, and besides, John was certainly a mercurial person).
The reason we know about the diaries at all is because of the aforementioned Fred Seaman, who is central to their afterlife. Seaman worked for the Lennon-Onos as a gofer/assistant/paid companion to John between February 1979 and late 1981/early 1982. He got the job via his aunt and uncle Helen and Norman Seaman, friends of the Lennon-Onos for years: Norman had known Yoko since the early 60s, when he had produced her avant-garde performances. The Normans had also been actively involved in the campaign to stop John from being deported by the Nixon administration in the 1970s, and Helen Seaman was employed by them as Sean’s nanny from 1978. Fred Seaman had grown up in Germany, and at the time he started working for the Lennon-Onos, had recently graduated in journalism from the City College of New York.
In 1981, Seaman walked out of the Dakota with an attaché case containing the Lennon diaries, thus kicking off a saga that has been described rather differently by all people involved. We have three versions of what went on afterwards; I’ll describe each of these in turn.
Frederic Seaman’s version of events
I’ll start with Seaman’s version of events, as related in his memoir The Last Days of John Lennon. In Seaman’s telling, he takes the Lennon diaries out of the Dakota on Friday 16 January 1981. He recalls a conversation that he’d had with John on their last night in Bermuda, where John had told him that if anything happened to him, he wanted Julian to have his diaries. So Seaman acts with the goal of the bestowing them upon Julian: “There was no doubt in my mind and in my heart that it had been John’s wish that his oldest son should have his journals ”. He doesn’t tell Yoko, knowing that she would not approve.
That evening, Seaman goes to discuss the situation with “a close friend from college” (Robert Rosen, not named in Last Days ). Rosen and Seaman had met six years earlier when both were writing for the CCNY’s student newspaper, where Seaman had admired Rosen’s writing; the two had also been neighbours in Washington Heights for several years. Rosen offers to copy (presumably photocopy) the diaries overnight, a solution that would allow Seaman to have a set of copies for Julian, while allowing Seaman to return the diaries to the Dakota with no one the wiser, and Seaman agrees . However, Rosen straight away betrays Seaman. Seaman writes,
I was shocked when he called me late that evening and announced his intention to use the Lennon diaries as material for a book that he thought he and I should collaborate on.
Seaman then consults his psychotherapist Francis DeBilio, who advises him to play along with Rosen. DeBilio also connects him with another patient of his, “troubleshooter”/businessman Norman Schonfeld. Seaman, DeBilio, and Schonfeld three concoct a scheme to trick Rosen whereby Schonfeld poses as the financial backer for a book to be co-written by Seaman and Rosen, and Schonfeld meets with Rosen in this context at around Christmas 1981. Also in late 1981, Seaman concludes his employment at the Dakota; he’d wanted to leave in late 1980, but Yoko had persuaded him to stay on until the end of 1981. In early 1982 , Schonfeld signs a contract with Rosen, acquires the journals, and sends Rosen off on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the Caribbean. Since Seaman no longer has access to the Dakota, Schonfeld promises to find a way to return the journals to Yoko through an intermediary. Seaman is worried: “I kept hoping that somehow it would all work out and no harm would be done ”.
Meanwhile, Rosen has realised that he’s been duped, and tries to flog “stashed away copies” of the diaries to Rolling Stone. RS’s editor Jann Wenner, a friend of Yoko, alerts her. Yoko puts her publicist Elliot Mintz on the case, who tracks down Rosen, who exposes the whole Seaman-DeBilio-Schonfeld plan. Around the same time that this is all happening, on 13 August 1982 Seaman suffers a burglary of his own: among the items stolen are Seaman’s own diaries from spring and summer 1980. (Luckily, Seaman had—of course—made copies).
After all this goes down, Seaman finally decides to face Yoko in late August, explaining how he was trying to fulfill John’s wishes.
I tried to explain that I planned to deliver John’s journals to Julian because I firmly believed that was what John would have wanted. I assured Yoko that it had not been my intention to harm her, and that I deeply regretted the trouble I had caused. Yoko did not seem to be particularly receptive to my explanation.
Schonfeld returns the diaries to Yoko, pocketing $60k for his troubles, but the 1980 diary is still AWOL. Yoko’s chief of security Dan Mahoney, a New York City police sergeant, visits Seaman to try to retrieve it from him. He does not believe Seaman’s protests that he doesn’t have the 1980 volume, and threatens him.
In late September 1982, two cops who also work privately as Yoko’s bodyguards beat Seaman up and point a gun at his head, then take his apartment keys. After this, he is taken to a police station and then pushed into allowing the cops to search his apartment without a warrant, from which they remove a bunch of music items and ephemera that they think might belong to Yoko. Seaman is also pressed to sign a confession of theft ; he insists that the only thing he took without approval was the diaries, but signs a more general statement after being told that the wording would be changed subsequently. He spends a couple of nights in jail, during which time he is interrogated—suddenly curtailed when Seaman mentions that his assaulters were cops.
Seaman has a preliminary hearing in October 1982, and the charges are dismissed in December. In January 1983, Seaman pursues legal action against Yoko and Sam Havadtoy (Yoko’s companion/new partner) in relation to the assault. As his assailants were police officers, Seaman also lays a complaint with the NYPD’s internal affairs unit, and lodges a notice of claim with the State Supreme Court. In February, Seaman is informed that he is being charged with grand larceny and that the District Attorney is bringing his case before a grand jury. Hamstrung by his prior confession and videotaped interrogation, unable to prove he had been illegally arrested, and lacking the funds for further legal fees, Seaman pleads guilty to grand larceny at his 27 May hearing. In July 1983, he is sentenced to five years’ probation (terminated early in 1986). In Last Days, he writes:
“With ten years’ hindsight, I can see that it was irresponsible to take John’s journals, regardless of how well-intentioned I was. However misguided my attempt to carry out what I understood to be John’s wishes, it was never my intention to steal his diaries.”
Robert Rosen’s version of events
Robert Rosen has represented his side of the story in many interviews over the years, as well as in the introduction and supplementary sections of the Lennon book he published in 2000, Nowhere Man. He also gave detailed testimony in court about his involvement in the scheme he and Seaman jokingly called ‘Project Walrus’.
In Rosen’s version of the story, Seaman gets in touch with his old writer friend on day one of his new job at the Dakota. Seaman is in touch with Rosen frequently to disseminate updates about what has been going on with John and Yoko and Sean, and Rosen takes extensive notes about it all in his own personal diary. Sometimes Seaman and Rosen go out in the Lennon-Onos’ Mercedes and smoke John’s weed together.
After John’s death, Seaman tells Rosen that John had asked him to tell the true story of John’s Dakota years. Rosen believes him, and the two draw up a contract. Seaman, now living at the Dakota, begins supplying Rosen with looted material to use for the biography. At first the plan is to create a photograph-based book, but then Rosen receives the diaries on Memorial Day Weekend in May 1981 and is immediately astounded: “I’d never seen anything like it. […] I thought the story was rock ’n’ roll’s Watergate.”
Rosen dips in and out of the diaries, but things only kick into high gear at few months later, when he starts transcribing them in earnest. Fueled by speed and coffee, Rosen pulls 16-hour days, during which time he tries to get a sense of John’s life by living as he lived, eating as he ate. The transcription is not an easy task, given John’s difficult handwriting and his frequent use of shorthands—for example, ‘O’ for ‘the Oracle’ (John and Yoko’s most trusted adviser, their tarot reader John Green). Rosen:
“I had the diaries for many months and I transcribed them…actually I transcribed them over and over, because the handwriting itself was very difficult to penetrate. Parts of it were written in code. And I just kept going at it, day in and day out for months, until I figured out what he was saying.”
Meanwhile, Seaman is bringing a huge amount of stuff from the Dakota to Rosen’s apartment: “boxes were piled to the ceiling ”. These include items of John’s clothing, which Rosen tries on. Seaman invites Rosen to visit him and Julian in England, and in September 1981 Rosen spends time there with Julian, and also meets Beatles inner circle member Neil Aspinall. At Seaman’s request, Rosen delivers one of John’s guitars to Julian on this trip.
Seaman is fired by Yoko on 4 January 1982, but he assures Rosen that the project will continue: he’s found a financial backer (Schonfeld). Rosen goes on the holiday to Jamaica in February 1982, during which time Fred stays in his apartment. He returns to find that everything to do with Lennon and the diaries has been cleaned out, and realises that Seaman and Schonfeld have decided to cut him out of the book project .
After recovering from the shock, Rosen sits down and takes notes on everything he can remember from the diaries, retranscribing them from memory . He writes a manuscript based on his recollection of the contents of John’s diaries and starts sending out feelers. Not knowing of Jann Wenner’s friendship with Yoko, Rosen gets in touch with Wenner at Rolling Stone—“he said he believed me but couldn’t publish it”—which eventually leads to Rosen meeting with Sam Havadtoy and then Yoko’s lawyers in August 1982, and Yoko herself in September. Project Walrus is laid bare to her.
Since Rosen’s own diaries testify to Fred’s actions, Yoko wants to see them, and having read John’s diaries, Rosen feels he owes her that . He gives Yoko the 16 volumes covering January 1979 until August 1982. Yoko puts Rosen on her payroll and picks his brains about the whole fandango. He regularly meets her and Sam at the Dakota to pore over the diaries together .
Yoko uses information from Rosen’s diaries to have Seaman arrested and force the return of her possessions . However, that’s not the only use she finds for them. In 1983, journalist-writers David and Vicki Sheff start working on an article about the Lennon diaries/the aftermath of John’s death, for which Yoko gives them access to Rosen’s diaries.
The Sheffs’/Yoko’s version of events
This article by the Sheffs, The Betrayal of John Lennon (Playboy, March 1984) details the time after John’s death for Yoko and the Lennon-Ono household. It constitutes the third major account of the diary saga, largely representing Yoko and the Lennon Estate’s side of things.
In this version of the story, Seaman shows up at Rosen’s house not long after John’s death, gloating that he’s “set for life ”. Shortly thereafter, Seaman draws up a contract with Rosen that they will be equal partners in a book about Lennon and related projects, including merchandising ideas such as John and Yoko dolls . Seaman starts reporting to Rosen about what is going on at the Dakota, and pays Rosen a salary using money he lifts from the Lenono (John and Yoko’s company) petty cash fund . Every Friday, he leaves the office with a bag of documents and effects pilfered from John and Yoko’s apartments, including paperwork of all kinds and the manuscript of John’s novella Skywriting by Word of Mouth. Rosen is busy reading, digesting, and copying all of the paperwork flooding in, and starts to feel a deep emotional connection to John . And then, in April 1981:
One afternoon, in a shopping bag that Seaman brings in, Rosen discovers the mother lode: In hardbound New Yorker diaries dating from 1975 to 1980, John kept his own private journals. In them, Rosen and Seaman have possession of his most personal thoughts and admissions during the period he was least in public view. This is history!
In May, Seaman goes to Wales to visit Julian and deliver some gifts to him, also giving him a cassette tape of the songs John recorded in Bermuda. Seaman’s diary entries (more on them shortly) imply that Seaman is trying to implant the idea that Julian was the intended recipients of John’s journals . By November, Seaman sees that his days at the Dakota are numbered and ramps up his thefts. In December, he stuns Yoko by showing up one day wearing a scarf of John’s and denying it’s John’s. Seaman causes $12,000 of damage to the Mercedes, and one day Yoko finds Seaman taking a bath in her private bathroom during working hours. Yoko fires him, giving him $10,000 severance.
Again we have the plot with DeBilio and Schonfeld (here identified as a retired diamond merchant) and Rosen coming home to an empty apartment. Rosen still has his own diaries, however, and he finds that some documents and tapes were missed in the raid. In August 1982, he starts shopping around his story, but when he has no luck with that, he resorts to a shakedown:
When he discovers that no one will touch the story without documentation, he has a friend call Mintz and suggest that “certain materials” will be returned for a price. Mintz threatens to call the police, and so at last, Rosen decides to come in from the cold .
Sam Havadtoy arranges for Rosen and Yoko to meet, and Rosen comes clean about the whole scheme. In exchange for talking, he is not charged with anything. He maintains he was basically a patsy of Seaman’s .
Seaman admits that he has the diaries, and Yoko’s camp try unsuccessfully to negotiate their return. One day, a shabbily dressed man called ‘Willie Wilson’ turns up with a box that contains three diaries plus a photocopy of John’s 1980 journal, claiming that he got them “from a junkie in Harlem”. Sam Havadtoy is rightfully dubious about this story, and threatens to call the police; Wilson counters by telling Havadtoy that the other diaries can also be returned for a price, provided they keep the cops out of it. Havadtoy hands over $5,000 to Wilson, who is never seen again. As for the journals? Apart from the photocopy, they’re actually Seaman’s, not John’s!
Havadtoy gets Schonfeld to hand over the diaries (minus the 1980 volume), for which he collects the aforementioned $60k. In the Lenono camp, relief about having the journals back is undercut by the suspicion that they have been tampered with:
Mintz says after examining them that there appear to be entries in a different hand, and there is a chilling entry in Fred’s journal that is discovered later: “We (DeBilio and Seaman) have intense talk about doctoring diary to show Lennon’s setting me up to write book… to build up to great intimacy.”
After this eventful August, things quieten down diary-wise for a while, until Yoko gets word in April 1983 that Seaman is going to publish a book about his time with the Lennons, rumoured to be heavily based on the diaries. She calls the cops and Seaman is arrested on charges of grand larceny . After the arrest, a search of his home and storage space turns up stolen electronic equipment. Seaman hands over photocopies of the Lennon diaries (including another copy of the 1980 volume), along with other materials, but there is still no sign of the 1980 volume itself.
On 27 May 1983, Seaman pleads guilty to second-degree grand larceny and gets five years’ probation, avoiding jail time on the proviso that he cannot talk about what is in the Lennon diaries . However, he continues to spread unflattering rumours about Yoko . His book, which had been planned for publication in early 1984, is dropped , to Yoko’s relief… which is rapidly dispelled by the alarming news that Seaman is cooperating with Albert Goldman on his John biography.
Just gimme some truth
There’s an old saying that there are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth. In this case this situation is even more multifaceted, given the ways these three incredibly detailed accounts agree, conflict, and emphasise or omit different aspects of the story.
Fred Seaman portrays himself in Last Days as a loyal assistant-turned-friend-and-confidant who acted with good intentions, and a David to Yoko’s Goliath. However, in regard to the diaries specifically, I find his story improbable: Rosen took them hostage, and Seaman responded by doing nothing for almost an entire year, then executing a bizarre double-double-cross scheme? And if giving the diaries to Julian was truly Seaman’s primary motivation, it is difficult to understand why Seaman didn’t do so on one of his visits to England during 1981… or why Seaman would invite his betrayer Rosen on a trans-Atlantic holiday.
Robert Rosen has described himself as naive at the time, talked about how he ignored a bunch of what were in retrospect red flags, and even testified under oath that he believed Seaman about John’s wish to write the book. That said, it’s not clear to me why working on a Lennon book project would involve things like trying on his clothing. It’s worth mentioning that while Rosen has supported Yoko over the years, he has also critiqued the Estate’s actions.
Yoko and the Estate have a valid desire to not be stolen from, conspired against, or extorted… but also an interest in discrediting people promoting accounts of John’s last years that counteract the Double Fantasy narrative. To me, the Sheffs’ piece is informative but also very partisan, and that should be factored into our interpretation of the whole situation. (Both Rosen and Seaman have, of course, rebutted aspects of it—interested readers may consult their responses here and here).
Some details of the saga could possibly be chalked up to misunderstandings, but other aspects are murkier, and will probably remain so. This whole affair requires much analytical work by the reader.
Just when things seemed to have calmed down in the wake of Seaman’s memoir (published 1991), a new player entered the game. A rumbling of things to come occurred in 1997, when it was reported that Beatles author Geoffrey Giuliano was shopping photocopies of the Lennon diaries and audio diaries to London publishers . However, things kicked into high gear with the publication of his book Lennon in America: Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries in 2000. Of the Lennon diaries, Giuliano wrote in the book’s introduction:
Can you imagine what it feels like to hold in your hand a document that you know has the power to change the course of Beatles history and forever? What do you do with that?
For Giuliano, the answer was to write a tabloidy account that draws from the diaries while downplaying them as a source: he doesn’t quote from them for legal reasons, or even attribute much to them directly.
How Giuliano gained access to the diaries has been challenged. He says that in early 1983, he was given copies by Harry Nilsson, who Giuliano also credits with the idea for writing the book. Leaving aside the fact that Lennon’s own final major interview indicates that he had fallen out of touch with Harry, in Lennon in America Giuliano does not explain why Nilsson would have copies of John’s diaries… nor why he would give them to Giuliano rather than say, Yoko Ono, or indeed Nilsson’s other ex-Beatle buddy Ringo Starr. No one at the time believed the Harry Nilsson story either, including people close to Nilsson, as mentioned in this Buffalo News article. When challenged on his source by a Washington Post reporter, Giuliano declared:
“My wife knows, my son knows,” Giuliano snapped yesterday, his voice rising in anger. “Look, I’m already a rich man. I own a $700,000 home that’s paid for. It’s obvious that I’m going to do things in an ethical manner.”
Nilsson, as someone who as connected with Lennon and yet no longer around to confirm or deny the story, certainly seems like an alibi. If so, who was Giuliano’s actual source? Occam’s razor suggests Fred Seaman, who is listed as an interviewee in Lennon in America. Yoko thought so too: she attempted to subpoena Giuliano’s publisher in order to gain access to his materials and determine whether Seaman was involved . (I couldn’t find any record of the outcome of this, but if anyone knows, please comment!)
Giuliano did in fact have at least partial transcripts of the 1975-9 diaries. From the Buffalo News article:
Based on Rosen’s description of what he produced, it appears Giuliano’s version is somewhat abbreviated, formatted differently in some places and perhaps less detailed in others. But the general content of Giuliano’s copy is similar to that described by Rosen, Mintz and Gutstein [the lawyer who prosecuted Seaman in 1983].
The authors of the article reviewed 213 pages of the diary transcripts and give an overview of the contents, which accord with what Rosen has described. Lennon dreamed a lot, often about sex; went through a short-lived religious phase; was interested in yoga; was extremely conscious of his weight between 1975-8 and did a lot of fasts and diets; loved Sean, although also expressed frustration about his behaviour; kept in touch with the other Beatles, but didn’t want to reunite for charity .
The Buffalo News article also includes the only direct quotes from the diaries that have been published. Lennon quips at one point, “don’t shave with your mouth full”, and a 1979 entry reads, “Dear Y. one day — when you read all this — remember You’re the one I loved ”.
On his website, Giuliano posted a rebuttal to the article’s criticism of him. In it, he explains more about the Harry Nilsson connection:
At the time he [Harry] took great pains to impress upon me that out of his deep affection for Lennon he wanted the truth about John’s troubled final years told and thus was turning over his only copy of the diary to me. He then said he felt Yoko betrayed John in many ways over the years and publishing the diaries was about the only thing he could think of to help keep history on track and thus properly preserve John’s memory.
John was thinking about writing his autobiography but felt he was too close to the diaries to adequately judge their relevance to such a project. John was thus anxious to have a trusted friend like Harry review them and render his thoughts. Sadly, Lennon died before any of that transpired.
Giuliano also asserts that he has different copies than the ones made by Rosen, and that in fact Giuliano’s transcripts were actually made by John himself. To me, the idea that John personally transcribed his own diaries seems even less likely than Harry giving Giuliano the diaries. Yet the suggestion that Giuliano may genuinely have had different copies than the Project Walrus ones certainly muddies the water further .
Re-enter Rosen with Nowhere Man
Hot on Giuliano’s heels was Rosen, back on the scene with his own book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, published slightly later in 2000. This book was based on the manuscript that Rosen was unable to publish back in 1982, refined over the intervening 18 years.
A full-length review is out of scope here, but in Nowhere Man, Rosen has used his memories and interpretation of the Lennon diaries, along with other research and interviews, to create a novelistic impression of what John’s life was like during the Dakota years. Like Giuliano, Rosen does not include any direct quotes from the diaries. Rosen describes Nowhere Man as “a work of both investigative journalism and imagination. […] The result of this confluence of information, imagination and intuition is the story of what it was like to be John Lennon”.
The law comes down on Fred… again
However, things were not done where Fred Seaman was concerned. In 1999, he threatened to sue Capitol Records over their use of a photograph that he claimed was his copyright, and Yoko promptly hit back; the case eventually went to trial in 2002 . Yoko’s lawyers used Seaman’s own diaries to incriminate him, and Rosen also testified on Yoko’s behalf. She won, a verdict that received wide media attention. The court judgement forbid Last Days to be reprinted, established that the photographs in question were works-for-hire, and forced Seaman to return any and all Lennon-Ono items in his possession. (Also, the contract between Rosen and Seaman that mentioned the John and Yoko dolls? That did in fact exist, and was read at the trial).
In the judgment, Seaman admitted that he’d stolen and sold items belonging to them. His full statement (p5) read
I wish to offer this public apology to Yoko Ono; I did wrong by you and indeed am guilty of violating your trust. After more than 20 years, it’s time for me to ask your forgiveness for my actions. I did in fact steal items from you that once belonged to John. These include diaries, documents, and more. I wrote things about you in my book and various tabloids that were factually inaccurate and I now realise how much pain and embarrassment I have caused. It is impossible to do what has taken place. But it stops here and now. I will return any remaining things I have that are yours. I will refrain from ever writing anything about you or your family or about my time in your employ. I offer no excuse for my conduct and only ask that you can find it in your heart to forgive so that I can move on with my life.
Things now seemed pretty resolved! Until, it was reported in late 2006, Yoko’s chauffeur Koral Karsan attempted to blackmail her for $2 million. Stolen items were also involved, and among these were, you guessed it, some of the Lennon diaries.
So far as I can tell, the diaries weren’t specifically mentioned in press about the Karsan incident, so we might never have known about their disappearance if not for another curveball. In late 2017, news broke that a trove of Lennon items had been recoved in Berlin… including three volumes of the diaries! These included the elusive 1980 volume , as well as 1975 and 1979. The news coverage of the find gave the public the first available photos of the Lennon diaries.
The items were found in the storage of bankrupt auction house Auctionata, having been sold to them in 2014 by a man identified by the police as ‘Erhan G’. Erhan G was duly arrested, and admitted that he had received the items from Karsan. Yoko was said to be very emotional at re-encountering all of the lost objects, which included a pair of John’s glasses.
Wrapping up this saga, here is where things currently stand with the diaries and the major players of the story.
You Never Give Me Your Money author Peter Doggett wrote Prisoner of Love, a book about John’s Dakota years which used the Lennon diaries as a source, although the publisher’s blurb was vague about how Doggett gained access to them. The book was due to be published in April 2021, but was cancelled at the eleventh hour.
Norman Schonfeld ended up behind bars. Following a history of sketchy business practices and a grand larceny conviction, this self-described “controversial figure in the diamond industry” perpetrated an elaborate diamond scam which he tried to pin on his son: the resulting trial in 2004 led to many convictions and a lengthy jail sentence. The case file from his 2009 appeal is scathing, describing him as a con artist and “a fraud and recidivist with no qualms about casting blame on others, including his own son, to save his own neck.”
Robert Rosen received his own diaries back from Yoko as Nowhere Man was going to press . He has since released two updated and expanded versions of the book, as well as publishing other works. Recently, Rosen has spoken out on the cancellation of Prisoner of Love, as well as the Estate’s actions to block the memoir by Dakota apartment gardener Mike ‘Tree’ Medeiros.
Geoffrey Giuliano went on to release a bunch of audio biographies. In 2016 he was implicated in a dodgy sale of negatives of John and Yoko’s wedding photos, and in 2021 he appeared in Netflix’s Squid Game.
In 2020, Fred Seaman gave a video interview in which he reportedly displayed Lennon memorabilia (including one of the copyrighted photos that triggered the 1999 lawsuit/2002 trial), mused about republishing Last Days, and otherwise violated the terms of the 2002 trial’s consent judgment. Yoko promptly hit him with another copyright lawsuit; they settled in January 2021. He is now forbidden to speak about John at all.
In 2021, it was reported that David Sheff is working on the “definitive” biography of Yoko Ono.
The diaries remain the property of Yoko and the Lennon estate. Presumably, they are now kept under lock and key.
Thank you for an excellent post-it’s a clear, thoughtful, and balanced account of a complicated tale. I am torn between wanting to respect John Lennon’s privacy (the diaries were his, not intended for publication as far as anyone knows, and contain highly personal information) and my curiosity about all of those private things. In one of his interviews (for Double Fantasy, I think) John said, “Remember the work. Forget the life”) or something like that.
When Andy Warhol’s diaries were published, their petty, superficial, and gossipy content reflected poorly on him. He briefly mentions john and Yoko, dismissing John as a boring grump. There’s a line from the John Cale/Lou Reed album “Songs for Drella” that might suit John Lennon. “Your diaries are not a worthy epitaph.”
I wouldn’t be reading articles on Hey Dullblog if I weren’t excessively curious about John Lennon, (and if there weren’t good posts like yours) but I am inclined to think that they should not be published. When celebrities’ phones are hacked for nude photos, when paparazzi pursue their subjects too aggressively, and when private diaries end up in the hands of hangers-on and their friends, celebrity culture is hard to stomach.
John Lennon complained about fame, but he also gave loads of interviews, publicized his albums, and wrote an open letter in 1979 that no one really wanted. I don’t know if he was ambivalent about being famous (he certainly liked being rich) or if ambivalence was a pose, but it seems fitting that he left fans with a conundrum.
If you could read the photocopies of the diaries, would you?
IMO John never cared about his privacy. Everything he did was a conscious effort to tell his story in the way he wanted it to be told either about himself or others. He put it all out there – truths, likes and fantasies. He did a pretty damn good job at writing Paul’s story throughout the 70s. A purposeful attempt to diminish his co-genius partner so he could look like the stronger more interesting part of the duo.
As far as I am concerned anything John did from Sept 1969-December 1980 is a crap shoot in terms of accuracy, reality and the truth. John was a very very smart man who was also very disturbed. That is a toxic and dangerous combination as history has told us. Anything he said or wrote during this time frame needs to be taken lightly or not at all.
Hi Peter, thank you so much for the compliments!
I’d be interested in reading a well-written book by a reputable author who used them as a source (i.e., Doggett). But despite writing this piece, I don’t have much personal interest in actually reading the diaries. What I read about their contents in the research for this piece (which included reading Rosen’s book) is enough information for me.
The story about the diaries is truly fascinating to me, though. I knew they’d been stolen, apparently more than once, and started looking into it… and I found that no one had written the article I wanted to read, so I had to write it.
I agree. What a terrific, carefully examined and clearly explained article, Victoria! I consider this evaluation and organization of publicly available material just as fresh and valuable as “original research.”
As for me, I’m sure out of curiosity I would look at John’s diaries, but I don’t know how valuable they would be. The description makes them sound not like carefully thought out drafts for a possible memoir (as the best diarists tend to do it) but like average, inane notes. I already know that John’s moods could change like the weather. If he griped one day about Paul, for example, because he heard a song on the radio….my reaction is “eh.” I already knew that.
I suppose they may be valuable in puncturing the myth of John as legend, and showing him as a regular human being, but time has kind of done that already. If he was writing deep thoughts about, say, the Watergate hearings that might be fun. But not how many cups of coffee he had on x day, or what newspaper he read while he took a shit.
Thank you Victoria for teasing out the various strands from the fabric of the topic. I am sure I speak for many readers in saying that this was very well researched and written and describes to us the various moving pieces.
Would I be correct in assuming that when Yoko passes that Sean will be the custodian? If so, would you even hazard a guess as to whether scholars will see them?
Again, thank you for this.
Hi Neal, you are so welcome! I’m just glad that this has an audience – but if not on Dullblog, then where? 🙂
Re: the Lennon Estate – there have been a few news reports over the last few years about Sean being more involved in running the Estate, while Yoko steps back – see here for example. (Yoko is of course very elderly now – almost 90! – and no longer in her best health).
I haven’t followed Sean’s career/life, and so I don’t know a lot about him, but he seems to make minor headlines periodically (including this very week!) by saying a bunch of stuff on Twitter. So, he seems unafraid of controversy, for what that’s worth.
Whether scholars may gain access to the diaries – impossible to know, but I think it’s fair to conclude that Sean would be more open to that than Yoko. Seeing Mike Tree’s book find publication would be a promising indicator, but the real litmus test is probably Doggett’s book getting the green light (which I hope happens at some point!)
Yoko did at one point say that would consider releasing them after many of the people named have died. (UPI Archives, 7 July 1997). But a lot has happened since then: the Seaman copyright court case, Giuliano’s book, the second diary theft, the other Seaman copyright issue. I wouldn’t blame her if all of these goings-on shut the door on the idea.
thank you for this post; it’s all quite fascinating.
reading through the comments made me mull over the question when is the moment that someone belongs to history? when is reading their diaries and letters historical study not prurient interest? is it a matter of consent of the estate or of time passed?
@Chris, my rule of thumb would be “when everybody mentioned in the diaries is dead” then it’s a fully historical document.
Sean has indeed apparently stepped in to serve as John’s representative in Beatles’ projects the past few years, as Yoko is reportedly in ill health. So far, he seems to be doing a decent job IMO.
I admit to being morbidly curious as to who will manage the considerable McCartney estate when Paul is gone. I’m sure Nancy will for awhile, but she is pretty close to retirement age herself already. Mary McCartney seems the most involved of Paul’s kids in his projects. Her oldest, Paul’s oldest grandchild, is also reportedly an analyst at Goldman Sachs, so he might be a natural choice as well.
Oops, forgot to mention in the above post – this whole thing about the electronics does not, of course, explain the issue of all the other documents and items that Rosen talks about Seaman feeding to him.
Personally, I’m inclined to believe that, apart from the diaries, Fred did nick a bunch of other items from the Dakota. You might say, but what if Rosen was embellishing things to make Fred look mega guilty. And I guess we can’t rule that out. But if so, why talk about things like trying on John’s clothes, which is a detail that makes Rosen himself look culpable (and kinda weird)?
I enjoyed this Victoria. I’m not someone whose read a lot about the Dakota days, so this was very informative.
I have to say I’m uneasy about if these diaries should ever be released to the public.
We’ve all been reading about Prince Harry’s book “Spare” recently. While he is getting praise for his honesty, he is also being criticized for sharing personal information about his family. I bring this up because I think it raises a good point:
Does the quest for “truth” mean exposing the secrets or personal information of others? Information that may not be useful, but just hurtful?
At this point in time, what purpose would releasing Johns diaries serve? (If they ever will be) A historical record, as some say “Spare” is? Or just gossip? It sounds like there is embarrassing information in there, not just towards Yoko, but John himself. Maybe things that would upset Sean and Julian.
I guess I feel that because John isn’t here to release them himself, they shouldn’t be. Yes, as Victoria writes, supposedly at some point John did want them released. But would he feel the same way if he were still alive?
I’m just not sure reading what’s in the diaries would serve a greater purpose.
From what I can recall, the two books that were based on the diaries were both pretty similar and described the same events, so it’s clear that both authors had access to the same sources. But there was nothing earth shattering in either of the books, and to me, the drama surrounding ‘Project Walrus’, the theft of the diaries and the court case with Seaman seems more like a distraction than anything else. If the diaries were that explosive, they wouldn’t have been left lying around for Seaman to get his hands on in the first place. They would have been shredded or burned. The fact that they were ostensibly stolen again when Ono was being ‘blackmailed’ by her driver makes me even more suspicious. Why do the diaries keep making an appearance at such times, and why aren’t they kept under lock and key? Clearly there is nothing in them that she is too worried about.
@Tasmin – it’s somewhat off-topic, but the parallels between Harry and Meghan and John and Yoko are pretty obvious, aren’t they? Two things stand out to me: (1) Meghan is modelling herself on Yoko (I doubt whether Harry is bright enough to notice) and (2) no wonder Paul didn’t respond to HDYS. He was probably as fearful as William is now about what might come next.
@Elizabeth, I’ve seen memes online with Harry standing with Yoko, her head replacing Meghan’s.
I think there are definite parallels, the #1 being that both John and Harry lost their mothers, and never got over the pain. Also, both have deep seated anger, and lash out at those who love them. They both found older, strong women to help them leave a situation they found stifling.
Harry wrote “Spare”, John did the Rolling Stone interview. Both burned it all down.
@Tamsin – Yes, Harry is very like John – vulnerable, drug-addled, paranoid, obsessed with his mother, jealous of his brother. Easy prey for someone opportunistic and hugely ambitious who reminds him of mummy. Poor William though. And poor Paul. Imagine having to deal with that. No wonder he always took Linda with him when he visited the Dakota – no one in their right mind would have a conversation with the likes of Harry or John without a witness.
Yes, I’m in agreement with you.
It would have been nerve wracking to be alone with John for Paul. How could he be sure if John would be pleasant, or cutting and sarcastic? Not to mention, would he tell Rolling Stone their conversation?
@Tamsin, that’s a pretty niche meme, I’m interested/amazed!
I must admit that I’m not well-informed about the British royal family, but the parallels you mention are striking.
Here is the meme:
Unfortunately for Yoko, one of her legacy’s will be the evil girlfriend that takes the guy away from his friends/families.
And unfortunately, Meghan is now subject to the same racism and misogyny that Yoko faced through the years and Harry the same unwarranted criticism for going into bat for her. Plus ca change.
@Hieronymus – Are you sure about that or are you just repeating what Meghan and Harry claim to be true? Because I know someone personally who worked for the RF and their take on it is quite different. Much like everyone who knew Yoko personally, come to think of it.
People who are paranoid take offence where none is intended. And people who are clever and manipulative use words like racism and misogyny to detract attention from their own bad behaviour. My perception of MM and YO is that both of them have behaved appallingly and neither have had the humility or self-awareness to own up to it. It’s easier to blame other people.
Yeah. It’s definitely a reductive/lazy view, too.
So did John really want Julian to have his diaries? Or was that Seaman’s “noble” justification. If not, that’s an extremely cruel thing for Seaman to tell Julian considering John’s ambivalent relationship towards him. If these diaries are filled with John writing about how much he loves and adores Sean why give that to Julian to read?!
@Jayne, it’s ultimately an unanswerable question (as I’m sure you realise too!) It’s certainly possible that Seaman is telling the truth – maybe John did say something about Julian having the diaries in the event of his death. Though personally, I think it’s more likely that if John said something about Julian having the diaries, it was an offhand comment that Seaman subsequently inflated to the level of a sacred pronouncement.
And yes, as you say, it’s a little hard to understand why John would want the son with whom he had a strained relationship to receive his diaries filled with occult musings, sexual fantasies, and intense love for his second son….
My take is that, whatever John did or didn’t say, Seaman’s story about taking the journals for Julian was mainly a justification/excuse. Like I said in the piece, if this was really Seaman’s motivation, then why didn’t he give Julian the diaries when he visited him in England in 1981? Seaman claims that Rosen betrayed him and kept the journals, but that part of Seaman’s story doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I don’t think that Rosen is lying about going to England in 1981 to join Seaman, and there meeting Julian and people like Neil Aspinall.
For what it’s worth, Rosen was asked this very question in an appearance on the Something About the Beatles podcast (episode 189): was Julian having the journals something that Rosen heard Seaman talk about at the time? Rosen said that Seaman mentioned it, but that it was clear that he took the journals as source material for the book project, and that that was his primary motivation.
Great article, Victoria! Such a strange adventure those diaries have been on. It blows my mind that after all that went on with them in the 80s, they were still accessible enough for a chauffeur to make off with them.
Something that piqued my curiosity, though, was the blurb for Peter Doggett’s now-jettisoned PRISONER OF LOVE: ” What he learned forced him to confront everything he believed he knew about his hero…” I’d be curious about what could have that kind of effect on someone like him, who is no stranger to Beatle research.
That is an interesting question, @Sgt. Rutter.
Oh great, now I have XTC in my head. 🙂
@Sgt. Rutter, it’s absolutely bonkers that they got stolen again… especially after Fred’s grand larceny conviction + the publicity around them from the Sheffs’ article. You can’t make this stuff up! (Has Yoko never heard of a safe?)
Re: that blurb for Doggett’s book – I attribute that mostly to marketing hype. Doggett is a hardcore Lennon guy who covered John’s 70s years in YNGMYM, surely he has read the books by May Pang, John Green, and Seaman, along with all the other bios. (He definitely references Goldman directly in YNGMYM, but I can’t remember about the others). Doggett has read Rosen’s book too, according to Rosen. Anyway, the point is that I would be very surprised if Doggett had not already seen behind the myth.
On the Dullblog Prisoner of Love post, @Michael Gerber had a good theory about the framing of the book and how that might have come about.
Confirming the above: I just checked YNGMYM, and the books by Green, Giuliano (Lennon in America), Pang, Rosen, and Seaman are all listed in the bibliography – along with all the John sources you’d expect.
@Jayne For what it’s worth, I seem to remember reading somewhere that Julian and Fred have remained friends over the years. That’s a long time in which to gauge someone’s character and sincerity, and from Julian’s perceptive, there never seems to have been a problem. Yoko, on the other hand, is thoroughly relentless in her vendetta, and was suing Fred again as recently as 2020:
@Matt, I hadn’t heard that about Julian and Fred. Any chance you remember where you read that?
Side note, but I’ve always thought it’s nice that Julian stayed on good terms with May Pang – here’s a pic of them together from just a few years ago).
I mentioned the 2020 copyright drama in the Postscript section of the article – but I don’t blame you for missing that, given how much information there was to take in! 🙂
Victoria, thank you for writing this terrific piece. I have read a lot about the Lennon diaries, but had never been able to keep everything straight in my head until now. This is a truly wild, surreal story—nobody could have invented it!
I tend to doubt that Fred Seaman really took the diaries with the intent of giving them to Julian. My gut feeling is that Fred was so distraught by John’s death—and angered by what he perceived to be Yoko’s unfeeling response to it—that he decided to take the journals on impulse, without really knowing what he ought to do with them. If he’d really intended to just Xerox a copy of the journals for Julian and return the originals, he could easily have done that in a few days without anyone being the wiser. Fred had gone to journalism school, and I suspect that he really did plan to use the diaries to write a book. Back then, the content of the diaries probably would have been truly shocking. These days, not so much.
Honestly, while I find the descriptions of Yoko’s grief affecting, much of the Sheff article reads like straight fiction to me. I just find so much of it outlandish. I laughed out loud at the melodramatic description of Fred Seaman, criminal mastermind: “He sits and stares out his window, rubbing his hands, muttering, ‘The black widow is going to be destroyed.'” It’s too bad he didn’t have a mustache to twirl!
I suppose the lingering question is what will happen to the diaries. Obviously, they’re personal enough that Yoko doesn’t seem to have ever considered publishing them, and I doubt Sean would either. So, what happens 50 years from now, when anyone who knew John Lennon–any living person who could possibly be mentioned in the diaries—is gone? Unless Sean decides to burn them, I think it’s a safe bet that we’ll eventually see the diaries published, in some form or other. After a certain point, Lennon will be an entirely historical figure, and issues of privacy will be moot.
@J.D. – thank you so much! And I agree – in many ways this is quite the comedy of errors 😀
I posted a comment about this above, but I’d agree with your read on Seaman’s actions/intentions. The fact that he kept such a detailed diary of his own certainly implies that he intended to write a book. (If you haven’t seen it, here’s the page from his diary that he reproduced in Last Days).
I agree with you too about the Sheffs’ article – it’s SO melodramatic, and that passage in particular is just… something I can’t believe they actually published with a straight face
However, they were actually somewhat prescient on that point! Because at a Beatles Convention in 1992, Seaman talked about publishing a bio of Yoko called Black Widow (here’s the video if you want to watch him sip beer and smirk while he talks about it). And then later on, Giuliano did release an (audio?) biography called Black Widow (here’s his blog announcement about it).
Perhaps you’re right and fifty years from now, the diaries will be available in some form. I’ll be pretty old by then, but I hope I live to see it!
Michael, thank you so much for giving me the chance to share my research!
I have so many follow-on thoughts about so many aspects of this whole saga, but here are a couple to get the ball rolling.
The 1980 diary.
What happened with this is one of the big question marks in the whole story. Both Seaman and the Sheffs agree that Schonfeld didn’t return it along with the other volumes; and later on, Giuliano only had copies of 1975-9.
The 1980 volume was still reported to be missing in 1984, but Yoko apparently got it back at some point before 2006, since it was stolen again then.
A lot of possibilities here – I’d love to know what really happened!
Oh wow, where to start with this guy. My overriding thought is that in many ways, he just doesn’t seem that savvy, does he? The whole journal thing is just a mess whatever way you look at it, and he was really tempting fate with the image copyright claim, let alone talking about republishing Last Days in the 2020 interview. And I didn’t even get into his shitposting on rec.music.beatles (while awaiting a court case!), or the amusing detail that at said court case, he actually presented Sean Lennon with a Japanese edition of Last Days! (Sean: “This is the nicest book I’ll ever burn”).
Never one to just take the L, this guy.
I didn’t have the space to include it in the article, but it’s worth mentioning that there is some suggestion that (some?) of the stolen goods Fred got done for actually were given to him by John. That’s Seaman’s claim in Last Days (he specifies cassettes and records, and a framed drawing by Sean given to him by John), and Seaman was also defended by Double Fantasy producer/J&Y friend Jack Douglas. ?JD says,
It’s worth noting, however, that Jack Douglas is not necessarily a neutral party – he and Yoko fell out in a massive way when he had to sue her to get her to pay his contractually agreed Double Fantasy royalties.
However, this story about the electronics is totally plausible IMO, and the Sheffs even mention stolen electronic equipment specifically. (Seaman himself does not).
That said, I’m inclined to believe that, apart from the diaries, Fred did nick a bunch of other items from the Dakota. You might say, but what if Rosen was embellishing things to make Fred look mega guilty – and I guess we can’t rule that out. But if so, why talk about things like trying on John’s clothes, which is a detail that makes Rosen himself look culpable (and kinda weird)?
In the end, the criminal possession/grand larceny charge was, of course, really about the diaries. I doubt Yoko cared a lot about a few boomboxes or whatever. That’s what the Sheffs’ article says – it states that Yoko only went after Seaman once she heard the rumours about him publishing a Lennon book that used the diaries as a source. And while their article is pretty skewed, I’m inclined to believe that part – it makes sense, since there’s a gap of months between Yoko finding out about the thefts and Seaman being charged – during which time things were even initially dropped, according to Seaman.
Any thoughts about the book Nowhere Man, or Rosen in general?
I read Nowhere Man as part of my research for the article. (Someone should review it for Dullblog, if Michael Gerber’s not too burned out on 70s Lennon content that is! 😀 ) I didn’t like a couple of Rosen’s choices, but I think he’s a good writer, and that Nowhere Man is a convincing portrait, if not a particularly feel-good one.
I think John/Paul is more than anything else a story. It’s a lens we can use to see a familiar story in a different way. It’s fun to think about. I have nothing against anyone who wants to talk about it. If people want to research it, more power to them. (I also want to add that Hey Bulldog seems to me to be a place that welcomes open-mindedness and friendly dialogue. As someone who briefly posted on rec.music.beatles in the late ’90s and has occasionally ventured into other online forums for Beatles discussions, I have to say that the general sense of kindness and mutual respect I get from the folks here is really a breath of fresh air.) Is it true? Well, it could be. But I don’t think it is.
We know an awful amount about John Lennon. I had the unnerving thought recently that I probably know more about John Lennon’s childhood than the childhood of either of my parents. There have been at least three massive biographies of Lennon, and probably at least half a dozen substantial biographies of the Beatles (Davies, Norman, Spitz, Brown/Gaines, Lewisohn’s unfinished epic, and perhaps Doggett’s book about the solo years qualifies). There have been maybe another half-dozen notable memoirs by friends, relatives, lovers, former employees. Lennon gave probably hundreds of interviews, some of them book-length. There have been at least three books written by people who have reportedly read Lennon’s diaries, in which he was not writing for a public audience and presumably felt free to say anything he wanted. We have an audio diary in which Lennon confided a truly startling story involving himself and his mother. In one of his final songs (“You Saved My Soul”) he appears to speak openly about an attempt he made to end his own life. If you could somehow print out all of this material, you’d need an entire apartment at the Dakota to store it in (maybe the one where Yoko keeps her fur coats). And I just don’t see any compelling evidence that John/Paul reflects the reality of the relationship between John and Paul. If John had felt that way about Paul, he’d certainly have written about it in the diary he kept for the last five years of his life. He’d have told somebody–Yoko, or May Pang, or even Fred Seaman. He’d have told one of the hundreds of people who talked to Albert Goldman for his book. He would have said *something*, something that made it into this mountain of material about his life. But he didn’t. I think John was most likely someone who would be regarded as queer today–there’s an abundance of evidence for that. I don’t see any evidence that John was in love with Paul. I don’t find the idea offensive; I just don’t see any reason to think it’s true. I think that John loved Paul (very different than “being in love,” needless to say), and resented him, and envied him, and sometimes felt scornful of him, and sometimes missed him, and on many days probably didn’t think much about him at all–you can find evidence of all of that in the material I’ve mentioned. But John/Paul, to me, feels much simpler than the reality of what happened. Just my two cents; take it for what it’s worth.
@J.D., this hews very close to my own feelings on the matter, only more clearly expressed. And I have also had that unsettling thought; I know more about Lennon’s life than my own brother’s. His voice is more recognizable to me than close friends, or relations.
JohnandPaul is a “way into” the phenomenon of The Beatles; a hack to make something increasingly alien and distant feel vibrant and relevant to people today, especially young people and queer people. I think it’s a sign of health–a remixing of The Beatles story.
I agree — thank you, J.D., for expressing that perspective so well.
I’d like to add a literary reflection here. I think John/Paul is Romantic, in the capital-R sense. It reminds me of Wuthering Heights: two people powerfully drawn to each other whose relationship overheats yet also mysteriously endures beyond space and time. It’s the opposite of Realism in literature, which emphasizes the ways in which society and environment impinge on idealism/self-expression.
Romanticism and its offshoots/descendants are highly valuable: they let us us dream beyond the boundaries of everyday existence. They allow us to express and explore big emotions (opera, Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, etc.). A world without Romanticism or fantasy would be greatly impoverished, if not outright unlivable. Romanticism only becomes a problem when it’s taken for real life (think Don Quixote).
I would almost add Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude to your list, Nancy, though that is romanticizing an entire fictional place and all its cast of citizens. I consider it beyond space and time; the ending left me feeling so empty and bereft.
That’s really interesting, Alicia. I’m fascinated by the way we humans make up stories — realistic and beyond realistic — and then by the way we can feed those back into our lived experience. Don Quixote dramatizes this in the most obvious way: the main character goes around attempting to enact the chivalrous romances he’s read about and resists all evidence he encounters that challenges his preferred narrative. We can all do that, to some extent.
@J.D. – Would he have written about it in his dairies or would he have put it in his other books, which were written in code? If @Fox is correct and that code can be deciphered, maybe those books contain more information about his life than his actual diaries, which really aren’t that interesting if they have been relayed accurately. Why weren’t the diaries written in code when everything else he wrote was? Why did he/Yoko employ someone (a kid at that) who had studied journalism to work as a personal assistant and then leave the diaries lying around? I think the diaries are a red herring. I don’t think they contain any information that’s particularly interesting or they would have been locked away where Fred Seaman couldn’t get his hands on them.
I do agree that Goldman would have uncovered something if there was anything to uncover, but don’t you think it’s strange how absent Paul is from Goldman’s biography? All those hundreds of people he interviewed and none of them had much, if anything, to say about Paul? It’s almost like the Eastmans had an advance copy of the book, or like the people Goldman interviewed didn’t dare mention Paul. Which would make sense – he’s still alive, after all, and he’s known to be litigious. It wouldn’t surprise me if he hadn’t warned people off, especially in Liverpool. Not necessarily about him and John, but about him full stop. My own view is that while we might think we know Paul as well as we know our own family members, the reality is that we only know as much about him as he wants us to know. The same goes for John; the Estate has a bit less control over what comes out because he’s dead, but it still manages to discredit anything that paints Yoko in a bad light. We probably know a bit more about the real John than the real Paul, but we don’t know either of them really – we only think we do.
I would also presume that most biographers are wary about getting on the wrong side of McCartney, even the ones who hate him. I’ve certainly raised an eyebrow at some of the stuff I’ve read, however. Not least Hunter Davies’ comparison of Paul’s relationships with Linda, Jane and John, Pauline Sutcliffe’s subtle as a sledgehammer hints about the true nature of the John, Paul, Stuart triangle and Geoff Baker’s tongue in cheek denial that his bisexual rock star protagonist was based on anyone he knew or had worked for.
I don’t read fan fiction and I don’t really care whether John and Paul were lovers or not. But I don’t think it’s any more unlikely than Mick and Keith or Mick and David Bowie, and everyone seems to believe those pairings and think, ‘so what?’. What makes John and Paul so different?
John’s diaries were in fact written in a kind of code or shorthand, Robert Rosen has talked about how much work it was to decipher them.
However, I agree with you that the diaries don’t seem to contain anything incendiary.
Re Goldman, I don’t know if Paul warned people off, but I don’t think he had to. In the Lennon/Goldman: Making of a Bestseller doco, Mike McCartney talks about how he declined to be interviewed after talking to an old friend (and Paul’s ex-girlfriend) Thelma Pickles, who told Mike about how she’d felt “mentally raped” after taking part in an interview for the book. The clip is here. So I’d say that word probably got round in Liverpool without any intervention from Paul needed.
I agree with you here. I think Paul keeps back a lot more than most people give him credit for.
Read this article last night for something else, and leaving it here for comment.
If this is reflective, Goldman’s methods (or more accurately those of his assistants) don’t seem particularly invasive, but they do seem very thorough.
I agree about Paul keeping his feelings private, although it’s interesting that he’s been using “I’ve Got a Feeling” footage from the rooftop and ‘singing’ with John on stage. And I’ve seen a number of videos where he emphasizes that he loved John and always will, and one where he said he is a private person but puts his feelings into his songs.
I’m not trying to interpret any of that – I’m just pointing out that he is, like most people, a complex person. I do think that, as we can tend to do when we get older, he might be a little nostalgic. Possibly looking at the positive aspects of his relationship with John, and coming to terms with the less happy parts. Okay I guess I AM interpreting.
@Elizabeth The only inconsistency in viewing the diaries as a red herring is Peter Doggett’s book getting the kibosh. We would need to reconcile that fact with Giuliano and Rosen publishing books unimpeded. Could they have been ‘strategic leaks’ released with Yoko’s tacit involvement to sort of denude public interest in the diaries? The bio on Rosen’s own website, for instance, describes his personal relationship with Yoko:
“Rosen met with Ono at the Dakota in September 1982. She told him that she wanted to know everything that had happened since she’d hired Seaman, and asked to read his personal diaries. She also agreed to put Rosen on her payroll. The following day Rosen loaned Ono 16 volumes of his diaries, which she kept for 18 years, returning them as the first edition of Nowhere Man was going to press. She later asked Rosen to testify on her behalf at Seaman’s copyright infringement trial.”
And Giuliano was obviously friendly with Yoko at some point. In ‘Lennon In America’ there are pictures of the author with Yoko and Sean in the 80s at the Dakota.
Then there’s Koral Karsan, the chauffeur, who actually claimed that Yoko GAVE him the diaries and other items he was accused of stealing. On top of that, despite allegedly planning to murder her and/or extort her for a large amount of money, he was freed after 8 weeks and returned to his native Turkey. Smells fishy.
So you have three people who may not be exactly what they seem, and then you have Doggett and Seaman. Doggett, presumably, had produced a sufficiently unflattering account of the diaries so as to have his book quashed. Based on that much, I wouldn’t dismiss outright the idea that the diaries contain something of interest, but rather be more inclined to think Giuliano and Rosen were vetted, if not outright cooperative in what they put out; and that the chauffeur, willingly or unwillingly, was also the subject of manipulation.
In Seaman’s case though, his crime was probably less to do with the diaries then having been a long term witness to things that went on, including events immediately proceeding the murder. In his case, I would think Yoko’s lawsuits probably ARE a pretext, her problem being that Fred doesn’t actually need John’s diaries to dish dirt (not that he can!), and that his repressed book was more unflattering to her than it was to John. Worrying about this stuff at 89 years old suggests incredibly petty self interest (it’s never actually about John, is it? And when it’s about John, it’s really about Yoko in a roundabout way), and that Yoko has not grown much from who she was forty or fifty years ago.
@Matt – In my opinion, it’s more likely that Yoko and Co recruited a young and ambitious wannabe journalist, got him interested in the diaries on purpose and then left them lying around so he would take them. The so-called ‘Project Walrus’ conspiracy was invented by Elliot Mintz, and it seems unlikely that he came up with it overnight or on his own. It was planned, obviously, to detract attention from the very big questions about John’s murder, to discredit any household staff who might dare speak out and to paint Ono as a victim.
That’s why the diaries were trotted out again when the driver stepped out of line, in my opinion. And I don’t believe for a minute that he wrote that blackmail letter either.
I’m not sure about Peter Doggett. Do we know for sure that Ono blocked the publication of his book? If she did, I doubt whether it had anything to do with the diaries. She gave him access to them, after all.
I think that you’re assuming a lot here – it’s not “obvious” that all of the diary was stuff was a smokescreen to distract from questions about John’s murder. So much of the diary saga is extremely strange (detailed here, for the benefit of anyone who reads these comments in isolation), but what you assert is a massive leap.
The alleged killer confessed to the murder – in the eyes of the law and also the public, that’s pretty open and shut. So it’s hard to understand why Yoko/Mintz/etc would need a convoluted scheme to distract from questions that really no one* was/is asking. Occam’s razor says that her actions were about protecting the Ballad.
(* yes, there are a few conspiracy theorists… but this is not a mainstream conspiracy theory like with JFK).
We don’t know anything for sure, no one is talking. But it’s hard to conclude otherwise.
The publisher’s blurb says, “Several years ago, a mysterious set of circumstances led him to a room where he was able to read several of the ex-Beatle’s private diaries”. I guess that doesn’t necessarily preclude Yoko having giving him access, but it certainly doesn’t sound like she did. It sounds more like he got to see them at some point when they were in the custody of Erhan G/the auction house.
Elizabeth, we do know that Yoko Ono was initially cooperating with Philip Norman when he was writing his biography of Lennon — it was going to be “authorized” — and that she pulled that cooperation/authorization before the book was published. Here’s a link to a post about the bio on HD, with comments that address this (by me and by others). So if Ono did pull the authorization from Doggett, it wouldn’t be the first time.
You make a good point! That said, I never saw any suggestion that Prisoner of Love was written with the cooperation/authorisation of the Estate.
@Nancy – Well, that’s certainly true, but Norman was still able to publish his book regardless of whether Ono supported him or not. In the end, it was probably better for Norman that Ono did withdraw her ‘authorisation’, as questions might otherwise have been raised about his impartiality. And come to think of it, maybe that’s why he told everyone she had withdrawn her authorisation. It’s not like it made any difference, and it wasn’t really something that anyone needed to know.
I do agree it’s most likely that Ono blocked the publication of Doggett’s book, but I’m not convinced it had anything to do with the diaries. For a start, it had to be Ono who gave him access to the diaries in the first place, otherwise he would be in deep shit for handling stolen property. No one in their right mind would admit to that, particularly if the property owner was Yoko Ono.
Maybe the book could not be published because one or more of Doggett’s sources withdrew their cooperation. Given the history, and the fact that Ono took him back to court quite recently, I would hazard a guess that it had something to do with Fred Seaman, but it would only be a guess. There could be a hundred different reasons why the publication of the book was blocked. But while it seems likely that Ono was somehow involved, it doesn’t mean it had anything to do with the diaries.
@Elizabeth, being able to put “the authorized biography” on his book would’ve made Norman a lot of money. Commercially at least, Ono pulling her support was a big thing.
@Michael Gerber & @Elizabeth,
What Michael said. I assume that Norman’s book was marketed as an authorised bio, so he probably felt the need to explain why it was no longer so. And maybe he was a bit annoyed at Yoko too 😀
More to the point, it was doubtless SOLD at the proposal stage as “with the cooperation of the Estate.” Which meant a much higher advance and a house much more on the hook.
Withdrawal of support just before publication was a HUGE deal for Norman and his publishing house, and I’m sure it was done after massive money had been spent to promote the book, get it on tables in stores, etc. My Spidey Sense says that Yoko/the Estate waited until the last minute, then presented Norman with a bunch of requested changes to the manuscript…if they still wanted Estate backing. Then Norman and the publishers knew that if they did that, it would get out, and the book would be crushed as a whitewash. So they swallowed hard, and went forward without support.
I don’t know how it sold, or how it’s perceived now, within “the biz.”
@Michael – Yes, but a biography of John Lennon authorised by Yoko Ono would hardly have much credibility. I mean, it would be fine as a puff piece of the sort that David Sheff is evidently writing, but would a serious rock journalist like Norman want to be associated with something like that?
As Michael and Victoria have pointed out, “authorized” = $ in the publishing world. May not be reasonable or fair, but it’s so.
And to Victoria’s point about Norman’s annoyance, I recommend reading the intro to Norman’s biography of McCartney, in which Norman recants his previously expressed contempt for McCartney and does so in part by narrating his encounters with Yoko Ono. Norman says that Ono contacted him after he made a statement about Lennon being “80% of the Beatles” and told him it was “nice.” And again according to Norman, she pulled her authorization after reading some of what he was writing because she considered it to be “mean to John.”
If there’s one thing we can say about Yoko Ono’s motivations based on the available evidence, it’s that she’s fiercely protective of Lennon’s public image and of their public image as a couple. And who can really blame her for feeling that way? The question is really what lengths she goes to in order to do that, and whether Lennon is ultimately well-served by those efforts. And those are both questions on which opinions are going to differ widely.
Yes, he would, @Elizabeth. Outside of precincts like this, if Beatles fans think about Yoko at all, they think of her as John’s soulmate, the person he loved most and who knew him best. We may disagree, but “authorized” on that Norman book would’ve 10x its sales.
@Michael – It’s not that I disagree. I just find it hard to grasp how someone claiming to be a serious journalist or definitive biographer or whatever would want to write a book about John Lennon that was sanctioned by Yoko Ono. I know Ray Coleman did without managing to destroy his own integrity, but that was a long time ago and we knew a lot less about John and Yoko then. Still, everything has its price, I suppose.
I haven’t read Norman’s Lennon biography. How did he explain away the Dakota years in a way that would gain Ono’s approval? Had him baking bread, I suppose.
I mentioned this in a reply above, but the publisher’s description of Prisoner of Love is deliberately vague about how Doggett gained access to the diaries. It certainly doesn’t make it sound like Ono gave Doggett access – I’m hard-pressed to know why she would, either.
That’s an intriguing possibility. Some details about timing:
– Yoko initiated the latest copyright lawsuit against Fred in early October 2020
– They settled in mid January 2021 – the Settlement Agreement is dated 13 Jan
– A comment on Erin Torkelsen Weber’s blog post about Prisoner of Love that says that word of the cancellation initially broke on 11 Feb 2021.
So, was the copyright lawsuit a factor in pulling the book? But if so, surely they would have seen the writing on the wall back in October… Seaman was pretty clearly not going to come out on top, just like he didn’t in Yoko v. Seaman rounds #1 and #2. There are a few weeks between the copyright settlement and the book cancellation too.
It could be that the timing is simply coincidental. One more never-to-be-answered question for an already long list…
@Victoria – The diaries were stolen property that belonged to Yoko Ono. Doggett using them to write a book would be the equivalent of someone using a stolen car to write a blog about a road trip. If Yoko didn’t give him access to the diaries, that is the most likely reason that the publication of the book was blocked. But I seriously doubt that Doggett would be stupid enough to put himself in that position. It’s far, far more likely that Yoko gave him access. Why? Why not. There’s nothing in the diaries that she’s that bothered about.
I agree that trying to publish anything relating to the diaries without authorised access would not have been a smart move. Maybe Doggett was banking on the fact that Rosen and Giuliano had been allowed to publish? He may have been unaware of the quid pro quo situation with Rosen.
If Yoko gave him access, why would they market the book by talking about “a mysterious set of circumstances” that led Doggett to view the diaries? Surely they wouldn’t have framed it that way… seems weird to me.
@Victora – A mysterious set of circumstances sounds very much to me like something Yoko would want to manufacture. Of course I could be wrong, but it sounds more like her than not in my opinion.
@Victoria, I think that lawsuit–which was filed on debatable grounds–was a clear signal that the Estate would come after anybody who speaks about John Lennon with any authority that doesn’t come from them. They want to be the single source of data on John Lennon. That this is precisely how NOT to nurture a property in 2023–that it probably has, and certainly will, work to squeeze the life out of John Lennon for any future generations, is immaterial. This is what Yoko wants, and this lawsuit is a clear signal that she will throw money and lawyers at it until she gets it.
As to the legality of Doggett using the diaries because they are stolen property–if he worked from xeroxes, which were provided to him free of charge, and quoted only what he needed from them, not reproducing anything more than he needed, my non-IP lawyer brain says that he probably could claim fair use. The diaries are Yoko’s property, yes, but the Mona Lisa is also the property of the French Government; that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it, reproduce it, or that it’s somehow held out of the historical record. But I don’t know; that would be for a court to decide, and I’m sure that Jawbone’s lawyers saw the lawsuit as changing the ground under them substantially. And not necessarily legally; if a billionaire gets pissed at you and uses the courts, you’re screwed. See: Trump, Donald J. At a certain level of money, legality isn’t the issue–it’s that you’ll go bankrupt eventually–run out of time, money, or interest–and they won’t. The Estate isn’t Yoko; it’s an eternal, self-funding entity with teams of lawyers paid to do the bidding of a family which really wants something very badly. Why they want it is unknowable, but worth pondering. And it’s becoming clear that the situation will persist with Sean. Sean’s my age, so if things will get normal after he passes away is likely something I will not live to see.
Great points and food for thought. I certainly agree that the Estate want to be the single source of data on John. I guess in a way, I can’t blame them, even if I’m disappointed by their approach.
@Victoria, I can certainly BLAME them! John Lennon is an historical figure; the human person–the husband, father, etc–that’s something that they can have opinions about. But Lennon wanted to be a public figure; he sought it, cultivated it, benefitted from it. And THEY–his heirs–have benefitted from all that too. He commodified himself, especially after Yoko came on the scene. They weren’t selling “peace” like cornflakes; they were selling themselves like cornflakes!
The idea that future generations should use wealth created by a public figure to aggressively and it seems permanently control people’s interaction with the idea of that public figure is to me fundamentally authoritarian. John Lennon is dead; he cannot be harmed. Obviously his Estate should be able to express an opinion when they feel someone is unfairly blackening his name, or be able to resort to standard legal remedies when they feel someone is using his work in an unauthorized way. But to be the single source of data on a public figure? That’s…at best it’s a type of greed. At worst, it’s the intrusion of corporate-style image control into what should be history. It’s authoritarian.
John Lennon is not Mickey Mouse. He’s not solely and wholly IP, controlled by Disney for 70 years after the creator’s death. He was a person, and an artist, and died 42 years ago. Unlike Mickey Mouse, who was invented by Walt Disney, Lennon the public figure was a collaboration between that person and all the rest of us. Should the Kennedy family control all the data about President Kennedy? Why? It would benefit them, sure, but JFK’s existence shouldn’t only be their inheritance, and it’s weird to even ponder that.
There’s simply no rational excuse for the Estate’s obsessive behavior, and while it scratches some itch today, it’s only suppressing fan engagement, which cannot be controlled by a central authority–nor should anyone want it to be controlled.
This reminds me of Ava DuVernay’s movie about MLK: “Selma”
She had to rewrite the script and “paraphrase” MLK’s speeches because Steven Spielberg had bought the rights.
Spielberg bought the rights because he wants to make his own MLK movie, but it’s been over ten years.
@Michael – But to use the same analogy, if someone stole the Mona Lisa and then invited you to take photographs of it and sell them as photographs of the original, the French government would almost certainly throw the book at you for being a receiver of stolen goods. I don’t see the diaries as any different.
I’m going to try to figure out how to move these comments to the Lennon Diaries post.
@Elizabeth, your analogy illuminates to me what is the key point here: a book based on the diaries–“I read the diaries and have thoughts”–is not necessarily an infringement. If it is not judged to take too much of the source, it is criticism, it is fair use. In the States at least, Doggett could even read the diaries (by whatever means) and then write a parody of them, and that would be totally protected speech if it was marked as parody. Whether it was parodic or accurate, only Doggett (and presumably Yoko) would know.
If a person wanted to reproduce the diaries, and then sell those reproductions as true authentic copies of the Lennon Diaries, then that would be a taking. If you bought the diaries from a thief and claimed to own them, that would be hinky too. Jawbone wasn’t reproducing the diaries; Doggett isn’t claiming to own them.
All this aside, there is also the matter of timely defense. If you’re going to assert rights, you gotta assert them in a timely manner, and evenhandedly. The Lennon Estate cannot wait to defend its claim until it is maximally harmful to the publisher. Which is why I think they went after Seaman, and not Doggett/Jawbone. And they timed that claim against Seaman to warn off Doggett/Jawbone. The Estate has the best lawyers money can buy, you can be sure of that.
Arguing the legalities in this case is rather pointless, because it’s not about that. It’s about who wants to take the financial damage a suit from the Estate would inflict. Now if I were a certain type of publisher (and I am not), I could convince myself that fighting it out would be worth it. At this point Rosen, Giuliano AND Seaman have all published books based on the diaries, presumably while they were stolen goods, and only Seaman has been sued. This would seem to me to weaken the Estate’s case. Also, as others have mentioned, how do these books keep getting stolen? Security in this matter would seem to be beyond basic, yet these books have been pilfered multiple times. A smart lawyer could argue that the Estate is using the courts frivolously: “Quit suing people for your negligence. Donate the material to a University and put a time-limit on them. Or get a safe deposit box, and put the key on your keychain. But you’ve been serially losing this material, being blackmailed, then suing people over it for 43 years.”
I am not an IP lawyer; perhaps one of our readers who is would like to comment?
Moved the comments!
I think there are some other factors to consider with the diary-related books. Consider that:
– At the time he published Lennon in America, Giuliano was already well known as a hack writer – and his reputation has not improved with time.
– Rosen’s access to the diaries is a convoluted and bizarre story, and a lot of people have written him off because of it. Also, his book has been published by a couple of small presses, not mainstream publishers.
– technology has changed since those books (and May Pang’s, Fred Seaman’s, etc). It used to be that things went out of print and became inaccessible to all but the most dedicated fans. But things now live forever on the internet. It’s likely that Yoko’s approach has changed accordingly.
– A lot happened since Giuliano and Rosen’s books – the 2002 Seaman trial, the second theft, more bother from Seaman, etc. I would say that all these things make it considerably less likely that Yoko would just let things go. We’ll never know for sure, but I’ve often wondered if she would have been less litigious if none of the Seaman/diary theft stuff had ever happened.
But anyway, both Giuliano and Rosen’s books are quite easy to dismiss. You can’t say the same for Doggett, who is a highly respected Beatles author. I don’t think that his book would necessarily have said anything new, but it would undoubtedly counteract the Ballad. And even though Jawbone Press is an indie publisher, Prisoner of Love was still likely to have gotten a fair amount of publicity (“celebrated Beatles author Peter Doggett punctures the myths of John Lennon’s last years…”, etc).
My understanding is that Giuliano interviewed Yoko back in the 80s, I don’t know if they were ever friends per se. As for Rosen, he helped her with the 2002 trial in exchange for being able to publish Nowhere Man (he describes this as a tacit agreement, not something formal). From what Rosen says, nowadays there’s no real relationship there – they’re not on bad terms but there’s no love lost there either.
So yes, it’s plausible that Rosen pulled his punches in terms of content, yeah.
However, I don’t really think that of Giuliano. His whole marketing campaign was based on controversy. I don’t think he would have held back any extra dirt.
Re Seaman, I think it was in part about the diaries, but also a lot to do with him being a witness, just as you said. And I agree that Yoko’s worry about reputational damage to herself is probably a big part of it all.
Some good points @Elizabeth. I think we know less about the real Paul than any of the Beatles. Whether we’re likely to ever know more is unlikely given fading memories and dwindling numbers of eye witnesses of events. The hints of bisexuality – some of which you list – are there when you look. Then there’s the suggestions of the mysterious Apollo C. Vermouth, who many believe was Neil Aspinall, that Paul’s relationship with Tara Browne was more than platonic, and Gregory Paul Martin insisting Paul and his father were lovers. But as you say, so what? And as @Michael says, it’s just gossip.
@Hieronymus, I think anybody with basically unfettered access to sexual partners in their late teens and 20s, in good health, is going to occupy a sexual category very different from the usual ones. Defining people like Lennon or McCartney as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual misses an important truth about their lives, just as if you were saying the same thing about the Emperor Nero. For me, the more interesting question is, “What effect does the constant desire of others have on a person, and an artist?”
“For me, the more interesting question is, “What effect does the constant desire of others have on a person, and an artist?”
I feel the same Michael, which is why I love this blog, and you and Nancy’s writing.
I could care less who John and Paul slept with, or if they slept with each other. It was the swinging sixties, after all. 😉
@Tasmin Relationships – sexual or otherwise – are clues to who the Beatles really were/are and what made them tick so I wouldn’t say I couldn’t care less (to use the British version of the expression – don’t get me started on that!). In the case of sexual relationships, they’re also an interesting cultural pointer re those swinging 60s. What I couldn’t (see, there it is again, haha) care less about is anybody’s moral judgment on any kind of sexual relationship between consenting adults, or anybody’s firm conclusion that such a relationship took place without any evidence of fact.
So, I summary, I could care less who John and Paul slept with, or if they slept with each other, but only because I’m a British pedant 😉
But I also agree with @Michael’s point that the effect of the constant desire of others – and how much that constant desire was a help or hindrance artistically and emotionally – is interesting to consider.
@Hieronymus, I hear you.
I’ve been a Beatle fan for 30+ years, and I’ve been reading this blog for quite some time.
I think I’m at the point in my fandom where I have read and studied and analyzed the interactions and dynamics of the Beatles, and now I just want to enjoy and appreciate the music.
Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy these discussions. I do immensely. But I really enjoy looking at questions that haven’t been gone over and over and over.
That’s why I love this blog because Michael and Nancy try to look at the Beatles story in new and interesting ways.
I think we are all at different stages in our fandom.
P.S. I have enjoyed your comments.
Just wanted to add that for me, sometimes over analyzing the Beatles takes away some of the magic.
You know how the more you get to know someone, the more their quirks become annoying? This isn’t quite the same, but I guess I’m at the place where I want to focus on the joy and happiness the Beatles have brought to my life. There’s so much negativity and chaos in the world today, and the Beatles have always been my refuge.
@Tasmin I know exactly where you’re coming. I find myself taking deep dives perennially and then having to come up for air and remembering, as you say, that it’s really about the music and the joy and wonder it brings me after years and years and what an incredible phenomenon that is, and they were.
I also find it frustrating when it becomes a zero sum game between John and Paul. It’s like with the recent Revolver Super Deluxe release and the sessions; the Yellow Submarine origin story was a revelation, but then among the fandom it deteriorates into a debate over whether John or Paul really deserves the credit (the answer being, as is usually the case, they both do, along with George and Ringo).
So while the fascination with the minutiae and fractal history will no doubt continue to bubble up occasionally, your post is a timely and welcome reminder to me that the music is what really matters – so thank you for that 🙂
Tasmin, thanks for your kind words regarding HD. I think you make an excellent point about people being at different stages in their fandom. When I started writing for HD in 2010 (!), there were so many Beatles-related topics that I hadn’t had a chance to discuss in depth, and I had a strong appetite for doing that. Thirteen years later, there are some topics I feel pretty done with. Not to say I won’t revisit my thoughts in the light of new evidence, but I have a certain weariness with well-trodden paths now. And that’s just my perspective: newer fans, or fans newer to this kind of anyalytical forum, are going to have different responses, and that’s fine.
I only knew Apollo C. Vermouth as Paul’s pseudonym for producing the Bonzos. I had a google and found out that there’s a theory that a person active on various Beatles forums under that name was actually Neil Aspinall – summary post here.
I have to say that Aspinall seems like the least likely Beatles insider to drop a bunch of breadcrumbs on internet forums!
@ Hieronymus – Paul and George Martin is strangely plausible given the power dynamics within the group. Especially as George Martin had more power than Brian in the studio. It’s a genius like act of revenge and one-upmanship on Paul’s part if true. Lol.
When did Gregory Martin say that?
We know more about Paul’s life than we do about George and Ringo’s lives because a lot more has been written about Paul. That being said, I do agree that Paul’s life is far from an open book and Paul and Linda were just as adept at PR as John and Yoko were. I heard rumors about Paul occasionally hitting Jane and Linda long before Heather Mills alleged abuse during her divorce proceedings. Also, hacker Susan Headley’s claim that she slept with all four ex-Beatles during her days as teenage groupie “Susy Thunder” in the late 70s has been mentioned in Internet message boards and a 1991 book on hackers. I heard that allegation long before last year’s article about her in Verge magazine came out.
Do you have links to any of this, @Unfabbed? I’d like to read about it.
I think it’s safest to assume that any marriage that has a rockstar in it is functionally, if not always ethically, non-monogamous. (I think this holds for both parties!) And I think you have to judge the quality of the relationship from whether the people in it seem/ed happy, productive, healthy, etc. But even more than that, instead of being an opportunity to judge, it could be an opportunity for us to realize that every relationship is different. Rockstar marriages are likely to be even more different than usual, due to the wealth, power, fame, and the personality types that are attracted to that high-risk career.
(Not to be boring.)
I always think of Olivia Harrison’s quote from the Scorsese documentary–“People ask me how to stay married. That’s easy; don’t get divorced.”
Claire Evans mentioned this in an article in the Verge last year.
“She claims to be one of only three women to have slept with all four Beatles, securing the trickiest, Paul McCartney, through an elaborate pretext that involved having his wife Linda whisked away in a limo for a staged photoshoot. When she was still underage, she hitch-hiked to Vegas with Johnny Thunders (no relation) from the New York Dolls. In a 1979 tabloid tell-all, she’s pictured with Andy Gibb, Donny Osmond, and Ringo Starr.”
Here’s some info about her days as a groupie on page 347 of Katie Hafner and John Markoff ‘s 1991 book on hackers, “Cyberpunk.”
“Over breakfast at the Silver Saddle, where Susan procured me a room for the night, she plied me with chapter and verse on every topic from her days as a groupie (which included, she said, a systematic conquest of all four members of the Beatles)…”
Below are two posts in Usenet linking “Suzy Thunder” to Paul McCartney from a journalist who interviewed her for a 1980 magazine article on groupies.
On June 14, 2002, mslinda posted in the newsgroup alt.gossip.celebrities (thread titled “No pre-nup for Paul and Heather” in reply to “I thought she (Linda McCartney) was the one who insisted in being with him in Wings. To bash any groupies. She was no dummy.”), “If that was her motive, it didn’t work. I interviewed several groupies for an article in 1980, and one of them had bagged Paul. Linda C.”
And she later posted (in reply to “Must have been before he was married if he and Linda had spent only one night apart (when he was in jail) during their marriage.”) “Nope. It was during the day at an LA/BevHills hotel during the late 70s. Linda C.”
On September 28, 2005, mslindac posted in the newsgroup rec.music.beatles (thread titled “”Linda is the only woman I will ever love…”), “I interviewed a groupie called Suzy Thunder in 1980 and she said she’d done him. I doubt she was the only one. Linda C.”
Super! Super! Thank you.
Evidently, Keith Moon was also one of her lovers. It’s interesting to note that Moon was known to be a close friend of the ex-Beatles during that period. The post in a Bay City Rollers message board from 2003 in the thread titled “Fan/Photographer.” linking “Suzie Thunder” to Keith Moon can be found below.
“it would be nice to see some of her photos on the website. oh! another thing. does anyone remember a groupie by the name of Suzie Thunder? now that girl was bizarre! scared the living daylights out of me when she’d tell her rated x stories about the guys!”
Someone who worked at an LA radio station in the 70s and knew both Keith and Suzy then responded, “hi .. i knew suzy from when i worked at a radio station in l.a. in the late 70s and from keith moon. she was one of a kind! i would love to know where she is and what happened to her. does anyone know? Is she still in california?”
Here’s a photo of Susy Thunder with Keith Moon in 1975 that was posted three years ago in the Facebook group Rock n Roll and Everything In Between.
@Unfabbed. I am also very curious where you found that infrmation about Paul hitting Jane and Linda? That would shock me especially in Linda’s case (not that I would think hitting Jane would be acceptable, of course).
Francie Schwartz said Paul hit Jane. I know that the way Francie worded it in her book was ambiguous but Francie said in the newsgroup rec.music.beatles that Paul told her he beat Jane and she even speculated that’s what Paul wrote “Getting Better” about. Francie also said she was never abused by Paul.
I’ve met Fred Seaman and Sam Green and they told me a lot of crazy stories about John’s Dakota years and that John told them Paul beat Linda. Sam also said he knew Danny Fields and Danny told him Paul and Linda had an open marriage. Heather Mills claimed that Paul beat Linda during her divorce proceedings and Heather played a tape of a fight she had with Paul where Paul admitted he hit Linda “once or twice.”
BTW I knew Kathy Burns, a friend of John’s aunt Mimi, from Beatle Internet message boards. Kathy said in a yahoo group that Mimi showed her a postcard John sent her where John mentioned that George beat Pattie.
The world is full of surprises, but I would find it very, very hard to believe that Paul “beat” anybody, for two reasons:
1) There is a conspicuous lack of drama in Paul’s relationships over decades; people like Francie and Heather Mills are notable because they, out of hundreds, had some drama with McCartney. Compare this to John’s relationships and public behavior, for example; or even George’s.
2) Paul and his girlfriends/wives were some of the most photographed people on Earth; any kind of physical marks would’ve been commented upon. For example, Jane Asher was a working actress for the entirety of her relationship with Paul–meaning she made money with her face and body. Any physical marks would’ve attracted notice.
This entire topic is so sad to even contemplate; but of course given the Beatles’ era and upbringing, it’s hardly impossible.
Spill your crazy Dakota stories, @Unfabbed. If they’re mere gossip, simply tag them as such.
I agree that “beat” is a strong word to use and none of the Beatles ever left permanent bruises or marks on their women. A better word might be “hit” or “slapped.” It was sadly acceptable at the time.
Regarding Dakota stories, Fred Seaman and Sam Green both maintained that Yoko engineered Paul’s pot bust in Japan and John was furious that Paul was going to ruin his “hotel karma.” Sam was open about his affair with Yoko and Yoko claimed that her only other affair during her only marriage to John was with David Spinozza. He told me the story about how he took Yoko to see a witch in Colombia. Most of they told me had already been written in books by Fred, Albert Goldman and John Green.
Your mention of having met Fred and Sam Green piqued my interest. Between this article and the one about Dakota Days, I obviously have a big interest in this time period 🙂
How did you get to know Fred Seaman and John Green? What was your read on each of them?
I met Fred through RMB and Fred introduced me to Sam. I also got to meet May and Cynthia through Fred. I liked Fred and Sam personally and I basically agree with their view of John’s last years.
@Unfabbed, how would you characterize “their view of John’s last years”?
Without getting too much into it, their view of John’s last years is in essentially the same as the thesis of Fred’s book.
Unfortunately, I know too much about this subject (I don’t mean specifically to Paul) and can only say 1) always prepare to be surprised as far as culprits and victims are concerned (and I can’t emphasise that enough) and 2) don’t necessarily expect physical evidence to be on display. That’s not to say anyone is guilty. And it’s not something I’m going to dwell on beyond this.
Noted, @Hieronymus, and thank you for this reminder.
I must admit that my response was informed by this latest edition of the Savage Lovecast, where Dan talks to the author of an article about Armie Hammer.
I can absolutely believe that Paul’s relationship with Heather Mills was volatile. Did he cut her arm with a broken wine glass? Probably – it sounds very plausible. Did she give as good as she got? Almost definitely. A woman like that is no pushover. But is any of that proof that Paul is an abuser? No, and here’s the most compelling reason why: his kids love him in an uncomplicated way that is obvious to see. Children of domestic abusers (who are nearly always men) have complicated relationships with their fathers. They might love them, but they hate them at the same time, and it affects their own ability to form adult relationships. Adults who have witnessed domestic abuse are often child-like because their emotional growth has been disrupted by trauma. I would say that was the case for both Julian and Sean Lennon, but not Paul’s kids.
That’s not to say that Paul and Linda had a perfect marriage (very, very unlikely) or that they never had arguments or that he didn’t expect her to put his needs above her own. I’m sure he did and that his marriage to Heather Mills was doomed from day one because she was tough in a way that Linda wasn’t, and her life experience had taught her to fight and always put herself first. But was he a domestic abuser? I think it’s highly, highly unlikely. His kids seem far too stable.
Also, how would John know if Paul had hit Linda? He hadn’t seen him for years, and I bet neither Fred Seaman nor Sam Green ever spoke to Paul once.
Unfabbed: Thank you for sharing these stories, as upsetting as they are to think about. I was a lurker (and occasional poster) at RMB in the late 90s, and remember Francie Schwartz well. She truly hated Paul, and hero-worshipped both John and Yoko; most of her posts revolved around those two themes. Needless to say, things were interesting when both she and Fred Seaman were regulars! I suppose what makes me hesitant about these stories of Paul being abusive is that all of them seem to originate with people who had an animus against him–Francie, Heather Mills, and (unfortunately) John. (I wonder if Francie was aware that John had, by his own admission, written those lines in “Getting Better.”)
Francie admitted she had bipolar disorder and ultimately went off the deep end and alienated everybody in the newsgroup. I heard that Francie is in assisted living.
Well, all good wishes and blessings to her. She is an interesting part of this story, I’ve always felt.
It was quite obvious from her comments that she was seriously mentally ill. I think she was telling her ‘own truth’, but her perception of reality was upside down. She was more sad than bad though, which was why Ono and Wenner’s attempt to manipulate her was so egregious. If she didn’t make all that up about being Yoko’s ‘friend’, of course. That might have been a fantasy.
@Unfabbed Oh bloody hell. If anything, anything you say here is true, I declare my heart officially broken. And I will also get completely “unfabbed” as well! (Is this what your nick means – disillusioned with them?) I don’t know if any of it is true, but neither Jane nor Linda seem to me the type to allow their husband/boyfriend to beat them. They both seem to be strong women, they both had a strong back-up in their high-positioned families… I don’t know, I just find it hard to believe. Or I simply don’t want to believe. I also seem to remember there was this guy who helped Linda write her cook-book, and he said that Linda was unhappy in the marriage, and that apart from other instances of her being plainly unhappy, there was also “economic abuse” in their marriage with Paul’s complete control of the money. That seemed even less believable with Linda’s lawyer family behind her, but who knows. Paul and Linda’s “open marriage” is already hard-ish to swallow (for me), but any kind of violence would just be… too horrible.
I picked “unfabbed” because it would have been a good name for a Beatle unplugged special. Regarding violence against women by John, Paul, George and Ringo (whether real or alleged), I don’t think any of these women had serious injuries or were hit constantly. It was during the pre-metoo era. “Beat” is probably too strong a word to describe it. I prefer “hit.”
Some young people are actually “canceling” the Beatles (along with Elvis, the Stones, Bowie, Zeppelin and almost every other old rocker) on Twitter because underage groupie stories have been gaining traction on the Internet. There’s the critically acclaimed Susy Thunder article in Verge (which Paramount is now making into a movie and specifically incriminates “the Boys” when they were in their mid to late 30s), the Steven Tyler lawsuit, the Bob Dylan lawsuit (which was actually dropped after Dylan scholars debunked the alleged victim’s claims) and recycled stories about “baby groupies” Sable Starr and Lori Lightning.
I was on rmb as well back then. Two things I’d like to say before I sink back into my cofffin:
1. I think it is worth mentioning that Francie said that Paul told her that he was somewhat aghast that Jane seemed to be turned on by him slapping her – so perhaps it wasn’t abuse….
2. I knew the late Kathy Burns from private mailing list. I can’t remember her ever mentioning that.
Kathy Burns mentioned it in YeahYeahYeah (but not in Stumped or PMS) around 2006 during a discussion about Paul and Heather’s divorce. She said that John wrote in a postcard to Mimi the Pattie left her house after a fight and told John that George “beat” her. Kathy wasn’t sure if “beat” necessarily meant domestic violence. Of course, Pattie is alive and well and never made that allegation in public.
I don’t agree that John would have just come out and would have written about his feelings of Paul in his diaries or told someone of these feelings. John wrote about his deepest thoughts in his MUSIC. If you go to the source – his own lyrics, you will find John often expressing his Love, Hate, Jealousy and often Indifference toward Paul. That is where McLennon comes from – it is not just a fantasy people conjured up – John’s own words and sometimes cryptic interviews (well, often cryptic interviews) led many down this path. How is there any doubt that John had feelings for Paul outside of a friendship? Yoko herself said there was a “vibration” between them and that Paul was her “greatest threat”. Cynthia said that John never looked at anyone the way he looked at Paul. These are quotes from his wives! These feelings of Johns lasted throughout the 60s and certainly in the 70s. Was it sexual, personally I think not, but I do think John was ‘in love’ with Paul and I also believe Paul knew it and at times used it to his own advantage. There is just too much evidence from If I fell to Jealous Guy to Starting Over. All of these songs were for Paul and I will not be convinced otherwise!
What’s the source for the quotation attributed to Cynthia? I’ve never seen the original, and I’ve always wondered.
“How is there any doubt that John had feelings for Paul outside of a friendship?”
This was never a question. Lennon tried desperately to MAKE it a question post-1970, declaring they were just co-workers or Army buddies or whatever, but that view has been worn away by the weight of all sorts of other evidence.
“Friendship” is a huge, powerful thing; our society’s compulsion to draw a bright line between friendship (lesser) and romance (greater) is peculiar, and doesn’t really describe any kind of world I’ve ever lived in.
I’m new to this blog and I have a renewed interest/obsession in the Beatles lately. I am just finishing up “Tune In” and have been hoping to find something else to to read….. then I come across this post which makes me wonder what would even be close to the ‘truth’ as a biography. I am most interested in John but also the John/Paul dynamic – not really whether they sexual but just the relationship as a whole. My interest (which does include the music, of course) is more a psychological one, both from how their upbringing affected them and of course how their fame affected these young men. Regarding John’s diaries, I never knew they existed; I would read them if I had the chance but would not take them as the ultimate truth, because of course those would only be his thoughts and feelings at the moment.
Anyway, if anyone can recommend which books might be a little more – um – reputable – I’d appreciate it. (If this is the wrong place for this comment please let me know).
I can’t speak to books, but I think you’d eat up many of what we call Dullblog’s Greatest Hits.
The podcasts “Another Kind of Mind” and “One Sweet Dream” might perhaps cover the territory you’re interested in?
Hello and welcome! It’s surprising, but there’s never been a major book focused on the John & Paul partnership. The closest thing I can think of is Joshua Shenk’s book Powers of Two (2014). I haven’t read the full book, but here’s a link to an Atlantic article from that year, presumably excerpted from the book, that focuses on Lennon-McCartney. You might also want to check out the documentary Composing the Beatles Songbook: Lennon & McCartney from 2008.
Ian Leslie (The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson’s Get Back, 64 Reasons to Celebrate Paul McCartney) is writing a book about John and Paul, but no idea about a publication date. If Leslie nails it (and I have high hopes that he will), this could be a landmark work.
I also recommend John Blaney’s 2007 book Lennon and McCartney:Together Alone, which is an analysis of their solo careers. It’s published by Jawbone Press, the same publisher that was going to publish Doggett’s Prisoner of Love.
Thanks Michael, Victoria and Nancy! I’ll look up the ideas you mentioned, if I can keep from getting sidetracked by other things — there is endless Beatles content on the Internet!. I’m about to read the Atlantic article, and I’m moving on to read other biographies, though I suspect ‘Tune In’ is the most comprehensive, and sure wish volume Two was out. I will just keep an open mind that nothing is going to be completely accurate.
I’m a therapist so I think that’s why I’m fascinated by Lennon’s behavior/mental health and how his partnership with Paul played into it all. I was only 5 when the Beatles came to the US but I grew up with them on the radio, always had their records, and have gotten more into them because of a tribute band that I follow… then of course “Get Back” came on the scene and off I went. I am also finding it fascinating to listen to the music more carefully – YouTube has breakdowns so you can hear just the vocals, guitars, drums, etc. Such a fun rabbit hole to go down.
@Ruth, you have lots of fun ahead, and I hope Dullblog will supply some of that fun.
I personally feel that addiction–both the behavior of addicts, and the family patterns common to addicts–is the clearest and most predictive lens through which to look at John Lennon’s behavior and relationships. Lennon’s the central Addict, Paul’s the Hero, George is the Lost Child, Ringo is the Mascot, and Brian is the Caretaker (maybe George Martin, too).
This is a rather glib treatment, but I’m sure you’ll see what I see in these descriptions. There’s really not a lot of interpretation necessary, and viewing The Beatles as an dysfunctional family explains fundamental questions like:
1) why did Pete Best have to go?
2) why were they so incredibly tight, for so many years?
3) why did it turn out so badly?
Enjoy your journey!
@Michael, I see I’m not the only one doing analysis of Beatles!
The dysfunctional family and roles do seem to fit. Though I might add that John could be a Lost Child also. I have been thinking about two of those questions, but haven’t given much thought to Pete Best. But I won’t go into my thoughts here since I have a lot more research to do.’
I’ll definitely be visiting Dullblog, and it’s not dull at all.
” Though I might add that John could be a Lost Child also. ”
This is above my paygrade–I’m not a mental health professional–but from my personal experience I would bet that people who occupy one role in one family, occupy other roles in other ones. John’s relationship with Julia and Mimi doesn’t seem to be rebellious. It seems withdrawn and wary and numb.
Hope you enjoy the site, please check in regularly!
@Ruth I’m about your age and have taken a similar path in Beatles fandom. Just recently fell into obsession and found his blog. I have a pet theory that John had Borderline Personality Disorder. What do you think of that? I think it fits very well and explains a lot of his behavior.
Have you guys heard the recently leaked recording from one of Lennon’s home taped diary entries? Pretty mindblowing –
That’s not John Lennon’s voice, to my ear.
This is an example of all the “proof” we’re going to see in the next decades. Get ready.
We are truly living in the worst timeline. When I think of all the forthcoming political fakery . . . .
This reminds me of the Paul is dead “documentary” supposedly based on George Harrison’s deathbed recordings. If that’s Harrison’s voice I’ll eat a videocassette of Give My Regards to Broadstreet.
It was sent to me as an example of AI voice mimicking. Sounds a bit Australian to me, but no doubt it will improve in time…
@Dan If all the Beatles and George Martin had taken John’s advice and agreed in 1969 to regularly beat their wives, the break up would never have happened. John and Yoko’s legendary Beat-In for peace remains an inspiration to this day. John beating Yoko in front of the press in a Montreal hotel room is iconic.
Why do you think they were called the BEATles?
Hi. It doesn’t sound like John to me. There’s an Australian ‘twang’ in there(?) A near-to-good impression of Lennon, but not convincing enough. It sounds like it’s being read. though. Is it possible this is an actor reading a passage from what’s purported to be writings by Lennon?
You might like this:
This version of Mary Jane is better than the original, in my opinion.
Replying to myself to say “this Mary Jane cover that I linked to above reinforces my theory that there are no bad J/P/G songs, only bad, lazy, half-baked arrangements and demos.”
What’s The New Mary Jane has always made my skin crawl. I’ve always hated it. But I changed my mind after hearing what The Weeklings did with it. It sounds like a fun Beatles track/John song that was improved by Paul McCartney and George Martin.
There are songs on J/P/G solo albums that I found boring and stopped listening to. But I think the songs suck because they weren’t properly “beatled up” by four competitive guys in Abbey Road studio, not because they are bad compositions. Just unfinished, despite all the efforts of session musicians and people like Phil Spector, et al.
I liked that, @Baboomska! And I tend to agree with you on this.
The “magic” of the Beatles was the process the four of them plus George Martin applied to songs; weak material becomes good, good becomes great, and great becomes a classic.
I agree @Baboomska! The absence of George Martin and the Abbey Road studio is also why some solo Beatles albums sound mediocre. John and George picked up some bad habits from Phil Spector. All Things Must Pass needed more variety in instrumentation and arrangement. In a better producer’s hands, it wouldn’t be so dense and ponderous.
Agree with the others that it’s an obvious fake: doesn’t sound like John, clearly being read from a script, Aussie undertones to the pronunciation.
There’s no way that this could fool any serious Beatles fan, but it worries me that someone is trying.
Pathetic troll behaviour. Would be pernicious if it wasn’t so badly executed. Sounds more like Sir Les Patterson than John Lennon.
I wasn’t sure where to post this, so I just put it here.
Looks like a new documentary is coming out about Paul’s life after the Beatles: “Man on the Run”
Thanks for the info. It’s always interesting to hear from people who have met some of the people involved in this whole situation/time period.
I wasn’t around RMB at the time, but have backread a bunch of the discussions there, partly as background research for this piece, though I didn’t draw on much of it directly. RMB at the turn of the century was a pretty intense place.
Some of the comments Paul made to Francie should be taken with a pinch of salt. Ditto Francie for how she interpreted them. From my memory of the book, Paul had told her that Jane had rejected his tender and gentle come-ons (in an attempt to win her over in light of his transgressions?) but responded to rough. Which could mean anything. Bearing in mind this was during the volatile breakdown of their relationship, I took it to mean that Jane was likely angry with Paul (and for good reason). Paul didn’t seem aghast and there was no mention of slapping or hitting. What was taken as rough in the 60s is likely to be interpreted quite differently today, as with many things.
‘Heather played a tape of a fight she had with Paul where Paul admitted he hit Linda “once or twice.”‘ @Unfabbed, I’m curious as to how you know the exact wording of this statement. My understanding is that the tapes were only heard by the British judiciary during Paul and Heather’s divorce proceedings. The tapes were never made public.
Some journalists have heard the tape. Here’s an article in the Mirror.
A witness who listened in said: “It was extraordinary. Heather and Paul were shouting. He can be heard confessing he hit Linda ‘once or twice’.” Sir Paul, 65, is said to fear Heather is on the verge of a “total breakdown”.
After one highly emotional interview she amazed witnesses by playing a tape of a row with Sir Paul, 65, in which he allegedly admitted hitting his late wife Linda.
An insider said: “It was quite extraordinary. There were raised voices. Heather and Paul were shouting. Paul can be heard confessing he hit Linda ‘once or twice’.
I wouldn’t trust the Mirror as far as I could throw it. The ploy of the British tabloids is to print whatever it is they want to hear – from anonymous witnesses and insiders and ‘friends of’ and pay them well for it. I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure the judiciary placed the tapes under a strict confidentiality clause. Paul may have hit Linda. He may not have either. I’d rather rely on primary sources not on second or third accounts, particularly if there are grievances involved. The big difference between this case and the allegations made against John is that John’s witnesses and accusers named themselves. Anybody who knowingly tapes an unknowing person has the control; potentially they can get them to say what they want, do what they want.
I’ve heard that about the Mirror as well. In addition, Heather Mills is a notorious liar, who was called out by the judge I believe, for her lies.
When she was dating Paul, there were many articles about her “embellishing” her life story. Ugh! I can’t stand that woman!
I wouldn’t trust a damn thing she says.