- From Faith Current: “The Sacred Ordinary: St. Peter’s Church Hall” - May 1, 2023
- A brief (?) hiatus - April 22, 2023
- Something Happened - March 6, 2023
Folks, I’ve been noticing certain topics growing like wild vines over the comment sections of various unrelated posts. So in the interest of housekeeping, I’d like to experiment with Open Threads. Ideally my goal is to have the comment sections hew fairly closely to the original post, so that lurkers and other quiet readers can use the comments to learn in greater depth on that topic.
This Open Thread is for discussion of conspiracy theories related to the murder of John Lennon; I will not be participating, nor will I even read this thread very closely, as I find the topic quite upsetting. But some of you do seem passionate about it and reasonably well-read on the sources, so I want to give you a place to talk.
If you don’t believe there was a conspiracy and Mark David Chapman acted alone—a completely valid stance, IMHO—go someplace else. This one space is for people to get their conspiracy ya-ya’s out.
Please don’t put this stuff on other threads; put it here. And do try to be respectful— if this gets too ad hominem, I’m going to nuke it.
A number of years ago, circa 2006 I think, I read “Who Killed John Lennon?”, a 1989 investigative book by British barrister and crime reporter Fenton S. Bresler. I’m working off some long-ago memories here, but Bresler’s theory is that Mark Chapman was not a lone nut but a political assassin programmed by the CIA (and I guess John Lennon was perceived to be a threat by the American government?). I’m sure this wasn’t an original claim but Bresler was possibly the first person to commit an entire book to it.
If memory serves, Bresler invoked “The Manchurian Candidate” and secret brainwashing programmes and theorised that the CIA recruited/programmed mentally-confused, religious-fundamentalist youths for covert operations. I can’t remember the specifics but Bresler claimed the NYPD’s investigation into Chapman after Lennon’s murder was sloppy (hence cover-up), Chapman’s records with the YMCA detailing his travels to politically-volatile countries were conveniently disposed of, etc. There was a lot more stuff in there I can’t recall, but the gist of it was there was a lot more about Chapman’s background, movements, and motivations that was never investigated by the authorities and never came out in his trial, real “absence of evidence is evidence” type of stuff.
I found a lot of the material in the book compelling and not unconvincing when I read it, but I was a lot younger then and more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories. I imagine if re-read the book now it might come off to me as wild, insubstantial,Oliver Stone-esque hypothesising.
@DN, several thoughts on this:
1) I read that book too, but as an adult, and as part of a lot of research on MKULTRA/mind control programs. Bressler’s basic hypothesis is not unreasonable (see below), but as with so many researchers, if you don’t have police-level access to the information, you have to speculate. And then people dismiss *it all* as speculation.
2) Mainstream researchers (the writer Jonathan Marks; the documentarian Adam Curtis) invariably conclude that MKULTRA was an absolute failure, but that too is pure speculation. DCI Richard Helms ordered the vast, vast majority of MKULTRA documentation to be burned in 1973, and what remains is something like three boxes, whereas records show it was originally massive. Even assuming government bloat, I find that sheer amount of documentation to be persuasive of…something?
3) There is ample evidence that both the Soviets (as far back as the Show Trials of the 1930s) and the Chinese (in the Korean War) made significant progress in these fields. To dismiss all that, too, seems questionable to me.
4) As to Oliver Stone: you can go through “JFK” shot-by-shot, and tie it back to certain bits of testimony and photographs. “Oh, that’s the stripper at the Carousel; oh, that’s Lee Bowers; oh, that’s Abraham Bolden,” and so forth. He’s actually quite meticulous, insofar as what we knew in 1991, though he too has to speculate to arrange the datapoints into a story. Stone’s misstep was centering it around Jim Garrison — he needed a hero for his movie, and so Garrison was the obvious choice — but riding with Garrison gets you into all sorts of unknowable Permindex crap; gay demimonde stuff, the weirdness with David Ferrie; and so forth. And the Fletcher Prouty character is once again a movie-making convenience that critics could glom onto and use to dismiss the whole movie, without acknowledging all the hinky stuff. JFK is a great piece of filmmaking, but if you’re trying to make a case for conspiracy, a better direction would’ve been something like “The Good Shepherd.”
“Mainstream researchers (the writer Jonathan Marks; the documentarian Adam Curtis) invariably conclude that MKULTRA was an absolute failure, but that too is pure speculation.”
My opinion on this is that they spent too much time and money, had accumulated too much research to simply abandon it, and in all likelihood it probably just evolved and branched off into other analogous projects with different names. In fact, we know that MKULTRA, far from ceasing, continued through the 60s as MKSEARCH. And MKULTRA itself had been a continuation of BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE. So there is an evident precedent of renaming and amalgamation within the same line of study that would suggest MKSEARCH, when it supposedly ceased in the early 70s, simply rebranded itself as it had before and became something else.
This seems highly logical to me, too.
See, I don’t see it as a conspiracy so much as a series of strange facts. A person’s interpretation of those facts might be labelled a conspiracy, but not the facts themselves. So here’s what we know:
1. Yoko was having an affair with Sam Green.
2. Sam Green had a history of targeting rich, gullible women and popping up in wills.
3. Yoko was given a power of attorney over John’s affairs. She immediately rewrote his will and named Sam Green as Sean’s guardian in the event that both she and John died.
4. After consulting with her ‘directionalist’, she sent John on a round the world trip.
5. John had been making public statements about being shot for several years.
6. Mark Chapman met Gloria Abe when he was a patient on a psychiatric ward. She was a hospital volunteer.
7. Gloria Abe, like Yoko, was supposedly obsessed with the occult. (I say supposedly because whether she really believed in any of that guff or whether she was using it to manipulate Chapman is anyone’s guess. Anyway, she is now a born again Christian, having long abandoned her interest in black magic.)
8. Coincidentally, she was also a travel agent, and she sent Chapman off on a round the world trip at the same time and in the same direction as John.
9. Out of the blue, Chapman developed a sudden interest in art collecting (as you do). Gloria’s father lent him the money to buy a Norman Rockwell and Salvador Dali (as you do).
10. In another extraordinary coincidence, Kenneth Anger (one of Yoko’s art circle and founder of the Church of Satan/Process Church, which was linked to the Manson murders) happened to be in Hawaii. Chapman visited him and gave him two bullets ‘for John Lennon’.
11. By now, Yoko was also having an affair with Sam Havadtoy. However, Sam Green was still named as the guardian in the will should both John and Yoko die at the same time.
12. Sam Green organised a trip to Egypt so that John and Yoko could invest in an sarcophagus, which was apparently a necessary tool for reincarnation (lol).
13. The day after John was shot, Kenneth Anger was interviewed outside the Dakota.
14. Sam Havadtoy moved into the Dakota and Sam Green was duly booted out.
They are the facts, and I know what my interpretation of them is, but does that make me a conspiracy theorist?
Reviewing Elizabeth’s list I am struck, on one of the points, at the complete control that John yielded to Yoko.
Not sure what legal statues were extant in New York state in the 1970s, but I assume they were, in matters of powers of attorney, similar to what is accepted today in that one can grant either a specific/limited or general power of attorney.
In the first, the recipient is granted limited or specific authority for certain activities. While, as we all know, the general grants broad and deep authority in almost all realms. Bank accounts can be opened or closed, rental and property agreements entered into, etc.. It is an extremely powerful instrument and should have never been granted, even to a spouse, without serious thought and planning. For someone with the net worth of Lennon this would be doubly important.
Yes John and Yoko were famous and thus had any number of professionals at their beck and call, but I would assume that the attorney who drew up the paperwork stressed to John, depending on the provisions stated in the document, the power he was granting/ceding to Yoko over his financial affairs. He apparently didśo willingly.
Then it has an oddly recursive element for, as Elizabeth points out, Yoko went ahead and had the will altered. The whole thing has a particukar malodorous air about it. Simply distasteful.
@Elizabeth Kenneth Anger did not found the process church. That was Robert de Grimston and his wife Mary Ann Maclean. The de Grimstons were fugitives from Scientology when they founded the Process church, and interestingly, Mary Ann had also been connected to the Profumo affair. One of the interesting points about the de Grimstons and the Process is that from the get go, their patronage was from the wealthy and upper members of society, which is one reason they managed to ingratiate themselves with the nouveau riche rockstars of swinging London and why their cachet extended to the Benedict/Laurel Canyon crowd once they relocated to LA. So despite recruiting on the street for unwashed hippy foot-soldiers, their center of gravity remained the increasingly weird world of outré celebrity, riding the same sort of vogue enjoyed by the nascent Church of Satan. As Michael G. alluded to in his post, the involvement of money in power in any equation makes for a heady brew.
Anyway, the thing about Chapman meeting Anger is one of the most curious points for me, because I just can’t fathom a hick guy from Georgia like Chapman having any knowledge let alone interest in a niche filmmaker like Anger. And Anger has a habit of being a few or less degrees removed when unfortunate things happen; and like Charles Manson or the CIA, his connections to a multitude of seemingly disparate persons are octopi. (Incidentally, Lucifer Rising opened in New York after years of trouble and delay a few days after Lennon’s murder.)
A few comments from Anger, confirming the meeting with Chapman, are in this article:
@Matt – Do you know anything about the link between the Process Church and the Church of Satan? Was the link Kenneth Anger himself, and what’s the likelihood that Gloria Abe and/or Chapman had been recruited?
@Elizabeth, there are two sources I’d recommend for the Process Church:
1) Ed Sanders’ chapter on them from his book The Family, which can be found here. The Process successfully sued the publisher to remove this chapter. But it’s the first public examination of the group, and worth reading.
2) A book published by Feral House, Love Sex Fear Death. There is an interview with the author here.
When looking at cults in this particular regard, remember that they were often used (and sometimes created) by intelligence services to do work on a contract basis. Any time you spot a fringe religion connected to a crime, or anything vaguely political, put your antenna up. The Moonies are a perfect example of this; so too Jim Jones’ People’s Temple. Did those groups have members who believed in the religion — ie, were motivated by religious devotion? Yes, absolutely. But almost invariably at the top of the group, you find leaders with connections to the IC.
@Michael – While I have no doubt at all that cults have links with intelligence agencies, I struggle to see the connection in this case. It seems more likely to me that Chapman was someone who was easy to manipulate – lonely, vulnerable, mentally ill, flattered by Gloria Abe’s attention. I bet he couldn’t believe his luck when she paid him a visit on the psychiatric ward like the Good Samaritan she was. I think it’s significant that Gloria Abe has stood by Chapman, and I wonder what sort of hold she has on him. The relationship has disturbing echoes of John and Yoko.
I would say that she was the link to the cult in this case, and probably to Kenneth Anger, though I doubt she worked for an intelligence agency.
Here’s how you see the IC connection in cases like this, @Elizabeth–
For years, people (including the main government investigation in 1978) claimed that the mafia shot JFK, because of all the mafia and mafia-adjacent types in and around the assassination, from Oswald’s personal connection to Carlos Marcello to Jack Ruby’s indisputable mob ties. A sensible enough conclusion, especially given RFK’s treatment of the Mob and their fury at the Kennedys. But the circumstances, the “how,” is only half the story, and not the most useful half, either. We can say, “Oh, Carlos Marcello hired a team from Marseilles,” or “Sam Giancana hired people from Chicago, the same people that were on the Dan Ryan overpass the week before,” or “It was Cubans affiliated with Operation Mongoose”…
But all that misses the important question: how did they get away with it? Who had the power to direct the investigation? Who could keep it all from coming out? Who could cover it up, and benefitted from it enough to take the risk?
Even if we say, “Cord Meyer, the number three guy at CIA, hired some contractors, because JFK was sleeping with his ex-wife, Mary Pinchot Meyer,” that reduces this all to a mere crime of passion…when it cannot be. A crime of passion can be a conspiracy, but a coverup is something different.
I just don’t get a clear sense of sufficient power from the people you’re mentioning. Yes, some of them have money, but didn’t they have that before John died? Wasn’t it likely that Yoko, had they divorced, would receive half of John’s $150 million fortune? Why kill him and risk jail? If it was a couple of civilians doing it for reasons of passion and/or greed, why didn’t the investigating authorities come down on them? Who got paid off by whom and why? At some point you have to make the leap from “rich civilian” to “law enforcement/government enabler.” That’s where I would dig, if I were trying to figure this out.
As with John Hinckley, I think the confluence of the imminent return of hardcore rightwing spooks to power (the very same folks, some of them, involved in JFK and ilk), the immediate political benefit to the US rightwing, plus the IC’s proven ability to control a news narrative — plus Chapman’s specific weirdness — is suggestive. Say it was a crime of passion; that’s plausible, most murders are. And say the CoS was involved somehow in the mechanics of it; OK. But who closed the files, called off the hunt? The US is a majority Christian country — the CoS killing John Lennon would’ve ended that organization; what was the crazy-great benefit to them to take such an insane risk?
Yes, Kenneth Anger is intriguing — like Sam Giancana or George de Mohrenshildt in the JFK assassination — but Anger spent the 80’s broke as hell; if he was involved, what did he get out of it? Why did he do it? The facts you lay out are agreed upon, and suggestive. But just as the mafia couldn’t do anything in Dealey Plaza without powerful patrons inside the government, any Lennon conspiracy theory comes down not to whether it all seems fishy (it does, to me), but who was able to keep the truth from getting out? Why did they allow the crime to happen, then maintain the cover story?
As with JFK, I think the choice is pretty stark: either it really is just a lone nut, or there’s a coverup within law enforcement. And for that you very quickly need CIA/FBI/MI6.
@Michael – See, I think the idea that an intelligence agency was involved is unnecessarily convoluted. It might be true, who knows? But the biggest clue to what happened, to me at least, is in the will.
I don’t think for a minute it was a crime of passion, and I don’t think Yoko Ono put a hit out on him. I think he was a very fragile, vulnerable and mentally unwell man, and that he was manipulated into believing that this would make him the greatest rock legend of all time – bigger than Elvis, bigger than Paul and possibly even bigger than Jesus, which it did. HOWEVER, Sam Green, who took John and Yoko to Egypt to negotiate the purchase of a sarcophagus (which is apparently the thing you need if you want to be reincarnated), was clearly expecting them both to die, as I suspect, was John. The clue is in the will.
Why did they get away with it? Chapman did it, in full view of witnesses, and he admitted it. What more was there to investigate? Why was Kenneth Anger broke in the 1980’s? They probably didn’t pay him. Why didn’t he shop them to the police? How could he?
I was hearing rumours in Liverpool in the 1980’s that it was a double suicide gone wrong. At the time, I dismissed them as crazy. But when I saw Sam Green’s name in the will and read HIS article about his involvement in the Barbara Bakelite murder (where he was an innocent bystander, naturally), the penny dropped. Call me cynical, but in any murder (and especially the murder of a billionaire), the most likely culprit is the person who stands to gain the most.
Of course, I could be wrong, and he could have been taken out by an intelligence agent. But I doubt it.
@Elizabeth, the theories you heard in Liverpool would explain things like John’s mystery comments to Jack Douglas, right? And “Walking on Thin Ice”.
Also, “Borrowed Time”. John’s excellent guitar work on “Thin Ice” was his last recorded music. He had premonitions – and nightmares – leading up to his death. I read somewhere that he told of a dream he had where a fan approached him in NY and just stood there, not saying anything.
@Michael Bleicher – Yes, he apparently made a comment to Jack Douglas that he wouldn’t be seeing him again.
He knew, of course he did. Why else would he have given a day-long interview going over every aspect of his life that very day, making ironic comments like, ‘Life begins at 40’? How could the will possibly have been probated in 24 hours? Why would Paul McCartney say over and over again, ‘John was worried about how he would be remembered’?
It’s so obvious, especially the part where she backs out. Question is, did John see that coming? I bet Sam Green didn’t for sure.
@Elizabeth Where did you hear that he told Douglas he wouldn’t be seeing him again? Whenever I’ve heard Jack Douglas talk about his last time seeing John, he’s always said that they were expecting to meet the next day to work on the ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ master.
What Douglas has never spoken about is the comments Lennon made in the control room at the end of the ‘Thin Ice’ session, which were recorded and which he went back and erased immediately on hearing of Lennon’s death. (Albert Goldman said Lennon was talking about his own death. While that seems likely, it isn’t clear whether Goldman was speculating or Douglas said something to him off the record. He may have inferred as much to Goldman without elaborating too much about the details of what was actually said, since he’s otherwise refused to talk about it for forty plus years.)
What about Elizabeth Taylor, George C. Scott, Marlon Brando, Johnny Carson and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis? They were on Chapman’s list of targets as well.
Course they were, Michelle. Even if someone else did write the list.
Another thing that has always struck me as unlikely is James Taylor’s version of events. Not only did he hear the shooting from his own apartment, but he ‘bumped into Chapman’ the day before at the subway station. Yeah, right, because coincidences like that happen all the time. He was apparently ‘on the list’ as well. What a surprise.
Well, I don’t really know how someone who has been put through a lot of conditioning acts. I’ve read that Chapman may have attended some sort of training camp in Beirut, but that seems to be unproven. What we do know is that he was hospitalised on a psychiatric word , where he seemingly enjoyed the attentions of a ‘volunteer’, who let’s be real, wouldn’t look twice at him under normal circumstances. He must have thought all his Christmases had come at once.
I’m not sure I really understand your question about what the benefit was to the Church of Satan or Anger. What’s the benefit to any cult organisation that gets a crazy person to carry out a murder? I would assume that money changed hands somewhere along the line.
To accept the theory that the CIA did it, you’d have to ignore the biggest clue, which is obviously the will. Maybe there was a link between the CIA and the Church of Satan. Maybe Chapman was or had been an intelligence agent at some point. Does it matter? John and Yoko’s fingerprints are all over it whatever the background of the hitman.
Just to add to my last comment, I don’t know enough about intelligence organisations to know what precise conditioning entails, but Chapman reminds me of kid who is persuaded to become a suicide bomber – someone who is seduced, brainwashed and radicalised. Vulnerable people are susceptible to such conditioning, and I don’t really agree that it requires a lot of expertise. I realise you’re talking about a different type of conditioning, but it’s essentially the same thing, persuading someone to carry out a violent act.
Point well taken about suicide bombers.
@Elizabeth, see @Neal’s comment for where the expertise comes in. Not in the doing of the thing — though clearly a person’s morality is no small barrier — but in the lack of any attempt to escape after, or soften one’s punishment, and the keeping of the silence.
Then my next questions would involve “how would these two sets of facts interact?” I.e., there were people in the Dakota who were into art collecting and other activities typically connected with money laundering and other organized crime, “black magic” and occult stuff, who behaved strangely around John Lennon’s murder. Yoko and John were thinking about divorce, and maybe Yoko wanted more than half. Maybe people around the Lennons thought they could make more if the Lennons weren’t there, such as Sam Green, who got himself named as Sean’s guardian. Okay. AND you’d have to have powerful connections to get away with conspiring to shoot John Lennon dead in front of his apartment building on a Monday night in Manhattan.
So — what were those connections? Who? And when did they begin? Personally, I’d be skeptical that the began in 1980, or 1979, or whenever. This is just a thought experiment. But Brian Epstein had some proclivities that made him susceptible to blackmail, and there are rumors that the Krays indeed were trying to get a slice of the Beatles’ profits via that blackmail. We’ve never had a particularly involved account of the backstories of people like Magic Alex (or even Robert Fraser or Yoko Ono, much less the anonymous drug mules who hung around them, like the Stones’ “Spanish Tony”), who showed up around the Beatles in the mid/late-Sixties. If you were in Intelligence concerned about the social and political power of the Beatles (and plenty such people were), and IF there already were a relationship of some kind between IC and the underworld — might you perhaps want to have your own people in their world? And what if in 1980, there was a confluence of a few things — some shifts in power in the US, some people in the Dakota who had their own incentives — that weren’t there in 1972, when the Lennons’ marriage was different?
The other thing I’m curious about, which I mentioned in the other thread, is how strongly Goldman and Seaman emphasize that John was predicting his own violent end in 1980. I for one don’t think that, as intuitive as John Lennon was about some things, he was possessed of any special clairvoyance, but I definitely think that he and Yoko liked the optics and mythology of it appearing he had that kind of clairvoyance. It’s something an Artist or a quasi-religious figure would have, right? Also, I’m curious about how Lennon’s 1980 interviews and songs (“Beautiful Boy,” “Woman,” “Starting Over,” “Grow Old With Me”), and chosen public image couldn’t be more tragic in the wake of his murder if he’d *tried*.
“When looking at cults in this particular regard, remember that they were often used (and sometimes created) by intelligence services to do work on a contract basis.”
It’s certainly worth noting that Sirhan Sirhan (who bears many similarities to Chapman) had connections to the Rosicrucians and the Process; and that Manson (who is suspected by writers like Sanders and Terry of carrying out hits under contract) had connections with Scientology, the Process (he cribbed a lot of their rhetoric), and tangential (Susan Atkins’ having been once employed by LaVey; and Bobbie Beausoleil’s being affiliated with Anger) links to the Church of Satan. Imagining the Process used as some sort of go-between or front for any number of nefarious reasons does not seem like a stretch. That the Process by the end of the 60s had splintered into a lot of different groups and offshoots would surely have made it a lot more malleable and certainly more difficult to pin down.
Something that I don’t think is properly appreciated, because it’s never discussed in books, is that once the Beatles were doing coke or – especially – heroin, they were necessarily mixing with organized crime types. Yes, everybody wanted to turn on John Lennon, but if the Chief Beatle needs a regular heroin, he’s going to end up interacting with organized crime at some level of remove. (Which begs the question, what kind of people might have wanted John Lennon to try heroin? Who might benefit from that?) As Michael Gerber noted about a year ago, there’s a revolving door for people with Intelligence skill sets, and organized crime ones.
@Michael Bleicher In the ‘excised’ chapter from Tony Sanchez’s book which is floating around the internet, he says (if indeed it is authentic) that the Krays wanted in on the Beatles in the mid 60s. Robert Fraser was in debt to the Krays (as was Brian Epstein) and was told his debts would be cleared if he could deliver the Beatles. Sanchez in turn said his role was to ensnare Lennon with dope as a means of bringing him closer to Fraser. A minder was then required to keep Lennon in line, and Fraser decided on Yoko to fill that position.
The original ‘antiphoney’ blog (which only ever had one post) where the missing chapter came from seems to have been scrubbed from the internet.
However, the text of it can be found in a discussion post on this page:
I stand corrected. The original blog post that shared the Tony Sanchez chapter is indeed still extant. It just doesn’t appear in searches.
@Matt, yep, this is what I was thinking of. There was a lot of money to be made from the Beatles, and in particular from keeping John Lennon high. Interesting, if this story is true (and it’s told by someone named “Spanish Tony,” so several grains of salt) that Fraser chose Yoko. Why? What was her background? We’ve never really had an in depth, investigative biography of this woman who came from a very conservative, wealthy Japanese family. Who else did she know in London? In New York?
Edit: It is only from search results that the original source for the Tony Sanchez missing chapter seems to have disappeared. The blog does still exist:
Has Chapman ever been rigorously interviewed over the years concerning these questions? Granted everything he says would be suspect, but if he had been led into this by others one can safely assume that they were older than he was at the time and may no longer be alive.
Just wondering that after nearly a half-century of incarceration that he would have considered coming clean, other than his admission to pulling the trigger, about who might have led him to commit the murder.
Also, if his girlfriend/wife was somehow complicit why hadn’t she ever spoken about her role? She has stuck with him all this time? Odd isn’t it?
Just seems unusual to have such a long period of coerced silence—particularly if the main players are no longer here.
Which is why I don’t think there were others involved.
It’s certainly possible, perhaps even likely, that MDC was a lone nut.
Where I trip on that, however, and I’ve tripped on it since the week of, is how he’s both completely bonkers insane, and yet totally able to navigate in the world competently. That’s just a vanishingly small subset of person.
Like Sirhan, he spent time in a mental hospital after which his behavior seemed to change.
Like James Earl Ray, he travels around the world with no visible means of support.
Plus, MDC’s motives seem to shift all around. Was Lennon “a phoney”? Did he want to be Lennon? Did he want to be famous? Did he want to promote the reading of Catcher In the Rye? Friends said that he wasn’t even that big a Beatles fan; he preferred Todd Rundgren. He wants to murder Lennon or, failing that, George C. Scott? He’s not internally consistent, and authentic assassins are monomaniacally consistent. Gavrilo Princip wasn’t planning on killing Franz Ferdinand or Sarah Bernhardt.
What’s the deal with his hypnotic stuff, like the “little people” on the LPs? Is he doing it all to himself? Why?
His associations are weird. Is he a fundamentalist Christian, or a Satanist? WTF?
Plus, he seems in an altered state — at no time does he seem to exhibit normal human behaviors after capture. He’s communicating with people via phone who have never been identified, and after doing so, changes his plea from one that would stick him in a loony bin and could allow him to walk free eventually, to one where he goes to real prison basically forever.
MDC’s exactly sane enough to do this terrible thing that requires a lot of travel, planning, and immense self-belief; but exactly insane enough to kill a total stranger who never harmed him, make no attempt to escape (the subway station is RIGHT THERE), and then spend the rest of his life in jail without moving a muscle to lessen his sentence by implicating others, or exonerate himself in any way.
Could he be a lone nut? Absolutely. But it’s far from unreasonable to consider that he wasn’t, especially in light of Sirhan before him and Hinckley after him. Murders with vast political impacts done by people with little to no interest in politics who, once they do their thing, basically disappear. That is just so strange.
And it’s weird that those murders only seem to happen between 1963 and 1981 in the States (I don’t know about other countries).
Ever heard of Allard Lowenstein?
More than a few Black Lives Matter activists have turned up dead.
Some were found dead in torched cars. One was hanged, and authorities rushed to call it suicide. Since this is a Beatles site, I’ll link to a rollingstone article on the deaths:
The article is a few years old, but I think there’s a coordinated effort to target activists. White supremacist groups have ties to local law enforcement so I think these can be called government conspiracies.
@Sam, my rule of thumb is anything that seeks to upend the status quo will receive pushback from the government. The only question is to what degree.
The reason I tend towards conspiratorial thinking in regards politics is so that we do not underestimate the difficulties, and thus under-honor those citizens who try to make things better.
@Neal – I doubt very much whether Chapman is even aware that he was manipulated. He’s obviously a sandwich short of a picnic – he thinks he did it, and Gloria is right there to remind him how much he needs her should he ever start to forget.
If anyone was an intelligence agent in any of this, it was most likely her. Not that I imagine it took too much persuasion for him to do whatever she said. Look at him and look at her. There’s your answer.
As long as we’re going down this road, I’m intrigued by the proximity of the attempted Reagan assassination on March 30, 1981. Apparently Chapman and John Hinckley, Jr. were both employees of World Vision, an evangelical nonprofit often used as a cutout by the CIA for overseas activities. The president of World Vision was John Hinckley, Sr., who also happened to be the president of an oil company and a friend of George H. W. Bush; Neil Bush was reported to have had plans to dine with Hinckley Sr. on March 31, 1981. Hinckley Jr. was supposedly also obsessed with Catcher in the Rye (imagine that!). It’s hard to find legit sources on this stuff, but this page at least collects evidence that the Bush-Hinckley relationship was reported by large circulation newspapers at the time, then quickly abandoned. https://whowhatwhy.org/politics/government-integrity/bush-angle-reagan-shooting-still-unresolved-hinckley-walks/.
Those accounts of John Lennon’s “stop smoking” cure in 1975, where he recalls vomiting for three days and people holding his head under the water in the bath, and his drugged, tranced state afterward (there’s a RS interview from shortly afterward where he asks the interview what year it is), and Yoko’s well-documented employment of hypnotists suggest a nexus between people knowledgeable about this sort of thing. Those people didn’t have as many opportunities in government in the late Seventies, as the Sixties programs were being shut down and subject to congressional investigation. There were jobs for them in the private sector; if they knew what industries to look at. If anyone in the Dakota were also involved in the drug trade, or other aspects of the underworld (including but not limited to fringe religions historically used as cutouts for, or infiltrated by, Intel groups) — it wouldn’t be hard to make a deal for the right amount of money. “The Government” wouldn’t have to be involved in the planning and execution of it in order for it to have an interest in making sure the subsequent investigation didn’t get into whether there ever were CIA programs or abilities to do this sort of thing.
“The Government” is never involved in anything remotely approaching this. It’s all meetings on freakin’ golf courses and via several intermediaries, with payments in untraceable cash.
The reason why the CIA and every other intelligence agency is involved in drugs isn’t because they’re bad people (though you could argue some of them are); it’s because wherever you find pools of untraceable cash, you’ll find the IC. And organized crime, for the same reasons.
Well, if they hadn’t killed him, this is what he’d look like today:
@Michael Gerber Allard Lowenstein was a New York representative and friend of RFK’s who began publicly questioning the lone nut explanation of RFK’s assassination and calling for reopening the investigation; he was assassinated by a supposedly crazy former student in March 1980. Some think Lowenstein had been a CIA operative in the Sixties.
Funny how these lone nuts stopped making assassination attempts on US political figures after Reagan survived.
Is it possible Lennon simply told Douglas something like “It’s over between me and Yoko. I’m filing for divorce.” ? And then after John’s murder, Douglas felt bad for the grieving widow and didn’t want to be the one responsible for putting that information out there?
I don’t have the reference handy, but I remember Douglas later saying about John’s marriage “He was definitely looking to get out of that situation.” Am I misremembering?
I don’t believe John knew he was scheduled for death that night. I believe he knew his life was in danger. He’d received death threats in the mail. That’s enough to put anyone on edge, and into a reflective mood about murder.
The concierge who was on duty the night John staggered into the Dakota gasping “I’m shot!” recalled the shocked and horrified look on John’s face. I don’t believe for a minute he knew “it was coming” that night.
Was Chapman programmed for assassination? I can’t rule it out. In a country where Donald Trump can be elected president, anything is possible.
Why did John spend hours talking to reporters about his life (“Life begins at 40!” etc.) ? Because he had an album to sell. He had turned 40 and was doing publicity. He wanted a hit record.
If I suddenly gathered friends and family to spend hours talking about my life, and I was shot down the next day, some speculation might be justified. (“Hologram Sam kept saying Life Begins At 64, and now he’s gone! He had to know what was coming!”) But I’m not a celebrity with an album to sell that a label has invested millions in.
Lennon wasn’t talking because he was our friend. He wanted the rock press and his audience to know he was back.
The guy who shot Lowenstein waited quietly for the police to arrive. So did Chapman. The whole thing is too strange for me to insist on a lone nut theory. I just don’t think it was suicide on Lennon’s part.
@Hologram Sam – Why would anyone who had received death threats send their bodyguard on a leave of absence?
@Elizabeth, I seem to recall (in Seaman’s book?) that dismissing MacDougall was Yoko’s suggestion. Like she said it was unmanly? I’m dredging that up from a crevice of my mind.
Had to dig out my copy of Seaman’s book because I was curious about this point. Based on Seaman’s account, Yoko’s justification was that security was too intrusive and her main concern at that time was record sales and maximum public exposure to promote Double Fantasy. MacDougall demanded a meeting with her in October of 1980 after he got pissed off seeing an interview where Yoko was publicly discussing their daily itinerary and routines. He implored her to have bodyguards escort them to and from the Dakota and warned her that they were “asking for trouble” and “If Yoko was looking to get herself and John killed, it was her business, but that he did not wish to go down in history as the bodyguard who had failed to protect John Lennon.” Yoko brushed off his concerns and he took a leave of absence in protest. The next time he returned to the Dakota was on December 9th to make arrangements for Lennon’s cremation. (p 215-216 in my copy)
MacDougall: “If Yoko were looking to get herself and John killed, it was her business…”. Very curious.
How unusual is it to be included in death threats but not targeted in the killing?
Image conscience Yoko has said in recent years, that she; “…fears that a paroled Mark David Chapman would come out of prison and finish the job on herself, Sean and…somebody else!”.
In 1980, Yoko didn’t have this fear of “somebody else” being Julian, an actual Lennon family member, and adamantly refused to provide bodyguards for Julian coming to pay his father last respects and traveling alone, since Yoko, as imperious Widow Lennon, forbade Cynthia from traveling with him as moral support, or from setting foot on US soil, and enforced that decree with the threat of refusing Julian safe shelter at the Dakota, off the mean streets where a gunned down John Lennon, had laid in a pool of his own blood. WTF?!
I can hear it now. (Yoko fans): C’mon Water Falls! Where’s your empathy? Yoko watched her husband get shot right in front of her. (Me): No, he was shot behind her, unusual because, she left his side and walked/ran fast ahead. (Yoko fans): “Yoko’s treatment of Julian at that time was because she was just so torn up over John’s violent death. (Me): Why treat Julian like John’s murder was his fault? That doesn’t make any sense! (Yoko fans): She was apparently a woman “driven mad” with grief! (Me): Um…I don’t think so. I think she’s always has been “broken” somehow, at least since her adulthood. I think she cares for herself first, last, always.
@Hologram Sam – Agree with everything you said. One sad but true fact is that John had a haircut that day. Why would you bother if you’re not going to live another 24 hours? No way he knew what was coming. And why would Chapman attempt to flee when his motive was to become famous? Douglas said in an interview that John was planning to re-connect with Paul on songwriting.
@Michelle, Chapman gave a lot of different motives/a lot of different motives were assigned to him in the wake of the shooting.
FWIW, the “desire to become famous” one is standard operating procedure for all “lone nut” cases, from Oswald on. It’s utterly untestable, and quickly becomes circular.
“Why did he do it? Why would this nobody all of the sudden decide to shoot x?”
“Because he was a nobody. He wanted to be famous.”
“Yeah, but there are lots of ways to be famous. Invent the Pet Rock. What’s the point of being famous if you’re famous in jail?”
“Well, he was CRAAAAAAZY.”
“Yes, but even CRAAAAZY people don’t want to be in jail.”
“That’s how CRAAAAZY he was!”
It’s the supposed list that makes me question that motive. You and I were alive and aware in 1980; we know shooting George C. Scott was not going to make MDC famous. That would be like shooting Alan Arkin to become famous.
Good points, but I’m skeptical about Jack Douglas. The story about John’s last conversation doesn’t make much sense. If he didn’t think anyone would believe him, why destroy the tape? If he wanted to protect John’s reputation, why mention the conversation at all? He also recalled a “lost song” that John made a demo of, which he claims was called “Street of Dreams” (a phrase Douglas used that John liked) and finished a song that John had been working on since 1965. Somehow, earlier versions of the song aren’t to be found anywhere in the voluminous “Lost Lennon” tapes, and the cassette of the version Douglas says he heard is gone, too. I’m not sure when Douglas first made these claims, but they both feature Douglas as the only witness. They are appealing-a lost Beatles-era song and an eerie prophecy-and they have kept Douglas in the public eye, but they are dead ends. Dangling a song that we can’t hear and a secret that he won’t share is tantalizing, infuriating, and probably bulls*t,
I’m confused about the whole thing too, and predominantly when the claims were made and how they evolved. The main quote from Douglas about the erased tapes comes from an interview referenced in Peter Doggett’s YNGMYM, but no one seems to be clear on the source for that. (The index to YNGMYM just says that it’s from an interview with Ken Sharp, no details about when/where). Then again, we have the Mirror article linked below where Douglas does mention it directly.
The whole thing just seems a bit convoluated. I wonder if it’d be worth writing up a post about this topic?
Kristina, a post about Jack Douglas, you mean? Have you read our earlier post?
I did see that – very interesting reading!
What I was getting at specifically was that Jack Douglas’ original comments about erasing the tapes, and specifically saying “it was a real painful tape”, come from an interview that no one can adequately source.
This really bugs the historian in me!
@Eric @Kristina, Jack Douglas said this multiple times; in addition to the cite Mike pointed out and the Doggett one, he also said the same thing to Goldman, and it’s in the Goldman book. So he’s been saying this since at least the mid-1980s.
As for “why doesn’t he substantiate any of this” — I can think of a couple reasons. One is that he’s lying, or exaggerating, because he wants to be connected to John’s story in some way. Obviously that’s a very powerful motivator for some people. Another might be that John was actually his friend, not just a celebrity, and he doesn’t want to share something personal and painful with the world. A third might be that John’s widow and/or family wouldn’t be happy with whatever it is Douglas is withholding, and Yoko is very litigious and very well connected to unpleasant people.
Good point – I guess the exact reference doesn’t matter so much when he’s told the story multiple times!
Based on the Mirror article linked above, it doesn’t seem to be #3:
I guess we don’t know for sure he’s telling the truth, but I have no reason to disbelieve him.
“Is it possible Lennon simply told Douglas something like “It’s over between me and Yoko. I’m filing for divorce.” ? And then after John’s murder, Douglas felt bad for the grieving widow and didn’t want to be the one responsible for putting that information out there?”
Here is what Jack Douglas has said:
“If I told you what he said you’d think I was a nutter. There’s been a lot of speculation over the years that it was something personal about Yoko. But it wasn’t, it was about his death. I destroyed the tape after his murder.”
Matt, thank you for that link. I’d never read Douglas’s description of the conversation before.
So apparently John was rattled and unnerved by death threats he’d been receiving, but still hoped to accomplish stuff in the future.
I wonder if John told Yoko he’d been talking to Paul and Ringo about a project and hoped to reach out to George for a reunion. It seems he didn’t want to frighten Yoko about his fears over the death threats, but I wonder if he also didn’t want to frighten Yoko about a Beatles reunion. That might have made her just as nervous!
Also, I’m curious… why was Douglas capturing Lennon’s private conversations on a hidden microphone?
@Hologram Sam, I don’t see support for any of those conclusions in the article Matt linked, to be honest. The article doesn’t mention “death threats” anywhere, much less that John was feeling unnerved by them. Nor is it clear where Paul/Ringo/George reunion talk comes from anything in this article. Rather, the article makes plain that what Lennon told Douglas not to share with Yoko were comments “about his death.” Which means that John, on his last night alive, talked to Jack Douglas about the death of John Lennon, after cautioning him not to tell Yoko that Lennon and Douglas had had that conversation.
It’s interesting that Jack Douglas has mentioned so many times that he had this conversation, while refusing to divulge specifically what was said, and has also frequently indicated that he had a tape, but destroyed it. Why keep putting that out in public?
To me, Lennon sounds either like a man who has received death threats, or a man who has received a cancer diagnosis. Either way, he doesn’t want his wife involved.
I brought up his Beatle plans because in his last days he seemed to be in “Don’t tell Yoko” mode. If he didn’t want Yoko involved in his death talk then what else was he concealing from her, besides not following the macrobiotic diet she’d prescribed? Was he working up the courage to tell her he wanted to get back with his old band? Why didn’t he want Yoko involved in the death talk? Do you think it was out of concern for her feelings or did he fear she was planning his assassination? What’s your opinion?
We’ve been focusing on murder in this thread because that’s how Lennon ended. Do you think it’s possible all the “death talk” from John was instead coming from his fear of incurable disease instead?
It seems like Douglas still has deep resentment for having to fight Yoko for the money he was owed for the last sessions. And he claims she had people break into his residence to steal a bunch of photos and other memorabilia! Maybe he wants her to know he’s still pissed off about that.
Cancer, or AIDS, has stuck in my mind for years. John begins to look like he’s wasting.
@Michael Bleicher There’s another important element here to consider with regard to the final conversation Lennon had with Douglas. Lennon had found out about Douglas’ hidden microphones earlier on during the Double Fantasy sessions. At first he was annoyed, but then okay with it when Douglas explained that he was planning to gift the tapes to John and Yoko for posterity. From that point, Lennon knew those tapes were on all the time, picking up everything in the studio. (Bits and pieces of the earlier tapes showed up later in the Lost Lennon Tapes series.) Granted, there was an interval of time between the Double Fantasy and Walking on Thin Ice sessions, but it seems reasonable to assume that Lennon would still have been expecting Douglas to be running the hidden mics as he had done before, and which indeed he was as it turns out. So that raises the question: when Lennon declaimed his monologue on the night of Dec. 8, was he doing so deliberately, in the control room, in the knowledge that it was being recorded? Was he doing so in the belief that whatever he said would inevitably be disseminated but not counting on the fact that Douglas would get freaked out and destroy the tapes instead?
Good point, @Hologram Sam. John may have been preoccupied with his own death but not necessarily assassination. He did an interview just days before his death where he suggested that John Wayne and Steve McQueen may have gotten cancer because they suppressed their feminine side! He said, “I look at early pictures of meself, and I was torn between being Marlon Brando and being the sensitive poet – the Oscar Wilde part of me with the velvet, feminine side. I was always torn between the two, mainly opting for the macho side, because if you showed the other side, you were dead.” [from a “teddy boy” perspective]
@Matt – I would bet a million pounds that Douglas has not destroyed that tape. It will be in a safe deposit box somewhere as an insurance policy.
That syncs with what’s in the Goldman and Seaman books, broadly. Here’s what Goldman said:
“Before the session ended [on 8 December 1980], during a period when Yoko was out of the studio, John leaned back against the tape machine, where he had delivered so many monologues during the past four months, and said to Jack: “Don’t repeat to Yoko what I’m going to tell you.” Then he went into the same rap that he had laid on Fred that night he conceived the album in Bermuda. John said that his days were numbered and that he was living on borrowed time. He didn’t allude to assassination, but he appeared completely resigned to dying. He even discussed what would happen to his legend after his death, boasting that he would become much more famous than Elvis. Jack had heard Lennon speak of death before – but never with the sense of its imminence that he conveyed that night.”
Seaman is consistent that in Bermuda, John said very similar things, with a similarly fatalistic attitude.
Now, is it possible that this was just on John’s mind? Sure. As Michael notes, he’d been getting death threats for years. And George spoke about death a lot, too – but as a concept, something to be reckoned with after years of threats and LSD and meditation and spirituality. Why not tell Yoko all of this, if it’s just John being John? Why say it when the two of them are alone? Is it at all relevant that John also told Douglas, per the Mirror article, that he didn’t want to die like Elvis? What to make of the fact that hypnotism and post-hypnotic suggestion appear to have been used by Yoko on John before (1975 stop smoking cure, and possibly when she’d call the check up on him during the Lost Weekend)? Or of their long conversations on the phone when he conceived the album in Bermuda, after months of apparently barely interacting substantively with one another?
Why did Jack Douglas bring this up at all? He destroys the tapes so that no one knows, then he puts this out there.
@Michael – Of course, but John knew about it, and as an adult was free to challenge it.
So you’re saying that Yoko pulled off the bodyguard, and John agreed to it because he and Yoko had a double-suicide pact? Just wanting to make sure I’m tracking your thoughts.
Well, if you were a billionaire and you were getting all these death threats, would you let your wife send your bodyguard on a leave of absence?
It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, it’s literally crazy. And there can be no innocent explanation for it – which is obviously a dilemma for most Beatle fans, so they simply ignore it and pretend it doesn’t mean anything. I can understand why, but it has been 41 years. So in a nutshell, yes, though I don’t think she ever intended to go through with it.
@Elizabeth, John was worth $150 million at that time, but point taken.
I think it’s probably likely that John got death threats constantly from 1963 on, so he might have stopped paying attention to them. But I agree with you; my rule of thumb when trying to figure out whether there is something suspicious about a murder always begins with, “Look at the protection.” And in this case, that’s a big red flag.
Protection is a well-established trade, and it works. If it didn’t, celebrity/political murders would be common instead of rare. If you follow the usual rules of protection, most threats are nullified. Yoko’s removing MacDougal, and revealing their schedule, are huge, huge red flags to me.
@Michael – Yes, that’s true, I was using today’s equivalent worth (broadly speaking). Interestingly enough, I read an article recently that stated had John not died, he would have been wealthier than Paul today based on their respective worth prior to December 1980. It may have been Rolling Stone.
As John did not work at all from 1975-1980, and Paul did not stop working, I find that extremely telling, especially in view of Matt’s recent comments. I don’t think you make that much money buying and selling cows.
@Elizabeth, Michael Bleicher made a similar suggestion to me recently. I really wouldn’t be surprised at almost anything.
@Michael, Yoko didn’t even just fire the bodyguard. She put him on leave for a period expiring December 9, 1980
I may have mentioned this on here before, as I sometimes do, but Les Ledbetter reported in the New York Times the morning after the murder that “the Lennons exited their limousine on 72nd Street instead of driving into the more secure courtyard of the Dakota.” That might be apropos of nothing, but whose decision was that I wonder?
Another thing that’s always struck me as curious about this – what ever happened to the limo driver? I’ve literally never seen any mention of who this person was, whether they were interviewed by police, or what ever became of them in any of the sources I’ve read.
I mean sure, I suppose it’s possible the driver could have just quickly pulled away and saw nothing. But still, it seems odd to me that someone with such a close connection to such a massive event could just slip into thin air.
@Michelle Indeed. And was it their regular driver? The regular doorman? Did Yoko and John often exit their limo 40 feet apart?
@Michael Bleicher and @Sam – Apparently it wasn’t their regular driver. Like the bodyguard, the regular driver was mysteriously not working that night.
The disappearance of the limo driver is one of the strangest things about the whole case. I read an article written by someone who lived in an apartment overlooking the entrance of the Dakota and had witnessed what happened. He was a photographer so was able to pick out visual details and commit them to memory. He said the limo sped off when Chapman started shooting.
Another strange thing is the way the security guards acted. One of them went up to Chapman after the shooting and told him to go, to get out of there. I mean, what? In what universe does a security guard tell a murderer to leave the crime scene? This one, apparently, but it’s an upside down universe where nothing makes sense.
@Sam, good point. I can buy that the limo driver had already left by the time the tragedy happened, or that he wasn’t questioned by police. But he certainly would have understood that John had been killed right after he drove him and Yoko home. Maybe it’s someone who hates publicity and didn’t want to come forward with their “John Lennon’s last day” story on CNN or 60 Minutes.
I also want to know why Chapman nodded at Yoko when she passed by, as Michael B says, 40 feet ahead of John. The blob (sorry, that’s what he is) was interviewed on Larry King, who asked, “Did she nod back?” Of course the answer was no. If I were Larry, I would have asked, “Why the hell did you nod at her?” I might be reading too much into that and he was just saying hello before shooting her husband.
“The disappearance of the limo driver is one of the strangest things about the whole case.”
@Elizabeth There was also apparently a taxi (with passenger) parked behind the limo at the time of the murder. Richard Peterson, the driver, claimed to have seen Chapman shooting Lennon (as would presumably the passenger who we know nothing about). Peterson’s being parked behind the limo also implies that the limo lingered on the street outside the Dakota at least until the shooting started.
@Elizabeth As an adult, John should have challenged that and many of Yoko’s decisions. But John wasn’t a functional or mentally well-adjusted adult. He challenged nothing and acquiesced to everything. Trying to figure out his behaviour by regular standards is fruitless. The extent to which he abandoned his own agency (willingly or unwillingly, but perhaps both in part) can’t be overstated. John shouldn’t have let himself be dragged along to Japan when he hated it; he shouldn’t have signed off on a will which in all probability he never read; let Yoko hijack half of his comeback album and reject all the big label offers that wouldn’t give her half the LP; abandon most his friends; or replace his guitar with a ceremonial sword. He let those things happen though. Maybe he thought ceding his life would make him happy, safe. Or maybe there were darker threads at play. Either way, the outcome was someone frustrated, miserable, and alienated, whose acquiescence only exacerbated the problems he already had. The only way he ever seems to have challenged Yoko is indirectly. He’d get drunk at a restaurant and embarrass her; or cuss her out in the studio. Public settings (and inebriation) seemed to give him an imagined but empty bravura which never extended to confronting her in private. The Nixon party incident looks to be another example of this, where publicly humiliating Yoko was easier for John than being directly able to communicate whatever was frustrating or contentious between them and should have been addressed. Seaman places the decision to send MacDougall on a leave of absence on Yoko’s impetus. If Lennon agreed passively, heard about the decision second hand, or was never made aware of it would not be uncharacteristic. The biggest red flag for me in this though is the argument which led to MacDougall leaving. MacDougall was appalled that Yoko had let their schedule and the route they took home from the studio be published in a newspaper interview she gave. That seems like very strange behaviour to me; and without seeing the article in question, I can’t imagine what context would possibly inspire her to provide that information to a journalist.
I’m very ambivalent when it comes to Yoko. There are some things I actually admire about her, while at other times I feel that she was so domineering over John who almost always deferred to her. But I think John was kind of tiring of it. In his 1980 Playboy interview, Yoko says about Paul, “He wonders why we’re always together” meaning her and John (probably not her exact words, don’t have the interview in front of me). John answered, “Oh, Yoko. Do you still have to carry that cross?” And then Yoko insisted, “No, he said it recently.” This seemed to me like an attempt to goad John into saying something negative about Paul. I hate how she did that with George in the 1970 RS interview. She actually questioned his intelligence.
This is very, very good @Matt. I agree with all this 100%, especially this:
“John wasn’t a functional or mentally well-adjusted adult. He challenged nothing and acquiesced to everything. Trying to figure out his behaviour by regular standards is fruitless. The extent to which he abandoned his own agency (willingly or unwillingly, but perhaps both in part) can’t be overstated.”
The question is, why? Without judgment of either party: why did he do this, and what did he get out of it? @Michael Bleicher and I talk about this endlessly IRL, and if one really acknowledges the scope of John’s disappearance, the question becomes THE central issue in understanding post-Yoko Lennon. It takes different forms at different times, but this abdication is probably his dominant trait post-May 1968. John’s behavior is so unusual, one is pushed to consider really unusual possibilities.
Was it the drugs?
Was it some sort of hypnosis?
Was it some D/s relationship involving 24/7 total power exchange, where Yoko got tired of playing?
All of these? Something else entirely?
Yoko might have been the love of John’s life, but she was also his Dr. Eugene Landy, and any discussion of their relationship that doesn’t acknowledge this is pure PR.
@Michael Gerber and @Matt, and it’s this, plus his weird statements in 1980, that make me wonder whether the idea were somehow sold to Lennon that an assassination would make him the next JFK/Jesus Christ and/or help him be reincarnated and/or bequeath his soul to Sean and/or beat Paul McCartney. It’s certainly possible and plausible that John was just preoccupied with assassinations because he’d received a lot of death threats and was one of the most famous people in the world and had come of age in the Sixties and was interested in the dark and the conspiratorial. But just like he went back to the Dakota one morning in January 1975 for a “stop smoking” cure and came back a man in a trance who moved his stuff out of the apartment he shared with May Pang without even being able to explain why, exactly, he was doing so, or what he’d been doing there, or how long it’d been — and all the other weird, uncomfortable, and disturbing things that have trickled out about the Dakota Years — the thought occurs to me. Especially if he was sick, as rumors have suggested, and as photos from that year would render unsurprising.
I am curious – have you been able to find any sources discussing the rumor he was sick? I think I’ve read it in other comments on this blog but I don’t recall any mention of that in the Goldman or Seaman books.
I wonder whether the reason for John’s passivity/laziness was physical as much as psychological? Listen to recordings of the Beatles in the studio or watch the Get Back documentary – notice how often he complains that his hand aches from playing the guitar, or his throat hurts from singing. Ordinary life seemed to tire him out and he could only function with drugs or with someone taking charge of him – Mimi, Brian, Paul or Yoko. I’ve noticed that tall offspring of short parents tend to tire very quickly. John was 5’11” and his parents were 5’0″ and 5’3″. Maybe his body used up all its energy in growing?
@Dan, as the short offspring of tall parents, I hereby claim your theory and the reverse as Proven Fact. 🙂
Lavatory Lil: “Cooking you your dinner (heroin?) but she’s really moving in for the kill… If you saw that she was coming you could get up off the track, but it isn’t easy when she hits you in the BACK”
@Sam, the “was John sick” rumor is something that I’ve just…heard over the years, which means that it’s not very strong grounds for conjecturing anything further, but is something that comes to mind when thinking through all the “what ifs”. I don’t think it’s a necessary condition for there to be a plot within the Dakota, however, if one is gaming out that theory.
Was John sick? Look at him at 20, 25, 30, 35, 40. Photos don’t lie. The only real question is, was it physical illness, or mental (anorexia/bulemia)? He is painfully thin in 1980, and anybody who doesn’t see that is working with some body dysmorphia. John is skinny in 1967 and 1968; in 1980, he’s much thinner than that.
The rumor of physical illness (for example, AIDS) is to me an externalization of discomfort with the whole narrative that was being spun. Once you’re not believing that things are rosy as John and Yoko said they were, then the mind begins to spin tales.
Right, I have also seen this rumor pop up over the years but it always seems to be just conjecture based on his appearance in photographs. And I do agree, there are a lot of photos of him from the last couple years where he certainly doesn’t look well.
But I agree with Michael, it seems more likely to me that his gaunt, unhealthy appearance circa 1980 was probably more likely a result of the body dysmorphia issues which are somewhat well documented (at least compared to him having HIV, etc). I remember reading in Goldman that he would measure his waist with string every morning and if the results were not satisfactory, purge. I think those issues, plus decades of drug abuse and chain smoking probably go a long way towards explaining his appearance at age 40.
Of course, anything is possible. Who knows.
After the attempt on Reagan’s life, security was beefed up everywhere. Politicians, celebrities… anyone in the public eye suddenly had to budget for personal security. Big, burly ex-cops and ex-military with dark glasses and slicked buzz cuts found a lucrative new business: protecting the rich, famous and powerful.
I mean, there was a time in the early 20th century where tourists could have picnics on the White House lawn. And in the 1970s you could literally bump into celebrities in NYC. (I remember saying excuse me to a guy who I slid past on a crowded street who turned out to be Stevie Ray Vaughan. Or glancing over at the next table in a blues club and nodding and smiling at David Johansen.)
Nowadays? A few days ago I saw a clip of Ben Affleck and J-Lo walking from their limo to a store. Some goofy dude ran up for a selfie and he was forcibly removed by a bodyguard. The poor goof looked so confused. He must have been thinking “But Ben is my friend! I mean, I saw him in Batman v Superman and the Justice League! I even replied to a tweet of his!?”
It was one thing when MLK was shot. “Well, these things happen” was the response. But after someone shot at Reagan? It launched an entire security industry. I’m not surprised people like Chapman and Hinckley have been thwarted after 1981.
Nowadays, the only people being assassinated are non-famous civil rights activists who can’t afford private security.
I have to say I am finding this thread to be extremely interesting. I had no ideas there were so many odd details surrounding the events of that December day and week. Yes, I know that it is easy to look back after an event and point out strange things, but from the descriptions here there seem to be quite a few eyebrow raising points.
Really bizarre behavior by Yoko in the hours and days after the shooting although I certainly can’t imagine what it must be like having your spouse murdered.
Good thread. Great idea to break it off into a separate one.
According to all sources working at the Dakota…there was no mourning at the Dakota. Yoko’s attitude was ‘now it is just me’…she had JL cremated in record time…wouldn’t want an independent autopsy to reveal uncomfortable details…like the trajectory of the bullets that hit JL…which probably came from across the hall from the lobby…from the elevator entrance…remember the pictures of the bullets through the lobby door? No way MDC created those holes. A professional assassination has a patsy and a real shooter…someone seasoned…like Jose Perdomo…the doorman…the only man to tell the police MDC did it…google Jose Perdomo and John Lennon…you’ll be surprised to find out he organized a death squad for the Bay of Pigs…called ‘Operation 40’…never forget…JL was murdered during the transition period between Carter and Reagan…Reagan had won…but Carter was still president…the old guard was performing pre-emptive strikes…to get end the 60s and start a new era…the ‘me me’ 80s
One thing that’s struck me as weird is the story, repeated in several books, that after the shooting, the doorman, Perdomo, told Chapman to run away. What?
“Lennon’s autopsy report, annotated by the Post, said Lennon was shot four times. Two bullets entered the left side of Lennon’s left back, traveling through the left side of his chest and his left lung before exiting from the body. A second bullet also passed into the left side of his chest and through his left lung, then lodged in his neck. Two more bullets hit Lennon in his left shoulder.”
Because Chapman wasn’t up for parole in 1980, but instead safely locked away?
If she hired Chapman to kill her husband, why wouldn’t she linger behind John and Chapman? Instead she positions herself in front of her husband with his killer behind him, putting herself in the line of fire?
I’m as wary of Yoko as the next person. I believe she was a negative force in his life, a toxic narcissist. I just have trouble believing she arranged his murder. It makes no sense to me.
I’m open to the theory of Chapman being part of a larger conspiracy, though. But I struggle with some of the clues I’ve seen so far.
“Why was the limo driver on vacation?” It was December. People who serve the wealthy can’t take the holidays off because rich people expect to be catered to on Christmas. So instead the limo driver gets a few days off early in December.
“Why wasn’t the limo driver questioned?” Police had the killer and he confessed. NYC police and detectives never want to work any harder than they need to. This isn’t a Dick Wolf TV presentation. If the shooter had disappeared, they might have tried to question everyone involved, and probably only because it was the murder of a celebrity. With Chapman in custody, all that extra work would have been a waste of resources.
“Chapman had no visible means of support.” Mark had two financially comfortable parents who felt guilty about their mentally-ill son. They may not have been able to support his emotional development, but surely they transferred money to him. No parent wants to see their offspring living and babbling on the streets. Also, as I mentioned in another thread, it was pre-Reagan America. A time when a young white man, however damaged, could navigate his way through a society with a more robust social safety net, cheaper rents, generous employers, etc.
Here’s what sticks in my craw, then and now:
1) The protection. Did it change? Yes. Who changed it? Yoko. Why? [nonsense reason about selling records] Has she ever said that she feels responsible for John’s death? To anyone, that we know of?
2) Surely there must’ve been LOTS of people who hated John Lennon in 1980 — people he’d cost money, for example. Or people whose lives would’ve been better with him deceased (like a wife who was apparently unhappy, at least in 1979). But the person who ends up shooting him is a total stranger, a crazy fan.
2) How many hundreds — thousands — of crazy fans must Lennon have encountered since 1962? And yet, there he was, living and breathing and putting out LPs. Lennon had been walking around mostly without security for years and years without any problem, during times when he really was controversial. He wasn’t shot by a fundamentalist in 1966; he wasn’t shot by a rightwinger when he was protesting Vietnam — that would make sense. Do we really think that Lennon couldn’t tell a dangerous fan by 1980? And yet, there MDC is, asking for an autograph, and Lennon giving it, like MDC is normal. And why didn’t MDC shoot Lennon at point blank range? “Well, he’s crazy. You can’t expect a crazy person to act rational” — an untestable, unprovable explanation.
3) Murder is rare, and difficult; to kill someone, you have to have a really powerful motive. But like Oswald, we’ve never really settled on a motive for MDC — MDC “wanted to be famous.” Or “thought he was John Lennon.” Or “thought John Lennon was a phoney.” Or “something something Satanism.” Or “wanted to promote the reading of ‘Catcher in the Rye.'” At the time, MDC’s motives shifted constantly, and even now, they really come down to, “He’s crazy. You can’t expect a crazy person to act rational.”
4) People that crazy are not intermittently crazy. They are always that crazy. They can’t hold jobs, have steady relationships, etc. They can’t plan; they are impulsive. MDC does a crazy thing, but ALL THE TIME before and after that act, he acts sane. MDC’s behavior is the textbook example of a mind-controlled assassin; whether he was or not, he’s exactly what MKULTRA said it was trying to create. Unremarkable people who kill important strangers without motive, and then “turn off,” presenting themselves to police, and obviating the need for further investigation. What was his deal with “The Catcher in the Rye”? Did he give HIMSELF a trigger? How likely is that?
5) Yoko acts utterly bizarrely. She doesn’t move from the crime scene. Her close male friend moves in the next day. She uses her husband’s glasses to sell her next solo record. in fact her life doesn’t seem to change much at all, except that her son is shipped off to boarding school. She uses her husband’s terrible fate to shield herself from criticism for the next 40 years.
6) The will.
I don’t know what the real story is, but all the above makes me suspect that there were truths to be unearthed…that are no longer possible to unearth. It won’t bring John back, true, but neither does it hurt him, and given his well-known tilt towards the conspiratorial, might please him as he looks down from Heaven’s Bandstand or wherever.
I thought it was established that MDC did shoot John at point blank range.
No, ten feet from the back, IIRC.
MDC not taking a shot at Lennon as he was signing the album actually seems to indicate very rational thinking and planning. As you opine, he indicated quite a pattern of rational thinking and not being “just crazy.” Just because that rationality was put to a murderous cause does not mean it was looney from start to finish. Sadly we witnessed the same on 9/11.
Yes, he was within point blank distance, but others were also very close and he still would have needed to have drawn the weapon and gained some rough aim. Unless he was well practiced in tight quarters weapon employment, he might have been stopped by others or John could have seen the gun and turned. Maybe not, but my guess is that it might be difficult to get a 100% effective shot off in a scrum of onlookers.
That he demurred, knowing that Lennon would most likely return later that evening, indicates another level of cognitive functioning in being able to weigh intangibles and overlay them on the reality of making plans within a time frame. Waiting for hours takes patience and planning…not hallmarks of the crazy.
Sadly it seems we do never know, but it is Yoko’s behavior post 8 December that is most bizarre. While it might have zero to do with any conspiracy it strikes one, to say the VERY least, odd and not indicative of the way 99.99% of people process grief and work with the police to make sure they have what they need.
Just my exceeding humble opinion, but using his glasses for her next album cover was, as our French friends would say, de trop at best.
That sounds like a reasonable explanation as to why he didn’t shoot John right there and then. But according to Chapman himself, it was because John was so kind to him and he couldn’t pull the trigger at that moment.
I think that’s reasonable, but it’s also a “just so” story. If I needed to rebut it I would say this:
1) Guns like that — cheap, short-barreled .38s — are close-in weapons. They are designed for concealment, and — with the hammer for example — are designed to be pulled out quickly and fired quickly at a target right on top of you. That’s why they are called “Saturday night specials.” They are weapons of impulse, of bar fights. And every foot your target recedes, your chance of hitting it — not just killing, but even hitting it — decreases greatly. Because of nighttime, because of Lennon walking away from him, because of barrel length, and MDC’s lack of serious training (though he did drop into shooting stance), one could argue that the shots were much, much riskier.
2) Hollow-point bullets are designed to be used in this way, as well. Close in, shots to the body.
3) There’s a tremendous risk in interacting with your target. What if John had gotten a funny vibe, and changed his security, or just told the doorman “never let that guy near me, I don’t care what you have to do”?
4) MDC didn’t know that John would be coming back; he might’ve been going to the airport for a six-month stay in Japan, for all MDC knew.
5) MDC also didn’t know that John would be let out outside the gates.
So if he’s a man driven to kill because blah-blah-blah, it’s incredibly IRRATIONAL for him not to take his shot at the first opportunity; and also demonstrates a kind of impulse control totally absent from that kind of lunatic. It makes no sense with who he’s supposed to be; to me, it’s another indication of something larger going on. MDC’s madness seems to come and go at the perfect times for him to carry out this terrible, difficult act which, as I’ve said, he’s not even clear on why he’s doing it.
I have to say that I definitely have to agree with your points as you lay them out. I was just trying to take a stab at why he didn’t take his first, and possibly best, chance he would ever have. He certainly didn’t seem to be concerned about having an escape route.
In fact, no sooner than I had I hit the reply button than I started to wonder how he knew that Lennon would be returning that night, that week, or the even next month as far as anyone outside the immediate entourage would have known? Was he clued in that the pair was only going out for a few hours?
Even then, how did MDC think that, should the pair be returning later that evening, that he would again be afforded proximity to them–proximity to get off even one shot not to mention multiple ones? This all speaks to taking the first chance.
Another question that pops up in my mind, is a matter of nerves. Did he have them or was he that cold blooded that he could calmly draw a bead (so to speak) and hit his target four times? At night? Against one of the most widely known figures in the world?
Good discussion here.
@Neal, MDC’s own descriptions of the event portray him as exceedingly cold-blooded which, in a civilian, is one of the things that suggests an altered mind state. He wasn’t used to shooting people; he didn’t run; etc etc etc.
My counterpoint wasn’t to disagree, exactly; it’s just to point out how impossible all this is to figure.
Maybe not impulse control, but just plain old indecisiveness. It wouldn’t be the first time. Chapman actually made a previous trip to NY that year to carry out his murderous plan, but had a change of heart when he went to see the film Ordinary People. It was a compulsion that he tried, and ultimately failed, to fight.
And no way would John go directly to the airport for a long trip without coming home to see (or collect) Sean first. MDC must have known this, and he knew Sean was home.
@Michael – There can be no innocent explanation for publishing the schedule, sending the bodyguard on a leave of absence and then NOT REPLACING HIM with another one (like she didn’t have access to a team of bodyguards). The fact that the leave of absence ended on December 9th is on the same level of ridiculousness as Chapman being an art collector in terms of credibility. It’s just a dead giveaway.
The Church of Satan was stuffed full of ex-intelligence agents. Michael A. Aquino, a former ‘high priest’ and ex-military psychologist wrote a book about it. The book is called, ‘The Church of Satan’; it’s on the internet and it’s a who’s who of the organisation – a real eye-opener.
I don’t really agree that there are truths that are no longer possible to unearth. Whenever more than one person knows about a truth, it’s always possible to unearth. Too many people have a vested interest in keeping this particular truth buried, but that won’t always be the case.
Suppose Yoko organized John’s murder, and it had nothing to do with the Church of Satan or any organized, covert operation and instead the motive was divorce papers imminently being served by John and a reunion with Paul, whose calls she reportedly screened during the making of Double Fantasy. The song ‘I’m Moving On’ has some strange lyrics, including the repeated use of “phony” (MDC’s favorite word) and the line, “Save your Monday kisses for your glass lady.” John was killed on a Monday. Glass lady = glass onion = Paul?
@Michelle, that seems like a perfectly reasonable motive, and would square with John being full of artistic plans, but thinking he was on “borrowed time.” I’ve thought it was interesting that “I’m Moving On” contains the line “I’m moving on; you’re getting phony”. But there still would have been someone needed to carry out this operation, and if the various occult groups that she and John Green were into (including her bizarre trip to South America) were “stuffed full of ex-intelligence agents,” then there’s the means.
“The Church of Satan was stuffed full of ex-intelligence agents.”
Then there’s your link. “Ex-” is somewhat immaterial.
@Michael – Yes, though I don’t imagine there was much contact between them and someone looking to get a job carried out. A go-between would have been needed for that.
I read in an article that Chapman and Gloria would recite passages from Catcher in the Rye to one another. I’d be very interested to know more about her background.
@Elizabeth, forgive me if you know this, but in the intelligence world there are agents (actual employees of CIA, FSB, MI6 or whatever it’s called now), and there are assets. Assets, which can be knowing or unknowing, paid or not, often temporary.
Between official agency personnel and assets there are “cut-outs” — people or entities that provide space/cover between the agency, and their spies; or the spies and their assets.
There are also sort of — institutional relationships?
The CIA has some line in its budget for “research.”
This money is used for MKULTRA or BLUEBIRD, or whatever. Bunch of mindcontrol programs.
These programs, often through cut-outs, will have relationships with doctors and researchers, and also institutions with access to patients.
These doctors will carry out experiments on these patients, then write up the results, and submit those papers to either the cut-out or the program.
The program will then, via cut-outs, give grants to the institutions to direct the researchers to do the next thing.
It is VERY difficult — on purpose — to figure out who is directing anyone to do anything. It is supposed to feel like things “just happen.”
Applying this model to the issue at hand:
1) Is it likely that Michael Acquino, or any other intelligence officer of his era, would remain employed if they had any loyalty greater than their duty to CIA? No.
2) Is it useful to CIA to infiltrate cults and other religions for information, and recruitment of assets? Yes. They do this constantly.
3) Is it useful for CIA to occasionally use an entire organization as an asset? Yes. (Like the Moonies.)
4) Does anybody inside that organization know that they are being paid by CIA to carry out tasks? Not necessarily. Often just the leader knows; often he/she is either being paid off, or blackmailed. The IRS is a powerful tool.
5) Does anybody really retire from the CIA? Well, they go off the payroll, but they are surely still considered to be assets, and can be asked to do a million things, and paid via a cut-out.
6) So, given all this, does it make any sense to consider Michael Acquino an “ex-CIA employee”? Not to me.
7) Given the NDAs and loyalty pledges taken by every employee of CIA, is it reasonable to believe that Acquino is saying anything his “ex-“employers don’t want him to say? No. He is saying exactly what CIA allows him to say. Wants him to say.
8) Why would CIA want the link between it and Satanism to be known? Interesting question.
So what is the benefit to CIA, or elements inside the CIA (because there are factions and rogues), to killing John Lennon? Well, there could be a few, and when you’re thinking about this don’t think like yourself; think like someone whose job it is to protect the status quo from all enemies, present and future, foreign and domestic.
There is also what I’d call a tangential benefit — not necessarily the elimination of a person, but a signal to unknown others that you CAN and WILL do this.
Okay, so what do we have here?
1) A rockstar murdered without motive by a crazy stranger who does everything in his power to keep an investigation from happening.
2) Known, documented, decades-long programs with millions upon millions spent trying to create people who act exactly like that.
3) The previous examples of Sirhan, Bremer, the Ford assassins, maybe Lowenstein’s assassin, and the post example of Hinckley.
4) The cessation of those kinds of “lone nut” political murders after 1981.
With the Church of Satan, what do we have?
1) A cult like the ones intelligence agencies commonly use throughout the world for intelligence gathering and basically anything it doesn’t want to be tied to.
2) A cult that, without some institutional strength, would likely be squashed. America is a Christian country; religions supposedly worshipping the Bad Guy of Christian religion have a very, very hard road ahead in a Christian country. And yet the CoS, OTO, etc, have survived.
3) 1) leads to 2) — see the example of Scientology, or Jeffrey Epstein, or Donald Trump; if you get the dirt on powerful people, you can force them to protect you.
4) Members with a one-degree connection to MDC.
We look at Yoko, and what do we see?
1) A woman who wanted a divorce in 1979.
2) A woman with the money, power, and clout to get to talk to anybody.
3) A woman who did not want to die, or go to jail.
4) A woman who, like Kenneth Anger, existed in the NY art demimonde.
We look at CIA, and what do we have?
1) An institution that was itching to flex its muscles after the humiliation of Watergate-era investigation.
2) An institution who had an alumnus (“ex-CIA”) as incoming Vice-President.
3) An institution which had poured millions into MKULTRA and ilk since 1953.
4) An vast number of contractors who’d been put out of work during the purges of the Agency since 1973 or so.
This are all disconnected facts, and there is no need for a conspiracy here — MDC could be exactly what he seems to be — but one can arrange these facts in all sorts of interesting stories. That’s all they are, stories — but sometimes it’s useful to tell stories, even unprovable ones, or even untrue ones — to speak to a larger truth. To me, the larger truth here is that money and power should be scrutinized at all times, and celebrities are often not who they say they are, and that big money and big power can make people act hurtfully. These are good wholesome moral points, regardless of what happened to John Lennon.
@Michael – So, hypothetically speaking, if you were looking to put a hit out on someone and to make it look like it was a random attack by a crazy person, would your contact inside the Church of Satan be able to arrange this? The links between the CIA and organisations like the CoS are interesting, but the bottom line here is the question, if this was the means, who arranged for it to happen and why?
I specifically DID NOT go to the Agency recruitment meetings at Yale ‘way back when to avoid addressing such speculation. 🙂
Cults are useful to intelligence agencies because religion/mysticism can be used to influence people to do things they otherwise would not do — same with fringe political beliefs. Cults attract suggestible people, and are lead by controlling people. They are great tools for clandestine work.
And their content also distracts. Wacko religious beliefs, or political beliefs, allow for insane motives to be assigned to a person ex post facto. “Of course he was a crazy murderer! He worshipped the Devil!” Or whatever.
All I can say is, CoS and Process seem to be the type of organizations that would be useful to intelligence people; and there’s a bit of circumstantial evidence (DeGrimstons’ possible connections to MI-6, IIRC? People like Michael Acquino) making the links visible.
But remember, too, that this type of infiltration is the very marrow of what’s called “counterintellgence,” and there’s a whole CIA department for that; Operation CHAOS was a fact. It’s part of the FBI’s core mission to infiltrate groups like the Black Panthers, if it determines them to be a threat to the US Government; whether they do this appropriately and with an eye towards civil liberties, or like an American Gestapo (as was the case), is just a matter of degree. If the intelligence apparatus was working properly, the moment the Process Church landed in the States, it was at the very least on some list or other, and probably under surveillance. And once you infiltrate a group — just to make sure they’re not up to anything nefarious — using members as assets is the next, logical step. And once you have that — assets under the control of individuals — things can happen that are not under the control/knowledge of the larger organization. These organizations are compartmentalized. So you can have David Atlee Phillips running insurgency operations out of CIA’s Miami station during the middle of the Cuban fucking Missile Crisis. That’s not CIA policy; it’s not government action; it’s one guy running assets for his own rogue off-the-books black op.
I’m not saying this was done with the CoS or the Process, I have no idea; just that use of cults is standard operating procedure. And I’m also not saying that the CoS or Process had anything to do with Lennon’s murder, I have no idea; it’s just that IF you were creating a story turning on that axis, it seems like those would be the players. But it could’ve been any group; the American Nazi Party, or a Christian fundamentalist group works just as well. And to think of it as CIA policy — that there’s a memo somewhere — is IMHO incorrect.
WF_ “In 1980, Yoko didn’t have this fear of somebody else being Julian…”
HS_ “Because Chapman wasn’t up for parole in 1980, but instead safely locked away.”
So…in 1980, when the Lennon family received death threats, Lennon was successfully murdered, the killer, MDC, was safely in police custody and said; “I did alone folks!” (so we should take The Killer’s word because killers never lie, and NYC law enforcement never bungle), it seems Yoko KNEW there was no need for bodyguards for Julian (no more killers he’s safe) no need for Cyn to provide moral support for Julian, (no more killers, just scoop chasing reporters, and well meaning but cringy strangers pointing and staring at a grief stricken Julian in his hours long travel) no need to SHARE ‘Lennon Wives’ spotlight with ‘fan loved, sympathetic Cynthia’. This is Yoko moment to shine (in a grief stricken way of course).
So… in 1980, Yoko KNEW there were no more killers lurking, waiting for another chance at the Lennon Family… because in 1980, death threats to the Lennon Family meant John Lennon ONLY… but in the 2000s…it meant Yoko, Sean, and/or ‘Somebody Else’ (but not Julian)… is that what you are saying? Please make it make sense!
HS_ ” I have trouble believing she arranged his murder. It makes no sense to me.”
WF_ It’s not like it has never been done before in the history of marriages. I had trouble believing it too, because I DIDN’T WANT to believe it, because it was just so horrible to contemplate. Besides, (I told myself), if they divorced, she’d make out better than Cynthia did (she’d see to it) she knew she’d clean up in alimony, child support, properties, etc.. So why not just divorce? That’s what sane people do…right?
Yoko (is brilliant but insane) didn’t want to be known as; the ‘2nd EX Mrs. Lennon’, who gave birth to the 2nd firstborn son (‘firstborn’ being the prized position for sons in the birth pecking order in cultures like Britain and Japan. Sean being Lennon’s second son and Yoko’s second child).
Better to be the LAST wife so she can say; “He never fell out of love with me like he did the first wife IF he ever loved her because she “trapped” him. Widows of famous men keep the perks and privileges of being “Mrs. FamousPerson’sWife/Widow” and can shape the narrative of their life together. “It was a ‘Love Of The Ages’. Cynthia entrapped and bored John. May Pang who? “Julian is just born from a bottle of whiskey like John said. Sean is John’s REAL firstborn son because he was planned.” She actually said that in an interview I read and am trying to locate again for my notes.
But losing the Lennon limelight (Yoko basked in every time they stepped outside) that followed Lennon everywhere he went, might have been too much loss for fame-hungry Yoko (who STILL wanted to be a big star in the eyes of the world) at that time. After John’s murder, the Beatle/Lennon fans and general public protectively embraced Yoko and showered her with goodwill, she radiated happiness (she NEVER looked THAT happy with John ALIVE! …always in his shadow). That public goodwill slowly started to fade once she started publicly feuding with Julian over his share of John’s fortune and being very ‘Yoko’ about it all.
In all the decades since Yoko Ono coupled with John Lennon, she has never really obtain the level of fame she’s craved (same level as The Beatles who changed the world) with her own accomplishments so now she takes aim at John’s and says they were “co-accomplishments” with her. Since inspiration credit wasn’t “special” enough because lots of people/things inspired John, even breakfast cereal. Inspiration credit and Producer credit WAS NOT good enough. Co-writing credit like a Lennon-McCartney partnership is where it was at. But John was just “too macho and chauvinistic” at the time to graciously give Yoko credit like he would’ve had it been David Bowie”…they said at that time.
So… get John on film days before he dies (ducks in a row?) giving Yoko cowriting credit and unearth it decades later if she needs an impressive accomplishment for future generations to marvel over. Yoko fans say “It’s on film, it came out of John’s mouth, it must be true, she wrote most of ‘Imagine’ John’s most iconic post Beatle song.” when he stopped being too macho and chauvinistic about it.
I say: So what? Yoko co-wrote songs with John on most of his/their albums, like 1968 Two Virgins, Life With The Lions, 1969 The Wedding Album, HDYS on 1971 Imagine, 1972 STINYC (but no more co-writing songs after STINYC).
During the Beatles era, I think that she (perhaps even John) thought she could slip into the Lennon-McCartney partnership with John becoming John Winston Ono-Lennon and the partnership being renamed Ono-Lennon/McCartney’ I’m glad Paul (and probably John too) said “Fuck that shit!” I think John was secretly glad. John was so jealous and possessive. John: “I am the Walrus! The Walrus was Paul.” Nobody else was included in the exclusive ‘Club Walrus’ but John and Paul. NOBODY! Sorry Yoko (not sorry).
Anyway. To me, a person who goes ahead and USES the bloody glasses of her murdered husband to sell HER album…or… who USES the Fading Heartbeat of her and Lennon’s Dying Baby she Miscarried for A Sound Effect, To Sell An Album, is capable of contemplating the pros and cons of a life with Lennon, with his sometimes lack of impulse control, clingy, neediness, insecurities and perks vs Life without Lennon and no perks…and perhaps doing something about it to make sure she comes out on top. I only Suspect she plotted, I don’t Know that she did.
Water Falls, you make many good points.
And I always though the bloody glasses album cover was an awful decision. There was something almost… accusatory…. about it, like she was telling us “Look what you’ve all done to my John!”
Yeah, just tasteless all around. She being a performance artist whose goal was often to shock people causes me not to read too much into the album cover.
I recall a statement from Yoko at the time, something like, “I wanted to remind people of what they did. He didn’t die in his sleep, you know.”
Okay ya’ll now have me sucked into this thread. May the fleas of a thousand camels descend upon your tent.
Just dropping in to point out that this is taken straight from Jackie Kennedy’s comment about not changing out of her blood stained pink suit before appearing before cameras for the swearing in of LBJ. Her exact words were, “I want people to see what they’ve done.”
As usual, Yoko has no original thoughts, and who better than Jackie Kennedy to emulate in that moment? It’s always seemed to me she has modeled her whole post-John life on Jackie’s, wanting to be the martyred, mysterious widow of a great man. (No disrespect to Jackie — it’s not her fault Yoko emulated her.)
Ooh, that’s a good point.
With the obvious difference being that Jackie hadn’t pulled off JFK’s Secret Service protection the week before Dallas, and didn’t live the rest of her life in Dealey Plaza. As someone who’s read every theory about the Kennedy assassinations, the reason Jackie is never mentioned is simple: she acts traumatized and heartbroken. Her marriage to Jack Kennedy was likely just as difficult as Yoko’s was, but all the weirdness surrounding Yoko is markedly absent with Jackie.
I feel as if I need to clarify my comment regarding John verbally crediting Yoko on tape or film, as co-writer for ‘Imagine’. In my original comment I stated:
“Yoko fans say ‘It’s on film, it came out of John’s mouth, it must be true, she wrote most of ‘Imagine’, John’s most iconic post Beatle song.’ when he stopped being macho and chauvinistic about it.”
Then I said, “…So what? Yoko co-wrote songs with John on most of his/their albums…”, essentially making Yoko’s (and her fans) argument for them. No can do. I just worded my comment poorly.
I meant to say was: The reason given in 1980 as to why John didn’t initially give co-writer credit to Yoko in 1971, was that John was “too macho and chauvinist” to credit Yoko “like he would’ve IF she had been David Bowie”. So they said in 1980. It took John nine whole years to get over what can only be described as “selective chauvinism”. The reasoning just doesn’t pass the smell test.
Because in 1968, ’69, with Two Virgins, Life With The Lions, The Wedding Album, and in 1971 on the album ‘Imagine’, John not only gives co-writer credit on all the songs they actually co-wrote, (and he especially credits Yoko and Klein for help with poison pen HDYS, a stain on ‘Imagine’, an album mostly about love and peace), John goes on and credits Yoko as co-producer, as well as himself and Phil Spector. In 1972 they mostly co-wrote the songs on STINYC (the stinker and worst seller album if I’m not mistaken) that made John declare no more co-writing songs with Yoko).
So why did it take nine whole years for John to get over his “selective macho chauvinism” and credit Yoko with his most iconic post Beatles song? Good thing they got him on tape/film saying it before he died to use as “proof”, because just think, NOBODY knew it, or would believe it, or KNEW that he wouldn’t be around (even a week later) to make another even more iconic post Beatles song. Or maybe “somebody” knew.
Just wanted to respond to one of your points below:
“Why wasn’t the limo driver questioned?” Police had the killer and he confessed. NYC police and detectives never want to work any harder than they need to. This isn’t a Dick Wolf TV presentation. If the shooter had disappeared, they might have tried to question everyone involved, and probably only because it was the murder of a celebrity. With Chapman in custody, all that extra work would have been a waste of resources.”
I think that’s kind of the point – they had their man, it seemed to be an open/shut case on the surface, and it never really received the deeper investigation that would have probably been necessary to put a lot of these questions to rest. Fred Seaman and others have expressed similar sentiments over the years. Most people aren’t arguing that Chapman wasn’t the shooter, just that there was some kind of conspiracy.
Here is an interesting old post from Fred Seaman on the old rec.music.beatles newsgroup around 1999-2000. It was posted on the other thread but it’s certainly relevant here:
“The question of Y’s possible involvement in J’s death is a thorny one. Many (if not most) of the people on the staff & in Y’s inner circle assumed that Y & SH had recruited MDC (many still believe it). Even average fans thought it. I remember how surprised I was when an acquaintance who was a recording engineer told me (this was less than a week after J’s death) that many of his friends in the music industry were convinced that Y had arranged to have J shot. Even the police quickly zeroed in on Y & SH as suspects in a possible conspiracy.
A few days after J’s death I was interrogated by one of the detectives investigating the murder. I was asked some very pointed questions about Y’s relationship with SH & her plans to divorce J the previous summer. Toward the end of our meeting the detective asked me point blank if I though Y & SH were involved in J’s assassination (I waffled, as i didn’t think it would be prudent to openly admit my suspicions).
In any event, the police did mount an investigation into Y’s possible role in the murder. Albert Goldman interviewed one of the cops who worked on the case & was told that the cops initially did not believe Chapman was crazy because his behavior after his arrest was extremely rational. They assumed he was a hired killer & Y had an obvious motive for hiring him (the cops aren’t into sentimental BS, they’re hard-boiled, cynical creatures). Indeed, the police were stunned by the speed with which Y managed to probate the will. They believed that she must have known ahead of time that J would be killed on Dec.8 & that her lawyers had prepared the legal work in advance. There were other things that could be viewed as circumstantial evidence (eg MDC’s round the world trip: Y liked to send her associates on such trips, with the route determined by her directionalist; if memory serves, J embarked on such trips twice, as did John Green & others…) Investigators were sent as far away as Hawaii to look into Chapman’s past & check out any possible connection between him & Y/SH.
However, the investigation was swiftly shut down after MDC pled guilty & it was clear that there would not be a trial. The results of the investigation (several file drawers full) were sealed & placed into storage. By now they’ve probably been destroyed, but maybe Prof. Weiner could do a Freedom of Information request to see what, if anything, is still in existence. I, for one, would like to know.
I don’t know if Y had J whacked. I never made any such claim, regardless of what the hysterical chattering nitwits in rmb’s idiot gallery say. What I have stated (& not just in rmb but also in interviews) is that I believe it’s possible. It cannot be ruled out. But I no longer believe it’s probable, especially in light of Jack Jones’ book about MDC (“Let Me Take You Down: Inside The Mind of Mark David Chapman…”) I’ve met Jones (& was interviewed by him for the book) & going by the Chapman’s first-person account as rendered in Jones’ book it does appear that Chapman was insane & that he was motivated solely by psychotic rage. But if one enjoys conspiracy theories, there’s always the possibility that MDC was somehow brainwashed or “programmed” to target JL in “Manchurian Candidate” fashion..”
Of course, Seaman does have an axe to grind with Yoko so we do need to keep that in mind. But it seems the cops did an initial investigation of the possibility of a conspiracy, and then when MDC confessed and said he acted alone that was that. I imagine the police had a strong incentive to wrap the case up and prosecute Chapman successfully. As you noted, they may well have viewed further investigation as unnecessary work. Maybe they found nothing. But without seeing the documentation that was collected it’s hard to know. It’s interesting that Albert Goldman was one of the few individuals to interview a detective involved on the case. If you’ve read Goldman’s book, he strongly hints at there being “more to the story,” without really coming out and directly saying it (presumably out of fear of litigation).
@Sam, a few things. First, I wouldn’t put too much stock in Seaman saying that he no longer believes there was any conspiracy, given the scepter of litigation and even physical harm that’s hung over him since the Eighties. Assuming that was actually him, he couldn’t say anything else if posting under his own name on the Internet (even in an earlier Internet age).
Second, I think all of Goldman’s book is set up to invite questions about Lennon’s murder. In the very first chapter, he makes the following points: (1) Yoko is addicted to heroin and involved in New York demimonde as a result; (2) John is obsessed with assassinations and what it feels like to be shot; (3) John is obsessed with the idea of “Manchurian candidates” such as MLK’s killer (whom he believes was one); (4) John believes in reincarnation, including that in order to have the best chance of good reincarnation, one must die with a clean conscience, prepared and ready for death; (5) John’s mentally ill.
In the final chapters, he goes into extensive detail about the following: (1) Yoko’s contacts with purveyors of “black magic”, e.g. Santeria; (2) Yoko’s affairs with the two Sams; (3) Yoko’s taking total control of John’s affair, including obtaining Power of Attorney (which meant she can take any legal action in John’s name) and changing his will; (4) John’s depression in the late Seventies, which included – supposedly – Yoko considering having him committed to a mental institution; (5) rumblings that the Lennons might divorce; (6) John’s fear of dying like Elvis; (7) John’s statements to Fred Seaman and Jack Douglas about his imminent death and what would happen to his legend after he died; (8) Mark David Chapman’s connections to Santeria; (9) Yoko’s “collecting” of art; (10) Chapman’s selling of a Norman Rockwell; (11) Yoko’s employment of hypnotists; (12) Yoko’s belief in directionalism and sending of John on a trip around the world in an easterly course; (13) Chapman’s trip around the world on an easterly course.
As Goldman notes, the investigation was shut down when the police had an open and shut case with Chapman. And as we’ve discussed on this thread, if there were a broader conspiracy that involved any types of hypnosis or other techniques studied, developed, or otherwise used by intelligence agencies, current or ex-intelligence people (including assets or contractors, rogue or otherwise), or even elements of organized crime, there would be many reasons why law enforcement would not want to — or not be permitted to — investigate more fully. For example, criminal prosecutions almost always take a backseat to national security considerations. If an investigation into the murder of a rock star could implicate national security (i.e., revealing what capabilities or research the CIA had into hypnosis, or what certain elements within the agency or its ex-employees were up to), the national security considerations weighing against that information becoming public would overwhelm any interest in finding out who was behind the rock star’s murder. Similarly, if anyone involved in the conspiracy was a government informant into the counterculture or organized crime (i.e., if Yoko was the “elfin queen” dealing hard drugs to the Upper East Side, to spin out from one example offered in this discussion — she may have been linked to, or even *been* organized criminals who had protection by also being informants) — it might be decided that it’s better to leave that asset in place rather than burn it just to figure out who *really killed* John Lennon.
Goldman also had to be careful about litigation. He walked a fine line with how he interpreted or extrapolated from his interviews, but you can’t defame the dead, and Yoko would have been careful about suing him over allegations that she was unfaithful or a drug user — discovery would have killed her, because even if Goldman’s specific allegation was exaggerated, it could have come out that yes, she was a heroin addict, or yes, she was sleeping with both Sams in the months before John’s death. It’d be completely different to get too close to saying she had John killed after making sure she had no financial or legal reason for him to be alive. So instead, Goldman only says the second half of that: I believe he does write something to the effect of “after getting POA and the will changed….” and the end of my previous sentence.
My guess, and it is just a guess, is that what Goldman learned, and what he inferred after spending years researching these people’s lives is that he wants us to conclude that there was a conspiracy, and it was built around things John had thought and talked about regarding death, reincarnation, his celebrity, and his legend. Yoko does not have the instinct that John had for creating and preserving an image that resonates with millions of people. That was John’s gift. Whether John knew about this, was hypnotized into believing it was necessary, a way to be reincarnated to a better life, to avoid the pain of outliving “Mother” Yoko, to beat Paul McCartney on a cosmic level — I don’t know. I think it’s a possibility, and Goldman seems to believe that he knew. But it’s also possible that he didn’t, and Yoko used all those interests and obsessions of his to create the kind of death his small self would have wanted in order cement his place in history, and that she directed the content and tone of his 1980 interviews knowing that (a) he’d sell it beautifully, as only John could, and (b) it’d be extra tragic in just a few months. There are others who could have had that vision, if Yoko didn’t — magazines and record labels that did quite well from Lennon’s death.
@Michael Bleicher – And I would also add to this that 1200 people were interviewed for Goldman’s book. Even if only half of them gave him off the record information, Goldman knew the truth of it.
@Michael This is a great comment and you make many interesting points, lots to digest. I do think you’re on the right track and these mirror a lot of my thoughts after reading Goldman.
I guess the frustrating thing is that it seems to me on this thread, at this point, we have kind of reached the end of the road as far as reasonable (Ok, maybe I’m using that word loosely haha) speculation based on the available facts, at least until further information comes out one way or another. And after 40+ years, who knows if it ever will, whether due to the passage of time and people dying off, or deliberate obfuscation. I guess I’m not very optimistic. We have enough pieces of the puzzle to suggest that the official story doesn’t add up, but not really enough to put forward a more reasonable alternative, at least IMO.
I do feel like there are still a few more pieces that could come out that might provide some clues though (e.g. what did Lennon really say to Jack Douglas on the last night, are there any transcripts of Goldman’s interview with the detective, maybe Lennon’s 1980 diary re-emerges, maybe Seaman and other ex-Dakota staff feel less fearful of speaking out publicly after Yoko dies, etc.)
@Sam, I wonder if there’s anything Goldman’s archives for the Lennon book, currently stored with his papers at Columbia U. That’s where I would start; and then see if I could FOIA the NYPD records? But as with the JFK assassination, I think this become unsolvable very quickly after the event. The amounts of money and power that were at issue were too big for anybody to take chances.
The difficulty examining these kinds of issues is that there is no memo saying, “On this date, it was decided by X that Y should be paid Z dollars to…” And if you ever find one, it’s right to be skeptical.
Humans do not like “not-knowing.” Journalists and cops especially don’t like “not-knowing.” A story that is correct, but incomplete, will always be discarded for a story that is wrong, with a beginning, middle and end. And at that point, what you think happened becomes as much a statement of belief as fact.
In my version of the world, it is much more likely that a rich celebrity’s wife would have him killed than a crazy stranger would do it. Therefore I am willing to entertain that alternate version of facts, as partial, and terrible, as it is to contemplate. In another person’s version of the world, crazy fans wanting to be famous make more sense than they do to me. (George C. Scott? That list always felt like the clipping about Palestine tucked into Sirhan’s wallet. They didn’t write “MOTIVE” on it in Sharpie, but they might as well have.)
The reason mind-controlled assassins were such a sought-after goal — and that’s factual, we have the documents on that — is because they would act just like MDC did. “Sure, I did it! I did it because [crazy reason]! No, I didn’t have any help, I genuinely cannot remember anyone helping me or telling me to do it! And I’m going to plead GUILTY because God told me to! And then I’m going to be a model prisoner, making no attempt to reduce my sentence, until I die in prison!” Those types of assassinations could have vast political impact, but no political content — they would present a dead end.
I do view Lennon’s murder as a political one, and do see the fingerprints of intelligence upon it; but other facts point very much to a personal motive; and I also think MDC was/is genuinely crazy, or was made to be, so I think he’s sincere in his statements. All three could be true and, in this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
The Beatles had their share of lunatic fans. They inspired the Manson murders. So yeah, I can buy that Chapman came from that ilk. Or was the murder of Abigail Folger a conspiracy too?
For someone who despised John, I’m not sure why Goldman would be interested in the “truth” about his murder. According to him, he died of bulimia.
According to MDC…Yoko hid behind the lobby stairs…as JL was shot…he made it sound like she ducked for cover…I think she was hiding behind those stairs before the first shot
@Michelle – You’re confusing the motive with the means. There are a hundred reasons why she might have wanted him dead. The means of organising it is another thing entirely.
Here’s why I think Yoko didn’t want bodyguards around, and why John foolishly went along with it:
Their life didn’t match the “Double Fantasy” they’d constructed for us.
They fought constantly and used drugs. This was the opposite of the “We’re the love affair of the century and we’ve cleaned up!” narrative they wanted us to believe.
And they were cynical. They assumed (probably correctly) that any bodyguard would be happy to sell the truth to a tabloid.
@Hologram Sam, that’s what ironclad nondisclosure agreements are for, and the Lennons had plenty of other household staff in their employ. And even if that’s why they didn’t want bodyguards around, it doesn’t explain why you’d *share with the public the schedule of your comings and goings from your apartment,* or why the bodyguard was suspended, reinstatement effective December 9, 1980, rather than fired.
@Michael Bleicher, ironclad NDAs aren’t enforceable when a crime has been committed. (I think Trump is learning that the hard way.)
And a bodyguard will be with Yoko&John everywhere, unlike kitchen staff who will limit their activities to the kitchen and the grocery store. Heroin and even cannabis were illegal in NYC in 1980. A bodyguard might see more things than a nanny would. Especially if Yoko was involved, as was suggested here, in the distribution of drugs.
@Hologram Sam, it doesn’t sound like the Lennons were terribly circumspect around their in-house help, and no one would have been hired who was likely to rat out the couple for drug use. In any event, they’d had bodyguards up until September 1980, so it’s unclear why it would have suddenly become a concern (while doing a public-facing push for the album, no less) to have them around to witness drug use. The Lennons’ housekeepers and gofers were not simply limited to the kitchen and grocery store; they were wherever the Lennons needed them to be, as Seaman’s book makes clear.
Well, they hired Seaman.
Lots of people interview well. Lots of people make good first impressions, and then have to be fired or sued.
People are complicated and often unpredictable. And I think that’s the problem with starting with a conclusion and then working backwards looking for proof – the people involved become poseable action figures or chess pieces designed to fit the narrative, rather than messy participants with their own agendas, resentments or whatever.
The bodyguard was only called off for a day or two…three at the most…after the shooting he was immediately on the job
Lennon was quoted by someone as saying, ‘it is better this way…if they come to kill me…they’ll only kill the bodyguard as well’
This thread is the first I’ve heard of Yoko publishing the couple’s schedule and the route they took home. If true, that is negligent at best and inexcusable. However, I’m confused. If she hired Chapman to assassinate John, why publish the schedule when she could just give it to him directly?
@Michelle, if she had anything to do with it, she wouldn’t have hired MDC. She would’ve signaled a desire/openness for something to happen, to someone who knew someone who knew someone who could make it happen, and there would’ve been some untraceable transfer of assets at some point. But her direct involvement would’ve been nil. She mightve been genuinely shocked when something happened.
@Michael – One would assume that this would be the case. But her decision to send the bodyguard on a leave of absence until December 9th, as well as Chapman’s round the world trip in a south easterly direction and his unusual interest in art collecting suggests a level of involvement beyond that which might be assumed.
The details are all so her, it’s striking – though perhaps not surprising given her pathological need for control.
@Elizabeth, those are really good points; I hadn’t remembered them.
MDC’s wife is of Japanese descent…living in Hawaii
During WWII…Yoko’s banker father…was one of the very few…perhaps the only…Japanese person allowed to fly from Japan to Hawaii with US permission…he was there to protect Japanese citizens banking interests…those Japanese families living in Hawaii…owe the Ono family eternal gratitude for the services rendered by her Father…you can read about this in Goldman’s, ‘The Lives of John Lennon’.
@Elizabeth I mentioned this before, but the fact that the first stop of Chapman’s around the world trip, Japan, coincided more or less with Yoko’s decision to decamp the Lennons to Japan for the summer; and her subsequently dispatching John to Hawaii within a few weeks of Mark’s returning there strikes a massively discordant note.
@Hologram Sam – They had a houseful of servants and the bodyguard already knew all their secrets before he went on holiday. My impression of Yoko Ono is that she doesn’t much care what the nanny sees (so to speak). She knows how to keep her staff from spilling her secrets. Fred Seaman was an aberration in that respect.
@Elizabeth “She knows how to keep her staff from spilling her secrets. Fred Seaman was an aberration in that respect.”
That’s why she had him beaten up and threatened by hired thugs, and why he’s still so high on the enemies list 42 years later. Fred saw much too much, including the not so mournful goings on at the Dakota after John’s death. What’s worse than a first person witness who was actually there day and night week to week? That’s why he can’t sneeze without the threat of litigation hanging over his head.
I don’t think it bears out that Yoko (or John) would specifically hone in on a bodyguard as somebody who might speak to the tabloids. The Lennons had plenty of other people in their daily lives who could have done exactly the same: the cook; the nanny; the personal assistants; the tarot reader on retainer; people like Sam Green and Havadtoy; any of the staff that worked in Studio One, as the office was called -to name a few. And if they were that concerned about people talking, why not just have the bodyguard or the other servants sign non disclosure agreements?
I am actually inclined to believe that Lennon privately had the opposite motivation. In Fred Seaman he chose to hire a journalism graduate of all people as his personal assistant, and he actively encouraged Seaman’s keeping of a journal. He tacitly allowed the documentation of his private life while also not needing to bear direct responsibility for it. That he might have done as much jibes with other attempts to take stock: his quickly abandoned plan for a memoir in the late 70s; or the career rundown he gave to David Sheff. Seaman was there as much to bear witness as he was to buy cat food or fetch dope, and maybe that’s why Yoko has spent the last 40 years trying to destroy him.
Last, it is just too much of a coincidence that MacDougall’s leave of absence should extend so specifically to December 9.
@Matt, I believe John saw Fred Seaman as his Boswell.
Yoko had her own Boswell, that smooth public relations dude who wears bright purple blazers. (I can’t remember his name.)
I started in this thread open to the idea that Chapman could have been part of a larger conspiracy, but I was resisting the thought that Yoko might have been involved. But after reading all the comments here I’m not so sure. You’ve all definitely read more than I have on this subject. You’ve all raised questions I hadn’t considered. So I’m wide open now.
But if it’s true that Yoko was involved, then how sad for Sean. He has been a devoted son. If documents ever come out that prove she orchestrated the murder, it could destroy him.
Who, if a recent blind item is to be believed, is ringing down the curtain to join the choir invisible, and making noise while hopped up on pain meds about how John and Yoko had each hired divorce lawyers, and that while the death wasn’t planned, it did make Yoko moving Sam H. into the Dakota that much easier.
Notorious gib, Elliot Mintz will outlive us all. He was recently seen pushing Yoko in her wheelchair.
He has his own website. He makes you agree to “terms and conditions” before you are allowed to view it, so I’ve never visited.
He reminds me of a definition in Ambrose Bierce’s dictionary:
Except Mintz will write a history of John, Yoko, and the Beatles.
Elliot Mintz appeared on a chat show with Fred Seaman and May Pang in the early 90’s. Pang and Seaman were there to promote their books, and Mintz was invited along to trash them and defend Ono. Unfortunately for Mintz (and Ono), it didn’t quite go to plan, and he was completely thrown when Seaman accused him of lying. It was clear by the look on his face that Seaman had hit a nerve, and he lost his composure very briefly, but long enough that it was obvious he was rattled.
Many years ago, I watched a quiz show on TV, where the contestant blurted out the answer before the presenter had even started to ask the question. It was a fix, obviously, but no one could believe it was happening, especially the presenter, who was dumbstruck with horror. Mintz’s face in the moment Seaman accused him of lying had the exact same expression as that presenter while he fumbled round trying to think of something to say. It was quite obvious which of the sides were lying, and it wasn’t Seaman and Pang.
I don’t know whether the chat show can still be found on YouTube; I somehow doubt it. In any case, I’m sure Ono’s determination to outlive Mintz is up there with her determination to outlive Paul. And if it isn’t, it probably should be.
I’m in the same place as you HS. I’ve been reading the comments, and don’t have much to say because I don’t know much about the Dakota years. I’m also a big skeptic, but there is more than enough information here, to make a credible case.
One thing I do know from my studying of psychology, is that it is hard for people to understand how others can do horrific things. That’s why sociopaths get away with their behavior, because everyone is so shocked. (Donald Trump is a great example)
I keep wondering about Sean. He will inherit the Lennon estate, and have access to information. I’m sure there’s not a direct paper trail which will lead to implicating Yoko, but who knows what he will find. I’m with you HS; it will destroy him.
If anything sinister happened (more sinister than the Official Story, which is fucking sad and terrible enough), there is no paper trail.
@Michael – Except perhaps for the tape that Jack Douglas ‘deleted’. Or whatever is in John’s diary from 1980.
@Hologram Sam and @Tasmin – A lot of Beatles fans have a tendency to infantilise Sean, I have noticed. They talk about him as though he is still the same 5 year old he was when John was shot, rather than an extraordinarily privileged middle-aged man, who was raised by a woman with dubious moral values, and surrounded by her obsequious courtiers who treated him like he was the second coming of Christ. Of course, he might be a wonderful person. But as we are all a product of our upbringing, it does not seem very likely.
Not that it’s Sean’s fault he got lumbered with parents like John and Yoko. But I think we should be realistic about the damage an upbringing like Sean’s would do to anyone.
Sean is doing pretty well for himself. I don’t think he’s damaged. He at least had a loving father (spare me the eyeroll). By the way, he himself believes there was a conspiracy surrounding his dad’s murder but one involving the CIA.
And how cynical does one have to be to think John arranged his own murder because he wanted to out-legend Paul McCartney.
@Michelle – I’m always struck by how you talk about John as though he was a regular person who was not mentally ill. I think it does him a great injustice to pretend that all was well. It clearly wasn’t and never had been – his problems were rooted in his childhood trauma, but they were made immeasurably worse by money, fame, drugs and the opportunists that those things attracted, including Yoko Ono.
John might have had a hundred reasons for arranging his own murder. None of those reasons would necessarily make sense to anyone except him because he was mentally ill.
Fetch cat food, dope and “Back to Egg” whatever that is.
@Elizabeth, the way what Michael Gerber is discussing could work in this context is:
– Extremely wealthy, powerful, eccentric woman with connections to the drug world needs people to “persuade” her husband to leave his mistress and move back into the marital home.
– An associate of an associate of an associate of the woman knows some black magicians who can hypnotize her estranged husband into coming back to the marital home.
– Those magicians are actually people who have been trained in behavior modification techniques researched and developed by the CIA, at the direction of some (rogue/wildcard) individual within the agency.
– Husband moves back into the apartment, and the services of these magicians worked so well that a few years later, when it becomes clear that it would be more convenient if the husband left the apartment altogether, they or others at their organization (“cult”) are connected with again to see what may be possible.
When discussing theories like this, keep in mind that the Official Story makes even less sense:
“John come to the Dakota for a ‘smoking cure'”
“Okay, but I’m not staying”
[Three days later]
“May, I need my stuff,” says a still-smoking John Lennon.
When Rolling Stone in 1975 makes a note that you seemed completely dazed and don’t know what year it is (as they did in an interview with John conducted a few weeks after the “stop smoking cure”), something weird is going on.
Or, it’s sinsemilla time at the Lennons 🙂
@Michael Bleicher As far as people who might fit those descriptions, John Green is a highly suspicious and rather Machiavellian character, with connections to Santeria and black magic. He was hired in late 1974, partly on the proviso of “helping” Yoko to get back with John, and was seemingly (although it is a bit unclear) let go just prior to Lennon’s death. Not a single picture of the man can be found, which is very odd for someone who spent six years on round the clock retainer for two of the most photographed and famous people in the world. Lennon never even knew his real name in those entire six years. In front of Lennon, Green was called Charles Swan, at Yoko’s instruction, so there would not be “two” Johns. (Lennon, it is assumed, had never read Proust.) He’s never given an interview to my knowledge, and seems to have disappeared completely after his book was published in 1983. The only mention I’ve been able to find of him is a blogger who says she knew him briefly, in 1983, before he “announced he was moving to Los Angeles to take a job searching for missing children” and himself permanently vanished.
@Matt, I can’t imagine why anyone would think such a man was at all suspicious.
Yes, if documentation still/ever existed about the guy, I would start with Green and go outward from there. The timing and purpose of his hiring, his knowledge of hypnosis, his connections to “black magic”, the ability to apparently vanish in the 80s…this is exactly the kind of character one meets in the Dakota years who makes me really really uncomfortable.
I read his book, IIRC.
@Matt, this is an interesting article. “It is all, he said, a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you tell a person, the future you describe to him — he will make it happen. Perhaps on a small scale, or perhaps over several years. (The one thing the deck could not foretell was time, he said with a glint in his good eye).
Give someone a story and they will try to make it come true, whether it is a happy or a sad one.”
I could have sworn I’d read that John’s fortune told him he would be shot by a stranger, or something like that, right? Am I making that up?
I think it worth noting Goldman tells another version of why the Charlie Swan alias, namely that Green had done some legwork in finding out where John was when he gave Yoko the slip and went to the Polynesian Resort at Disney with May, Julian, and company without telling her where he’d be. Apparently, he didn’t divine this from the cards (shocker) but did some good old-fashioned detective and guesswork, and after Yoko crowed about the psychic who’d helped her locate him, John said he didn’t want her using the services of anybody like that again, thus the alias.
Since I was looking at Goldman’s book to confirm or deny the Nancy Andrews bit, I decided to have a glance in the direction of the John Green/Charlie Swan alias to see if that matched my memory. Sure enough, page 541 showed my memory, though rusty, was fairly reliable:
“The critical moment in the retrieving-of-John campaign occurred a couple of days later. When the Lennon-Levy party moved up to Disney World at Orlando, nobody bothered to notify Yoko because they were only going for two days. When she discovered that she couldn’t reach John by phone, she turned to John Green for help.
Her problem was now his problem. He knew that if he failed her at a moment like this, she would lose faith in him and he would lose his most valuable client. On the other hand, only a fool would think he could find the whereabouts of someone by looking at a spread of cards. So Green told Yoko to obtain from Disney World a list of motels in the vicinity of the fun park. With the list before him, he read over every name. Meantime, probably by dialing the same number she had called, he discovered that the only motel on the grounds of Disney World was the Tiki Polynesian. When he concluded his prolonged study of the problem, he told Yoko that she would find John at the Tiki Polynesian. Lennon would not be registered under his own name, but the hotel employees would have recognized him, and they would deliver her message.
Yoko picked up the phone instantly and put through the call. Getting the hotel, she asked for John Lennon. When the operator replied that no John Lennon was registered, Yoko explained that he was a member of Morris Levy’s party. A little more to and fro and she got the word: Morris Levy was registered at the hotel, and if John Lennon was with him, the message would be delivered. May Pang recalls that when they got back to the motel that afternoon, they found a message from Yoko under the door.
When John called the Dakota, his first question was: ‘How did you find me?’ Yoko giggled and explained that she had this amazing card reader named John Green, who could find anyone. John snapped: ‘You better get rid of him because I don’t want anybody like that on my tail.’
Thus was born ‘Charlie Swan,’ the name that John Green adopted henceforth in his dealings with the Dakota in order to deceive John Lennon. The name has a numerological significance but its basic meaning is metaphorical. As John Green explained to his friend Jeffrey Hunter, ‘The swan is a symbol of hypocrisy. Though it appears to be pure white, when you lift up its feathers and examine the skin, you see that underneath it is all black.'”
“As John Green explained to his friend Jeffrey Hunter, ‘The swan is a symbol of hypocrisy. Though it appears to be pure white, when you lift up its feathers and examine the skin, you see that underneath it is all black.’”
That’s a very unsettling (and telling) self-metaphor in light of what has been discussed here. I had forgotten about that story in Goldman’s book.
There’s been so many obsessed fans murdering celebrities. It’s changed how stars exist in the world.
The Rebecca Schaeffer case in 1989; I think that’s when entertainers finally decided they needed to be in gated communities, away from us regular folk.
Robert Bardo, her murderer, carried a copy of Catcher In The Rye. He even wrote letters to Chapman. He wanted to know what life was like behind bars.
I think Christina Grimmie was the most recent case. 2016.
I remember reading about Groucho’s house in the 1970s. It was on a main road with a narrow front yard. Anyone could walk right up and ring his doorbell. And it happened all the time. One day the actor Bud Cort showed up and Groucho slammed the door in his face in terror. Cort was a fan and just wanted to say hello, but his hair was down to his shoulders, and this was right after the Manson murders.
Celebrities in 2022 live behind gates, at the end of long driveways.
Well they DO, and then again I see them here, bodyguardless, in Santa Monica. Not like the old days, but still. I just saw James Worthy at the grocery store on Sunday.
The super-famous (and thus, super-rich), have bodyguards to protect them and theirs from kidnapping. But everybody else seems to get very security-conscious for a while after a celebrity attack, and then it simmers down. Post-Manson seems to have been such a time; post-Lennon, too.
But think of it: how many fan-murders can you think of? Five? Less than five? In a country this full of guns and celebrity and untreated mental illness? Lethal fans are vanishingly rare.
I confess I had to google James Worthy. The older I get, the fewer celebrities I recognize.
But you’re right, lethal fans are rare, thank goodness. Which makes it even more shocking when it does happen.
An obsessed fan tried to murder Ava Majury a few months ago. She’s another one I’ve never heard of. She’s apparently a tik-tok personality.
Getting back to Lennon, I wish he’d stayed with Ms. Pang, but I wonder if she was simply (to put it crudely) a side piece, rather than a major romantic partner.
The Lennons had their open marriage, and the situation with Ms. Pang was a temporary arrangement rather than a permanent love affair. I have no doubt the smoking cure messed him up, but I wonder if he was also using it as an excuse to end the temporary arrangement. The breakup was awkward, and perhaps the awkwardness was because of the guilt he felt for leading her on? Why should we be shocked that John dumped May so ungracefully?
May Pang is a nice lady and she was a good influence on John. But lazy men don’t want good influences. They don’t want a woman who always says “John, maybe you should do this” “John, wouldn’t it be nice if you did that” etc. A lazy man wants a woman like Yoko who says “Go ahead and stay in your room and smoke and watch TV. I’ve got some things to do on my own.”
I read somewhere Lennon in 1980 was enamored of a British actress. I wish I could remember her name. Maybe she’s someone he would have pursued after splitting with Yoko and dumping May.
I found May Pang on Twitter recently! I didn’t realize she was later married to Tony Visconti for a while. She posts pictures of John sometimes. I get the impression he was the love of her life. She’s very discreet, though, in her own way. Certainly has had a full life and isn’t the tragic figure she could have become.
What gets me is that Paul thought that John going back to Yoko was *the healthy move,* and facilitated it. The irony of that!
This has been an incredible discussion. I’ve slowly come around to a darker view of events in 1980, though it’s best to keep an open mind. I can only imagine Sean and Julian reading this thread. God… But they are close friends, which cheers me. I think John would have been happy to know that. Cynthia certainly would.
And yes, if anyone knows the British actress’s name…
@Gabriella, I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul just says going back to Yoko was the right thing because he has to, in public, as they’re business partners. Or if at the time, he thought so because John was drinking and drugging so much, but subsequently realizes it was not a healthy situation.
Billions and billions of dollars business partners, never forget that.
Uh oh, maybe Paul was part of the Illuminati or CoS or whatever cult is recruited by the CIA.
@Hologram Sam, I’m curious if you are playing devil’s advocate in your posts or if you find the official narrative about these events more plausible or compelling than others of us commenting here seem to. I appreciate your long history of thoughtful posts on the blog, and am wondering where you’re coming from in this thread because it’s so different from how the official narrative appears to me.
For me, I don’t want the things I’m speculating about to be true — I think it’s awful — but the official version of events has never felt like a plausible story of how real people behave, and the more I read non-Yoko-endorsed accounts of the Lennons in the Seventies, the less plausible the official version seemed to me because it required a suspension of logic too many times.
The British actress was Nancy Andrews, funnily enough formerly a long-time girlfriend of Ringo’s. (She met him through John in ’74; she and Ringo were engaged at one point, and only broke up when Ringo and Barbara began making sweet music together in 1980.)
I can’t remember if it’s in the Goldman book or a Jack Douglas interview, possibly both, but the story I heard on that count was that Yoko wasn’t putting out, John “wanted some,” and after some chatting through intermediaries it became clear both he and Nancy were willing to get down, but the hook-up never happened.
Thank you, that threw me off. Nancy Andrews was actually American. And she was 20 years older than John. That Nancy Andrews? I was thinking Anita Ekberg, who was a favorite of John’s. She was Swedish but at least closer to Yoko’s age.
That said, John deserved better than Yoko and her frigid and/or cheating self.
@Michelle – The Nancy Andrews in question is American, but she was born in 1947. She sued Ringo for palimony and took part in last year’s FabCon(?).
No, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Nancy Lee Andrews.
I can’t remember which book John’s last love interest was mentioned in; it might have been Goldman’s.
It was a British actress, very elegant, close to John’s age. His infatuation with her was mentioned along with his desire to return to England.
Not Julie Christie?
Figured I’d check Goldman, and it was exactly as I remembered, except it wasn’t Nancy herself. She was the go-between of a go-between, and Michelle is correct that the woman in question was Swedish. Quoting page 664:
“At the party that afternoon [John and Sean’s belated double birthday celebration] John Lennon looked as if he had been reborn. Cutting the album had done him more good than any treatment could have achieved. Jack Douglas and his woman, Christine Desautels, recall that the more the album advanced, the stronger John became. Though Lennon complained to Jack that he had never once gotten laid during the whole course of the sessions, one of his favorite lines being ‘Has anyone seen my wife?’ he was now starting to betray an interest in other women, asking Christine, for example, ‘Do you think women would find me attractive?’ He was especially taken with the striking-looking Swedish movie actress Maud Adams. Christine, who knew Adams was tight with Ringo’s ex-fiancee, Nancy Andrews, called her and learned that the Swedish beauty was between boyfriends. ‘Tell her,’ said Christine, ‘that John Lennon is very interested in meeting her.’ Maud Adams was soon on her way to New York — but not soon enough.”
Notorious gib, you’re right. The name I was trying to think of was Maud Adams.
I forgot she was Swedish. I knew she was from somewhere in Europe.
Maybe she reminded John of Alma Cogan.
@Hologram Sam The problem is everything else that suggests Lennon didn’t see May as a temporary arrangement. Perhaps he saw it that way to begin with, but by late 74, they’d moved into an apartment together and were looking at buying a house. That isn’t something you’d do with a side piece. The break was abrupt; involved hypnotism; a botanical ointment to ward off May; a Santeria trained occultist; and a dazed and confused Lennon who couldn’t articulate why he’d abruptly uprooted his life again or even what year it was. Lennon just being an asshole is something we could mostly make sense of. But there is too much wrong with the picture as it is. That Lennon continued sporadically either seeing or trying to contact May until 1980 would also suggest sentiment in excess of a fling. By then he’d known her ten years, and that’s longer than Lennon knew or bothered to know most people in his life. (Also contrast the prolonged preoccupation with May with the way he unconditionally severed ties with Cynthia.) I do agree with you, as Goldman did too, that it was easier for Lennon to hole up in the Dakota being lazy and undisturbed, but I also think his insecurities were greatly played upon and exploited. That he could put out three albums and produce another one despite being frequently off his face in 73/4 is the difference between somebody who gave him positive encouragement (May) and 75-80 when Yoko convinced him he was better off staying inside, he believed it, and he made nothing.
@Matt, it’s not hard to imagine John Green being hired amid a realization that the Lost Weekend/a divorce wasn’t going to work — she would get, at best, half, and be a forgotten avant garde artist in New York who would never equal John Lennon’s fame on her own, and he would get headlines in LA recording and partying with the Vampires and May Pang. So she needed John back, and under her thumb, and she needed an heir, and she needed power of attorney, and a better will.
I read John Green’s book, way back when, and it never occurred to me that he was anything more than a fortune-teller of the kind that you’d find in the Village in the 70s and 80s (and even occasionally the 90s). Rents were cheap and shadow-economy jobs like selling weed and making amulets and reading tarot — this was common.
I suppose something could’ve routed through him as a go-between. At a certain point, the counter-narrative needs to shift from Occult Hippies to High Level Hypnotists, and those folks seemed to be in the Psychology and Medical fields, not the occult demimonde.
You’d need someone on the level of William Bryan. That’s essential.
You might find this interesting.
@MG, the link didn’t work
Which one, @Michael?
It works for me. LA Times article on Sirhan. Is hypnotism really a defense? People still believe that hypnotism can be a form of mind control when it is not. No one can hypnotize anyone into doing something that is against his or her morals or beliefs, and no one can be hypnotized into doing something that they would not do when in a normal state. Our subconscious prevents that.
@Michelle, that is the conventional wisdom on hypnosis, but there’s much evidence suggesting it is wrong.
@Elizabeth, I don’t know much about Sean. I’ve read a few interviews with him, and I’ve seen pics of him with Mary and Stella at different events. Also, he posted a pic of himself sitting with James McCartney playing guitars on Instagram a few years back. I thought that was kind of cool.
Anyway, I agree Sean’s upbringing caused him much damage. I myself am the product of two very dysfunctional, not great people. I’ve gotten therapy, and am currently seeing a therapist.
I certainly hope Sean has, or is in therapy as well.
I do want to say, that just because you have shitty parents, does not mean you will be a shitty person. I’m not perfect by any means, but I consider myself an ethical, caring person.
Right on, Tasmin. To me Sean seems like someone who is still trying to puzzle out the truth about who his father was. Check out his recent interview with Paul McCartney on BBC radio, where he asks probing questions about their early friendship. He’s an introvert, as is James McCartney too, I think!
I’ve been wanting to listen to that! I will definitely check it out. I agree that James is probably an introvert. He stays out of the public eye pretty much.
I love this one. Adorable: https://64.media.tumblr.com/46012249faeef7688d68c1fcce369320/tumblr_o70y1rIAeD1ufmc6bo1_640.jpg
That is good! I love that the Beatle kids are all close. Dhani Harrison said Mary and Stella are like his sisters.
I do too. They’re family. Stella also shared a selfie with Julian and Sean at the LA premier of Get Back with the caption “My brothers from another mother” LOL.
@Tasmin – I agree that we don’t have to turn out like our parents. However, Sean’s situation is complex and unusual. Like John, he has been surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on, and no child can be raised in a healthy way in such an environment.
I think being the son of Lennon or McCartney would be very hard. The pressure of living up to their Dads had to be enormous.
I actually think Dhani Harrison seems very well adjusted.
@Hologram Sam, I don’t get the impression anyone here has started with a conclusion and is looking backward for proof. I think we’re reacting to the evidence — the parallels between Chapman’s Santeria involvement directional trips and art collection and Yoko, Yoko’s employment of hypnotists, Yoko’s behavior before and after John’s murder (firing the bodyguard, living in the Dakota, installing her lover *the next day*), the state of the Lennon’s marriage in the late Seventies, the peculiar way Chapman’s “insanity” manifested itself — and saying “the conclusion that this was just one lone craaaaazy guy who was into some of the exact same things Yoko, who wanted a divorce from her husband and more than half of his money, doesn’t make sense.” Your mileage may vary, but to me, it seems that the rationalizations of frankly bizarre events is looking backward for proof from the conclusion that it *couldn’t have been* anything other than a lone crazy guy.
The other thing to keep in mind here is:
1) there was plenty of speculation at the time, based on Sirhan Sirhan before and Hinckley after; and
2) there wasn’t a lot of data, that has come later.
As far was anyone knew in 1980, the Lennons were political (hence 1), but in general a blissfully happy couple who were interested in buying cows, raising their kid, and making the occasional LP (so not 2). NONE of the stuff you mentioned was known at the time. It’s only after the fact that we can go, “Wait — Yoko wanted a divorce in 1979????” “John returned to Yoko after a dodgy-seeming hypnotic treatment???” “The CIA had connections in with the Church of Satan????”
I honestly think that was the animus against Goldman’s book (dangerous facts), not what it was purported to be (bisexuality and drug addiction). In 1987, any involved parties might’ve still been alive. In 2022, they likely aren’t.
@MG, absolutely agree that’s what the real animus was toward Goldman’s book — Yoko’s told us everything else was basically true. Even if MDC was a lone nut, Goldman’s book reflects an abusive marriage (in both directions) totally out of sync with the Ballad, and introduces a lot of information to make it seem like John was in the kind of situation where people *might have* conspired to have him killed, which is better, but not terribly better, than providing evidence that they, in fact, did, from a PR perspective.
“…totally out of sync with the Ballad…”
@Michael Bleicher I’m glad you mentioned ‘The Ballad’, a “love song” that has always puzzled me once I really listened to the lyrics.
Regarding John and Yoko’s love, and the song itself, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’, Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970: “It was very romantic. It’s all in the song, if you want to know how it happened it’s in there. Gibraltar was like a little sunny dream.”
Lennon might be talking about how he felt in real time on that day with Yoko, during their wedding preparations, but… I can’t help but wonder if John was misremembering the fun “hurry up and record” antics, and the satisfying enjoyment he had working on the song with creative partner Paul, conflated that with the ‘hassle hustle’ memories of his wedding day.
Making the song bouncy and upbeat musically, singing about the ‘trials and tribulations’ the couple endured trying to get married, present it like: “we laugh now after the fact, but while we were going through it, it was not fun or funny”. We all have had those kinds of moments in our lives. That said however, The Ballad it is one of the LEAST romantic love ballads ever!
The lyrics read like a hellish travelogue of Murphy’s Law misery, setbacks, chaos, etc., like an big Red Flag Omen being willfully ignored. (“…it was very romantic.”).
Romantic feeling doesn’t come across AT ALL in the song, neither does Love, Attraction, Horniness, and certainly not Happiness!
Going by the lyrics alone, we don’t have a comical, nervous groom (which is normal) but what does come across (at least to me) is the apprehension (bordering on fear, maybe even terror) that seems to fill Lennon. His sense of doom, expecting his own crucifixion (by, who knows, fans, media, general public… his own intuition?) just for marrying the woman he says he loves. In angst, he evokes Christ 5 or 6 times. Beatles personal assistant, Peter Brown, gets a whole name mention in the song. Yoko’s name appear only in the title, in the song she’s; “us, we’re ,she’s, the wife”, who calls John a boy and speaks of his death. Romantic love ballad? To me, this song sounds like a fearful cry for help!
John said that when he first met Yoko at the art gallery, he sensed a “vibe”, turned around to find Yoko right behind staring at him. Both George Harrison and George Martin said Yoko emitted a certain “vibe”… negative vibe. In context those quotes by both Georges are not racist, sexist, but illuminatingly observant. Because sometimes that same vibe manifested off of people’s tv screens and many home audiences also thought she had a weird vibe. They both were weird. I know she experienced racism and sexism during those times because those bigotries still exist today. However, she seemed to be the only Asian woman I’ve ever seen who seemed to OOZE “negative vibes” that emanated off tv screens! Evidence: John and Chuck Berry with Yoko improvising and Berry’s eyes buck wide open! AWKWARD!
She was only trying to be “a star” (not kill anybody) …Still.
Saying that HDYS was “a beautiful song” on Mike Douglas Show even after an audience member thought it was “vindictive”.
In later years, Lennon discussed his own death, not really predicting, but maybe feeling a vibe due to the mendacity in the PR regarding their home life and “mighty love”, perhaps he felt a nagging, sinking feeling of gloom in the pit of his gut that he couldn’t shake off, but tried to excuse and ignore as paranoia, or maybe he just intuitively sensed disaster approaching Maybe his intuition sensed malevolence due to characters Yoko kept around that he didn’t necessarily like as people. Especially after receiving death threats.
During the Lost Weekend, pics of John kissing May were published hobbling The Ballad myth, back with Yoko, she saved face when they decided to say that: “Yoko threw John out, then “allowed’ him to come back”. They said he begged to come back but Yoko said “You’re not ready yet.” They said that he was in L.A. drinking, drugging, losing his damn mind, about to lose his life with the lifestyle he was living, yet she was playing mind games.
Mind games. Did she really mean that SHE was not ready yet, because she hadn’t gotten all her “ducks in a row” even after asking Paul to intercede on her behalf? Questions questions. Like I said, I have suspicions but suspicions is not proof.
This discussion has me wondering – if indeed Yoko or someone(s) had a hand in Johns murder, will the truth ever be told?
As the underrated researcher Leon Zitzer once said, “I think more facts and more light is always preferable.” So, providing more facts in the interest of shedding more light, here comes a little-noted source: Nobody Told Me by Ken Geringer. It doesn’t say anything especially new to this topic, but it does confirm a few common threads that have popped up.
TL;DR on the book, to save you a Google: Geringer has (accurately, IMO) been called “the Forrest Gump of the music industry” by many. Following a troubled youth in Rockland County, NY, which led to a stint at an alternative school, the guy started his own wholesale import-export cosmetic business (with a “basement” band on the side), gigged in several groups (one of which included Bob Marley’s sister), became president of an international record company, and owned the nightclub in Hollywood, FL, where Luther Campbell and the rest of 2 Live Crew were first arrested on obscenity charges.
Among the many brushes with fame he had over the years, he forged a friendship with Jack Douglas which ultimately led to his becoming Jack’s manager during a long downward spiral (even after winning $3 million in unpaid royalties from suing Yoko, he was borrowing money from Geringer), and scouting acts for record labels together. And among the Douglas memories he recounts are the Double Fantasy sessions. I haven’t bought the book, as one Amazon review suggests the Lennon material amounts to <5 pages, but it does confirm a few key points that popping up in Goldman and elsewhere, namely:
1. Yoko was controlling, to the point of dictating a "sushi only" menu for John and the session men. John would circumvent this by wolfing down Big Macs and pizza during "bathroom breaks."
2. John was attempting to regain his independence, and floating the idea of a divorce.
3. Geringer apparently suggests that it was in Ono's best interest, from a financial standpoint, that Lennon died when he did.
Nothing new, but interesting — and revealing — that we keep hearing the same old song…
P.S. For those like MG who might prefer a lighter note here and there to leaven the darkness, Ken also gave us some clues about the possible “next steps” for John had he not had a run-in with bullets. Apparently, he and Jack were floating the notion of opening a recording studio together (!) and working together on Ringo’s next album, about which there were broad hints that Paul and George would also be involved.
Wow — @g_i_b, some sort of Beatle version of AIR/Monserrat? Has anybody seen the documentary on that?
Oh, it gets more interesting. Turns out they might have actually made moves in that direction, or at least John did. (Before anyone asks, I don’t know if this is mentioned as one of J&Y’s real estate buys in any of the books, “usual suspects” or otherwise; I looked them over in a hurry and found nada.)
I was talking shop with a producer colleague the other day about how tinny and bland cast recordings sound nowadays, and why that is, and he reminisced about the days when he cut demos for his musicals at “some of the best studios” — Right Track, Electric Lady, Reggie Lucas’ place in Jersey, etc. And then he brought up using “John Lennon’s estate.”
Naturally, my reaction was, “Not to pick on you, but what do you mean by ‘estate’? His ‘home studio’ was singing into a tape recorder and then recording a separate vocal with that cassette playing in the background for rudimentary double-tracking, and when he set foot in an actual studio, it was either the Record Plant or the Hit Factory, at least to my knowledge. The last time he had a substantial studio of his own on any estate was back in England.”
My buddy responded that, be that as it may, the place was represented as belonging to John when he recorded some stuff there. It was an estate “up in Connecticut” specifically designated for recording. When I inquired further about who was involved and if he ever met John, he responded, “He was dead by this point. I don’t know who was running it then in ’82.”
Assuming it’s not garbled recollection, the timing of when he was cutting tracks and the knowledge Lennon and Douglas had plans to open a spot like that seems too close to be a coincidence, to me at least.
Does anyone else see any similarities between John/Yoko and Kurt Cobain/Courtney Love?
I haven’t read much about it but I recall there were theories that Kurt’s death wasn’t a suicide but instead a murder arranged by Love?
There were claims that Kurt’s suicide note had been altered by his widow. I don’t know enough about the case to have an opinion, to be honest. But the home invasion reminds me of what Jack Douglas said about various mementos being removed from his house by agents of Yoko.
I personally see some parallels between the John&Yoko saga and the final days of Groucho Marx with Erin Fleming. Some of Groucho’s friends and family were worried he was being exploited by Fleming.
In some ways, Fleming was the opposite of Yoko. While Yoko kept John isolated, turning away his friends who tried to call, Fleming had too many people in and out of Groucho’s house. She hoped the more celebrities she mingled with, the more opportunities she’d enjoy in show biz.
Fleming also pushed Groucho to perform long after it was appropriate. I remember one of his last TV appearances. I don’t recall if it was on Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas, but Groucho shared the stage with Edie Adams. He couldn’t hear what she was saying to him, didn’t seem to understand exactly what was going on, and could barely keep his head up. It was painful to see.
Yoko, on the other hand, seemed content to let John sit in the Dakota rather than tour or record. Either way, both Groucho and John surrendered control to people who found them useful.
Mike Gerber mentioned Brian Wilson and his “therapist” which is another interesting parallel. I suppose it’s a story older than time. Certainly a few examples can be found in ancient Rome and politics.
@Sam, if you believe Robert Graves (and maybe we shouldn’t, because he frankly admitted he was writing a potboiler, the Emperor Claudius had a similar relationship to the much younger Messalina — until she was caught plotting a coup with a lover. Then, curtains for Messalina. But after her came Nero’s mother Agrippina the Younger who (once again, according to Graves) was very transparently maneuvering her son towards the throne…but Claudius was too old and bitter to care.
So? A tale as old as Rome? Most def!
Thanks for such an amazing piece of content.
Back in 2001, I was working in Raleigh NC. I was selling car cleaning chemicals, when I came across a man that was buying my product. As we talked, I found out he was an ex mob diamond dealer from New York. He proceeded to share a story with me, about John Lennon.
He explained to me that John was part of a plan from the local mob, to send Yoko Ono a message that her gambling debt was to be paid. Yoko was very much in debt and was not paying her debt to the mob. This was the reason John was murdered/assassination.
That’s interesting, @Wayne. Did he tell you what Yoko used to gamble on?
Seconding Michael’s request, if the guy told you anything. Honestly, I’d have expected to hear she was in the hole over smack, not gambling.
Yes, @g_i_b, she doesn’t seem like a gambler to me. There’s no evidence of any gambling other than this, whereas drug use…
@Wayne – While I have no problem at all believing that Yoko was tied up with the mafia, it’s a bit harder to imagine that they would go to the effort of finding an art collecting hitman with a history of taking round the world trips in a SE direction (Yoko style), organised by his satanist Japanese wife, who just happens to be a travel agent.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to shove a bomb under the limousine?
@Michael Bleicher Goldman also says Lennon was talking about his own death in that last session. However, it isn’t clear whether Goldman got this info from Douglas (and whether this is what was on the destroyed tapes, or independent to what was on those tapes) or whether he is surmising based on Lennon’s already evident penchant of orating on his demise for whoever would listen. On the latter point, it is frankly believable that Lennon delivered such a monologue to Douglas, but something uncanny and specific must have highlighted this one. To be the first thing Douglas did in the middle of the night when he heard about Lennon’s death, he must have been really freaked to go back to the studio and destroy those reels. No audio from that session has ever surfaced, whereas much of the other DB studio chatter caught on Douglas’ tapes has appeared over the years on bootlegs. Based on that discrepancy, I think Douglas really did destroy the tapes. As to why he has often brought up the subject only to not elaborate, this seems to me like a natural conflict between the desire to confide or unburden himself with the other reasons (Safety? Seeming crazy? Hurting certain people? Etc) that prevent him from doing so.
But here is my take on what Lennon might have said on those tapes: “I’ve seen the future, Jack. I don’t want to live in a world where Paul McCartney is a victim of misogyny. So long, Jack. Time to die.”
@Matt – Douglas won’t really have destroyed the tape, surely? If his priority was to get rid of it, why mention it to anyone, much less go on TV and tell the world? The only reason anyone would do that would be to send a message to whoever thinks they know too much.
If there ever was a tape, it is probably in a safety deposit box somewhere for his own protection. But maybe there never was one. Maybe John said too much to Douglas, or maybe Douglas knew too much (he was spying for Yoko as early as the Lost Weekend, and he had drug problems himself). He obviously wants people to think there was a tape, but it only really adds up as an insurance policy.
If it isn’t peculiar enough that Chapman was able to finance and circumnavigate the globe in 1978, one thing I find curious is the way his travels seemed to dovetail with Lennon’s in 1978. How many coincidences are too many?
-From approximately July to Sept of 1978, the Lennons were staying in Japan. I have not been able to find the exact dates of their travel in any book thus far, but those are the months iterated when the trip is mentioned (or “summer.”) The Lennons arrived in Tokyo after having traveled from the Cayman islands. (According to Giuliano, Yoko decided it was time to leave the Caribbean for Japan after consultation with a psychic.)
-According to Jack Jones and Fenton Bresler, Chapman departed on his around the world trip on July 6, 1978, landing in Tokyo, where he booked a room at the Y. Chapman spent several days touring different locations, including Mount Fuji and the Imperial Palace district (home of the Ono family. See: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/06/20/yoko-onos-art-of-defiance )
-At some point during their vacation, the Lennons also stayed at Mount Fuji. The Fuji View hotel bears a plaque dedicated to Lennon and his 1978 visit. See: https://en.kawaguchiko.net/mt-fuji-view-en/fuji-view-hotel/ (Giuliano also mentions the Lennons staying in the hotel in view of the mountain.) So again, Chapman and Lennon are in the same place at roughly the same time.
-Midway through his world trip, Chapman stoped in Bangkok, where he had his first experience with a prostitute. While there isn’t any question of he and Lennon being there at the same time, it seems worth mentioning since Lennon was also “sent” there, a year or two later.
-Chapman returned to Honolulu on August 20, according to Jones.
-The Lennons returned to New York in September, only for Yoko to dispatch John shortly thereafter to Hawaii.
This is from Goldman: “Odd journeys to distant and unlikely places became a feature of Lennon’s in his last years, as Yoko sought to make him (or herself!) feel better by posting him in promising directions. Why she chose Hawaii is as much a mystery as why she later picked Cape Town. It may have had something to do with the fact that the Ono family enjoyed a special status in the Islands. Before Pearl Harbour, when Eisuke Ono was an official of the Yokohama Species Bank in San Francisco, he had performed great services on behalf of the Hawaiian Japanese, who were desperately seeking to protect their fortunes in the event of war. So successful was Eisuke that he earned the endearing gratitude of many of these families. Hence, Yoko was sending John to a place where she had good connections.”
(It also goes without saying that this makes Chapman buying a gun from a salesperson whose surname was Ono even more troubling.)
If this were indeed an ordered hit, why would the nefarious party rely on a young unproven vessel like Chapman? I have not watched one too many films about organized crime, but one would think that they would have assigned this to more experienced “talent.”
It really does make me wonder just where Chapman got the money for all this travel. It was still rather pricey back then.
@Neal, a few answers. One, Chapman would have been programmed to respond to a hypnotic suggestion. His youth and unprovenness are attributes in this context because it makes it seem unlikely he was hired to do what he did. This wouldn’t be a Goodfellas-style hit, this would be something closer to an RFK assassination. Do we know anyone with connections to hypnotism in the J&Y story?
@Michael B – Here is a bit of monologue, attributed to Lennon, from John Green’s ‘Dakota Days:’
“So you know what we do now? I blow off steam. And then we hypnotize me. That’s right. A little technique all her own that she [Yoko] calls ‘ten to one’ because she counts backward from ten to one while I lie with my head in her lap. She pets me and counts and all my tensions and all those nasty ol’ poisons drain away and everything is supposed to be all better again. I yell and get understood. I relax and get stroked. Now there’s conditioning for you!”
@Matt, do you recall reading about something called “the 10 to 1 game,” where Lennon counted back from ten?
I also think that his stories about looking at himself in the mirror suggest he was extra-susceptible to such stuff. (Maybe we all are?)
@Michael That excerpt from ‘Dakota Days’ I posted is the only place I recall seeing the “10 to 1” thing mentioned. I wonder if they were playing the same sort of game on certain days in May ’68 and Jan ’75?
That is my strong suspicion, @Matt. And I think that wasn’t random. I think someone had picked up quite a lot about conditioning.
@Matt, when I read about this, it made me wonder where John got the ideas he apparently loved to share with Fred Seaman about assassination being the “modern crucifixion,” his likelihood of meeting a violent end, and what would happen to his legend after his death.
You couldn’t ask John to take a more retrospectively tragic stance in his 1980 interviews, could you?
Ah, good point @Michael Bleicher. I hadn’t considered that.
@Matt – Yes, and as if all that isn’t enough, Chapman’s wife, a Japanese occultist with an interest in numerology and directionalism, and whom he met on a psychiatric ward, was his travel agent and she wrote his itinerary.
How are people so blind?
Currently I am reading a book called “Journey Into Madness” by Gordon Thomas that concerns the medical torture and brainwashing techniques of intelligence organizations. A particular passage, on the instruction of students by Russian psychiatrists, stood out to me, because the conditioning and anticipated behaviour of the victim as described bears some uncanny parallels with the post-May 1968 John Lennon:
“A seminar was devoted to the deliberate and active steps required to strip an individual of his self-hood, and how to build up something new from the bare psychic foundation which remained. In this assault upon identity, a key factor was to create a state of infantile dependency, so that a person became disoriented, until finally, like a young postulant entering a religious order, he ‘died to the world.’ Only at that stage, lectured the KGB psychiatrists, was the victim ready to receive the ‘salvation’ of those who now controlled his every action. The techniques were taught for establishing guilt in a victim’s mind and how from that should come self-betrayal, the denunciation of long-cherished ideals and a growing compulsion to confess. They were told that when a person had purged himself of his past he should be encouraged to accept new substitute beliefs. There were lectures on how to prepare a person at that stage to make a video tape recording, in which he admitted guilt and appealed to the world to recognize the justice of the demands of the captors. Faculty doctors explained how the process could be accelerated by the use of drugs to create rapid disorientation, induce fear, produce confusing stimuli and cause fatigue and physical debility.”
@Matt, I never read that one though I’d meant to. While I’m thinking of it, here are some other books for your shelf, which you may have read:
–The Search for the Real Manchurian Candidate by John Marks
–Operation Mind Control by Walter Bowart
–Spooks by Jim Hougan
The investigations of the CIA and other organizations after 1973 resulted in lots of Agency personnel/ilk being fired or taking early retirement. Many of those people, according to Hougan, went into the private sector. As to earlier years, it’s pretty clear that the counterculture was at least occasionally being used for all sorts of operations–there’s that recent Operation CHAOS book, which I haven’t read because I’m retired from such stuff. But speaking simply from an historical place: ’68, you had all sorts of shadowy hippie-adjacent groups–many religious–who were doing this kind of thing. Who was an asset, an agent, a cutout, or a civilian who stumbled upon these techniques? For me, the whole scenario is just too suspect to ignore, and once you are familiar with a certain texture, you can spot it readily.
But do use caution–this is absolutely the Nietzschean abyss.
…and let’s not even get into whether James Jesus Angleton’s suspicions about a mole during his tenure as counter-intelligence chief were accurate. That is also an abyss of significant depth
Consider that Angleton’s close friend during WWII was Kim Philby. Ain’t sayin’ Just sayin’.
The Nosenko/Golitsyn Affair paralyzed US counterintellence for 10 years.
Sorry to cast aspersions on a fellow Yalie, but angleton’s fishy.
Angleton was the editor of your university’s literary journal while he was an Eli. Publishing works from poets such as Ezra Pound. Perhaps that, quite understadably, set the seeds for later confusion in his career!
I say that in the utmost respect for those who edit literary and law reviews, so I am joking of course. Nevertheless, something had to have been formative in his hall of mirrors way of thinking…or not thinking as the case may be.
@Matt and @Michael
Thank you for the recommendations. I’ll try to sneak one or of those past my wife as I am in need of a something completely different as a change of reading pace.
@Neal, yes indeed Angleton was Chairman of The Lit., Yale’s student literary magazine; I ran Yale’s humor magazine, The Record, and knew some alums of Angleton’s vintage.
I don’t think The Lit would have informed his later mindset too very much, any more than the Record alums of my acquaintance who went on to work for CIA. “I wrote humor for The Record,” one wrote me, “which was wonderful preparation for my later career as Historian at CIA.”
If you are truly interested in reading about Angleton at Yale, and how that University’s very peculiar culture made him into the person he was, you would start with a book called Cloak and Gown, written by Robin Winks. Winks was a professor at Yale when I was there, and while I never took his course on espionage and foreign policy, he was pals with a man who was nearly my father-in-law, so we spoke a bit over a couple of years.
Yale’s Anglophilia definitely impacted Angleton; and its snobbishness (Angleton’s mother was Mexican, not something every Yalie of the 30s would let him forget); and its near-mania for public service, which I share; and af course the senior societies, which I was surrounded by but too much of a rabble-rouser to partake in.
You might also skim a book called Oswald and the CIA by John Newman; or you might be able to get the same in shorter form by reading the work of James DiEugenio and/or Lisa Pease—one or perhaps both of them have written long essays on Angleton.
He was a fascinating, deeply flawed man in a business that inevitably drives people insane. Sometimes I think he was a patriot; at other times I think he was the mole himself. (I believe I insinuated as much in my Beatle novel; that book is full of all sorts of spooky backstory, so much so that I toyed with the idea of putting out a skeleton key at one point. Now with American politics as insane as it has become, such conspiratorial thinking is less fun.)
Thank you for that additional recommendation @Michael. I will order it along with the others as it looks as if it would be something I would enjoy.
BTW, I recently ran across you post from 2012 on William F. Buckley and the Beatles and found it most enjoyable.
Just out of curiosity, and I am in no way asking one Eli to traduce another, but did Buckley go into Yale with all those affectations or did he have them tailored within the hallowed halls? Was he trying to parody someone (or a clique) and went simply took it too far so that it became ingrained? 😉
IIRC, Buckley came into Yale as nouveau riche–I believe his father made a lot of money in oil–and quickly decided to be “more Catholic than the Pope.” That’s where the weird affectations came from; a defense mechanism. “Oh, you think you’re rich and traditional? I don’t even believe in The Enlightenment!”
Yale is the type of place that, if you don’t have a strong sense of self, you can turn into something quite harrowing. Broken alums with money found groups that break young people in the same way; and even within reasonably sound organizations, there can arise groups of students that establish unwholesome traditions. There are micro-eras of ten or twenty years. I have worked to build a flexible, vibrant, welcoming tradition at The Yale Record for 33 years and counting…but have recently discovered that there is a group from directly before my time that dislikes me for preventing them from turning The Record into a humor magazine only William F. Buckley could love. You know, conservative “comedy.”
Does any this stuff matter? Is it just preppies at play? Well, yes…and no. Being at Yale and in Bones surely changed the young Angleton ’41; past some general conclusions like self-regard, secrecy, public service and Anglophilia, to figure out how would take some digging. You’d have to know about the culture of that precise era of Bones, and of Angleton’s Lit. I knew Record alums from ’38, ’39, ’42 and ’43W, but they were not spook-types (as far as I knew). They might have been in societies, but for example Wolf’s Head or Keys would likely feel quite different from Bones.
And even Bones itself has changed over time; the delegation my year (meaning the people from the Class of 1991) were the first group to “tap” (ie select) women as members. The Russell Trust Association (ie, Bones alumni) locked them out of the Tomb (their clubhouse) as a result. RTA eventually relented, and now Bones taps women. To the degree that Bones is recognition of campus achievement and a mechanism of future connections, this is very good. But the old society traditions were distinctly homoerotic, many of them; I’ve been told being in Bones doesn’t mean what it once did, and that would not surprise me. Today’s Bones is not Angleton or Buckley’s Bones, and that’s good…but it also makes you have to dig to figure out how their Bones changed their impressionable selves.
“Oh, you think you’re rich and traditional? I don’t even believe in The Enlightenment!”
Oh, this made me laugh! I think Yale has changed a bit, but I know for a fact that one of my peers thinks a return to feudalism would be beneficial for society. So maybe it’s the same as it has always been.
@Maya, I may be somewhat nostalgic, but I think conservatism took a real turn around 1950, when it was clear that there was a broad consensus among Americans 1) for the Rooseveltian social safety net, and 2) against um, Fascism. So as their chances for power via mainstream electoral politics dried up, I think some American conservatives that might have been standard Taft Republicans in earlier years moved further and further right. And as they moved right, it benefitted them to cover it with a certain type of faux intellectual window-dressing (I say “faux intellectual” because Fascism is a deeply anti-intellectual political movement).
So you have people like William F. Buckley who—when he wasn’t suggesting that AIDS victims be tattooed across the ass—was legendarily nice and polite, and battled against modernity in a strange, strangled accent that was part English, part Long Island lockjaw, and 100% made up.
Yale, as a bastion of money and power, has long been a wellspring of this type of poison. My dear friend, also Yale ‘91, wrote this amusing post about Yale’s student Party of the Right—-founded by Buckley—-and its charming habit of singing songs from the point-of-view of victorious Nazis.
It’s all preppies at play…except when it’s not. People like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh are utterly driven by the sense of grievance they picked up in the goo-filled rightist nooks and crannies of Yale. It’s a weird thing to go to a place like Yale—-to win the lottery, basically—-yet come out feeling like you’ve been wronged. Listen to your feudalist friend closely: two things are for sure—they believe that in this ideal feudalist society, they will surely be a noble, not a peasant; and they will talk about how their mean, thoughtless nonsense gets them “cancelled.”
I was no brainiac from 18-22, no one is, but at least I had sufficient imagination to think what it might be like to be a serf instead of a Lord—or under those treads, not just driving the tank. That kind of imagination is fundamental to the responsible, humane use of one’s intellect. Something Yale and every place like it, should teach.
That makes a lot of sense, Michael. I do feel the conservative “turn” has its roots even further back. When I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years In Power it opened my eyes to the end of the Reconstruction era and the way that end is still reverberating today. My current read on what happened in the 1950s was white conservatives starting to realize they would eventually lose power in a democratic system, and taking steps to ensure that the system wouldn’t be allowed to function in a fully democratic way (i.e., gerrymandering, dark money, and voter disenfranchisement/intimidation would take care of things). It’s bleak.
And it makes perfect sense that Buckley hated the Beatles, and hated the 1960s.
It is bleak, but at least now the majority of us are staring it right in the face, rather than pretending–as most did during Buckley’s lifetime–that these self-styled “conservatives” actually wanted to ‘conserve” the good things about the past (they don’t), or that they are intellectually rigorous (they aren’t), or that they may differ from the majority in certain ways, but are genuine patriots (they aren’t). They are simply people who will fight to the end for the rule of (some) white men. It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so dangerous.
Buckley was conflicted about sexuality and so of course he hated the Sixties. The sexual freedom of that era and after made him confront things about himself that he would rather have avoided. I have encountered this same issue in other people of Buckley’s ilk; they retreat into religion and, often, a vision of Classical culture which is a safe place to store their troublesome attractions. Instead of accepting themselves–not easy, but necessary!–they externalize it all and put the rest of us through misery.
@Matt, that’s fascinating and disturbing, and makes John’s late-Seventies fascination with assassination as “modern crucifixtion” and what will happen to him after he dies even more unsettling than it already strikes me. Ditto he fondness for predicting that he’s “living on borrowed time” and will meet a violent end during the last year or so of his life, which ratchets up while he’s in Bermuda. I know Michael Gerber rightly points out that if you were as famous as John Lennon and part of the generation that saw JFK/MLK/RFK gunned, you *would* think about that, but it’s always struck me as something darker than that, and filtered through the sources that talk about it, my impression is that it seems to have struck others around John as particularly morbid and odd.
Amazing how assassinations are treated differently by the press.
In the 1990s Alexander Litvinenko worked for Russian Intelligence investigating, infiltrating and tackling international organised crime. He was poisoned with polonium-210 by the FSB in London and died shortly afterwards in November 2006. The case made headlines around the world and many books and films have been published about it.
In the 1970s Bill Fairclough worked for British Intelligence investigating, infiltrating and tackling international organised crime. He was poisoned with botulism toxin by another intelligence agency in London, went into a coma and nearly died in June 1974. No one told the press about it and in 2014 a little publicised non-fiction book was printed which disclosed what transpired.
What happened to Bill Fairclough (codename JJ aka Edward Burlington) is as described in the non-fiction espionage thriller Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone novel in The Burlington Files series. Indeed, in 2001 Bill Fairclough later became a favoured patient of the renowned neurologist Professor Andrew Lees in London’s University College Hospital. Why? As Lees said at the time, it was a rare pleasure being able to research a patient who hadn’t died from having been poisoned with such a large dose of botulism toxin.
Of course, if you are a true espionage aficionado and know about puffer fish poisons used by the Stasi and Ian Fleming’s “Trout Memo” you will have already studied Beyond Enkription and know a lot about not only The Burlington Files but also the links twixt MI6 Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE, Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, Kim Philby, David Cornwell and Greville Wynne. Pemberton’s People in MI6 even included Roy Astley Richards OBE (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard) and an eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who was once refused permission to join the Afghan Mujahideen.
I was wondering, and maybe Michael can answer this question: is it normal practice for a person or company such as David Geffen to take out a massive life insurance policy on the acts that they sign? Was Lennon’s policy in any way anomalous, or would say, Elton John and Joni Mitchell in 1980 have been subject to the same thing when they signed with DGC?
Good question about David Geffen…something is rotten in the State of Denmark…the man had no real business at the time…his biggest act was Donna Summers…Yoko and him worked out a deal…she actively rejected all offers from other labels…when they visited the studio…she even told John Belushi to leave…when he showed up around the same time…as he was working in the same studio…Yoko wanted John isolated…and on David Geffen’s label…it should be noted…and perhaps this is one of the most telling details…while Yoko was in the hospital…with John dead in the operating room…David Geffen appeared…and gave her the type of hug…where you pick someone up…he picked her up out of her sitting position…this was an act of triumph…’we did it’…is how I interpret it
@Andrew – The hospital appearance in front of the world’s media was totally staged, I agree:
1. As if she didn’t have access to a private area where she could lie on the floor away from the glare of the cameras, or the use of an exit where she could leave without being photographed.
2. Why exactly was Geffen there and how did he get there so quickly? He was just some bloke she had worked with for a few weeks, she hardly knew him. No one in that position would call on a virtual stranger for support, not even Yoko Ono.
It’s absolute nonsense. Anyone who can’t see it is choosing not to see it in case someone calls them a conspiracy theorist. But dear God, you’d have to be really thick or utterly in thrall to Yoko Ono not to at least have a few questions.
@Elizabeth – David Geffen strikes me as a shady character…Yoko and he worked out a sweetheart deal for each other. How did he get there so quickly? He was ready and waiting.
Have you ever heard the James Taylor interview about John Lennon? I’ll include the link. So, James Taylor just happened to live a block away from John Lennon at the time.
In the subway, shortly before the shooting, he is approached by MDC. Words are exchanged.
At the time of the shooting, James Taylor has his window open and hears it. He calls his manager in LA and says something about the crime rate in NYC. I find that highly suspicious.
James Taylor has admitted that he got John Lennon on to over-the-counter opiates while working at Apple studios. The more I listen to this interview the more I suspect James Taylor knows a great deal more than he is admitting. I think he was also ‘in the know’ about what was going to happen…well before it actually happened.
Yoko is an actress and not a good one. The famous picture of her coming out of the hospital in total grief is contradicted by her actions shortly thereafter. She invites Sam Havtoy over that very night I believe and he stays with her for 20 years. Supposedly, they were secretly married in Hungary shortly thereafter. Residents at the Dakota notice Sam is wearing John Lennon’s clothes.
According to all accounts of what life was like in the Dakota after the assassination…there was no mourning in the Dakota. Yoko informed the staff that things would go on as usual except now it was just her. A year or so later she lied in an interview about how grief-stricken she was and how difficult life was without John. It was just a PR act. Read the last page of Goldman’s book. Yoko at Christmas dinner beaming with joy.
Another detail. John Lennon wanted a proper funeral for himself. He said so on a number of occasions. Yoko denied him that. Yoko didn’t want any of his family and friends around. She reluctantly allowed Julian over but insisted Cynthia could not come. ‘It’s not like we were sisters or good friends’ or something approximating that is what she said to Cynthia over the phone.
Another detail. The record speed at which John Lennon was cremated. I believe this was to cover up the evidence and prevent a second autopsy.
John Lennon was shot twice in the left shoulder and twice in the back. I believe he was shot from the elevator entrance right opposite the lobby door.
After the two shots to the shoulder, he turned to the lobby and tried to run up the stairs. Two more shots went through his back. However, a number of shots went through the lobby glass panels on the lobby door.
It would have been impossible for MDC to achieve those angles. There was a second shooter.
Or perhaps this was the only shooter. MDC was just the fall guy. A patsy.
MDC has repeatedly said he doesn’t remember actually shooting JL. He said he heard, ‘do it do do it do it’ in his head and then his memory went blank.
He did remember one detail: Yoko was hiding behind the stairs of the lobby entrance as the shots rang out. She definitely had foreknowledge. LBJ is also said to have ducked in his seat before the first shot hit JFK. One of the motorcycle cops witnessed this.
So JL is cremated within 24 to 48 hours. The bodyguard that was called off, returns to work and is tasked with retrieving the ashes. The ashes are brought to Yoko who is in bed. She tells the bodyguard to put the ashes under the bed on John’s side of the bed. Not exactly a sentimental woman is our Yoko
@Andrew – I agree about James Taylor. His version of events is highly, highly suspicious. Preposterous, in fact. How can one person be in so many wrong places at the wrong time so often?
@Andrew I believe the reason they signed with Geffen was because his was the only label who would agree to have Yoko on half the record. The other major companies were actually offering more money, but it was conditional on delivering a John Lennon record. Ironically, when John started writing songs in Bermuda, that was what he intended to make, a John Lennon record, until Yoko got wind and he acquiesced. Similarly, the reason Jack Douglas was hired out of all the producers in the world, was for his demonstrated willingness to work with Yoko.
“While Yoko was in the hospital…with John dead in the operating room…David Geffen appeared…”
According to Seaman, Geffen was also one of the inner circle of lawyers and staff admitted to Yoko’s inner sanctum directly after the murder. ‘The moment she was among her intimates,’ Seaman wrote, ‘the tears instantly dried up.’
Per Goldman, on the Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after Lennon’s death, Geffen took Yoko out to dinner with Calvin Klein and Steve Rubell. Later at the Dakota, Geffen was in an exultant mood ‘when he boasted openly at the enormous amount of money he was making for Yoko.’
A couple of questions might be asked:
-Why was David Geffen, on a fledgling label, that much more willing to put out a John and Yoko record than any other company when he had to be just as aware how much doing so would hamper its commercial prospects? Geffen reportedly signed them without hearing a single song. He could have been getting The Wedding Album Part II: Electric Boogaloo for all he knew. In fact, the album was not selling well until Lennon’s death, (although to be fair here, the Lennon half of the record was not being reviewed favourably either). So withstanding that event, it would have been a bad investment.
-What was the actual nature of Yoko’s relationship with Geffen? For having supposedly only known each other only three months, the events directly after the murder betray a remarkable degree of intimacy…
-Which begs the question: did Yoko’s relationship with Geffen precede Double Fantasy? And if it did, was it Yoko’s plan from day one to sign up with Geffen? Which prompts a further question….
-Did the other record companies actually turn Lennon down? Or was that one of those things Yoko told an already insecure John that he just accepted without question? Yoko was 100% in charge of any business dealings the Lennons did. Any record company negotiations would have been left completely to her. If she came out of her office one day and said ‘none of the labels want you… except for David Geffen hehe’ I doubt he would have ever questioned it.
-Last: wouldn’t the bigger record companies have been able to weather a potential John and Yoko flop better than David Geffen would have at that point anyway? I’d be very surprised if a major company wouldn’t have taken them on in 1980, even with Yoko on board, simply because the first new John Lennon music in six years, in its novelty value, would trump the disadvantages; and because Yoko’s material was actually accessible and marketable as part of the new wave at that point in time.
@Matt, I forget where I read this — will dig if you like — but I remember that other, bigger labels were indeed interested in a Lennon solo record. But not a John and Yoko record.
PS always felt Geffen and Wenner deserved more analysis.
@Matt…from my reading…Yoko wouldn’t even let representatives from the major labels into the studio to negotiate a deal…they were not given a hearing…she was determined to work with Geffen…it didn’t matter what the others offered…she had the deal she wanted
@Andrew I know at one point Ahmet Ertegun dropped by the studio, and he was forbidden to enter and turned away.
Remember that while they were still recording ‘Double Fantasy,’ they didn’t have any kind of contract to release the music. So when somebody like Ertegun was showing interest, it should have been a big deal.
In Fred Seaman’s book he tells the story of how he first met John Lennon. Yoko had decided Fred Seaman would be perfect for John. Her psychics and/or numerologists had approved it. Fred was John Lennon’s Father’s name. And he was in the British Merchant Marine which made him a ‘Seaman’. I’m sure it also didn’t hurt that Fred’s Aunt was the primary caregiver of Sean. She’s the one who would take him to the park. At this first meeting, Fred sat in a room waiting for them both. Yoko came in with John in tow looking like a zombie or a well-behaved dog that had been summoned. John saw Fred’s look on his face and said, ‘It’s OK’ and said nothing more. Yoko then dismissed John who presumably returned to his room. Then, incredibly, Yoko wanted Fred’s round the 24/7 services for a mere $150 a week. Fred countered $175 because he had just graduated college. Yoko relented. And so, Fred Seaman’s relationship with both Yoko and John began.
Thank you @Michael for your thoughts on Buckley as they round out the picture of him as a conflicted individual.
I have always admired those who can bring thoughts and ideas to words and when I first, as an undergrad in the early eighties, came across Buckley I was intrigued as I thought he well argued his points. Ah the naivete of youth! It was not long however, before I tired of his shtick.
But more importantly than just my visceral reaction to his histrionics, are the points that your bring up of his lending a faux intellectual patina to the now broadly prevalent claims of victimhood made by men of substantial position, power, and privelage within our society.
Sure Buckley was correct about a number of things as well he should have been as he had an excellent education. But it is not just that some of his arguments do not age well, but rather that they were flawed from the start. Frankly, he should have known better…but then perhaps he did and that is the threat/scare we have today from his “conservative” descendents.
Either way, it would be interesting, if we were to bring him back to life, to see if he could set aside his amateur thespian aspirations for a moment and defend what his influence has wrought.
Found a great deal on Cloak and Gown. Looking forward to it.
Well, that’s the issue with all these guys–Buckley, George Will, ilk–all these supposedly reasonable gentlemen (and occasionally ladies) who provided intellectual cover for a change in American society that has, for all but a vanishingly small group, been cataclysmically bad. Buckley’s true talent was sounding reasonable, and poo-pooing the people who sounded the alarm.
I’ve read this discussion with tremendous interest. I’ve always felt that there was something strange about John’s death, something that remains unsettled even after so much time has passed. Mark Chapman’s story simply doesn’t make any sense to me. We’ve heard that he simply wanted to shoot someone to become famous, that he sincerely hated Lennon for being a “phony,” that he was upset about the “more popular than Jesus” remark, that he wanted to emulate Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, and that he simply wanted to shoot someone and chose Lennon because he was more accessible than other celebrities. I’ll be honest: I don’t find any of these motives plausible. If Chapman wanted to become famous, why did he plead guilty (thus eliminating the need for a trial, at which he could have been the center of the world’s attention for months) and refuse to give any interviews for years? If he hated Lennon so much, why did he want his autograph? Chapman has said that he prayed to Satan to give him the strength to commit the murder, which makes his supposed anger at the “more popular than Jesus” remark incomprehensible to me. Holden Caulfield does not murder anyone. And the last reason Chapman has given is just plain nonsense. Plenty of celebrities were just as accessible as Lennon, who lived 5,000 miles away; furthermore, Chapman could not possibly have known in advance whether it would be easy to encounter Lennon or whether he would be accompanied by a bodyguard. I strongly suspect that none of these motives was genuine, and we do not know the real reason for the shooting.
As with Jack Ruby, I find it weird that Chapman snapped into action so quickly when he had an opportunity (probably no more than 5 seconds at the most) to shoot Lennon, after waiting for about six hours in the cold. My gut feeling is that a Chapman who was genuinely crazy in the way that we’ve always assumed he was crazy would not have been alert enough or mentally ready to do that. Chapman’s behavior right before and after the shooting is also very peculiar. He tried to convince the photographer to stick around; he apparently greeted Yoko when she walked by, and at least according to some reports called out to Lennon before firing; he made no attempt to escape; he seemed terribly concerned that Jose, the doorman, might be upset with him (even asking the police to go back and apologize for him); he greeted the police by loudly saying “I acted alone!” Chapman strikes me as a Sirhan type, a troubled person whom nobody would have ever pegged as dangerous or scary or even particularly smart, but someone who behaved uncharacteristically for a very brief window of time, during which they became someone who successfully planned and carried out a very difficult crime: the murder of a famous person at the exact moment when there was nobody else around who was in a position to protect them.
The day of the shooting…MDC spent hours talking to Jose about the Bay of Pigs and the JFK assassination? Who is Jose Perdomo? Why did it take 7 years for his name to come out?
Is he the Jose Perdomo who headed Operation 40…a kill squad during the Bay of Pigs?
Google John Lennon and Jose Perdomo and decide for yourself.
Jose may well have been the shooter or the man in charge of the operation to kill JL.
MDC was knocked out of his trance supposedly by Jose…who supposedly knocked the gun out of his hands…and kicked it across the floor
‘Do you know what you just did?’, asked Jose…MDC replies, ‘I shot John Lennon’…’Get out of here’, says Jose…MDC walks to the curb a short distance away and sits quietly reading a book.
The first arriving police officer…took one look at the ‘maintenance man’ standing behind Jose and moved to arrest him…I believe that the officers’ instincts were good…Jose quickly stops the officer and points to MDC sitting quietly on the curb.
‘That’s the shooter’ or something like that.
Again, the police officers’ instincts were good. Nah, that can’t be him. He looks like a businessman. His instincts felt no murder on MDC shortly after the shooting…but those same instincts made him move on the ‘maintenance man’ standing safely behind Jose. This officer had good gut instincts.
Jose is the only man on earth to point out MDC as the shooter of John Lennon.
Even in death…JL was a merchandizing miracle…making people millions of dollars…I remember standing in line at the supermarket…shortly after the shooting…there were dozens of magazines and newspapers filled with pictures and stories about JL…
I sometimes wonder if some of those rags had been made before his death…because they were produced in record time…I’ve never seen anything like it…maybe 911 comes close…but even that I doubt
I am guilty of having bought John Lennon-designed crib sheets and stuffed animals for my baby, and this was in 2002. I know it made Yoko an (additional) fortune, but I have to say, I just didn’t buy them because they were John Lennon-inspired, they truly were the cutest out of all the selections.
[…] Azzurro a New York)” di Polanski e Tate, che preannunciava la morte di Sharon stessa. Al link https://www.heydullblog.com/uncategorized/lennon-murder-conspiracy-open-thread/ si mette in evidenza che il satanista Kenneth Anger aveva dichiarato di aver incontrato Chapman nel […]
I suggest starting with the actual evidence and missing evidence. Start with the Official NYPD photo of the door with glass window that Lennon was trying to enter. Look at the number of holes in the glass and consider trajectory based upon witness statements of where Chapman was standing when he fired. Then consider the location of the wounds to Lennon. Next look at the archive NY Times the morning of the 9th December 1980 that is contradicted by the NY Daily News as to location of where the murder weapon was recovered. Then research the number of bullets fired and number of bullet holes and markings found. Don’t forget the Doorman Jose Perdimo and ask how and why his name was completely absent from all Corporate media for at least 8 years later and even then buried in the media yet the guy who took the photo of Lennon with Chapman instantly sold his photo and story and ultimately made over 1 million in royalties. Wouldn’t the Doorman have a story to tell and sell? Chapman wS involved but certainly appears the Kill shots came from across by the Service Elevator where Jose was. The number of shots reported exceeded what the .38 Chapman supposedly had. Look at the NYPD report. See a serial number anywhere? Start with the actual evidence and lack thereof. Chapman may have been mkultra Cia lackey but didn’t act alone. 2 shooters. RIP John Lennon
@Richard Another curious thing is that the limo dropped them on the sidewalk instead of driving through the gates. Yoko acknowledged that their usual routine was to drive through the gates and be let off inside. For some reason, on this night, that changed and they got out on the street instead. At whose discretion or why this occurred is not remarked upon. Also, rather than immediately driving off, the limo sat there while the shooting took place, long enough for a taxi to pull up and park behind it. (The passenger said he was paying his fare when he heard the shots ring out.)
Yes, this is very troubling, @Matt.
@Matt – Not only that, but according to this guy, who was allegedly an ‘eye-witness’, the door of the limo closed and the driver sped away after John was shot:
The driver was a key witness to one of the biggest events of the 20th century. Who was he and why did he flee the crime scene?
Great points. There is no question there liwere 2 shooters. Upwards of 8 to 10 bullet markings were found while the alleged snub nosed .38 Chapman had could only carry 5 bullets. Medical reports had both .357 Magnum and .38 bullets. Way way too many discrepancies and yes I fully believe the CIA or parts of the Military Industrial coming back to power were all part of this. I was in 8th grade when it happened. I loved the Beatles and had been listening for years. If any of this info had come out back then it would have changed a lot. I was very sparked by the fact that Jose Perdomo’s name was kept out of corporate media entirely for nearly 8 years. It’s like the Limo Driver. they both had “big stories” to Tell and Sell for better or worsse.
And why did the doorman, as reported in several books, yell at Chapman to “run!” and “get out of here!” after the shooting occurred? Why, of all things, was Chapman chatting with the doorman about the Bay of Pigs invasion?
Didn’t one of the officers on the scene originally concluded based on Lennon’s injuries and the broken glass that the shots had been fired from somewhere other than where Chapman was standing? I’m trying to find that online but having trouble doing so; I forget where I read it.
In conjunction with the bodyguards being suspended and the fact that Yoko got out of the limo and into the building several yards ahead of John, it’s all very odd.
@Matt. More great points. Each year around the anniversary for 5 years now I get re-energized into the research. Very clear to me there are efforts to erase or bury many articles and blogs on the internet to this day it appears. So some of the info may not be as easy to find but apparently the first NYPD Cullen on the scene was very concerned the danger was still present and apparently used Chapman as a human shield but then Perdomo “talks him down” and explains it was Chapman. Really? And his name mever comes out for years? It was printed in a book that Chapman’s gun was “taken downstairs” down the Service Elevator and gave it to another employee to hide in a drawer and eventually turned over to the NYPD. Like that ain’t news? @Michael. yes, there appears to have been very powerful sources that Silenced many around this event. the NYPD maybe could be slopply but this was sloppy over the top. Way too many discrepancies. Real. like Evidentiary real. Number of bullet markings alone says enough.
Not endorsing or denying this reading, but it is exactly the model postulated in the murder of RFK 12 years earlier. A second, presumably experienced shooter shooting as the motiveless patsy attracts all the attention, doesn’t flee, and gives the cops an open-and-shut case. Yes, the motive is flimsy, but that can be papered over with “He’s crazy.”
The question behind this theory on Lennon’s murder is:
1) Did certain elements of CIA/intelligence community, retired or active, believe that John Lennon was a political threat in 1980? It’s possible; they certainly had in the early 70s. And Reagan’s election definitely signaled to the old spook community that the post-Watergate rules would no longer be applied to them. It is possible that Lennon’s murder was as much a warning to others in the government as it was something aimed at Lennon. The attempted murder of Reagan six weeks later has always seemed to me to be connected.
2) Was there the capability to do this in 1980, to program someone to behave in a certain way? Certainly.
3) Was this angle fully investigated in 1980? Absolutely not.
4) Is it possible to reassemble a case on such a murder after the fact? Not really. Not unless someone directly involved comes forward.
5) Can we trust the NYPD on this murder? Well, I wouldn’t. As with the DPD on 11/22/63, and the LAPD in 1968, they want a solved case, not necessarily the right solution, especially if that right solution is politically difficult.
In the case of RFK, the LA Coroner Thomas Noguchi did all the things you’re saying, @Richard, and that data put Sirhan in a position he was not on the night of June 5. And yet the official reading of that murder did not change. Sadly, I think it’s impossible to do anything but speculate in either case.
@Michael Yes a lot of great info you provided but the part that isn’t speculation is the total nunber of bullet markings found that dsy. there are photographs of these. More than 5 shots means 2 shooters.
The excellent presidential historian Michael Beschloss posted to Twitter the other day asking people to share their memories of Lennon’s murder. Two people said that they walked by the Dakota that evening and saw Chapman standing there; one person said that he noticed that Chapman was clearly holding a gun inside his coat. This really startled me. It seems crazy to me that Chapman was allowed to stand there in front of the entrance of a private residence where numerous famous people lived for around seven hours while visibly clutching a gun inside his coat. And this was after he’d obtained the autograph and really had no reason to continue hanging around. Why didn’t the doorman say something? Wasn’t it his job to keep potentially dangerous strangers away?
It seems to me that at least three other people participated, wittingly or unwittingly, in Lennon’s murder: Chapman’s wife, to whom he’d revealed that he planned to kill John Lennon; the cop (!) who gave him the bullets; and the doorman who allowed Chapman to stand in the only place where he could easily commit the crime. (He seems to have been standing inside the archway, on private property; he probably couldn’t have gotten a clear shot from the sidewalk.) It’s surprising to me that the doorman appears to have vanished into history; he never gave an interview to the media that I’m aware of, and remains a shadowy figure to this day (though I assume he talked to the police, and Fred Seaman recalled a conversation with him after the murder). It makes me wonder what else might have come out if Chapman had gone on trial.
@JD more great questions. some interesting resources and info at this link: https://jfkcountercoup.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/dakota-doorman/
Is there any hope of getting the NYPD investigative files through FOIA at this point? I was rereading Goldman’s account of the murder, and he mentions quite a thorough investigation aimed at debunking any possible conspiracy theories (though curiously no one he interviewed had been seriously interrogated by police). I’m generally not taken in by conspiracy theories and tend to believe Chapman acted alone, but there certainly is a lot of murkiness around this event that would be nice to finally have cleared up.
I’m a long-time true crime reader, and even the most open-and-shut cases have inconsistent eyewitness testimony, unexplained coincidences, and ambiguities. The murder of John Lennon was committed by the person who was convicted of the crime. There was no reasonable doubt about his actions, only about his state of mind.
The limo driver left because that’s what drivers do once passengers have left the vehicle. He didn’t see the crime, so he wasn’t an important witness.
If the person who claims to have noticed that there was a man with a concealed handgun waiting in front of the Dakota is telling the truth, why didn’t they say something at the time?
The doorman has been interviewed in the years after 1980, and did not mysteriously disappear. Fans often waited for Lennon at the doorway, and there is nothing unusual about how the doorman treated the suspect.
The federal government did try to deport John Lennon in the 1970s, but there is no evidence that the CIA was involved. The wheels began moving in 1971 and continued long after Lennon stopped being involved in politics, mostly due to bureaucratic momentum. The FBI had a file on Lennon, and both the State Department and the Justice Department participated in the effort to revoke his green card. But by 1977, none of these agencies were paying the slightest bit of attention to John Lennon, who was invited to attend Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration.
By 1980, the idea that any current or former member of law enforcement or the intelligence community regarded John Lennon as anything other than a former Beatle is preposterous. Why waste resources and assets, or risk being found out over a 40 year-old rock star?
In criminal defense, there is a tired, predictable lie called the SODDI defense. “Some Other Dude Did It!” Lee Harvey Oswald had a rifle, was in the Book Depository, but some other dude did it. James Earl Ray broke out of prison, bought a rifle, stood in the bathroom of a rooming house next to the Lorraine Motel, but some other dude did it. Sirhan Sirhan brought a pistol to the Ambassador Hotel, waited in the kitchen, was tackled by witnesses who pulled the murder weapon out of his hand, but some other dude killed RFK. Mumia Abu-Jamal was driving a cab in downtown Philadelphia when he saw his brother being pulled over by the police, grabbed his pistol, ran over to the car, and…some other dude that no one saw used the pistol to murder a police officer.
Whatever his fame, and whatever his flaws, John Lennon was a 40 year old man with a wife and family who was gunned down in Manhattan by a loser with a gun. Somehow, people who should know better have decided to ignore the victim of a homicide and are focused on the murderer, spinning tales of conspiracy and intrigue. Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the fat Hawaiian who shot Lennon, and the rest of the killers whose names are familiar to most Americans are not interesting people and their lives are not worth studying. Their VICTIMS were interesting people, with lives and ideas and families that mattered. Their names are mostly forgotten.
I am always sad about the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, and I hate seeing the name of the bag of meat that pulled the trigger in print. He wanted his name to be linked with Lennon’s, and he is getting his wish. His name should not be remembered. His wish should not be granted. He’s just another loser with a gun. Anyone can buy one, anyone can fire one. No conspiracy is required. In the United States, anyone, whether they’re a president, a Beatle, a cop, an convenience store clerk, or a kid in a classroom can be shot by a loser with a gun. Stop obsessing, making stuff up, and reliving the crime over and over again. Take the focus off Lennon’s death, ignore the killer, and pay attention to the work that made Lennon famous in the first place.
I am glad your analysis is not part of any investigation or defense. Nothing you have said and taking a very long time to say nothing explains the number of bullet marki;ngs found, the medical evidence of two different types of bullets, the lack of a serial number on the NYPD report for the weapon, the angle of trajectory for the various shots, the clear and direct conflict in major reporting by the NY Times and NY Daily News the next day as to where the murder weapon was found, the gaping missing witness statements and investigatory statements, and yes, Doorman Jose Perdomo completely missing in action yet the most key witness. Do you have his statement? have you reviewed it? Have you ever performed a felony trial? Been a consultant for one? Your analysis is frightening and is the type that allows these actions to carry on in my view.
Let’s try to keep the rhetoric friendly, please. Topics like this one are so contentious, and I want people to engage with the data, not the person presenting it. Thank you, everybody!
Actually, Peter, I’m not “making stuff up.” The person who noticed Chapman clutching a gun didn’t “say something at the time” because he responded the same way you or I would: He got away from there as fast as he could. I imagine that’s what most people would have done in New York City in 1980. I didn’t say that the doorman had “mysteriously disappeared,” I said he didn’t give any interviews that I’m aware of. (This stands in stark contrast to, say, the cop who arrested Chapman, who seems to pop up in every documentary or article about the murder.)
This is not the place to debate your insistence that there was nothing fishy about any of the major assassinations of the 1960s, but perhaps the reason many people think “some other guy” murdered RFK is that he was shot at point-blank range behind the ear, and Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him.
“the reason many people think “some other guy” murdered RFK is that he was shot at point-blank range behind the ear, and Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him.”
Indeed, as per LA County Coroner Thomas Noguchi in 1968.
In later years, there have been analyzed recordings that seem to contain many more “shots” (sonic impulses) than Sirhan could’ve fired, and the major suspect–a rightwing security guard named Gene Cesar–has admitted drawing and firing his gun. He was directly behind RFK.
@Peter, I appreciate the sentiment behind much of this, but I think it provides a vast space for bad actors to inhabit. By this logic, any time a political murder takes place, the proper response is not to treat it like a crime–that is, investigate it immediately, properly and thoroughly, and go wherever the evidence leads regardless of who it might harm–but instead to “pay attention to the work that made Lennon (or JFK, or Malcolm X, or MLK, or RFK) famous in the first place.” This actively incentivizes political murder. And I would say that America in 2022 has largely been created by a fifty-year climate where rightwing violence has been dismissed. Whatever one’s political leanings today, American society and culture after 1963 would’ve been vastly, vastly different if a handful of significant political leaders, all popular liberals or leftists, had survived. To assume that things would’ve turned out as they have regardless–as many people do–seems to me to be an artifact of heartbreak, not of political analysis. Martin Luther King was 39 when he died; how would he have acted upon American society for another thirty or forty years?
These cases should not be conflated; they should be taken one at a time. Me, personally, I think that of the set of them, Lennon’s murder is the most likely to have been the work of a lone assassin. But there are lots of peculiarities to that case, and just because the victim was famous, the NYPD’s desultory investigation of the murder should not be dismissed.
A simple question: If Chapman wanted to be famous, why didn’t he go through with the trial, which would’ve been on every newspaper in the world for two weeks or more? If he thought he was John Lennon and was killing himself (as was posited at the time), why not just commit suicide? Did he somehow hypnotize HIMSELF using Catcher in the Rye? Did he kill Lennon randomly, instead of Johnny Carson? You might say, “Who cares?” or “He’s crazy!” to all of this, but answering this question is fundamental to any investigation: why did he do it? And having done it, why not flee? Someone who’s bonkers enough to kill John Lennon is very unlikely to be organized and meticulous enough to do it. And once apprehended, they are unlikely to show decades of placid behavior under incarceration. If MDC acted crazy on December 8th 1980, he would be crazy on December 8th ’81, ’91, and ’21. To be precisely crazy enough to travel across the world and kill a total stranger for a shifting collection of reasons, but then be more or less totally sane the moment that was completed…do you see how that’s something that needs to be explained, if a theory of murder is to make sense? Nobody has ever explained it except by saying, “He’s crazy, so sane people would never be able to understand.”
As to JFK, RFK and the rest, I will leave that for another day. But I would posit that if you believe that the CIA always acted in concert with the Administration, we know that is not true; and that the CIA’s idea of who America’s enemies were/are always fit with a reasonable person’s estimation of that, we know that is not true either. And there had been so much leakage of intelligence operatives and techniques into the society at large (LSD is just the most obvious example), that by 1980 it was impossible to know where the intelligence community ended and the private sector began.
So much to say that, IMHO, these are historical events that cannot be definitively explained at this late date. Each of them were likely to become mysterious after the first few days of improper evidence handling. That’s certainly true in the case of JFK’s murder.
@ Michael Gerber:
“A simple question: If Chapman wanted to be famous, why didn’t he go through with the trial, which would’ve been on every newspaper in the world for two weeks or more?”
Indeed, had he have wanted to ‘become famous’ as has been parroted verbatim for decades, then why did he not plead ‘guilty’ instead of ‘not guilty’ thus denying himself the platform to be the headline star of perhaps the ‘Trial of the Century’ as described by – if I’m not mistaken – none other than Fenton Bresler, who was not only author of ‘Who Murdered John Lennon’ but a lawyer and a researcher who investigated the lead-up and aftermath of the assassination first-hand. Since his imprisonment, Chapman, this man who ‘sought fame from killing a Beatle,’ has so far taken part in and/or participated in a total of (if I’m not mistaken) only four media-related projects, that being for a book (‘Let Me Take You Down…’ by Jack Jones), a magazine interview, and two TV appearances (one for TV-interviewer Larry King on ‘CNN,’ and the other for fellow television-host, Barbara Walters).
I thought your Fred seaman article was excellent. I’m not up for writing out a voluminous comment, but I feel that Matt sergiou breaks down the Lennon assassination & all the questionable aspects of it in great detail. magical mystery talk podcast with mark devlin, matt sergiou, & Desiree? then matt does a 2 hour bonus after show.
Thanks, matt s, for giving a heads-up to my two-part podcast with Mark and Desiree. The intention for me back in 2020 when I recorded the two-part podcast was always to provide as comprehensive a review of the Lennon/Chapman assassination drama as possible.
For many years I resisted going down this rabbit hole but something always seemed off and sure enough, when you dig into the details, many things don’t add up, as detailed by many here. There are also the coincidences/similarities with the attempted assassination of Reagan – Hinkley’s fascination/obsession with Catcher in the Rye and, as it turns out, John Lennon.
Could Lennon’s assassination been a rehearsal by the shadowy forces, whoever they might be, for the big hit on the president? Using the same mind-control method? If (and we’re talking big ifs here after all) the attempt on Reagan was a conspiracy, you have to conclude that the intention was to kill, not wound – the margin between survival and death in such circumstances is too small to be controlled. Was this all part of a plan to get the eminently spooky and ultimate CIA man George HW Bush into the White House after the more electable but expendable Ronald Reagan had opened the door to once again to the old gang?
So, again ‘if’ this is the case (and it’s wild hypothesis but that’s all we can do so what the hell), why such a high-profile subject for the rehearsal? Well, if they’re going to test a kill on the president, it has to be someone of profile to see it will fly. And why not pick someone who represents everything they hate, whether they’re still an active ‘threat’ or not? Settle the score with the English commie while they’re about it. Two birds, one stone, so to speak.
I don’t really believe this is what went down but it’s an interesting thought. At least I don’t think I believe this is what went down…
@Hieronymous, I share your speculations here.
Inside places like CIA there are factions–some crazy, some not; some liberal, some conservative. Factions can and do run operations without the knowledge of, much less the oversight of, anybody. Compare what’s been going on inside the U.S. Secret Service, which if anything has been viewed as much less factional than most other portions of the U.S. government. The fact that there was a segment, however small, of the Secret Service that enthusiastically functioned as Trump’s Praetorian Guard is truly alarming, but not surprising to anyone who’s read deeply in the history of the Sixties. The safest thing right now would be to blow the Secret Service up, bring in outside administrators, investigate the hell out of everybody, and throw anybody who committed seditious acts in jail. That’s what should’ve happened at CIA in 1961, after the Bay of Pigs; but this was not done, and so you have CIA Miami CoS David Atlee Phillips running terrorism operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis 18 months later, risking nuclear war and defying direct Presidential orders. The reality is that the institutions, whether it’s the Secret Service today, or the CIA in the early 60s, protect their own, which allows for a lot of activity that even Presidents don’t know about, and can’t stop.
This is why you can’t take a laissez-faire attitude towards this stuff; it has attracted and encouraged bad actors. You HAVE to investigate political violence, and punish it severely, or else democracy is a puppet show. But we do not, and then we wonder why there is this constant Fascist undercurrent in the U.S. power structure that never seems to go away, even after it flares up into violence.
Going back to 1980, remember that George H.W. Bush was an extremely well-liked Director, and there were a lot of people at Langley devoted to his Presidential ambitions (in Miles Copeland’s memorable phrase, “Spooks for Bush”); like the Texas oilmen LBJ circulated among, these people were aggressive. These spies were, many of them, the postwar generation that had viewed CIA as a quasi-military action arm of American policy, a way to project American power. They did not believe that CIA should be in any way passive or defensive; they saw the Soviet threat in the same terms as they’d seen the Nazi threat; they could and did call on lots of private money (corporations like ITT and United Fruit) as well as secret money (like warlords or the Mafia); and they felt that things like anti-colonialism–and certainly the American counterculture–were Soviet operations that must be fought against. Operation CHAOS–ie, the CIA program most likely to engage in the harassment of Lennon–was fruit of this mindset (as was COINTELPRO at the FBI). It is an offensive mindset, seeing the suppression of something like “the Bed-In” as part of a battle against the Soviets actively influencing and infiltrating American society.
Was Bush a part of this generation? ABSOLUTELY. Bush was–though he always denied it–a CIA operative in the 1960s, if you believe Russ Baker’s books on the family (which I do), and likely played a role in the Bay of Pigs operation. Which means that he is part of the murk surrounding the JFK assassination, too. Far from the bumbling preppy image he cultivated in the press, the by-all-accounts extremely nice and cordial Yalie was likely involved in all sorts of activities, nefarious and not.
Bush unsuccessfully tried to secure the GOP’s nomination for President in 1976 and 80, and so had to pull an LBJ, getting on the ticket in 1980 as Veep. It is not at all impossible, given what we know about George HW Bush, that some of his cronies decided to unfreeze some sleeper agents from the era before Watergate. Bush didn’t have to approve this, nor know about it in any way.
Was Chapman a test of the old tech left fallow after Helms stepped down? “Let’s see if this still works”?
Was Lennon’s murder a warning to the incoming Administration — “We’re back in charge” — which Reagan or one of his people ignored?
Who knows? But these are all reasonable questions, at least as reasonable as the idea that two lone nuts, two seemingly hypnotized shooters with totally nutso rationales for throwing away their lives, emerged within six weeks of each other…and then nothing like it since, thank God.
We do know that Bill Casey, former OSS and certainly CIA, was Reagan’s campaign manager, and then later his CIA Director. We do know that Reagan very nearly died on the operating table in 1981. And we know that, after he recovered, his Administration was rife with old-style–meaning 60s style–spookery, from the “October Surprise” to Iran-Contra to Death Squads to the CIA’s indirect role in putting crack into America’s ghettos (see the work of Gary Webb for this).
Lennon’s murder, and Reagan’s shooting, smells like the spycraft of the post-World War II generation to me. But that’s all I, or anyone, can say for sure. That doesn’t mean it’s not just malign Fate, it could be; but it’s not crazy to think that there was something more to it.
Finally, one must always remember that who we feel is a threat, or how we feel it appropriate to act, is not the same as how others feel/act. There were most definitely people within the government, and perhaps even CIA, who felt JFK was colluding with the Russians and planned to sell the U.S. out. If you really feel that, you kinda gotta remove him, right? In 1969-72, there were most definitely people who felt that John Lennon was a clear and present danger to the U.S. Government, and probably in the pay of the Kremlin. Those people were either ousted or too busy trying to protect their fiefdoms from 1973-80. Then Reagan got elected, and a lot of ’em came back. Whether they had anything to do with the murder of John Lennon in 1980 is anyone’s guess. But these are not “very big ifs.” They are quite small ifs.
My next question then is, let’s say all of this is possible if not plausible. What then does one make of things like Yoko exploring a divorce from John in the summer of 1980, or suspending the bodyguards, or telling the world their schedule, or John’s comments to Jack Douglas that Douglas won’t divulge? Are these all just coincidences and bad timing? (Or, if you’re Yoko, and don’t just want half, good timing?) As Mike has noted, there’s never really been an exhaustive biography of Yoko, I don’t think — not one that comprehensively documents her background, her archconservative family’s history, etc., or delves into what her “businesses” were in the late 70s. If one looks at theories other than Chapman was a lone nut, CIA-connected elements doing this without any knowledge or cooperation from people within the Dakota seems too coincidental, too.
The rule of thumb is: Always look for changes in protection.
In which case, who inside the Dakota was in contact or in concert with people outside the Dakota, and how far back did that connection go? Especially with the hypnosis stuff hovering around J&Y as far back as ’68, or John acting like he’s suffering from some kind of amnesia after the stop-smoking cure in ’75?
Great post, Michael, and plenty of food for thought. I feel Lennon’s death has never been afforded a proper examination, partly because of the (suspiciously) whirlwind resolution of the case at the time and also because his background was ostensibly ‘showbiz’ (“you know how it is”) and not political in a vocational sense. And although, in truth, politics accounted for a large part of Lennon’s late- and post-Beatles image, this aspect didn’t much feature in the apparent motive for his supposed assassin (a glaring omission, you might say).
There was also a feeling at the time of ‘this is the point 20th century pop culture has reached, where ‘stars’ have ascended to levels of power that makes them targets along with politicians and religious leaders; this is the way it’s going to be’. Except it wasn’t – we can look back from our vantage point over 40 years later with the knowledge of it being pretty much a one-off (the only similar incident I can think of is, strangely, the attempt on George Harrison’s life – although from my admittedly basic knowledge of it, that seemed more like a straightforward case of serious mental illness on behalf of the assailant). But I think this kind of fear entwined with Lennon’s murder accounted for some of the reluctance to delve too deeply, and the ‘don’t even mention his name’ implorations played into this.
@Hieronymus, I couldn’t have typed it better myself.
There was a sense at the time–certainly unspoken–that Lennon had courted such an end by becoming political. This idea is deeply deeply conservative in that it assumes that only politicians, with all the compromises inherent in that job, should be allowed to exert political influence on our culture, and that any cultural figure who authentically and coherently challenges the political status quo is in some sense “asking for it.” Lennon’s murder put the brakes on a type of overtly politicized celebrity that Lennon had invented, but that others had practiced between 1968-80. What came after was a much more typical type of political action by celebrities; Bangladesh and March of Dimes stuff. Poor heartbroken Harry Nilsson going up against the NRA.
Who suffers violence and who does not is an interesting data point; some people hated JFK in November 1963, but they were a lunatic fringe. Hatred of Trump was widespread, mainstream. And yet JFK was murdered on a day of truly terrible protection practices, and Trump was/is so erratic that he was actually TRYING to put himself in harm’s way (on January 6th), and somehow spent four years safe as houses. It is interesting.
But as you say, the assumption that underlay so much of the commentary on Lennon’s murder–that it was somehow a natural predictable and in some sense inevitable development of mass celebrity culture which had begun with Valentino and Chaplin, continued through Sinatra and Elvis, and then the Beatles, which then merged with the youthful politician/film star trope of the Kennedys–we now see that assumption was incorrect. Celebrity culture only continued to grow after 1980, but more murders did not happen. Politician/celebrity Trump STILL dominates the news cycle in a way that would make Johnandyoko envious, and yet lives and breathes. Madonna has enjoyed a Beatle-like level of fame for 40 years without incident; Michael Jordan has been arguably MORE famous than The Beatles, and is unmolested. Michael Jackson, Prince, Bowie, Freddy Mercury, these men did not die from an assassin’s bullet, nor Bono or Springsteen in spite of their politics. So it is time to look at it all again.
Harrison’s assailant reads as an authentic lunatic because he was impulsive and disorganized, and physically attacked his victim. That’s what a crazy person would do. Someone who is employed, plans, secures lethal weaponry, trains himself, travels, and performs a murder, then becomes apparently sober as a judge…I’m not saying crazy people like that can’t exist, but they must be rare as hen’s teeth.
Anyway, as I type this I’m listening to Bob Dylan’s “Bringing It All Back Home,” and it occurs to me that we didn’t just lose a great musician and interesting person on December 8th, 1980; we also lost a culture-wide sense, built upon for decades, that artists could and indeed must influence the world as much as possible. Not just Lennon or Lenny Bruce, but Godard and Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda and Rolling Stone. That the ability to push the culture was appropriate and a big reason why you went into popular art, not just to make money. As with the early days of the internet or the fight against Hitler, this larger sense of purpose attracted all sorts of the best, most interesting people. Between 1960 and 80, making a record or a movie or doing standup wasn’t just about getting rich and famous.
After Lennon’s murder, that idea was no longer culturally current, and pop culture became apolitical. That’s why TIME’s cover read “The Night The Sixties Died”; the point of the Sixties, and indeed why I keep adding to this blog, is that art can, and must, make the world better. Chapman felt like some kind of bill coming due. But if Chapman wasn’t that, if he wasn’t enacting some larger cultural trend–as is now clear–it’s time for art to matter again, and for the best, most interesting people to start making art again.
Thank you to everyone who replied to my post, and apologies to anyone who thought I was accusing them of making things up. As always, Hey Dullblog readers had lots of interesting and well-informed points about John Lennon and related topics.
I am still appalled by the amount of attention Lennon’s killer has received, and the way that killers become the focus of public attention at the expense of their victims adds insult to injury. The victims can no longer speak for themselves, but the murderer can spin tales (“Raoul the invisible secrete agent made me do it; I don’t remember anything,” “I’m a patsy”). It’s okay to question the accepted version of events, but as Carl Sagan said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The small inconsistencies, suspicious speculations, and other “evidence” that comes up in the wake of an assassination are rarely credible, and they divert attention away from the victim, and in this case, his work.
Inconsistent witness statements are common in any situation. Read Hugo Munsterberg’s 1908 classic On the Witness Stand: Essays on Psychology and Crime or any of the thousands of studies and books that followed it, or just reminisce about something with your friends, and you’ll notice huge differences in what people see and remember. That also explains the differences between The New York Times and The New York Post the day a after the murder. Different reporters, different sources.
It’s true that witnesses thought Sirhan Sirhan was too far away from Robert Kennedy to have shot him point blank. Paul Schrade, who was wounded in the attack, was adamant about that. Is it possible that some other guy who no one saw fired the fatal shot? Sure. But it’s also possible that RFK turned his head (as some witnesses said) and that the killer got closer to him than witnesses thought. If the witnesses are so observant and reliable, why didn’t any of them see the second gunman standing next to the victim holding a gun to his head?
The pistol that fired the fatal bullets is on display in the NYPD ballistic evidence facility in Queens. Its serial number matches the sales record, and the examiner’s initials are etched into it (per policy) to record the chain of evidence. The fact that a detective didn’t write the number on a form might be the act of a busy person filling out paperwork, or proof of a vast conspiracy. Occam’s Razor? (or is it Ockham’s Razor? I don’t know.)
Witnesses who claim to have seen Lennon’s killer lurking with a gun aren’t credible to me. 72nd St. has lots of buildings with concierges, a nearby subway station, and (in 1980) pay phones. Depending on which way this “witness” was walking, there were cabs with radios, pay phones, and stores. I don’t know what the Jamba Juice on 72nd was in 1980, but they have a phone, and a call from the upper West side about a man with a gun would certainly have gotten a response, even in the crime-ridden 1980s. The implication of this tale is that if one person could see the gun, the doorman and anyone else walking by could see it too. Where are all of those other people, and why didn’t they call?
Making stuff up: I’m skeptical about James Taylor’s recollections about the Lennon murder-the story keeps getting better every time he retells it. Jack Douglas has two stories, both completely unverifiable, that seem like BS to me. He used the phrase “street of dreams” and Lennon thanked him before completing a classic Beatle-y song IN A RECORDING STUDIO, made a cassette of it, and it vanished? A studio that Douglas was recording everyday chatter in? And he erased Lennon’s last conversations because they were disturbing and then told everyone what he had done? If he wanted the conversation to be secret, why blab about it? It’s an enticing, frustrating story that intrigues people, but there is no way to verify it.
Vicki Scheff’s “The Betrayal of John Lennon,” her account of Frederic Seamon, Bob Rosen, Rick Dufay, and Norman Shonefield’s “Project Walrus” uses their own diaries and admissions to demonstrate how dishonest and hostile they were. She may be wrong, but it’s worth reading and considering.
The “multiple bullet marks” nonsense comes from one guy’s YouTube video, and none of the claims are substantiated by anything other than his assertions.
Lennon’s political phase was a low point in his career. Rolling Stone called “Sometime in New York City” an act of artistic suicide, and it sold poorly. From 1973 until his death, he retreated from radical politics and spent a fair amount of time in 1980 making fun of Jerry Rubin and other radicals. The causes he embraced (opposition to Vietnam, freeing John Sinclair, opposing the death penalty, “power to the people”) weren’t particularly original or unusual in the early 70s. The “One to One” benefit was a pretty standard (and admirable) act of charity, and I don’t think he was killed in 1980 because of the Attica State song and benefit. By the end of the Church Committee hearings in the late 70s, revelations about the FBI bugging the Lennons’ phones were barely newsworthy.
I’m not a detective or expert in felonies, and I am not dangerously gullible or eager to ignore the possibility that law enforcement or intelligence agencies abuse their power. But whether it’s the Kennedy assassinations, Lennon’s murder, the 2020 elections, or fluoride in drinking water, half-baked confections of minor inconsistencies and theories about nefarious plots don’t add anything useful to public dialogue. Asking questions like Tucker Carlson (Could Lennon’s murder have been a signal from the CIA to let Ronald Reagan know how powerful they were? Could “pizza” be code for the babies that Democrats molest and eat to stay young forever? What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?) isn’t evidence.
Ask yourself: in a country where anyone can buy a handgun, which is more likely-a nefarious secret cabal plotting the murder of a 40 year-old ex-Beatle, or a mentally ill fan with a Charter Arms .38 and a handful of hollow points fulfilling a homicidal fantasy?
We could all be brains in a vat, the Matrix could be real, this could all be a computer simulation, and if you think about it, there could be a universe in your fingernail and in that universe a person just like you could be looking at their fingernail and realizing that there could be a universe in there, too. And in that universe,…
Okay, that is the last overly long, insubstantial, and irritating post I will write about the Lennon murder. Go find the other gunmen-I’ll leave you alone.
The best writing about Lennon’s death was Lester Bang’s “Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon.” It’s worth re-reading from time to time. I read it in December when I am thinking about 1980, and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in this topic.
[Editor’s note: I originally wrote, then deleted this comment because I really do not wish for this discussion to devolve into craziness; nor do I wish personally to spend a lot of time and thought on historical events that are…spiritually immiserating. And these definitely are that.
But I think this POV of mine is so essential to how I view the history of 1945-80, and hence the sixties, the seventies, and even the Beatles story, I think I owe it to you readers to leave it up. @Peter, I do not mean to be contentious, and am mostly using your comment as an excuse to comment in general. I should just write a book to get it all out of my system, not just book-length comments. Thanks. — MG]
@Peter, I really liked your comment until this point:
“Could Lennon’s murder have been a signal from the CIA to let Ronald Reagan know how powerful they were? Could “pizza” be code for the babies that Democrats molest and eat to stay young forever? What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?”
This is not fair; nor does it bring any kind of nuanced knowledge of any of the issues at hand. It is simply a statement of the world you wish to live in — which I think is fine, but that’s not what we’re discussing. It is similar, to use one example, to all the people who made fun of the hippies for claiming that the FBI and CIA were infiltrating their movements. “NARCS, man! Spooks! CIA!”
Ha ha, stupid hippies, everyone said. But…
First, infiltration and splintering is exactly what any well-funded semi-competent counterintelligence service engaged in a winner-take-all conflict with the USSR would do. And, second–not coincidentally, now that there’s no one to throw into the hoosegow–it is common knowledge that COINTELPRO (FBI) and CHAOS (CIA) were doing just that.
Just what we KNOW the spy services and their police friendlies were up to is positively batshit; and most of the documentation–MKULTRA, to use the best-known program, one of many–was burned in 1973. So were they up to all sorts of nefarious shit? Yes, they were; ask Fred Hampton. Were they determined to create hypnotized assassins, and did they spend lots of time, brains, and money trying to accomplish this? Also undeniably true. When someone posits that Sirhan or Chapman were these types of criminals, that sounds crazy, until you realize that’s exactly what the government had been trying to create for decades. That’s not some conspiracy theory; that’s a fact beyond dispute. The only debatable question is: is the government lying when they say they couldn’t create hypnotized assassins? You believe them; I don’t. Why is believing the government in this case “more rational”? Isn’t it, given the history, quite irrational to believe them? Isn’t deniability absolutely essential to the effectiveness of such a program?
Whether you or I think MKULTRA or CHAOS or COINTELPRO was sensible is besides the point; people like Hoover and Helms and Angleton and Sidney Gottlieb and Allen Dulles clearly did. If you’d like to heap scorn on them for being paranoid sociopaths, be my guest, I would agree 100%. But to conflate what is absolutely proven and known (a CIA obsessed with hypnotized assassins) and pretty garden-variety political activity (shooting left-wingers) with anything supernatural or even extraordinary…that’s wishing. I, too, wish we lived in a world where political murder didn’t exist; and indeed sometimes a political murder is a random act committed by an apolitical “nut.” But it’s not always a random act, or historically speaking, often isn’t. The murder of Julius Caesar was not a random act; nor Caligula; nor the assassination of Lincoln or Franz Ferdinand. The murders of Garfield, McKinley and Huey Long do seem to have been the act of a lone man with a grievance and a gun, but the security procedures in those cases were nil. Reasonable security procedures–known since Caesar’s time–are designed to foil lone nuts, and they do this very well. And when reasonable security procedures are NOT taken to foil lone nuts, that is strong evidence of…something. When people act “incompetently” and yet do not lose their jobs or pensions, that too is evidence of…something.
Only in America do reasonable, popular, moderate leaders get murdered by disassociating nuts, and truly terrible, divisive, HATED leaders–from Andrew Johnson to Nixon to Trump–somehow manage to serve unscathed. This is worth examining. Compare the story of someone like Jean Bastien-Thiry in France; he was part of OAS, which wanted to assassinate DeGaulle for crystal-clear, politically coherent motives. He was part of a well-planned, professionally executed ambush which failed. He was captured later, and executed. Oswald’s “plan” is totally random, his training and equipment is shoddy, and he does all sorts of illogical things (like not shooting at the motorcade as it’s heading towards him). Oswald shows no solid evidence of hating JFK; even if he had, it would be silly to think that Lyndon Johnson would be better for Castro, or the USSR, or whoever the theory says Oswald was trying to help. The Warren Commission’s Oswald is a political naif at best, and frankly a moron.
Similarly, Sirhan’s whole motive comes from 1) his notebooks, which show all sorts of evidence of conditioning (is it possible he did it to himself?), and a clipping found in his pocket at the time of the shooting (I don’t think “MOTIVE” was written at the top, but it might as well have been). These men were throwing away their whole lives, and for what? Why did James Earl Ray, of all the white racist criminals in America rambling around since the days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, decide to throw his life away killing Martin Luther King in 1968? THERE IS NO MOTIVE. And the moment one says, “Well, he was crazy,” we’ve entered the realm of faith. Craziness is not a motive; it is a kludge for a crime missing a motive.
I read about JFK’s murder for literally 35 years, and I still don’t know what happened. Anybody who says they do, is lying. For reasons too long to go into here, I think John Newman’s theory is probably as close as we’re going to come, because it uses the most dispassionate circumstantial evidence. But as far as conspiracy or no, it really all comes down to one fact for me: numerous people in Dealey Plaza moved towards the grassy knoll immediately after the shooting. Let’s say they were all mistaken, every single one. But then they were stopped by people carrying Secret Service identification, and the Secret Service says there were no agents on the ground in Dealey Plaza. The people responsible for issuing those credentials was the Technical Services Department of CIA. That–plus the massive inconsistencies in the forensics and ballistics, including the testimony of Dr. McClelland in Trauma Room One as to the location of the President’s wounds–suggests to me that the lone assassin theory is highly unlikely. And we’re not even getting into Jack Ruby, Public Spirited Citizen. I wish all this were otherwise. I would personally prefer a simple open-and-shut case. But it simply isn’t one.
Similarly, the official version of RFK’s murder just does not hold water. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. The problem of the fatal wound isn’t fallible eyewitnesses, but LA Coroner Thomas Noguchi. That’s a gold standard of proof to me. Plus there’s the issue of Gene Cesar, a rightwing security guard who admitted to drawing his gun that night–and was in precisely the right place to inflict the fatal wound. Thinking that Cesar did so, and not the guy who was NOT in the right place–that’s simply allowing the physical and ballistic evidence to guide your solution, and not fallible eyewitness testimony or one’s political persuasion, or an irrational lust for conspiracies or whatever. Things like the Dictabelt recording in Dallas or Van Praag’s analysis of the recording in the hotel pantry–these are yet more pieces of evidence, but they are not necessary ones. Wound location is all that is necessary. It is the “best evidence.”
As I’ve said, I think that Lennon’s murder is most likely to have been as the NYPD said it occurred, but it is not rational to look at his murder, in light of all the ones that came before AND the precise circumstances of his killing and say, “We should assume that the cops were acting competently and in good faith and anything weird can be chalked up to shit happens.” That is a mindset that would excuse ANY political murder, and while I don’t think we should immediately conclude in favor of a conspiracy, when a murder has a political impact, I think we must privilege that viewpoint, not the other one. I think it’s dangerous for our nation to look at the string of political murders from 1963-80, all weakening the enemies of one group — the Republican faction of the national security state — even in the case of Wallace in 1972!–and assume that they are all the work of entirely-apolitical-temporarily-insane-yet-highly-competent nuts. Because these acts were deeply consequential to the political history of the US, we do not have the leeway to frame them as merely personal tragedies. And yet we have, and now we reap the results. Lester Bangs’ opinion, and yours, is part of that reaping. “This kind of shit just happens, and it’s sad, but we gotta move on.” But it DOESN’T usually happen, and while it is sad, we can’t move on. We gotta be able to investigate political murders–and coup attempts!–or else democracy doesn’t exist. Voters elected JFK in 1960; he needed to be protected, to serve out his term. Voters were perhaps preparing to elect RFK in 1968. Martin Luther King was 39 when he died; he had 40 years to bring to American politics and culture, and he too might have ended up in high office. If democracy means anything, we can’t wash our hands like Pilate when something tragic happens.
And Lennon’s murder can, should, and was viewed as a piece of that sweep of history beginning in 1963. There’s no doubt HE would’ve viewed it in that fashion. Certainly his murder had a chilling effect on celebrities who might’ve been directly political. Whatever JohnandYoko’s flaws, they were unapologetically anti-war in 1969-72. Staking out a position contrary to the US government is very different than, say, helping Bangladesh or being vegetarian. After Lennon’s murder, celebrity politicking all gets very publicly inoffensive—LiveAid—and has stayed that way ever since; and in a country (and world) obsessed with celebrities, having them stop talking like political leaders (as John seemed to be doing in 1968-72) and only talk like brand ambassadors makes a difference.
I am happy to report that contemporary American politics does not seem to be marred in the same way it was from 1963-80. I do not know why this is; I suspect that the passing of a very specific generation of spies, with a very specific mindset, is part of the story. Our maladies are different–ironically, a surfeit of confusing conspiracies–but the “lone nut” thing seems to have passed. This, too, says…something?
“Go find the other gunmen–I’ll leave you alone.”
Gene Cesar — convinced? If not, why not?
Beneath the veneer of reasonableness, yours is a fundamentally unfair question. Finding the gunman (men?) is not my or your responsibility, but the responsibility of the investigating bodies. If the people with timely access to the evidence act incompetently or in bad faith–if they, for example, hose down the limo so that you can’t use the blood spatter to determine direction and number of shots, or remove and destroy the tiles from the kitchen so you can’t determine direction and number of shots, or or or–the examples are legion–now a bunch of private citizens reading newspaper clippings have to somehow overcome that? They somehow have to produce rock-solid testimony from an unimpeachable witness admitting to the crime? That’s absurd; it’s not serious. It’s wanting closure more than the truth. And I can understand that, and as I age I feel it more and more–but it’s not a fair question. We must sit with the uncertainty. If you are unsettled by the uncertainty in these events, don’t blame the conspiracy people; blame the cops and investigators who fucked them up, or fudged them on purpose. Because that’s really beyond question; each one was either fucked up or fudged. And while there’s a certain kind of comfort in dismissing it all as incompetence, I myself am not incompetent, nor are you, nor are most of the people I know. A world where crazy people are competent, and non-crazy people are incompetent is the opposite of my lived experience, and that’s why I can’t buy the internet skeptic’s stance on all this stuff.
“The best writing about Lennon’s death was Lester Bangs’ “Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon.”
I’ve read that Lester Bangs piece before and as in most things, I think Lester is full of [his own legend]. Entertainingly so, but…Though it was impossible to know for sure three days after, from our current vantage point Lennon’s murder was unquestionably a political killing, precisely because people then felt it to be one, and continue to feel it to be. Was Princess Diana a political figure? Unquestionably she was–because of how people thought of her. Did her death have vast political shockwaves, ones which the Monarchy (and thus the UK as a whole) feel to this day? Unquestionably so. Lester Bangs’ shtick was shitting on the hippies, and a lot of heartbroken Lefties did that and do that, and there was a good dollar to be made from it in 1980. But as with Lenny Bruce enough time has passed for us to read that piece, and know that Lester was wrong, as soothing as it might be to believe otherwise. Like “people are incompetent” and “secrets are never kept,” this is a statement of belief, not fact.
We know Lester’s wrong from this phrase: “the latest celebrity to be gunned down by a probable psychotic.”
Did no one EDIT this guy? Quick, name me three celebrities between 1920 and 1980 gunned down by lone nuts. You can’t, and that’s the whole point. Even Valerie Solanas KNEW Andy Warhol, and had a specific beef with him–she was afraid, not without reason, that he was going to steal ideas from her play. Up until 1980, only political figures had received the “lone nut” treatment, and it was precisely the newness of this that made people so sad when it happened to a rock and roll singer. But not Lester, who expected it. Who had been so traumatized as a young person by the murder of his political heroes that he expected it to happen to his cultural ones, too. Like…that’s a good thing?
From 1933-68 America was led by a liberal coalition fed by broad cultural agreement over things like the social safety net, investing in infrastructure and the middle class, public eduation, separation of Church and State, and so forth. Even Eisenhower was on board with all of this. Then, after a series of killings, there emerged a split between our culture and our politics; a split between what our leaders do, and what most Americans believe. For lots of reasons, contemporary historians are determined to have us believe that these killings, and this split, were contemporaneous but completely separate. As opposed to the obvious truth, which is that the killings created the split; they created strategic points of vacuum within our politics, where charismatic A-list liberals able to maintain the necessary coalitions were replaced by uncharismatic B-list liberals like Humphrey or McGovern or Carter, or charismatic Republicans like Reagan.
You don’t have a President Nixon without November 22, 1963 AND April 4, 1968 AND June 5, 1968. Nixon does not get elected once, much less twice. And you almost certainly don’t have Reagan in 1980. The idea that a bunch of significant political leaders can be killed in a short time with no impact on the politics of the country is American exceptionalism at its most dangerous.
Which is where we come back to Lester Bangs. It’s frankly kinda weird to be so high on contrarianism that you come around to “whatever the cops say, man, it’s a dangerous world out there”–bedrock conservative paranoia, that–but this era was the beginning of Reaganism. A lot of people were confused, especially those on the left. They’d been fucked with, by professionals, soundly and systematically, since at least 1967, and no longer had any idea what sensible political action felt like; Eighties leftism in America was all poses and gestures and attitude. All Chomsky and tsk-tsking Wall Street and Red Dawn and declaring suburban cities “nuclear free zones.” It’s one of the things that made them so ineffectual when faced with hardcore spooks like Bill Casey or George HW Bush. The problem exists to this day; when the other side kills your leaders and you respond by calling it random chance because those same rightwingers say it was, YOU ARE FUCKED. Just like Lester Bangs was fucked; resigned to a life where the people he liked would get shot because…just because. Even if every single one of these murders was actually a lone nut, arguing that it wasn’t at least gives a little oppositional energy to fill the space where the guy used to stand. That’s not nothing, and it’s also not Q-Anon. There’s a vast, vast difference between thinking that Lee Harvey Oswald probably didn’t act alone, and thinking JFK Jr. is coming back, and not seeing this is a measure of our political culture’s brokenness.
Please forgive the length, but this is all so foundational to my political worldview, the product of a lot of thinking and reading, and is the opposite of “conspiracy theory.” To me, it is explanatory and obvious. It is not titillating or James Bond-y. It’s historical figures we know acting in ways you might expect, just not publicly. I’m not trying to convince you of anything, @Peter, and frankly wish that I thought as you do; many intelligent people do, and I respect them. But the circumstances of my life gave me an itch in this area. The memoir I’m writing will explain more.
I will leave you with this: I’m purposely not using names here, but my best friend’s Uncle was CIA Chief of Station in Quito, Ecudor. Quito was one of the dirtier stations in Central America during a very dirty couple of decades, 1955-75. My friend always asked his Uncle about what he did, but his Uncle took his oath of secrecy very seriously, even after falling out with the Agency, even to his dying day. That is the generation of spies I’m talking about. Hard-bitten guys, these. Patriots? Yes, in their own eyes unquestionably. But were they good? Moral? Democratic?
Once, in an attempt to goad him into confirming or denying something, anything, my friend blurted out, “I was reading something in The Nation and — you CIA guys were totally incompetent.”
[Steve’s] Uncle smiled. “Have you ever considered that’s what we’d want you to think?”
“All that shit with Castro and The Mob! Come on,” my friend said, “name one operation that succeeded. One.”
“[Steve],” the Uncle said, “a successful operation is one people like you will never, ever know about.”
People like — to pick someone at random — Lester Bangs. Who concludes, after one of his heroes dies, that the police are right and the world is full of dangerous crazies, and…that’s how a liberal generation turns conservative. Perhaps?
This is the second time I’ve seen Gene Cesar mentioned in this thread, that he admitted to firing his gun. I was vaguely aware of him as someone who was present during the RFK murder, but I didn’t know details.
I got curious and found this:
He was asked if he shot RFK and said no. He was asked if he fired his weapon at all that night and he said no.
The polygraph test was arranged by Dan Moldea, a journalist.
Polygraph tests are unreliable so it’s possible Cesar fooled it. Also, I can’t find much info on Moldea, so for all I know he could be someone who was paid to contribute to a certain narrative. That’s how suspicious I’ve gotten in recent years. I mean, when I hear “independent” journalist I immediately wonder who’s paying him.
Some JFK files were recently released. It seems the CIA wanted the world to believe Oswald was a pro-Castro activist. But now there’s some speculation he was part of an anti-Castro group organized by the CIA. That his “leave Cuba alone!” advocacy was some sort of cover to discredit that movement.
The argument I’ve always gotten from the “He was a lone nut who wanted to be famous!” crowd was that conspiracies are impossible because “people always talk, it’s impossible to keep secrets!” but the generation that produced Steve’s uncle were certainly tight-lipped. They were tough and dangerous old birds.
I wonder if these domestic assassinations were dry runs for what they wanted to do to certain foreign leaders. That old generation of guys might be disappointed if they knew their techniques have been made obsolete by drone technology.
As far as Lennon’s murder, I’m listening to all theories, but I’m just as suspicious of youtube opinionators who present “facts” without evidence as I am of CIA/FBI officials who present “facts” with false evidence (false evidence spread by their assets in media).
I’m reminded of Dick Cheney. He would plant stories with people like Judith Miller at the NYT, and then go on the Sunday talk shows and point to those NYT stories as evidence. I see the same with some (not all) theorists who use certain facts as proof of their theories, and then we learn the source of these facts are a reply to a twitter thread or a youtube video.
I suspect someday the truth (about JFK, RFK, Lennon, etc.) will come out. I hope so, anyway. What I fear is that by the time it does come out so much time will have passed that the future generation won’t care. I mean, no one nowadays gets emotional about James Garfield.
Re Cesar — who knows? First he said he did (surprising!), then he said he didn’t (not surprising!). Polygraphs are hackable. He’s a bit of a slippery character, but who wouldn’t be if they found themselves in that situation? There is no teasing it apart, not at this late date. I know nothing of Dan Moldea, but note that none other than Vincent Bugliosi (of Reclaiming History fame) was behind an effort to reopen the RFK case in 1975. All this stuff is simply a Rorschach test at this point.
I’m hoping to avoid this fever-swamp in future, because my only real opinion is tipping one’s skepticism towards the “nothing to see here” viewpoint is protective, whereas the other, “give me incontrovertible proof, average citizen, that the government and cops are lying” is less so. But everyone’s mileage may vary.
Sorry, @Baboomska and all, I misremembered a fact: Cesar admitted to the LAPD that he standing behind and in contact with RFK before the shooting began, dropped down into a firing position, and drew his gun. He never admitted firing his gun.
LAPD did not test-fire his gun.
CORRECTION: The pistol in the NYPD facility in Queens is the one from the Lennon murder, not RFK’s. I should have proofread my post.
The Lennon Conspiracy thread is not for people who do not suspect or believe that Lennon’s murder was the result of a conspiracy, so I am going to leave that topic alone.
I am the one weirdo who DOES get emotional about James Garfield’s assassination. Garfield was a Union veteran and a staunch supporter of Reconstruction. His death ended any possibility that the federal government would protect the rights of black people in the South.
Despite the widespread belief in a conspiracy to kill JFK, most of the claims about his murder have been debunked by Gerald Posner (“Case Closed,” 1993) and Vincent Bugliosi (“Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” 2007). Many of the facts mitigate against a conspiracy, but even many “lone gunman” advocates have said that the CIA has been dishonest about its contact with Oswald. Whether that is the result of a conspiracy or simply covering its assets is an open question. Given the chance events that made the assassination possible (Marina complains to her Quaker landlady about her husband; landlady talks her friend’s son’s boss into hiring Oswald at the Book Depository; Ruby goes to Western Union in the morning after Oswald was supposed to be transferred) it’s hardly a slam dunk.
Even members of the Kennedy family believe Sirhan Sirhan is a patsy, and most Americans seem to think that there was a conspiracy, but there is no evidence that proves this. Despite the conflicting accounts, denials by Sirhan Sirhan, and all of the other hobbyhorses, there isn’t much evidence.
I think Lester Bangs was thinking about Andy Warhol, but it’s the rest of his essay that is worth reading. If the CIA did program MDC into killing John Lennon, they were doing so in the belief that his politics, his music, or his celebrity were somehow a threat to the world order. That’s absurd, and the claim that the murder turned a generation into conservatives a month after Ronald Reagan defeated the incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide (489 to 49 in the Electoral College; 43.9 million to 35.5 in the popular vote) is risible. I’ve read extensively about the rise of conservatism from the 1950s until today, and Lennon’s murder isn’t even a footnote. (btw Rick Perlstein’s books Before the Storm (2001), Nixonland (2008), The Invisible Bridge (2014) and Reaganland (2020) are excellent, especially “Nixonland). Money, racism, Vietnam, crime in general, and lots of other factors contributed to the Trump/Idiocracy plague of 2023.
There was no good reason to murder John Lennon in 1980. Whether it was a lone nut, the CIA, the Mafia, a Yakuza hitman, or the Hunt Brothers, it was a senseless crime that served no larger purpose.
@Peter, we have descended into religion. But I will respond, for the sake of any interested readers.
Re JFK: Lone nut cases are definitionally simple; the very fact that Posner and Bugliosi had to write massive tomes should give one pause. As I said before, I don’t know what happened on 11/22/63, nobody does, but what did happen is clearly devilishly complicated. A pissed-off Communist with a rifle shooting at a motorcade is a simple story; an ex-defector with a Russian wife and tons of CIA/FBI connections, who may or may not have killed a cop an hour later, said he didn’t kill anybody, and who was shockingly murdered on TV in police custody, is NOT a simple story. The media has said for 60 years that people “want to believe” in a conspiracy, rather than simply acknowledging a simple truth: the official story sounds like bullshit.
If a person wishes to believe that a Mob-connected nightclub owner just happened to, on a whim, walk into police headquarters ending up at the exact right place and moment to kill the President’s accused assassin–with a motive of wishing to spare the First Lady grief, for which he was willing to spend the rest of his life in prison–I find that irrational. Tinfoil-hat, in fact. My skepticism doesn’t give me some secret thrill; I don’t feel I’m special or smarter; it doesn’t give JFK’s death more meaning; the standard story of Jack Ruby simply smells like bullshit to me. It’s a neat trick how people flip that around and say, “The REAL inconoclasm is to believe the government’s investigation of itself.” Dress it up however you like–“But Posner! But Bugliosi!”–that mindset is deeply, foundationally authoritarian. Especially when what’s at issue is political murder.
Re RFK: To me, Noguchi’s autopsy findings are about as evidence-y as you can get, but there is also the recording, and the destroyed doorframe and tiles from the pantry both of which seem to record more shots than Sirhan could’ve fired. If you don’t have photos–and those existed, but were apparently confiscated–autopsy and ballistics are the best evidence, and they don’t seem to support Sirhan as the lone shooter. I wish they did.
“If the CIA did program MDC into killing John Lennon, they were doing so in the belief that his politics, his music, or his celebrity were somehow a threat to the world order. That’s absurd.”
The CIA doesn’t care about “the world order,” it cares about the stability of the US government, and specifically certain factions of that government. In 1972 Senator Strom Thurmond expressed just these fears; he believed that the New Left would use Lennon to galvanize opposition to Nixon’s reelection and recommended deporting him. Then Lennon won his case. Then Carter came in and invited John and Yoko to the inaugural ball. It’s clear that Lennon had become a political football, a symbol hated by some (Thurmond), supported by others (Carter). Did that continue to escalate? Nobody knows, but all that I’ve typed above is factual.
I don’t claim to know why the CIA does anything, then or now. I DO know that the CIA spent untold amounts of time and money and expertise trying to create memoryless, programmable, no-connection assassins that they could send against anybody who they perceived to be enemies. (Not who you or I think were enemies; who THEY thought were enemies.) I know that these programs would not have persisted for decades without measurable success. I know that Sirhan, Chapman and Hinckley were practically the dictionary definition of these types of assassins. I know that for a period of time American leaders were murdered, and that the sum total of these murders fundamentally shifted the American political landscape. So much so that an ex-CIA Chief became President in 1988 (unthinkable 15 years earlier), after years of the type of aggressive, offensive spookery–from the “October Surprise” to Iran-Contra–that hadn’t been seen since the 1950-73 era. A theory weaving these things together isn’t necessarily right, but it’s neither irresponsible nor irrational. Is trying to kill Castro with an exploding conch shell “absurd”? Burning Cuban crops during the Cuban Missile Crisis? I’d say so.
We have an “economic anxiety” issue here. There are some truths that American society is simply not willing to acknowledge, and the possibility that the conservative faction feared an FDR-like freeze out of power after 1960 (something we know was true), and that fear, plus reactionary elements of the national security state (something we know existed), resulted in targeted political violence against prominent Americans–that is a truth most Americans are not ready to accept. But I think that is precisely the conclusion that future historians will come to, because it is simple and logical and explanatory. Covert action against the Kennedys and other liberals is Occam’s Razor. That it is painful for us to acknowledge is immaterial.
Pace Rick Perlstein, but he’s analyzing a distorted record, so he gets a distorted answer. We cannot know what the course of American politics after 1963 would’ve been, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that had JFK, RFK, Malcolm X, MLK, Fred Hampton, and the many others caught up in the dragnet of COINTELPRO and CHAOS not been murdered, it would’ve been different. The intelligence community was undertaking offensive operations against American citizens–we KNOW this–and any analysis of the postwar period, especially as regards the rise of conservatism, that doesn’t factor this in, has its thumb on the scale. Politics is not just algebra, where you add in all the variables you can LEXIS/NEXIS–“money and racism, Vietnam, crime, etc”– and get a result. That’s a quintessentially New Left idea, born of a certain idea of history, and it’s simply wrong. Writing the charismatic leaders out of the equation comes from the American Left’s heartbreak and trauma and inability to do anything about it. If you read the history of the New Left, you read over and over how the death of JFK and RFK and MLK radicalized them and made them despair of working within the system. That led to a cycle of violence which isolated the Left from the political mainstream and strengthened the Right. You do not get “the Silent Majority” without The Weathermen; and you don’t get The Weathermen without the assassinations first. (Source: Carl Oglesby of SDS.)
“That’s absurd, and the claim that the murder turned a generation into conservatives a month after Ronald Reagan defeated the incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide (489 to 49 in the Electoral College; 43.9 million to 35.5 in the popular vote) is risible.”
I didn’t say that. I said that Lennon’s murder was perceived as political then, as “the death of the Sixties”, and that is simply beyond debate. And I said that Bangs’ political stance–that the world is full of dangerous armed crazies and that Lennon’s murder was somehow predictable (because someone shot Andy Warhol 12 years earlier?)–is a fundamentally reactionary viewpoint, and that is also beyond debate; it is the entire raison d’etre of the NRA. And I said that Lennon’s murder had a chilling effect on the political activities of celebrities, and led to them becoming more lifestyle (Live Aid) than electoral (“vote this bastard out”), which I also think is debatable but logical. I was there; I lived through it; I saw this political disengagement happen to innumerable ex-hippies of my close acquaintance, and Lennon’s murder unquestionably accelerated that disconnection/disheartening. There is this idea that the turn away from the 60s/70s was somehow inevitable; a growing up; everybody settling down and getting to work after two decades of irresponsible hedonism. But that reading denies the role of violence, both state violence against American citizens, and targeted murder against certain leaders, which is ALL OVER American history from 1963-80.
“There was no good reason to murder John Lennon in 1980. Whether it was a lone nut, the CIA, the Mafia, a Yakuza hitman, or the Hunt Brothers, it was a senseless crime that served no larger purpose.”
No, no, the Hunt Brothers were busy cornering the silver market, eventually fucking themselves in the process–which is instructive here. Murder is dumb. Normal people like ourselves look at murder, be it political or personal, and think, “That’s insane.” And it is. But that’s not how you run a murder investigation. With JFK, you don’t start assuming Oswald shot him and acted alone, and then arrange the facts to suit your preferred outcome; similarly Sirhan or Ray or Chapman. At a minimum, you have to look at who benefitted, and see if those people have any connection to the case. That wasn’t done in any of these cases, and so we are left to speculate. The investigations were primarily POLITICAL not investigatory; and so they delivered a political result, not a solution to the crime. If one looks at them as psychological operations, the murder is the first part, and then an unsatisfactory, illogical investigation designed to engender powerlessness–to confuse people, make them question their own instincts, and eventually encourage people to disengage–is the second. To say, “Don’t pay attention to your instinct that the Jack Ruby story is bullshit; we’re in authority and we say it’s true, and if you want to participate in polite society you’re going to agree with it.”
These are the kinds of calculations intelligence agencies were doing in foreign countries after WWII; is it so very surprising that they would also begin to do it domestically, if they felt threatened? Where is the big crazy idea here? That people would deign to kill Americans? Or be unfair somehow? This is American exceptionalism. Set all those ideas aside and see who benefitted; how protection changed, when, and under whose order; if anybody got fired, stuff like that. Who got paid, who got fired, who got the money or the promotion or didn’t get thrown in jail. That’s the signal; all the rest is noise.
As I said, of all these murders, I think Lennon’s is the most likely to have been exactly what the NYPD said it was; but looking at both the larger sweep of political violence in America, the paranoia of the American rightwing towards hippies in general and Lennon in particular, and the rush to judgment displayed by the NYPD, I can’t fault anyone for being skeptical. And declaring that skepticism is absurd seems to me to be deciding that certain things are simply too terrible to happen. That is probably psychologically healthy; but we must keep our thumb off the scale as best we can, if we are to protect our democracy and culture.
Happy New Year!
I re-read the posts in this thread, and I think that we understand each other, and that we (respectfully) disagree about a few things, but not as much as you might think.
Posner and Bugliosi wrote long tomes to refute the many theories and myths that grew out of the Warren Commission. Some of the questions raised in its aftermath were reasonable, but a profitable cottage industry devoted to conspiracies (suspicious witness deaths, Secret Service men on the grassy knoll, a fake tree hiding a sniper wearing a spiked German helmet) made it hard to tell fact from fiction.
Check pout Rick Perlstein-his analysis isn’t “distorted,” (he discusses Cointlepro and MK-Ultra) it includes the many other people and circumstances that created our current political environment.
All three authors are focused on facts: physical evidence; eyewitness testimony; circumstantial evidence; and other building blocks of journalism, law and history. One area where facts are absent is the CIA, which destroyed evidence and refused to cooperate with Congressional inquiry. MK-Ultra is a fact. Its success or failure, and the question of whether it manipulated suggestible subjects into killing is plausible but not proven.
I’m not scared of the idea that intelligence agencies and law enforcement abuse their power or engage in criminal conspiracies. I think it’s equally frightening for Americans to admit how vulnerable rock stars and presidents and the rest of us are to anyone with a gun and the desire to do harm.
Lester Bangs was right about what made the Beatles (and John Lennon) special: they were a moment, a burst of creativity and happiness. But ultimately, John Lennon was just a guy. A smart, ambitious, and sometimes driven guy, as well as a flawed, sometimes depressed guy. Whether his killer acted on a suggestion or instructions, or was entirely self-motivated, the murder was based on the false belief that John Lennon was somehow more than just a guy.
I think you are making a sound logical deduction. There were people who had the mindset and perhaps the technology to kill people they perceived as threats, and the murders of JKF, Malcolm X, RFK, MLK Jr., the wounding of George Wallace, and the murder of John Lennon would all fit such a pattern. They are also consistent with the FBI’s Cointelpro, and the violent suppression of the Black Panthers, Native American activists, Puerto Rican separatists, and the antiwar movement.
I’m making an inductive argument. Based on the evidence we have, it’s impossible to prove that the assassinations of presidents, civil rights leaders, or of John Lennon were the result of a conspiracy. Most of the “smoking guns” that conspiracy theorists point to are not supported by credible evidence. Suspicion is justified, inquiry is warranted, but uninformed speculation and certainty about a conspiracy are are not.
Thank you, @Peter, for such a thoughtful response. Here’s one last slab of catechism from me:
“Posner and Bugliosi wrote long tomes to refute the many theories and myths that grew out of the Warren Commission. Some of the questions raised in its aftermath were reasonable, but a profitable cottage industry devoted to conspiracies (suspicious witness deaths, Secret Service men on the grassy knoll, a fake tree hiding a sniper wearing a spiked German helmet) made it hard to tell fact from fiction.”
Or, perhaps, they were both lawyers with book contracts who were looking to seem authoritative, and prop up weak cases with masses of extraneous detail? Like, for example, the Warren Report itself? Why should we give Posner and Bugliosi more respect than, say, Oliver Stone? Are Posner and Bugliosi not engaging in exactly the same kind of mass-cult narrative-making for profit? What special insights or mental acuity do Posner or Bugliosi bring to this endeavor that haven’t been present for the previous 30 years? Do you not see how unlikely “a solution” is? How come Jerry and Vince could figure all this out and nobody else could? Or maybe they’re just a couple of lawyers with book contracts, arguing a position that’s safe for a house to hawk on an anniversary? You seem wary of “conspiracy theorists” but not of “lone nut theorists.” This strikes me as highly illogical; right-wing conspiracies involving antidemocratic violence seems to be all over 20th and now 21st Century American history. (The Business Plot; America First and the Hercules Powder Plant disaster; J6 of course; shit, even Watergate.)
As to the “profitable cottage industry,” this is a common misapprehension; the publishing business does not ache to take on the government, and most people are not attracted by scandal. (Witness the reaction to Goldman’s book on Lennon.) There is MUCH MUCH more money to be made by media that moves with the government than against it; this is why The New York Times is still in business and The Los Angeles Free Press isn’t. With the possible exception of Mark Lane who was the first out of the gate, the vast, vast majority of respected JFK researchers did not receive appreciable money, fame, or anything but raised eyebrows at their peculiar hobby; very few people know of Harold Weisberg, Mary Ferrell, Josiah Thompson, and so forth. And would it matter if they did? No. We should just read and see what we think.
Posner and Bugliosi were well-paid for their work which is equally speculative. Every theory is merely speculative because the Warren Commission was handled in a political, not a criminal, fashion. The truth could’ve been found, but the moment it was revealed as politically embarrassing–whatever it might have been–the decision was made to cover it up. I happen to think Newman’s theory of a “passive coverup” is very persuasive–a bunch of people acting independently to cover their asses, and prevent nuclear war with the Russians. That smells right.
“(suspicious witness deaths, Secret Service men on the grassy knoll, a fake tree hiding a sniper wearing a spiked German helmet)”
As with “they’re all in it for the MONEY”, this is obfuscating. Anyway, conspiracies are not exotic, especially in the political realm, and in a world where the CIA tried to kill Castro with poisoned cigars, a poisoned scuba rebreather, etc, what you or I find outlandish is beside the point. We should only be interested in WHAT HAPPENED, not whether what happened conforms with our vision of proportion or propriety.
“Check pout Rick Perlstein-his analysis isn’t “distorted,” (he discusses Cointlepro and MK-Ultra) it includes the many other people and circumstances that created our current political environment.”
In a world where I can’t watch MSNBC for fifteen minutes without hearing about “the Southern Strategy,” I think we’re all filled to the backteeth with the ‘many other people and circumstances that created our current political environment.’ What we DON’T hear about is the endless parade of rightwing chicanery and violence that distorts our political culture. Over the Xmas holidays, I listened to an interesting podcast called “Ultra,” about American Nazi sympathizers in the period from 1935-45–how they performed terrorist and seditious acts, and were successfully shielded by anti-Semites and pro-Hitler types in Congress. And then I thought of the Business Plot of 1932-33. And then I thought of the Birchers and the Hunts in the 60s. And the Kochs today. And suddenly it seemed pretty obvious that there’s a permanent faction in American politics, usually funded by rich men, that gets up to all sorts of anti-democratic stuff. And they never get properly investigated or punished, and so continue to influence politics as if they weren’t violent, treasonous, or both. And in that context, the idea that a bunch of Texas oilmen–or WHOEVER–would kill a President doesn’t seem so outlandish. It, in fact, seems like business as usual; Jan 6 by other means. And I think it keeps happening in part because we refuse to believe it; we want to think it’s aberrative or exotic, and it just ain’t. Not in America since 1865.
“…it’s equally frightening for Americans to admit how vulnerable rock stars and presidents and the rest of us are to anyone with a gun and the desire to do harm.”
I think you’re mixing two issues here. How many Presidents have been shot? Five? How many rock stars have been shot? I wish the answer to both questions was “zero,” but this line of argument seems to forcibly depoliticize something that is, to me, fundamentally political. Different murders have different impacts. And presidents, rock stars, and the rest of us live in three very different worlds, as far as protection is concerned. The pressure of violence can be assumed to be constant, at whatever rates it is–say 100 to a President, 25 to a rock star, and 5 to normal person; when does it succeed at eluding protection, and to whom? This is a question worth asking. Just saying “we’re ALL at elevated risk because guns” is true, but it sidesteps the effects of the murders, and I don’t think you can responsibly do that. If I had been down at Santa Monica College on the wrong day, this blog would be defunct; but a President’s death means massive shifts in influence, power, money…The whole river changes course.
“All three authors are focused on facts: physical evidence; eyewitness testimony; circumstantial evidence; and other building blocks of journalism, law and history.”
Now here’s we really get into religion. I think McClelland’s placement of the head wound invalidates the Warren Commission’s theory. I think the head snap has never been explained by the Warren Commission defenders, not in 60 years, and I would like a refund on the hours I spent reading about the “jet effect” and “muscular reactions.” We would not be having this conversation–there would be no controversy–but for the random happenstance of the Zapruder film. It does not seem to show what the Warren Commission’s theory needs it to show. That’s all I, or anyone, can say. The lone nut theories explaining why are awkward, there’s no way around that. They require tomes; I maintain that an open-and-shut case is a simple affair, and anything else is showbiz. I see a lot more showbiz in Vincent Bugliosi and Gerald Posner than in surgeons like Robert McClelland or academics like John Newman.
“But ultimately, John Lennon was just a guy. A smart, ambitious, and sometimes driven guy, as well as a flawed, sometimes depressed guy. Whether his killer acted on a suggestion or instructions, or was entirely self-motivated, the murder was based on the false belief that John Lennon was somehow more than just a guy.”
We’re both typing words about “this guy”‘s murder 42 years after it happened. John Lennon was mortal, yes–but this idea that he was just a guy, just another rockstar, just another 70s celebrity, just another whathaveyou, is simply wrong on its face. It’s a Boomer/Gen X trauma reaction. “Oh well, he’s dead, but he wasn’t so very important, we have his work, and it’s really the SYSTEM anyway.” You see it in how people rush to emphasize JFK’s philandering or RFK’s association with Roy Cohn. “Don’t be sad! We haven’t lost anything!” But of course we did. John Lennon was uniquely placed in Western culture in 1980, and his position was the sum total of what he’d done and said up to that point, which was unlike any other celebrity. He was a political figure because people saw him as one. He might not have agreed with that, he might not have even wanted it–but people’s reaction to his death proved it beyond doubt. Lester Bangs was striking a pose with that entire piece; and his edgelord bombast is not realness, it’s not accurate, it’s not wise. It’s a half-formed writer performing his brand.
“I’m making an inductive argument. Based on the evidence we have, it’s impossible to prove that the assassinations of presidents, civil rights leaders, or of John Lennon were the result of a conspiracy. Most of the “smoking guns” that conspiracy theorists point to are not supported by credible evidence. Suspicion is justified, inquiry is warranted, but uninformed speculation and certainty about a conspiracy are are not.”
A guy hoses down the limo;
A guy replaces the windshield;
A guy burns his autopsy notes;
A guy shoots the accused assassin…
“But where’s your PROOF?”
The problem here is that when the government says something, it’s defaulted to as credible, and when others say something different, it’s a “theory.” “The kooks and housewives with their obsessions!” With JFK, I think the testimony of Dealey Plaza witnesses re: the knoll is credible; I think Robert McClelland is the definition of credible; I think the Dictabelt, which backs the knoll and McClelland up, is also credible; I think Newman’s theory of a plot originating in the CI desk of CIA–based on memo traffic–is credible. I think all these are a LOT more credible than Posner, or Bugliosi, or Allen Dulles. But here’s the kicker: if I’m wrong, nothing bad happens. Actually, the world would’ve been a better place if Dulles, Angleton, Hoover had all been grilled by civilian authorities. Grilled so hard they’d never dare look at a President crosswise. My type of wrong is protective. Not so, the alternative kind of wrong, the kind we’re used to. The alternative kind of wrong gets you another 100 years of blood and bullshit.
Thus endeth my sermon. I’ve enjoyed this — be well.