The Sporadic Beaver

Marky Got His Gun (So Did Everybody Else Who Wanted One)

December 8, 2015

Tags: John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, Nowhere Man, Yoko Ono, Congress, NRA, politics

On this 35th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination, I'm finding it difficult not to think about guns. But it seems that anything I could say about them has already been said repeatedly by people far more conversant with the issue than I am.

Is there anything to be gained by expressing my disgust with the NRA, who apparently believe that everybody over the age of three should be armed; the Congress, who are on the take from the NRA; and the menagerie of candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination, one of whom, a medical doctor, has said, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away”?

I doubt it.

In Nowhere Man, I explain that Mark David Chapman acquired the handgun he used to murder Lennon by telling a lie on his pistol-permit application. He said he’d never been institutionalized for mental illness, when, in fact, he had. But nobody did a background check, and Marky got his gun.

Of Chapman’s delusional act, I wrote, “Nobody has ever assassinated a popular entertainer before. This is completely different, a new kind of madness. It’s very scary shit.”

Thirty-five years later, this “very scary shit” has gone well beyond assassinating popular entertainers. I now live in a country that’s in the throes of a guerrilla war being waged by terrorists and unaffiliated crazies of all stripes and their supporters in the NRA, Congress, and on the campaign trail.

The other night, my wife and I were eating dinner in a crowded restaurant that we’ve been going to for years. And though I didn’t say a word about it at the time because I didn’t want to ruin the meal, I kept glancing out the window and thinking that this is probably not a good place to eat anymore. The restaurant, situated on a wide avenue that branches off into a warren of streets and provides easy access to bridges and tunnels, is a good target for somebody who wants to do a mass shooting and escape. It’s better to eat in a restaurant on a narrow side street prone to traffic jams—I thought that would be a less inviting target.

This is what it’s come to in the land of the free and the home of the brave—everybody walking around thinking about how to avoid being shot and how to protect yourself when the shooting starts. And though it would be nice if Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace” were something more than a cliché as absurd as the Republicans’ offering “thoughts and prayers” to victims of the latest massacre, it’s not.

It’s going to take a lot more than imagination and prayer to solve the problems of a country where at last count there were more guns (357 million) than people (317 million).

In 2015, we are all at least as vulnerable as John Lennon was, and he was more vulnerable than he ever imagined.

Turn On, Tune In

November 23, 2015

Tags: Hollywood Scandals, Reelz, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, diaries

The Reelz channel often rebroadcasts coast-to-coast the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals. On the show, I discuss my book Nowhere Man, Lennon's diaries, his assassination, and the delusional motives of his killer, Mark David Chapman.

You can tune in on the dates and times below:

2017
Thursday, January 19: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Saturday, January 21: 3 P.M. ET, 2 P.M. CT, 1 P.M. MT, 12 P.M. PT

Sunday, January 22: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Monday, January 23: 10 P.M. ET, 9 P.M. CT, 8 P.M. MT, 7 P.M. PT

Wednesday, February 22: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT

Sunday, February 26: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Saturday, March 11: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Friday, March 17: 10 P.M. ET, 9 P.M. CT, 8 P.M. MT, 7 P.M. PT

Saturday, March 18: 5 P.M. ET, 4 P.M. CT, 3 P.M. MT, 2 P.M. PT

Wednesday, March 22: 7 and 10 P.M. ET, 6 and 9 P.M. CT, 5 and 8 P.M. MT, 4 and 7 P.M. PT

Friday, March 24: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Sunday, March 26: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Monday, March 27: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Friday, April 7: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT

Saturday, April 8: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Wednesday, May 3: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT

Monday, May 22: 8 A.M. and 1:30 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. and 12:30 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 11:30 P.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 10:30 P.M. PT

Sunday, June 4: 11 A.M. ET, 10 A.M. CT, 9 A.M. MT, 8 A.M. PT

Tuesday, June 13: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT

Thursday, July 13: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Sunday, July 23: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Thursday, August 3: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Sunday, August 13: 4 P.M. ET, 3 P.M. CT, 2 P.M. MT, 1 P.M. PT

Sunday, September 17: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Friday, September 22: 8 A.M. and 12 P.M. ET , 7 A.M. and 11 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 10 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 9 A.M. PT

2016
Wednesday, March 23: 9 P.M. ET, 8 P.M. CT, 7 P.M. MT, 6 P.M. PT

Saturday, April 2: 6 P.M. ET, 5 P.M. CT, 4 P.M. MT, 3 P.M. PT

Wednesday, April 20: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Saturday, May 21: 12 P.M. ET, 11 A.M. CT, 10 A.M. MT, 9 A.M. PT

Tuesday, May 31: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Wednesday, June 1: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Thursday, June 9: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Tuesday, June 28: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Wednesday, August 3: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Friday, August 26: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

Monday, September 5: 1:30 A.M. ET, 12:30 A.M. CT, 11:30 P.M. MT, 10:30 P.M. PT

Tuesday, September 6: 6 A.M. ET, 5 A.M. CT, 4 A.M. MT, 3 A.M. PT

Wednesday, September 7: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Sunday, September 25: 9:30 A.M. ET, 8:30 A.M. CT, 7:30 A.M. MT, 6:30 A.M. PT

Wednesday, September 28: 9 P.M. ET, 8 P.M. CT, 7 P.M. MT, 6 P.M. PT

Saturday, October 1: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT

Friday, October 21: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Reelz (TWC 128/Fios 233 in New York City) is not available on demand, so set your DVR. Click here to find Reelz on your local cable or satellite system.

15 Years Ago Today...

May 27, 2015

Tags: The Times of London, Nigel Williamson, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Uncut, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, Fred Seaman, Rolling Stone, Jan Wenner, Mark David Chapman, The Dakota, diaries

The author in his Washington Heights apartment, sitting in front of the IBM Selectric he used to transcribe John Lennon’s dairies. Photo by David Corio.
When Nigel Williamson interviewed me, in February 2000, he was preparing articles for both Uncut magazine and The Times of London. Though Nowhere Man had been garnering media attention for several months at this point, it was the one-two punch of these widely read British publications that set the book on a lunar trajectory; it would soon land on bestseller lists in the U.S. and U.K.

Fifteen years ago today, on May 27, 2000, this article ran in the Metro section of The Times. It marked a long-awaited turning point in my career, the moment when all the emotion and frustration I'd been carrying with me for 18 years had at last found an outlet. This was one of the first
Nowhere Man interviews I'd ever done, and I had a lot to say. Like many newspaper articles published in the early 21st century (or late 20th century, if you want to be technical), "Lennon Juice" is not available online. I’ve reproduced it word-for-word below.

The Times | May 27, 2000

BOOKS


Lennon juice

____________________________________________________
After John Lennon’s murder in 1980, Robert Rosen took brief possession of Lennon’s stolen diaries. Twenty years on, he has decided to publish a controversial new account of the legend’s final years. Nigel Williamson reports

Every fan knows the story of the last chapter of John Lennon’s life. The contented, if eccentric, days he spent in the apartment he and Yoko shared in New York’s Dakota building have become part of rock ’n’ roll legend.

While Yoko looked after business, Lennon was the happy househusband, baking bread and bringing up their son Sean. It was, Ono recalled, interviewed in Metro two years ago, “the happiest time” in their entire relationship.

At least that is the official version. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s death, New York journalist Robert Rosen is telling a far darker tale, an account of Lennon’s Dakota days based loosely on the intimate diaries the former Beatle kept between 1974 and 1980.

There are a series of leather-bound New Yorker desk diaries, in which Lennon recorded his every action, every private thought, every dream, even his every meal. And Rosen is one of the few people alive to have read them.

Sitting over breakfast in an East London café, Rosen admits the book is certain to cause major controversy among Lennon fans. He describes the character who emerges as “a dysfunctional, tormented superstar, disintegrating under the effects of fame and living in a high-rent purgatory of superstition and fear.”

Far from being lived in domestic bliss, Lennon’s last years, waited on by a retinue of servants whose appointments had been vetted by a tarot card reader, were characterized by “boredom and pain punctuated by microseconds of ecstasy,” he says. Rosen details a myriad of slavishly followed obsessions, from numerology to vows of silence to Billy Graham. In this account, Lennon is even responsible for Paul McCartney’s 1980 incarceration for drug possession in Tokyo, having asked Yoko to put a curse on his former partner.

Past biographies have either been uncritical eulogies (Ray Coleman’s 1984 Lennon) or have magnified Lennon’s weaknesses (Albert Goldman’s 1992 Sound Bites), Rosen states. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is, he says, simply the truth.

“It’s a three-dimensional portrait of John that’s as honest as I could possibly make it. I hope it tells you what the neurotic experience of being John Lennon was like. It’s a journey through his consciousness, the story of the last years of his life, as seen through his eyes.” But is it? Many, including Ono and Sean Lennon, would probably strongly dispute the accuracy of the portrait and questions Rosen’s powers of accurate recall.

They will point out that the author, by his own admission, has not read the lost diaries since 1982 and that even the notes he made at the time are no longer in his possession. For legal reasons, he is forced to declare in the preface to the book: “I have used no material from the diaries. I have used my memory of Lennon’s diaries as a roadmap to the truth.”

“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt. When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m going to tell it.”

Yet there is no dispute that the lost Lennon journals exist and that for several months in 1981 they were in Rosen’s possession. And he insists his memory is perfect. “I spent 16 hours a day for weeks on end transcribing them, and I realized that I had huge chunks of the diaries memorized. I had worked so hard on them and run them through my typewriter so many times, I had them all in my head.”

At the time of Lennon’s death at the hands of obsessive fan Mark David Chapman in December 1980, Rosen was a 28-year-old cab driver with a master’s degree in journalism. He had never met the former Beatle, but he did know Fred Seaman, the singer’s personal assistant, from college. “Twenty-four hours after Lennon’s murder, Seaman told me that while they were in Bermuda together that summer, Lennon had asked him to write the true story of his Dakota days,” Rosen recalls. “It was to be the ultimate Lennon biography and he told me, ‘It’s what John wants.’”

Six months later, in May 1981, Seaman delivered Rosen the crown jewels of the Lennon archive—six volumes of stolen personal diaries. The would-be author began transcribing them. “I’d never seen anything like it. He got it all down—every detail, every dream, every conversation, every morsel of food he put in his mouth was recorded in a perpetual stream of consciousness. I thought the story was rock ’n’ roll’s Watergate.”

When he finished, Rosen sent a detailed story based on the diaries to various publishers, including Jann Wenner, the founding editor of Rolling Stone.

Wenner alerted Yoko, who was still unaware that the diaries had been stolen. After a court case they were eventually returned to her and Seaman was convicted of grand larceny. At the same time, Ono also persuaded Rosen to join her payroll and while he was in her employment he handed over 16 of his own notebooks based on the Lennon journals. They remain in Ono’s possession to this day.

Why he has waited so many years to write the book is not entirely clear. There were legal ramifications under American copyright law, further complicated by the fact that the diaries had been stolen. “Legally, I can’t say what I would like to say,” he says. “It took me all these years to put the book together in a form that I was happy with, but I’m not allowed to say it is based upon the journals. It is a work of investigative journalism, intuition and imagination. That’s the line.”

Rosen admits to having feelings of guilt about the book and he has never taken legal steps to recover his own journals from Yoko. “I did something that wasn’t 100 per cent kosher, even though my intentions were entirely honourable. Because the diaries were stolen, I feel that I owe her something. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt.

“When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m a professional journalist. So I’m going to tell it. This is a great story that deserves to be told.”

Ask him if he thinks Lennon ever meant the diaries for public consumption and he hesitates. “I don’t know. I think it was the basis of something he wanted out. I think his diaries were a very early rough draft of what could have been the great memoir.”

What made Lennon such a compelling subject was less his money and fame and more the contradictions within his character, Rosen says. “Every facet of his life was a paradox. Part of him aspired to follow the way—Jesus, Gandhi and whoever. The other part of him just wanted sex and drugs. Part of him wanted a perfect macrobiotic diet. Another part of him wanted chocolate chip cookies.”

Gossip and cheap innuendo or the most complete and honest portrait of Lennon yet written.

Unless Yoko decides to publish the original diaries herself, perhaps we will never really know. But fiction or non-fiction, Nowhere Man is a gripping read that no Lennon fan will be able to resist.

Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is published by Soft Skull Press on June 1, price £14.99/£11.99.

Lennon Tripleheader

December 2, 2014

Tags: John Lennon, Nowhere Man, The Time Warped Hour, Purchase College, Reelz, Hollywood Scandals, Octavio Cavalli, Bendito Lennon, Mark David Chapman

As always happens around the anniversary of John Lennon's murder, which occurred 34 years ago on December 8, people want to talk to me about my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. This year, three interviews are on tap.

The first one, tomorrow, Wednesday, December 3, at 7 PM ET, will be a live interview on The Time Warped Hour, Daniel Zuckerman’s radio show broadcast out of Purchase College. You can listen live here, listen to a podcast here, or get more information about the show on its Facebook page.

Also on December 3, at 11 PM ET, the Reelz Channel (128 TWC and 233 Verizon, in Manhattan) will rebroadcast the Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals. Look for me in the opening minutes of the show and again in the final part, when I discuss Lennon’s years of seclusion in the Dakota, and his killer, Mark David Chapman. Hollywood Scandals is available coast-to-coast in the U.S. at 10 PM CT, 9 PM MT, and 8 PM PT. Click here to find the Reelz Channel on your local cable or satellite system, and remember to set your DVRs, as the show is not available on demand.

Finally, on Sunday, December 14, at 6 PM ET, I’ll be appearing live on Octavio Cavalli’s recently launched Internet radio show, Lennoncast. Broadcasting out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cavalli, author of the comprehensive Spanish-language Lennon bio Bendito Lennon, will be interviewing me in English and simultaneously translating our conversation into Spanish, which is a pretty good trick. You can listen live here, or download the podcast here.

Hope you can tune in to one or all of these shows.

If He Were 64

October 18, 2014

Tags: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, May Pang, Nowhere Man, Mark David Chapman



I'm probably not the best audience for Lennon: Through a Glass Onion, the jukebox musical that opened this week at the Union Square Theatre, in New York. But the fault isn't with the show; it's with me, and it's strictly a case of having been marinated in Beatles music, lore, and literature for more than a half-century and having written a John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, after transcribing and editing the personal diaries that Lennon kept from 1975 until his death in 1980. The problem is that I've heard it all before, and what I want from a show like this is to hear something new and unexpected.

John R. Waters, an Australian film and TV star, is not (thank God) a Lennon impersonator. Rather than wearing a wig and the trademark glasses, he portrays the ex-Beatle as he might have been had he lived and, at age 64 or so, decided to perform in intimate venues, singing his classic songs and explaining the inspiration behind them. Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta, whose piano playing is the musical driving force behind this stripped-down production, have been doing the show for 22 years, and, not surprisingly, they’ve got it down cold (turkey).

In this alternate Glass Onion reality, the AARP-ified Walrus—clad in a black leather jacket and black jeans, and enveloped in a mist that perhaps suggests the limbo between life and death—shares his thoughts on Mark David Chapman, his would-be assassin, suggesting that he must have listened to a lot of Beatles music, which, in fact, he did.

As Waters strums an acoustic guitar and D’Arrietta pounds on the piano (and occasionally harmonizes), the duo work their way through either snippets or complete renditions of more than 30 selections from the Lennon-solo and Lennon-McCartney songbooks, including such favorites as “A Day in the Life,” “Help,” “Imagine,” and “Watching the Wheels.”

Waters intersperses the music with wittily told stories and quips (mostly lifted from interviews, though sometimes made up) about Lennon’s rivalry with Paul McCartney, the bigger-than-Jesus blowup, his relationship with Yoko Ono, meditating with the Maharishi, the birth of his son Sean, and the so-called househusband years. And he indeed gives a good sense of what it might have been like to listen to Lennon. His performance demonstrates the absurdity of Ono’s contention that her third husband was so complex, no one actor could portray him—a notion she brought to life in the 2005 Broadway catastrophe Lennon, in which nine actors, both men and women, took turns playing Lennon and ultimately communicated no sense of who he was or what his life was like.

Just once, however, I’d like to see Lennon portrayed in a way that goes beyond retelling the most famous stories and does not totally buy into the bread-baking househusband myth. Show him in his final years as the tormented, secluded, confused, and jealous man that he was. Show him continuing his affair with May Pang after he went home to Yoko, and carrying a torch for May until the day he died. Show him as a contradictory man who longed to follow the path of Jesus but also dabbled in the occult, loved money, smoked a lot of weed, lost his muse, and then regained it after an epic creative struggle.

It would have been great to hear Waters sing some of the lesser-known Lennon songs that illuminate this reality, like “Serve Yourself,” complete with the spoken-word primal meltdown of “Youse fuckin’ kids all the fuckin’ same...” which was directed at his older son, Julian.

Apparently, though, this isn’t what most Lennon fans want. They want to hear the most famous songs, and judging by the audience reaction, Waters and D’Arrietta gave the people exactly what they wanted, straight up and with fresh energy.

Even so, it’s hard not to see Lennon: Through a Glass Onion as a poignantly sad reminder of what can never be again and what so many people, myself included, have tried so hard to keep alive throughout these ever more dispiriting times.

Must-See TV

August 21, 2014

Tags: Hollywood Scandals, Reelz, John Lennon, Nowhere Man, Yoko Ono, May Pang, Mark David Chapman

Should you find yourself in front of a TV tonight, Thursday, August 21, you might want to check out the Reelz channel at 9 P.M. ET or 8 P.M. CT. I'm going to be on a show called Hollywood Scandals, talking about John Lennon and his killer, Mark David Chapman.

I pop up eight times altogether, three times quickly in the opening minutes and five more times, somewhat more substantially, towards the end.

The episode is an accurate and surprisingly evenhanded rundown of Lennon’s life and death. But as the name of the show implies, they don’t hesitate to highlight the numerous “scandals” that punctuated his life—the “bigger than Jesus” controversy; leaving his first wife, Cynthia, for Yoko Ono; and his affair with May Pang, for example.

There is, however, nothing salacious about the presentation. Like Detective Joe Friday on Dragnet, which was also set in L.A., Hollywood Scandals wants “just the facts,” wherever they may lead.

It’s rare that I’m given the opportunity to talk about Lennon on national TV, and it’s extraordinary that they’ve allowed me to mention his diaries or any of the details of his final years, before he emerged from seclusion to record Double Fantasy. So this is must-see TV for Lennon fans, and especially for the ever-growing community of Nowhere Man readers.

Using the hashtag #HWDScandals, I’ll be making every effort to live-tweet the show.

In New York City, Reelz is 128 on Time Warner cable; you can click here to find it on your cable or satellite system.

The Lennon episode will also air on the following days:

Sunday, August 24 at 12 P.M. ET
Monday, August 25 at 2 A.M. ET
Thursday, August 28 at 8 P.M. ET


Hope you can all come together and watch this one.

A Question of Conspiracy

August 13, 2014

Tags: John Lennon, Nowhere Man, Proceso, Roberto Ponce, Octavio Cavalli, Bendito Lennon, Yoko Ono, conspiracy theories, Mark David Chapman, Hollywood Scandals, Playboy

Last December, Roberto Ponce, an editor at the Mexico City newsweekly Proceso, sent me four questions about the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding John Lennon's murder. A comprehensive Spanish-language Lennon biography, Bendito Lennon, by Octavio Cavalli, had recently been published and the book gave credence to one of the theories. My answers to Ponce's questions ran as a column, titled "Sólo creo en una conspiración: la de Yoko Ono en mi contra" (I just believe in one conspiracy: Yoko Ono's against me), in a special Lennon section in their December 8, 2013 issue.

My blog posting yesterday, "Imagine Yoko Watching," about an upcoming Lennon episode of
Hollywood Scandals that I’ll be appearing in provoked a flurry of questions on Facebook about the conspiracy theories.

Here are Ponce's questions and my answers in the original English.


1) Octavio Cavalli, author of the biography Bendito Lennon, told me that one of his important sources of information about John Lennon’s murder is an article by Salvador Astucia, “José Joaquín Sanjeanis Perdomo: John Lennon’s true assassin?” In another one of his articles, Astucia has accused you, Mr. Robert Rosen, of being involved in the killing of John Lennon. What can you say about this?

I’m aware that Octavio Cavalli has thoroughly researched every aspect of John Lennon’s murder and for a variety of reasons doesn’t believe that Mark Chapman was the lone gunman. Among the issues Cavalli raises is the presence at the murder scene of Dakota doorman José Joaquín Sanjeanis Perdomo, a Cuban exile and former CIA agent, according to “Salvador Astucia,” which is the pseudonym of a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist. Astucia says, among other things too numerous to recount here, that I’m the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who gave the order to kill Lennon, after which, in order to disgrace his memory (as well as the entire antiwar movement), the CIA then paid me to write Nowhere Man. He also says that I, along with another Jew, Edward Teller, the “Father of the H-bomb,” and Ronald Reagan, felt that Lennon had to die (and his memory besmirched) so America could go forward with its “Star Wars” missile-defense initiative.

The mere fact that Astucia is still alive is proof enough that his theories are absurd. Because if anything he said were true, a real spymaster would have silenced him 10 years ago, when he started posting this stuff online.

I don’t know if Astucia says these things because he believes them, or to provoke and to get attention. My inclination is to dismiss outright everything he or any other Holocaust denier says about anything. That Cavalli was able to find one shred of truth in Astucia’s insane ravings is a tribute to Cavalli’s tenaciousness, and his abilities as a researcher.

Though I must give Astucia full credit for my inclusion as number two, alongside J. D. Salinger and Stephen King, on a list titled “Top Three Conspiracy Theories Revolving Around the Death of John Lennon.”

And I’m sure that he’d be pleased to know that I briefly considered dedicating to him the novel I just finished writing, Bobby in Naziland, about a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and early-60s, alongside Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who’d fought the Nazis. That dedication would have read: “For ______, my Personal Nazi, who reminded me I was a Jew and taught me anew the meaning of anti-Semitism.”

2) What do you think of the conspiracy theories that accuse the CIA, FBI, various ex-presidents of the U.S., Operation 40, and even the Jewish people of being behind Lennon’s murder?

I don’t completely reject all conspiracy theories. I’ve had 50 years to think about JFK, and the official explanation still strikes me as less than satisfying. But I don’t think Lennon was the victim of a conspiracy. I think Chapman was a lone nut, and I think if Yoko Ono believed that Lennon’s murderer, or an accomplice to the murder was still at large, she’d have conducted a private investigation—for her own safety. She’s done nothing of the sort.

I think most conspiracy theories—Manchurian Candidates, for example—are based on scenarios so complex, they’d be nearly impossible to execute. My understanding of the psychology behind conspiracy theories is that certain people cannot accept the fact that horrendous events, like murder, can be totally random and can happen to anybody. So they need to invent fairy tales, impervious to rational evidence, that give them a sense of control and show that it can’t happen to them. That’s why Astucia is the only so-called “journalist” I’ve ever refused to speak to. Because no matter what I told him, he’d use it as further “proof” that I work for the CIA and that I did order Lennon’s murder.

There is, however, one Lennon-related conspiracy I am aware of: The unsuccessful attempt by Ono, the New York District Attorney’s office, and G. Barry Golson, a former Playboy editor, to have me arrested on criminal conspiracy charges unless I signed a document forfeiting my First Amendment rights to write about Lennon’s diaries. The libelous article that Golson ran in the March 1984 Playboy is the root of all Lennon conspiracy theories about me. He took a comment from my diary (which Ono had given to him), about what I saw as Ono’s skillful exploitation of the Lennon legacy, and depicted that comment, “Dead Lennons=BIG $$$$$,” as my indictment of my own behavior, portraying me as a criminal conspirator drooling over Lennon’s corpse.

3) In your book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon you created an interesting profile of Mark Chapman’s mind. How has your vision of the killer changed since then? Why did he kill John Lennon? Did he commit the crime alone or maybe not?

My vision of Mark Chapman has not changed since I wrote Nowhere Man. I still think he was a mentally unstable and possibly psychotic individual who acted alone and was motivated by envy and a desire to be famous, and believed that by shooting Lennon, whom he considered a hypocrite, he’d literally vanish into the pages of The Catcher in the Rye and become The Catcher in the Rye for his generation. I await definitive proof that this is not the case.

4) After your experience with the Lennon diaries, what ideas would you suggest to the new generation of Latin American students about how they can be more effective in their work and lives?

In 1982, I was an obscure freelance writer who’d uncovered a story that was the equivalent of Rock ’n’ Roll Watergate. That’s why it took me 18 years to publish what I knew about Lennon’s diaries. In the eyes of the mainstream media, in any country, it’s simply unacceptable for an unknown journalist to come out of nowhere and break the story of the decade. Also, what I learned from the diaries went against the myth that Ono remains determined to perpetuate—that in his final years, John Lennon was a content, bread-baking househusband. That’s why she used all the political and media influence at her disposal to try and stop me. So, I’d say to any journalism students that it’s not enough to uncover a great story, especially one that goes against powerful people or institutions (as great stories often do). You must be prepared to fight for years, if not decades, to get your story out to a mass audience. I’d also say that anybody who’s considering investigating conspiracy theories should be aware that you’re walking into a swamp that you may never come out of. Or if you do make it out, you’ll emerge with a bag of half-answers, shadows, suspicions, and more questions than you took in there with you.

Tierra del Lennon

December 8, 2013

Tags: John Lennon, Nowhere Man, Proceso, Roberto Ponce, Octavio Cavalli, Bendito Lennon, Yoko Ono, conspiracy theories, Mark David Chapman, iLeón

If Nowhere Man is destined to become a genuine classic, a book that readers will continue to talk about for decades to come, I can thank the Latin American media.

Since it was originally published, in English, in 2000, the press in countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia (as well as Spain), have given Nowhere Man more serious, thoughtful coverage than any of the scandal-splattered stories that have occasionally roiled U.S. tabloids, like the New York Daily News, to name one.

The Latin American trend continues with two articles commemorating today’s anniversary of John Lennon’s murder that ran in the current issue of Proceso, which is, more or less, a progressive Spanish-language version of Newsweek in its heyday.

In the more than ten years since Random House Mondadori brought out a Spanish edition of Nowhere Man, this Mexico City-based journal of politics and culture has provided frequent, in-depth features about the book and its myriad literary and historical implications.

The two articles that ran in the December 8 issue are “Lennon, una biografía total” (Lennon, a full biography), by Roberto Ponce, and the provocatively titled “Sólo creo en una conspiración: la de Yoko Ono en mi contra” (I just believe in one conspiracy: Yoko Ono’s against me), which I wrote.

Ponce’s piece is about a massive Lennon bio, Bendito Lennon, by Octavio Cavalli, a Buenos Aires attorney who has obsessively researched every aspect of the ex-Beatle’s life. Prosa Amerian Editores is bringing out a revised edition next year, and it will feature new information about Lennon’s diaries, which I’ve been discussing with Cavalli.

The article analyzes Cavalli’s belief that Lennon was the victim of a conspiracy, that Mark David Chapman did not act alone, and that Dakota doorman José Perdomo, who was on duty the night of the murder, was a former CIA agent.

My piece is about “Salvador Astucia,” a pseudonymous Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who has accused me of being the CIA spymaster who ordered Lennon’s murder. As it turned out, Cavalli has uncovered what may be the only scrap of truth in “Astucia’s” insane online ravings: José Perdomo may very well be a former CIA agent.

The conspiracy in the headline is a reference to the unsuccessful efforts of Yoko Ono, former Playboy editor G. Barry Golson, and the New York district attorney to have me arrested unless I agreed never to tell the story of Lennon’s diaries. (Click here to see both articles.)

I cannot imagine the mainstream media in the U.S. ever publishing such a story, which I will soon post here, it its original English.

Hey hey, my my, conspiracy theories will never die.

Imagine if I were fluent in Spanish.

Chapter 27

October 16, 2013

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Chapter 27, J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Mark David Chapman, Michael Paul


Normally, I'm less than satisfied with my readings, but this one, last night at 2A, is one of my better performances, and Michael Paul did a nice job capturing it on video. I'm reading from my book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

The first part is the opening section of the chapter titled "Being Rich." The second part is all of "Chapter 27," my eyewitness account of the sentencing hearing of Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, who believed that by shooting the ex-Beatle, he'd write the missing chapter of J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon's blood.

Lennonight

October 2, 2013

Tags: John Lennon, Nowhere Man, Yoko Ono, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Chapter 27, J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Mark David Chapman, May Pang, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Lexi Love, Title TK

They were into wordplay, John and Yoko, especially when it came to their names, which lent themselves to a variety of combinations, like Lenono Music and Discono, a title John suggested for one of Yoko's LPs. In that spirit, I'm calling this post "Lennonight," which will take place at 8:00 PM, on Tuesday, October 15, in the upstairs lounge of the 2A bar in the East Village.

This is number four in the Tuesday night reading series that Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, and I have been producing. We've christened our spoken-word collective Title TK, and Listen to This Reading is our celebration of John Lennon's birthday--he would have been 73 on October 9.

I’m going to read from my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, specifically the opening chapter, “Being Rich,” the closing chapter, “Dakota Fantasy,” and “Chapter 27,” which is a reference to the nonexistent chapter of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the novel that drove Mark David Chapman to murder.

Mary Lyn Maiscott, who’s more accustomed to performing with a guitar in hand, will read from “Birth of a Song,” the Nowhere Man chapter that explores the inspiration behind Lennon’s “I’m Losing You,” which Mary Lyn covered at the first Bloomsday on Beaver Street.

Lainie will read from May Pang’s memoir, Loving John.

Other readers include actor David Healy, adult actress Alia Janine, actor James Sasser, and radio personality Ralph Sutton.

As always, admission is free and there’s no cover.

In other Title TK news, Lexi Love has created a long-awaited Bloomsday on Beaver Street page on her Website. The page features some very cool photos and the complete audio of her reading that night. Check it out for a taste of the unexpected drama you can expect on October 15, at 2A

Shu and I

March 7, 2013

Tags: Shu-Izmz, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Core of Destruction Radio, Mark David Chapman

The other day I wrote about recording a radio interview about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, with Bryan "Shu" Schuessler, whom I described as "a culture vulture for the new millennium." His site, Shu-Izmz, is full of information and opinions about everything from death metal to cutting-edge literature. The interview is now available for download, and it will also be streamed on Core of Destruction Radio, this Sunday, March 10, at 1 P.M. Eastern Time. (Daylight savings time begins that day.)

If you're unfamiliar with Nowhere Man, the interview is a good, in-depth primer on how I came into possession of Lennon's personal diaries, transcribed them, and over an 18-year period was able to transform the information in the diaries into a book that takes you on a journey through Lennon's consciousness. I also talk about how, in the final part of Nowhere Man, I got inside the head of Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman.

As I tell Shu in the interview, I’m just happy that people still want to talk about Nowhere Man 13 years after it was originally published. If you want to know why people are still talking about the book, then give the interview a listen.

Hope to see you on the radio.

What I Found in My "Other" Box

January 14, 2013

Tags: Mark David Chapman, John Lennon, Nowhere Man, Facebook

I learned this weekend that Facebook has a spam folder where messages go sent by people who aren't your Facebook friends. It's called the "Other" box, and apparently I'm not the only one who was unaware that it existed. It's questionable if even Mark Zuckerberg knew about the box before news broke that for a hundred bucks you could send him a message that wouldn't go into his spam folder.

But this isn't a post about Facebook's stupidity. It's a post about what I found in my Other box, most of which wasn't spam. The messages, dating back to early 2010, were from all kinds of people who wanted to get in touch with me about my writing. One of them played a major role in my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man.

Let me say right off that I’m not one hundred percent certain that the message is legitimate—that it’s from the person whose name is attached to it rather than an imposter. But after looking at his Facebook page—yes, even he appears to have one—I’m inclined to believe that it is legitimate. His minimalist status updates—“April 8, 2011: Time is dragging on lately… December 10, 2010: Franks and Beans tonight”—and one friend, Human Rights Watch, do not strike me as satire. Please look at the page and decide for yourself. (And yes, some prisoners do have Internet access.)

The prisoner in question is Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon and who was in Attica Correctional Facility in New York State until last year, when he was transferred to Wende Correctional Facility, also in New York. His message, sent on October 20, 2010, says the following:

Hello Robert
’read your book. I liked it very much.
Happy Halloween,
Mark C


Though I’m always delighted to hear from people who like my books, this one creeped me out for obvious reasons. And I imagined how strange it must have been for Chapman—assuming it is Chapman—to have read a book that partially takes place inside his head.

I responded to the message and asked if it was really him. Then I sent an e-mail to my publisher at Headpress: “Do you think we can get him to blurb Beaver Street too?”

It’s probably necessary to say here that the e-mail was intended as a joke. Because I’ve often found that when things like this happen, the only thing you can do is laugh about them—as I’m still chuckling today about the existence of Facebook’s Other box and what I found in it.

America the Deranged

December 17, 2012

Tags: NRA, John Lennon, Mark David Chapman

Have you seen the National Rifle Association's website lately? How about the website for American Rifleman, the NRA's official magazine (so to speak)? They both have the look of deranged parodies, offering such fare as a video about the "Gun of the Week," the Glock 17, similar to one of the guns used in Newtown, CT; an advertisement for a discount online gun dealer, cheaperthandirt.com; and an article about the ever-popular Charter Arms revolver, which was the gun Mark David Chapman used to murder John Lennon, and which he was easily able to purchase in Hawaii.

Having written about Chapman in my book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, I've had plenty of opportunity to think about how easy it is for crazy people in America to get their hands on guns. And after listening to three days of TV blather from such luminaries as Joe Scarborough, who said it's not only the availability of guns that's the problem, it's also violent Hollywood movies and violent video games, I'd like to say: What the fuck are you talking about?

The problem is the availability of guns. The problem is that in America, there are between 200 and 300-million guns floating around. And if you think movies and video games are part of the problem, then you also need to blame books and record albums.

Chapman killed Lennon because, he said, The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, and a photograph on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper inspired him to do so. Chapman, who had attempted suicide and had once been confined to a psychiatric institution, believed that by murdering Lennon, he’d write chapter 27 of The Catcher in the Rye (the book has 26 chapters) in Lennon’s blood and literally vanish into the book’s pages to become The Catcher in the Rye for his generation. And when he walked into a gun shop in Honolulu to buy his Charter Arms revolver, all he had to do was fill out an application. One of the questions on the application was: Have you ever been hospitalized for mental illness? Chapman lied, but nobody bothered to do a background check, and he got his gun—for $169, cash on the barrel (so to speak).

In the past 32 years, it’s become easier to get guns, there are more of them, they are deadlier, they are in the possession of more mentally unstable people, and horrific shootings have become more routine.

No, I have no idea what to do about any of this. Even if the obvious solutions are employed—stricter gun laws, banning assault weapons, mandatory background checks, extensive waiting periods, easier access to psychiatric care, etc., etc.—and even if these “solutions” get 100-million guns off the street, that still leaves between 100 and 200-million guns.

America is a deranged and violent country, built on a foundation of genocide, slavery, and Puritanism. Gun violence is a symptom of that derangement and the NRA is a well-financed promoter of it. The only difference I can see between Osama bin Laden and Wayne LaPierre is that one of them was shot dead by an assault rifle.

Why "The Catcher in the Rye"?

October 3, 2012

Tags: The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, Chapter 27, banned books, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Mark David Chapman

Of all the banned books in the world to read from, and there are thousands, why am I reading from J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye at the Banned Book Week event at 2A tomorrow night? Because of the connection between that book and Nowhere Man, my John Lennon bio. As I will explain at the reading, The Catcher in the Rye is a book that drives people crazy. And it has 26 chapters. Mark David Chapman read it and decided to kill John Lennon--to save the world from Lennon's phoniness. He believed that by killing Lennon he'd write Chapter 27 in Lennon's blood and then he'd literally disappear into the book to become the Catcher in the Rye for his generation.

I wrote about all this in Nowhere Man. In the last section of the book, “The Coda,” I detail Chapman’s descent into madness as he travels from Hawaii to New York to carry out his mission. In the book’s final chapter, “Chapter 27,” I describe Chapman’s 1981 court hearing, which I attended as a journalist. Rather than stand trail, Chapman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years to life. In the courtroom, as his statement to the world, he read from chapter 22 of The Catcher in the Rye, the part where Holden Caulfield tells his sister that he wants to be the catcher in the rye.

None of this has anything to do with why the book was banned. It was banned because Holden talks too much about sex. And Salinger captures his voice perfectly, which is the real magic of The Catcher in the Rye.

Hope you can stop by and listen to all the readings. And please check out this excellent article in Adult Video News about the event, and banned books in general.

Testimonial

August 3, 2011

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman

Why do I write? Well, yes, of course for the money. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money," said Samuel Johnson, and I tend to agree with him. But long before I ever earned my first farthing as I writer, I wrote (and I still write) to communicate with people, to move and inspire them with my words. It’s a primal compulsion beyond my control, and that ain’t no joke.

Every now and then I’ll stumble upon some evidence that indicates I have, indeed, gotten through to somebody, somewhere—which inspires me to keep writing.

Yesterday, I found the following paragraph posted on YouTube, explaining the origins of an already controversial video for a song called “The Ballad of Mark David Chapman,” by Maria Fantasma, a band from Tulsa, Oklahoma:

“I read a great book called Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, by Robert Rosen, which gave me more insight [into Lennon’s] flaws and hang-ups…. The book turns into an account of the days leading up to the murder.… It amazes me how murders and death shape art, and this is a sad story for all parties. Anyway, Nowhere Man is an easy read, and I liked it even better the second time. It inspired me to write a song. Maybe it will do the same for you.”

That's the best review any writer could hope for.

20 Years to Life

September 6, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman

Mark David Chapman is again up for parole, as he is every two years. Some people consider me an “expert” on the subject, and I have indeed researched the hell out of it. (See Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.) Consequently, I am quoted.

BBC Interview

August 15, 2010

Tags: Mark David Chapman, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon

My BBC radio 5 interview on Mark David Chapman's parole hearing is now archived for a day. Please click here to listen. My segment comes about one hour into the show.

Live on BBC 5 Tonight

August 9, 2010

Tags: Mark David Chapman, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon

I'll be on BBC Radio 5 tonight at about 9:00 New York time, on a show called Up All Night with Rhod Sharp, talking about Mark David Chapman's parole hearing. To listen live click here.

Venezuelan Interview

February 12, 2010

Tags: Yo Soy John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Mark David Chapman, E.A. Moreno-Uribe, Paúl Salazar Rivas

Yesterday, the Venezuelan arts journalist E.A. Moreno-Uribe posted an interview with me on his site, El Espectador Venezolano. I talk about Yoko Ono's sterilized perpetuation of the John Lennon myth, Lennon's assassin, Mark David Chapman, and a new Venezuelan play by Paúl Salazar Rivas, Yo Soy John Lennon (I Am John Lennon).