The Sporadic Beaver

And On And On And On…/Y sigue y sigue y sigue…

September 14, 2016

Tags: Bill Harry, Mersey Beat, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Facebook, Proceso, 10 Mathew Street, The MacWire, René Portas

When the Mexico City newsweekly Proceso ran the Spanish translation of my interview with Bill Harry, the founding editor of Mersey Beat—they called it “Lennon al desnudo…” (“Lennon Naked”)—it put my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, back in the news. Not bad for a book that’s been in print for more than 16 years and was originally rejected by everybody.

That Nowhere Man became a cult classic, embraced by the Spanish-language media and reading public, is, in large part, due to Proceso’s ongoing coverage. They’ve been deconstructing and analyzing the book ever since Random House Mondadori (now Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) first published the Spanish edition in 2003. (An updated e-book edition was published in June.)

Soon after Proceso ran Harry’s probing and empathetic interview, 10, Mathew Street, a Madrid-based site, and The MacWire, an American celebrity site, picked it up.

This sequence of events began when Harry posted part of the interview, amidst a flurry of comments, on his Facebook page, and I posted it here, titled “And the Mersey Beat Goes On/Y el Mersey Beat sigue” (translated by René Portas, who also translated Nowhere Man).

As Harry was the first person to interview me who knew Lennon from Liverpool, before the Beatles became a global phenomenon, I considered it significant—another step on the road to Nowhere Man’s increasing acceptance among those readers who want to know what was really going on in John Lennon’s head.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Y sigue y sigue y sigue…

Cuando el semanario Proceso de ciudad México, publicó la traducción al español de mi entrevista con Bill Harry, el director fundador del Mersey Beat —la llamaron “Lennon al desnudo…”—, puso mi biografía de John Lennon, Nowhere Man, de vuelta en las noticias. No está mal para un libro que ha estado en prensa por más de 16 años, y fue rechazado originalmente por todo el mundo.

El que Nowhere Man se convirtió en un clásico de culto, abrazado por los medios en lengua española y el público lector, es debido, en gran parte, a la cobertura continua de Proceso. Ellos han estado discutiendo y analizando el libro siempre, desde que Random House Mondadori (ahora Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) publicó por primera vez la edición española en 2003. (Una edición en e-book actualizada fue publicada en junio).

Poco después que Proceso publicó la tanteadora y empática entrevista de Harry, 10, Mathew Street, un sitio con sede en Madrid, y The MacWire, un sitio célebre americano la recogieron.

Esta secuencia de eventos empezó cuando Harry posteó parte de la entrevista, en medio de un aluvión de comentarios, en su página de Facebook, y yo la posteé aquí, titulada “And the Mersey Beat Goes On/Y el Mersey Beat sigue” (traducida por René Portas, quien asimismo tradujo Nowhere Man).

Como Harry fue la primera persona que me entrevistó, quien conociera a Lennon de Liverpool, antes de que los Beatles se convirtieran en un fenómeno global, yo lo consideré significativo, otro paso en el camino de la creciente aceptación de Nowhere Man, entre esos lectores que quieren saber qué, realmente, estaba pasando en la cabeza de John Lennon.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

*“I read the news today, oh boy”, de “A day in the life”, canción de los Beatles.

And the Mersey Beat Goes On/Y el Mersey Beat sigue

August 18, 2016

Tags: Bill Harry, Mersey Beat, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Beatles, Yoko Ono, Fred Seaman, diaries, interviews, Liverpool

In the 1960s, the burgeoning Merseyside music scene gave rise to scores of prominent bands. Though the Beatles, of course, were the most famous group to emerge from the area in and around Liverpool, other recording artists who achieved international acclaim at the time include Gerry and the Pacemakers ("How Do You Do It?"), The Searchers ("Needles and Pins"), The Swinging Blue Jeans ("Hippie Hippie Shake"), and Cilla Black ("Anyone Who Had a Heart").

Mersey Beat, published from 1961–1965, was the newspaper that covered it all. Its founding editor, Bill Harry, had met John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe at the Liverpool College of Art. Early on, he commissioned Lennon to write a story explaining how his quartet came to be. “Being a Short Diversion on the Dubious Origins of Beatles” is one of the many articles, as well as Lennon’s poetry, in the Mersey Beat archives.

Several months ago, Harry, who’s written or co-written more than two dozen books, notably The Beatles Encyclopedia and The John Lennon Encyclopedia, requested a copy of Nowhere Man. I sent him one and was thrilled to hear that he enjoyed reading it. He then asked me a number of probing yet empathetic questions about the book and how it came to be. I’ve done hundreds of interviews since Nowhere Man was published, in 2000, but this is the first time somebody who knew Lennon back in Liverpool has interviewed me.

Harry not only “got” the book but called my answers “insightful and an inspiring depiction” of Nowhere Man’s “long journey” to publication.

The interview appears below, in English and Spanish, as well as on Harry’s Facebook page. Here’s a link to part 1.

Bill Harry: Having access to John’s diaries and other relevant material, did you come to any personal conclusions about John, which were different from your previous opinions?

Robert Rosen: Before Fred Seaman gave me John’s diaries, in May 1981, he’d been telling me about John—since the day he started working for him, in February 1979. The picture he originally painted was what I described in the opening paragraph of Nowhere Man: a dysfunctional, “tormented superstar, a prisoner of his fame, locked in his bedroom, raving about Jesus Christ while a retinue of servants tended to his every need.” Seaman told me that he thought John was washed up, that he’d never make music again. He thought that Lennon was tired of living and said that he wouldn’t be surprised if he committed suicide. All this changed in the summer of 1980, when Seaman was in Bermuda with John, and John started writing and recording the material for Double Fantasy. When I started transcribing John’s diaries, much of what Seaman had told me was borne out—especially in John’s diary entries from early 1980, when he did seem scattered, unfocused, and confused about what to do next.

Still, a number of things surprised me, like how much time and energy John spent writing in his diaries—the diaries were his primary creative activity during his years of seclusion. Though I knew about his interest in numerology, astrology, tarot, etc., I was surprised by how seriously he took these things, especially tarot. And though, of course, I knew about John’s rivalry with Paul—in 1979, Seaman started referring to Paul as “the enemy”—I was surprised by how obsessed John was with Paul, how he thought about him virtually every day, and how much pleasure he took when Paul was busted in Japan for marijuana possession. So, if my opinion changed about John, it had to do with how obsessively petty and uncharitable he could be towards Paul.

BH: When you completed the book did you need Yoko’s approval before finding a publisher?

RR: No, I did not need or ask for Yoko’s approval; she did not approve the book; and she did not try to stop me from publishing it after I got a publishing deal. Her lawyers, however, did ask to vet the book. My lawyer refused. He’d already vetted Nowhere Man and felt confident that it did not violate any of Ono’s rights.

BH: In the course of your research you obviously read Albert Goldman’s book. How accurate did you consider it?

RR: Maybe 20 percent of Albert Goldman’s book can be taken at face value. The Lives of John Lennon is composed of little nuggets of truth wrapped in layers and layers of bullshit. Every story he tells is grossly exaggerated to paint John and Yoko in the worst possible light.

BH: On reading diaries with such detail in them, did you ever consider John was obsessive about the occult, horoscopes and other borderline psychic studies?

RR: There’s no question that John was obsessed with the occult: tarot, numerology, magic, and astrology. John and Yoko had a fulltime tarot card reader, whom they called “Charlie Swan.” (His real name was John Green.) Yoko met with or spoke to him daily. John usually met with him several times a week, though for an extended period of time, he had Charlie read daily on gold futures. It was Yoko who introduced John to numerology and turned him on to Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, which became one of John’s “bibles.” (John’s fascination with number 9 is well known.) When Paul was arrested in Japan for marijuana possession, John attributed the arrest to Yoko’s magic, which she’d learned from Lena the Colombian Witch—she’d gone to Colombia with Charlie Swan and paid Lena $60,000 to teach her how to cast magic spells. (Swan, using his real name, writes in detail about Lena in his book, Dakota Days.) And every month, John clipped the Patric Walker horoscopes—Libra for himself, Aquarius for Yoko—from Town and Country magazine, pasted them in his diary, and kept track of how accurate they were. He usually found them extremely accurate.

BH: John was a voracious reader. Can you remember any of the books which impressed him in the diaries?

RR: There were a number of books that John mentioned in his diaries that impressed him for a variety of reasons. He was very much into “lucid dreaming,” or programming dreams (they were often sex dreams about May Pang), which he then would record in his diary. He referred to programming dreams as “dream power.” When I was writing Nowhere Man, I didn’t realize that Dream Power was the title of a book that taught him how to program dreams. Obviously this book had a powerful influence upon him.

John hated wearing glasses and became obsessed with a book about improving his vision through eye exercises. I don’t recall the title, but John did do the recommended exercises in spurts, though it didn’t improve his vision.

He very much enjoyed Black Spring, by Henry Miller, which reminded John of when the Beatles were playing strip joints in Hamburg. He was so impressed by Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter Thompson, he considered playing Thompson in a movie version of the book. And Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, about the Manson murders, scared the shit out of John.

BH: Do you have an opinion on why John constantly referred to his wife as “mother”?

RR: At the risk of sounding like a 10-cent psychoanalyst, I think it’s obvious that he looked upon Yoko as a substitute for his real mother. I also think it was a way for John to express his joy that Yoko had given him Sean and that he finally had a real family. It’s worth noting that in his diaries, he did not call Yoko “Mother.”

BH: During the final five-year period of John’s life, which you studied, what were the aspects of John which impressed you, and how different a man was he from his Beatles days?

RR: What impressed me most about John was his fanatical discipline when it came to writing in his diary—the way he got it all down, day after day. As I said in Nowhere Man, he recorded “every detail, every dream, every conversation, every morsel of food he put in his mouth, the perpetual stream of consciousness.” I found this inspiring and tried to emulate that kind of discipline in my own writing.

I also found it extremely interesting that despite his $150 million and his global renown, his day-to-day life didn’t seem all that different from my own. We were both sitting in a room in Manhattan, writing in notebooks and smoking weed. Of course, when he was talking about household expenses, his numbers had an extra couple of zeros at the end.

Obviously, during his Beatle days, when he was recording and touring, he wasn’t spending as much time in solitude and isolation. And though he had a wife, Cynthia, and a son, Julian, he was not acting like a real husband or father. This is something he felt guilty about for the rest of his life, especially his relationship, or, rather, lack of one, with Julian. John considered Sean a miracle and saw him as an opportunity to repent for the sins against family that he’d committed when he was a Beatle. In other words, he did his best to be a real father to Sean.

BH: Was John accepting of Yoko’s companionship with people like Sam Havadtoy and was such a relationship platonic or more intimate?

RR: Though Fred Seaman has insisted that Yoko was having an affair with Sam Havadtoy, John did not explicitly state in his diaries that he thought this was the case. He might have suspected something was going on—he’d overhear little snippets of chatter among the servants. But there’s nothing definitive and no indication that John ever tried to stop Yoko from spending time with her interior decorators, the “Sams,” Havadtoy and Green.

BH: Were John’s final years happy ones or was he tormented or unhappy?

RR: Sean’s birth and the opportunity to be a father and have a real family brought John a huge amount of joy. And towards the end, when songs like “Woman” came to him whole, he was delighted. But his jealousy towards Paul, his sexual frustration and inability to spend time with May Pang, his constant worry over Apple records trying to rip him off, and his fear that he would lose Sean’s love were all ongoing sources of torment. As I said in Nowhere Man: “John’s reality was boredom and pain punctuated by microseconds of ecstasy.”

BH: During your long period of research did you become interested in John’s passion for the occult and did you personally try the I Ching, read horoscopes and practice numerology?

RR: It was only after I started reading up on the occult that many of the references in John’s diaries began to make sense. And yes, I did start reading the horoscopes in Town and Country and I did start paying attention to things like Mercury Retrograde, and I did kind of get hooked on Cheiro’s Book of Numbers. That’s because numerology was the easiest occult practice to understand and it could be applied to so many situations.

BH: Just how difficult was the book to write considering the circumstances?

RR: I started writing the book a couple of weeks after Seaman had ransacked my apartment and taken everything I’d been working on. That was when I realized that I had large portions of John’s diaries memorized, and I began writing down everything I could remember. The more I wrote, the more I remembered. To me, writing is a painful process, and writing Nowhere Man was no more or less difficult than it was to write any other book I’ve written. I had the bulk of Nowhere Man written by the end of 1982—though at the time I called it “John Lennon’s Diaries.” What now appears in the published edition is not all that different from the original manuscript. But because it took me 18 years to find a publisher, I was able to spend that time refining the book, adding more to it as information became available. As I explain in the introduction, new information that I recognized from the diaries was constantly appearing in newspapers, magazines, other books, and especially on the Internet. I assembled all these fragments into a coherent whole, and I had those 18 years to get it right. Though for copyright reasons I was unable to quote from the diaries, I was somehow able to infuse Nowhere Man with the energy, feeling, and tone of the diaries—and that’s the magic of the book. At times it felt as if John were dictating to me, as if I’d plugged into his spirit.

BH: Did you at any time find that his entries in the diary indicated he was at times involved in a life beset with periods of trivia?

RR: I don’t know if I’d call it trivia. John had wide-ranging interests and he read a lot of newspapers, everything from The New York Times to the gossip rags. He thought stories about scientists’ finding new ways to estimate the age of the universe and about Marlon Brando’s gaining weight were equally compelling. He also believed that tabloids like The National Enquirer were more credible than the Times, who he thought got everything wrong.

BH: Since he was intrigued by dreams and kept a dream diary, did he come to any conclusions about dreaming? I.e. was it prophetic, did it provide any answers, etc.?

RR: He didn’t think his dreams were prophetic. (It was the possibility that he might be able to see into the future that was behind his interest in tarot and also, in part, yoga.) But he was fascinated by the symbols in dreams, their relationship to reality, and what they revealed about his psyche. He also thought they might provide him with insight into his relationship with Yoko. (When he programmed dreams, it was only the first dream he was able to program. After that, he might dream about anything.) In one dream a man turned into a wolf, and John saw that as a symbol of his anger. A sex dream he had about George Harrison left him feeling confused—he couldn’t understand why he’d have such a dream.

BH: The last five years were generally reclusive. Was this because of John’s own decisions or because of circumstances?

RR: John was sick of the music business and when his contract with Capitol Records—“Capitol Punishment,” he called it—lapsed he was determined to get away from it. Sean was born around that time and, as I said, John was also determined to be a real father to Sean. So, it appears to be true that it was a mutual decision between John and Yoko that he’d drop out for five years and spend that time raising Sean. Of course, he left the hard parts to Helen Seaman, the governess, while he spent a lot of time in his rooms in the Dakota, Cold Spring Harbor, Palm Beach, and hotel rooms in Japan sleeping, dreaming, smoking weed, watching TV, and writing in his diary. Then, when the five years passed, he made a conscious decision to return to the world, recapture his muse, and make music again. It was a difficult and painful transition that resulted in Double Fantasy.

BH: Describe some of the difficulties that you personally, as an author, suffered while writing the book, and the length of time which passed between the onset of your writing and the final publication?

RR: It’s not as if I worked on the book non-stop for 18 years. I’d put it aside for years at a time, but the story of John’s diaries haunted me. It was a story that demanded to be told and would not leave me alone.

I thought it was absurd that nobody was willing to publish Nowhere Man. There were so many other books about Lennon and the Beatles that were constantly being published and which were flat-out hackwork and cut-and-paste jobs. But publishers told me that Ono would sue (when in fact Ono has never sued a writer for something he’s written). They also said that there was not enough interest in Lennon, and that I couldn’t prove what I’d written was true or that the diaries even existed.

In 1982, I brought the story to Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone. He said he believed me but couldn’t publish it. Instead, he advised me to “save my karma” and tell the story to Yoko, which I did. Ono claimed she didn’t know that John kept a diary. She then asked to read my personal diaries—she wanted to know exactly what Seaman had been doing since she hired him. I gave them to her. First she used the information in my diaries to force Seaman to return John’s diaries. She then gave my diaries to the Manhattan district attorney, who told me that I’d be arrested for criminal conspiracy, based on what I’d written, unless I signed a document waiving my First Amendment rights to tell the story of John’s diaries. (I didn’t sign the document and I wasn’t arrested.) Ono also gave my diaries to Playboy. From the approximately 500,000 words in the diaries, Playboy excerpted the 200 most damning ones (when taken out of context), including my comment about Ono’s skillful exploitation of the Lennon legacy: “Dead Lennons=BIG $$$$$.” In an article designed to destroy my reputation and insure that I’d never be able to publish a book about Lennon, the writer used that quote as an illustration of how I felt about Lennon’s death and depicted me as a criminal conspirator drooling over his corpse. Then in the following issue, the magazine ran a letter to the editor saying that what I had done was worse than what Mark David Chapman had done. This article is the source of many of the conspiracy theories that have been floating around for years. Some of the theories insinuate that I’m a Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who ordered a hit on Lennon. (I’ve added an additional chapter that tells this story in the revised edition of Nowhere Man, published as an e-book in 2015.)

Ono held my diaries for 18 years, until Nowhere Man was going to press. Then she returned them.

BH: What was the most surprising piece of information you discovered while studying the diaries and researching the book?

RR: The single most surprising thing in the diaries was Lennon’s expression of utter joy when McCartney was busted in Japan for marijuana.

BH: If John had been your idol prior to the involvement in the writing, did the completion of the book prove cathartic?

RR: I was a Beatles fan. The first record album I ever bought, in 1964, right after I saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show, was Meet the Beatles. I played that album enough to memorize every word of every song on it. But I also lost track of the Beatles for years at a time and barely followed them after they broke up. I was more into sports—I wanted to be a sports writer. But even the years when I wasn’t paying attention, information was getting through to me subliminally—it was in the air. When John hired Fred, he knew very little about the Beatles—one of the reasons he got the job was because he wasn’t a Beatles freak. Fred started asking me a lot of questions about John and the Beatles, and I was surprised by how much I knew about the music and the lore: Who’s the Walrus? What’s this about Paul being dead? What happens when you play “Revolution 9” backwards? Stuff like that.

All I’m saying is that I did not idolize John or any other Beatle, but I knew a lot about them, more than I’d realized. So, it wasn’t the completion of the book that was cathartic. It was what happened after it was published: After 18 years of being ripped off, ignored, rejected, threatened, called a liar, and subjected to character assassination, I had a critically acclaimed best-seller in multiple countries and multiple languages.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Y el Mersey Beat sigue

En los 60s, la floreciente escena musical Merseyside dio ascenso a decenas de bandas prominentes. Aunque los Beatles, por supuesto, eran el grupo más famoso que emergiera del área y alrededor de Liverpool, otros de los artistas musicales, que alcanzaron una aclamación internacional por ese tiempo, incluyen a Gerry and the Pacemakers (“How Do You Do It?”), The Searchers (“Needles and Pins”), The Swinging Blue Jeans (“Hippie Hippie Shake”), y Cilla Black (“Anyone Who Had a Heart”).

Mersey Beat, publicado de 1961 a 1965, fue el periódico que lo cubrió todo. Su director fundador, Bill Harry, había conocido a John Lennon y a Stuart Sutcliffe en el Colegio de Artes de Liverpool. Desde temprano, éste encargó a Lennon escribir una historia, explicando cómo su cuarteto llegó a ser. “Siendo una breve digresión sobre los dudosos orígenes de los Beatles” es uno de los muchos artículos, así como la poesía de Lennon en los archivos de Mersey Beat.

Varios meses atrás Harry, quien ha escrito o co-escrito más de dos decenas de libros, notablemente La Enciclopedia de los Beatles y La Enciclopedia de John Lennon, me solicitó un ejemplar de Nowhere Man. Yo le envié uno y me emocionó oír que había disfrutado leerlo. Él luego me hizo una serie de tanteadoras aunque empáticas preguntas sobre el libro, y de cómo éste llegó a ser. Yo he dado cientos de entrevistas desde que Nowhere Man fue publicado, en el 2000, pero ésta es la primera vez que alguien, quien conoció a Lennon de antes en Liverpool, me ha entrevistado.

Harry no sólo “captó” el libro, sino calificó mis respuestas como “una penetrante e inspiradora descripción” del “largo viaje” de Nowhere Man hacia la publicación.

La entrevista aparece en la página de Facebook de Harry.

Bill Harry: Teniendo acceso a los diarios de John y otros materiales relevantes, ¿tú llegaste a algunas conclusiones personales sobre John, que fueran diferentes a tus opiniones anteriores?

Robert Rosen: Antes de que Fred Seaman me diera los diarios de John, en mayo de 1981, él me había estado contando sobre John, desde el día en que empezó a trabajar para él, en febrero de 1979. La imagen que pintó originalmente, fue la que yo describí en el párrafo inicial de Nowhere Man: la de una disfuncional “super-estrella atormentada, un prisionero de su fama, encerrado en su dormitorio, desvariando sobre Jesucristo, mientras una comitiva de sirvientes atendía cada necesidad suya.” Seaman me contó que él pensaba que John estaba acabado, que nunca haría música de nuevo. Él pensaba que Lennon estaba cansado de vivir, y dijo que no se sorprendería si cometía un suicidio. Todo eso cambió en el verano de 1980, cuando Seaman estaba en las Bermudas con John, y John empezó a escribir y grabar el material para el Double Fantasy. Cuando yo empecé a transcribir los diarios de John, mucho de lo que Seaman me había contado se confirmó, especialmente en los apuntes del diario de John desde principios de 1980, cuando él pareció disperso, desenfocado y confundido sobre qué hacer en lo venidero.

Aún así, una serie de cosas me sorprendió, como cuán mucho tiempo y energía gastaba John escribiendo en sus diarios; los diarios fueron su actividad creativa primaria durante sus años de seclusión. Aunque yo sabía sobre su interés en la numerología, la astrología, el tarot, etc., me sorprendió cuán seriamente él tomaba esas cosas, especialmente el tarot. Y aunque yo, por supuesto, sabía de la rivalidad de John con Paul —en 1979 Seaman empezó a referirse a Paul como “el enemigo”—, me sorprendió cuán obsesionado estaba John con Paul, como pensaba en él virtualmente todos los días, y cuán mucho placer le dio cuando Paul fue detenido en Japón por posesión de marihuana. Así, si mi opinión sobre John cambió, eso tuvo que ver, con cuán obsesivamente mezquino y no caritativo él pudiera ser con Paul.

BH: ¿Cuando tú terminaste el libro, necesitaste la aprobación de Yoko antes de encontrar a un editor?

RR: No, yo no necesité ni pedí la aprobación de Yoko, ella no aprobó el libro, y no trató de impedir que lo publicara después que yo conseguí un contrato de publicación. Sus abogados, sin embargo, pidieron que revisara el libro. Mi abogado se rehusó. Él ya había revisado Nowhere Man y se sentía confiado en que éste no violaba ninguno de los derechos de Ono.

BH: En el curso de tu investigación, obviamente, tú leíste el libro de Albert Goldman. ¿Cuán preciso lo consideraste?

RR: Quizás un 20 por ciento del libro de Albert Goldman, pueda ser tomado como de valor serio. Las vidas de John Lennon está compuesto de pequeñas pepitas de verdad, envueltas en capas y capas de basura. Cada historia que cuenta está grosamente exagerada, para pintar a John y Yoko bajo la peor luz posible.

BH: Al leer los diarios con tal detalle, ¿tú consideraste alguna vez que John fuera obsesivo con lo oculto, los horóscopos y otros estudios psíquicos límites?

RR: No hay duda de que John estaba obsesionado con lo oculto: el tarot, la numerología, la magia y la astrología. John y Yoko tenían un lector de cartas de tarot de tiempo completo, a quien llamaban “Charlie Swan.” (Su verdadero nombre era John Green.) Yoko se reunía con él o le hablaba diariamente. John se reunía con él usualmente varias veces a la semana, aunque por un extenso período de tiempo, él tuvo a Charlie leyendo diariamente sobre los oros futuros. Fue Yoko quien introdujo a John en la numerología y lo encaminó al Libro de los Números de Cheiro, cual se convirtió en una de las “biblias” de John. (La fascinación de John con el número 9 es bien conocida.) Cuando Paul fue arrestado en Japón por posesión de marihuana, John atribuyó el arresto a la magia de Yoko, cual ella había aprendido de Lena la bruja colombiana; ella había ido a Colombia con Charlie Swan y pagado a Lena $60,000 dólares, para que le enseñara a lanzar hechizos mágicos. (Swan, usando su nombre verdadero, escribe con detalle sobre Lena en su libro, Los días del Dakota.) Y cada mes, John recortaba los horóscopos de Patric Walker —Libra para sí mismo, Acuario para Yoko— de la revista Town and Country, los pegaba en su diario y guardaba una pista de cuán precisos éstos fueran. Él usualmente los hallaba sumamente precisos.

BH: John era un lector voraz. ¿Puedes recordar alguno de los libros que le impresionaron en los diarios?

RR: Hubo una serie de libros que John mencionó en sus diarios, que le impresionaron por una variedad de razones. Él estaba muy metido en el “sueño lúcido”, o en la programación de sueños (éstos eran a menudo sueños sexuales con May Pang), cuales luego registraba en su diario. Se refería a la programación de sueños como el “poder del sueño.” Cuando yo estaba escribiendo Nowhere Man, no advertí que El poder del sueño era el título de un libro, que le había enseñado a programar sueños. Obviamente, ese libro tuvo una influencia poderosa sobre él.

John odiaba usar lentes, y se obsesionó con un libro sobre la mejoría de la visión, a través de los ejercicios con los ojos. Yo no recuerdo el título, pero John hacía los ejercicios recomendados por rachas, aunque eso no mejoró su visión.

Él disfrutó mucho la Primavera negra, de Henry Miller, que le recordó a John, de cuando los Beatles estuvieron tocando en locales de striptease en Hamburgo. Estaba tan impresionado por Miedo y asco en Las Vegas, de Hunter Thompson, que consideró interpretar a Thompson en una versión cinematográfica del libro. Y Helter Skelter, de Vincent Bugliosi, sobre los asesinatos de Manson, asustó hasta la mierda a John.

BH: ¿Tú tienes una opinión sobre por qué John se refería constantemente a su esposa como “madre”?

RR: A riesgo de sonar como un psicoanalista de 10 centavos, yo pienso es obvio que él consideraba a Yoko como un sustituto de su madre verdadera. Asimismo pienso que era una manera de John, de expresar su alegría por que Yoko le había dado a Sean, y por que finalmente tenía una familia verdadera. Vale señalar que en sus diarios, él no llamaba a Yoko “Madre”.

BH: Durante el período último de cinco años en la vida de John, que tú estudiaste, ¿cuáles fueron los aspectos de John que te impresionaron, y cuán hombre diferente era él desde sus días con los Beatles?

RR: Lo que más me impresionó sobre John fue su disciplina fanática, cuando se trataba de escribir en su diario, la manera en que lo apuntaba todo, día tras día. Como yo dije en Nowhere Man, él registraba “cada detalle, cada sueño, cada conversación, cada bocado de comida que se ponía en la boca, el flujo perpetuo de la conciencia”. Yo encontré eso inspirador, y traté de emular ese tipo de disciplina en mi propia escritura.

Asimismo encontré sumamente interesante que, a pesar de sus $150 millones y su renombre global, su vida de día a día no parecía toda tan diferente de la mía. Ambos estábamos sentados en una habitación en Manhattan, escribiendo en cuadernos y fumando hierba. Por supuesto, cuando él estaba hablando de los gastos de la casa, sus números tenían un par de ceros extra al final.

Obviamente, durante sus días con los Beatles, cuando estaba grabando y de gira, no estaba pasando tan mucho tiempo en soledad y aislamiento. Y aunque tenía una esposa, Cynthia, y un hijo, Julian, no estaba actuando como un marido o padre verdadero. Eso es algo por lo que se sintió culpable por el resto de su vida, especialmente por su relación, o más bien por la falta de una con Julian. John consideraba a Sean un milagro, y lo veía como una oportunidad para arrepentirse de los pecados contra la familia, que él había cometido cuando era un Beatle. En otras palabras, él hizo lo mejor que pudo para ser un verdadero padre para Sean.

BH: ¿Estaba John aceptando como compañía de Yoko a personas como Sam Havadtoy, y fue esa una relación platónica o más íntima?

RR: Aunque Fred Seaman ha insistido, en que Yoko estaba teniendo un affair con Sam Havadtoy, John no indicó explícitamente en sus diarios que él pensaba ese era el caso. Él podría haber sospechado que algo estaba pasando, había oído de pasada pequeños retazos de la charla entre los sirvientes. Pero no hay nada definitivo, y no hay indicios de que John tratara alguna vez, de impedir a Yoko pasar tiempo con sus decoradores de interiores, los “Sams” Havadtoy y Green.

BH: ¿Fueron los últimos años de John felices, o él estaba atormentado o infeliz?

RR: El nacimiento de Sean y la oportunidad de ser un padre y tener una familia verdadera, brindaron a John una enorme cantidad de alegría. Y hacia el final, cuando canciones como “Woman” le vinieron del todo, estaba encantado. Pero sus celos hacia Paul, su frustración sexual e incapacidad para pasar tiempo con May Pang, su constante preocupación por Apple records, que trataba de estafarlo, y su temor de que iba a perder el amor de Sean, fueron todas continuas fuentes de tormento. Como yo dije en Nowhere Man: “la realidad de John era el aburrimiento y el dolor puntuados por micro segundos de éxtasis”.

BH: Durante tu largo período de investigación, ¿llegaste a interesarte en la pasión de John por lo oculto, y probaste personalmente con el I Ching, leíste horóscopos y practicaste la numerología?

RR: Fue sólo después que yo empecé a leer sobre lo oculto, que muchas de las referencias en los diarios de John comenzaron a tener sentido. Y sí, yo empecé a leer los horóscopos de Town and Country, y empecé a prestar atención a cosas como el Mercurio retrógrado, y estuve a punto de quedarme enganchado con en el Libro de los Números de Cheiro. Eso fue por que la numerología era la práctica ocultista más fácil de entender, y podía ser aplicada a muchas situaciones.

BH: ¿Cuán difícil justo fue escribir el libro, considerando las circunstancias?

RR: Yo empecé a escribir el libro un par de semanas después, que Seaman hubiera saqueado mi apartamento y tomado todo, en lo que había estado trabajando. Fue entonces cuando advertí que tenía grandes porciones de los diarios de John memorizadas, y comencé a escribir todo lo que podía recordar. Mientras más escribía, más recordaba. Para mí escribir es un proceso doloroso, y escribir Nowhere Man fue no más o menos difícil, de lo que fue escribir cualquier otro libro que he escrito. Yo tenía la mayoría de Nowhere Man escrita a finales de 1982, aunque por ese tiempo la llamé “Los diarios de John Lennon.” Lo que ahora aparece en la edición publicada, no es del todo diferente al manuscrito original. Pero debido a que me tomó 18 años encontrar a un editor, fui capaz de pasar ese tiempo refinando el libro, agregando más a éste mientras la información se hacía disponible. Como yo explico en la introducción, nueva información que yo reconocía era de los diarios, aparecía constantemente en los periódicos, las revistas, otros libros, y especialmente en la internet. Yo ensamblé todos esos fragmentos en un todo coherente, y tuve esos 18 años para hacerlo bien. Aunque por razones de derechos de autor yo no podía citar de los diarios, fui capaz de algún modo de infundir en Nowhere Man la energía, el sentimiento y el tono de los diarios, y esa es la magia del libro. A veces se sentía como si John me estuviera dictando, como si yo estuviera conectado con su espíritu.

BH: ¿Tú encuentras en cualquier momento que sus apuntes en el diario, indicaran que él estaba por momentos implicado en una vida plagada de períodos de trivialidad?

RR: Yo no sé si lo llamaría trivialidad. John tenía intereses de amplio alcance y leía un montón de periódicos, todas las cosas de The New York Times hasta los trapos sucios de los chismes. Él pensaba que las historias sobre los científicos, que buscaban nuevas maneras de estimar la edad del universo, y sobre el aumento de peso de Marlon Brando eran igualmente cautivadoras. Él asimismo creía que tabloides como The National Enquirer eran más creíbles que el Times, cual pensaba que lo tomaba todo mal.

BH: Desde que estuvo intrigado por los sueños y llevó un diario de sueños, ¿llegó él a alguna conclusión sobre el sueño?, es decir, ¿era éste profético, le brindaba algunas respuestas, etc.?

RR: Él no pensaba que sus sueños fueran proféticos. (Era la posibilidad, de que él pudiera ser capaz de ver el futuro, la que estaba detrás de su interés en el tarot, y asimismo en parte en el yoga.) Pero él estaba fascinado con los símbolos de los sueños, su relación con la realidad, y lo que éstos revelaban sobre su psique. Él asimismo pensaba que éstos podrían brindarle una percepción de su relación con Yoko. (Cuando él programaba sueños, era sólo el primer sueño el que era capaz de programar. Después de eso, él podía soñar con cualquier cosa.) En un sueño un hombre se convertía en un lobo, y John vio eso como un símbolo de su furia. Un sueño sexual que tuvo con George Harrison, lo dejó sintiéndose confundido, no podía entender por qué él habría tenido tal sueño.

BH: Los últimos cinco años fueron generalmente de reclusión. ¿Fue eso debido a las propias decisiones de John o debido a las circunstancias?

RR: John estaba hastiado del negocio de la música, y cuando su contrato con la Capitol Records —el “Castigo de la Capitol” lo llamaba— caducó, estaba decidido a alejarse de ésta. Sean nació alrededor de ese tiempo y, como yo dije, John estaba asimismo decidido a ser un padre verdadero para Sean. Así, parece ser verdad que fue una decisión mutua entre John y Yoko, que él se retirara por cinco años y pasara ese tiempo criando a Sean. Por supuesto, él le dejó las partes difíciles a Helen Seaman, la institutriz, mientras él pasaba mucho tiempo en sus habitaciones en el Dakota, en Cold Spring Harbor, Palm Beach, y en las habitaciones de hotel en Japón durmiendo, soñando, fumando hierba, mirando la tv y escribiendo en su diario. Entonces, cuando los cinco años pasaron, él tomó la decisión consciente de regresar al mundo, recuperar su musa y hacer música de nuevo. Fue una transición difícil y dolorosa que resultó en el Double Fantasy.

BH: Describe algunas de las dificultades que tú personalmente, como autor, sufriste mientras escribías el libro, y la longitud de tiempo que pasó entre el comienzo de tu escritura y la publicación final.

RR: No es como si yo hubiera trabajado en el libro sin parar durante 18 años. Yo lo he puesto a un lado a la vez durante años, pero la historia de los diarios de John me perseguía. Era una historia que exigía ser contada y no me dejaba en paz.

Yo pensaba que era absurdo que nadie estuviera dispuesto a publicar Nowhere Man. Había tantos otros libros sobre Lennon y los Beatles que se estaban publicando constantemente, y que eran trabajos de plantilla a toda máquina y labores de cortar-y-pegar. Pero los editores me decían que Ono los demandaría (cuando de hecho Ono nunca ha demandado a un escritor por algo que éste haya escrito). Asimismo me decían que no había suficiente interés en Lennon, y que yo no podría probar que, lo que había escrito, era verdad o que incluso los diarios existían.

En 1982, yo le llevé la historia a Jann Wenner en la Rolling Stone. Él dijo que me creía, pero que no la podía publicar. En lugar de eso, me aconsejó que “salvara mi karma” y le contara la historia a Yoko, lo cual hice. Ono afirmó que no sabía que John llevara un diario. Luego me pidió leer mis diarios personales, ella quería saber exactamente qué había estado haciendo Seaman, desde que lo contratara. Yo se los di a ella. Primero ella utilizó la información de mis diarios, para obligar a Seaman a devolverle los diarios de John. Luego le dio mis diarios al fiscal del distrito de Manhattan, quien me dijo que yo sería arrestado por conspiración criminal, basado en lo que había escrito, a menos que firmara un documento renunciando a mis derechos de la Primera Enmienda, de contar la historia de los diarios de John. (Yo no firmé el documento y no fui arrestado.) Ono asimismo le dio mis diarios a Playboy. De las aproximadas 500, 000 palabras de los diarios, Playboy extrajo las 200 más incriminatorias (cuando se toman fuera de contexto), incluyendo mi comentario sobre la hábil explotación de Ono del legado de Lennon: “Lennon muerto=Grandes $$$$$”. En un artículo diseñado para destruir mi reputación, y asegurar que yo nunca fuera capaz de publicar un libro sobre Lennon, el escritor utilizó esa cita como una ilustración, de cómo yo sentía la muerte de Lennon, y me dibujó como un conspirador criminal que se babeaba sobre su cadáver. Luego, en el número siguiente, la revista publicó una carta al director, diciendo que lo que yo había hecho, era peor que lo que Mark David Chapman había hecho. Ese artículo es la fuente de muchas de las teorías de conspiración, que han estado flotando alrededor por años. Algunas de las teorías insinúan que yo soy el jefe-espía sionista financiado por la CIA, que ordenó el golpe contra Lennon. (Yo he agregado un capítulo adicional que cuenta esa historia, en la edición revisada de Nowhere Man, publicada como e-book en el 2015.)

Ono retuvo mis diarios durante 18 años, hasta que Nowhere Man estaba yendo a la prensa. Entonces me los devolvió.

BH: ¿Cuál fue la más sorprendente pieza de información que descubriste, mientras estudiabas los diarios e investigabas para el libro?

RR: La única cosa más sorprendente en los diarios, fue la expresión de Lennon de alegría absoluta, cuando McCartney fue detenido en Japón por la marihuana.

BH: Si John ha sido tu ídolo antes de enfrascarte en la escritura, ¿la terminación del libro resultó catártica?

RR: Yo era un fan de los Beatles. El primer álbum musical que yo alguna vez compré, en 1964, justo después que los vi en El show de Ed Sullivan, fue Meet the Beatles. Yo puse ese álbum lo suficiente, como para memorizar cada palabra de cada canción de éste. Pero asimismo perdí a la vez la pista de los Beatles durante años, y apenas los seguí después que se separaron. Yo estaba más en el deporte, quería ser un escritor de deportes. Pero incluso en los años cuando no estaba prestando atención, la información me estaba llegando de modo subliminal, estaba en el aire. Cuando John contrató a Fred, él sabía muy poco sobre los Beatles; una de las razones por las que consiguió el empleo, fue porque no era un freak de los Beatles. Fred empezó a hacerme un montón de preguntas sobre John y los Beatles, y yo me sorprendí por lo mucho que sabía sobre la música y la tradición: ¿Quién es la morsa? ¿Qué es eso sobre que Paul está muerto? ¿Qué pasa cuando pones "Revolution 9" hacia atrás? Cosas como esas.

Todo lo que yo estoy diciendo, es que no idolatré a John o a cualquier otro Beatle, pero sabía mucho sobre ellos, más de lo que hubiera advertido. Así, no fue la terminación del libro lo que fue catártico. Fue lo que sucedió después que se publicó: después de 18 años de haber sido estafado, ignorado, rechazado, amenazado, llamado un mentiroso y sometido a un asesinato de carácter, yo tenía un best-seller aclamado por la crítica en múltiples países y múltiples lenguas.—Traducción de René Portas

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

Forbidden Opinions: John Lennon Edition

January 5, 2016

Tags: Huffington Post, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Beatles, Fred Seaman, Yoko Ono

It shouldn't take any courage to compile a list of "Great Books" about John Lennon. But the American rock establishment live in mortal dread of offending the wrong rock star (What if they never grant me another interview?), record company (What if they never give me another backstage pass?), or magazine (What if they never give me another assignment?), so that, for professional rock 'n' roll scribblers (and those who hope to be), it requires a great deal of courage to publish a wide range of "forbidden" opinions about the extensive body of John Lennon literature.

Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon has been included on its share of “best” lists. Among them are: Christianity Today’s “10 Best Books of 2000” (which also includes The Human Stain, by Philip Roth); iLeon’s “10 Essential Music Biographies of All Time”; “The Top 20 Beatle Books,” a chapter in The Beatles: Having Read the Book, by Greg Sterlace; and The Examiner’s “Top 3 Conspiracy Theories Revolving Around the Death of John Lennon” (a bizarre list that I share with J. D. Salinger and Stephen King).

Obviously, none of these publications and Websites can be considered mainstream sources of rock-establishment opinion, and, it’s safe to say, none of the writers who assembled these lists harbor any ambitions of working for Rolling Stone or interviewing Yoko Ono.

That’s why I was astonished to wake up one morning last month and find Nowhere Man on The Huffington Post’s list of “12 Great Books About John Lennon.” Dennis Miller (the author, not the right-wing comedian) wrote the piece, in which he calls Nowhere Man a “cult classic.” Though Miller is not a card-carrying member of the rock establishment, The Huffington Post is well within the mainstream.

Miller’s list contains several of the usual suspects, like John Lennon: The Life, by Philip Norman; Tune In: The Beatles, by Mark Lewisohn; and The Love You Make, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. But, in addition to Nowhere Man, Miller includes what is arguably the most radioactive book in the Lennon canon: The Last Days of John Lennon, by Frederic Seaman.

Suffice it to say that Seaman, Lennon’s former personal assistant, gave me Lennon’s diaries, which enabled me to write Nowhere Man. (I tell the story of our relationship in the intro.) And Yoko Ono so hated The Last Days of John Lennon, she was finally able to force Seaman to withdraw the book a decade after it was published, thus making it the only banned book on the list. (Copies are still available on the Internet.)

Though I’m no fan of Seaman’s book, I was still happy to see it on the Huffington Post list—because I hate the idea of anybody having the power to repress any book. The Last Days of John Lennon is a fascinating combination of flattering and unflattering truths about Lennon, unflattering truths about Ono, and a liberal smattering of overt lies about everybody involved, including me. It’s also a book that’s well worth reading, especially if you read it alongside Nowhere Man.

So, I’d like to commend Dennis Miller for putting together this unorthodox list, though I may never know if it was a product of bravery in the face of the rock establishment, charming naïveté, or simply a dozen books that he happened to like very much.

Lennon: Naked, Flawed, Mean, and Beautiful

November 30, 2015

Tags: Huffington Post, Michael Lee Nirenberg, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, reviews

There’s nothing more I can add to Michael Nirenberg's essay, "Rock n Roll Watergate," that ran on The Huffington Post last week. Nirenberg, a filmmaker, best known for his Hustler magazine documentary, Back Issues, simply expressed the passion he felt for Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which was released last month as a 15th anniversary e-book edition.

Nirenberg said that the book made him feel as if he were “inside the Dakota with John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” and that Lennon came across as “naked—flawed, mean, and beautiful.”

So, yes, all these years after publication, the book continues to affect people and inspire them to communicate their feelings about what they’ve read. This is what every writer wants his or her books to do.

To me, this is especially satisfying because for 18 years nobody would publish Nowhere Man—editors had deemed it “unpublishable.”

I think it’s now safe to say that they were wrong. Nowhere Man is the book that refused to die. And in this season of thanksgiving I can only give thanks to all the people who’ve read Nowhere Man and made up their own minds about it.

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.

The Woodward and Bernstein of Rock?

November 2, 2015

Tags: Hollywood Scandals, Reelz, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, reviews, e-books, Beatles, Robert Christgau

If you missed my previous appearances on the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals, the Reelz channel will re-broadcast the show, coast-to-coast, on the dates and times below:

Saturday, November 7: 3 P.M. ET, 2 P.M. CT, 1 P.M. MT, 12 P.M. PT

Sunday, November 8: 12 P.M. ET, 11 A.M. CT, 10 A.M. MT, 9 A.M. PT

Reelz is not available on demand, so set your DVR if you can’t tune in at the appointed times. (In New York City, Hollywood Scandals is on Time Warner Cable 128 and Fios 233 .) Click here to find the show on your local cable or satellite system.

If you’re wondering why Hollywood Scandals asked me to talk about Lennon and my bio Nowhere Man (which has just been re-released as an e-book), there are a lot of good reasons. You can find the latest one in a just-published book titled The Beatles: Having Read the Book, by Greg Sterlace. In this volume, the author, using Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” format, reviews “the best and worst of the Beatle tomes.” In his Nowhere Man critique, he calls me “the Woodward and Bernstein of rock” and gives me an “A.”

That’s a title and a grade I can live with.

#179 Interview

October 27, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, The Time Warped Hour, Yoko Ono, e-books

THE TIME WARPED HOUR 10/23/15; ROBERT ROSEN & THE RE-RELEASE OF "NOWHERE MAN" by Daniel Zuckerman on Mixcloud


In 2002, when the paperback edition of Nowhere Man was published, I started keeping track of interviews. I'd already been doing a lot of talking about the book for the two years since the hardcover had come out, and I knew that I was going to be doing a lot more. Also, having developed an abiding interest in numerology, I found numbers... significant.

Since the release of the 15th anniversary Nowhere Man e-book on October 9, I find myself in the midst of another interview frenzy. My chat with Daniel Zuckerman on his Time Warped Hour podcast—my second appearance on the show—is #179 since the publication of the paperback 13 years ago.

Zuckerman and I cover a lot of ground, discussing everything from conspiracy theories to John Lennon’s eating habits to (naturally) his music.

Over the course of the interview, Zuckerman, a Beatles aficionado, plays a lot of good Lennon tunes, including some obscure cuts that I’d never heard before. Perhaps the most surprising track is Elvis Costello’s cover of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice,” the song she and Lennon were working on the night he was assassinated.

So turn off your mind, relax, click on the player, and float through 86 minutes of provocative music and conversation.

Everywhere E-Books Are Sold

October 26, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, e-books, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Scribd

If you haven't had a chance to download the Nowhere Man e-book, I'm happy to report that it's now available everywhere e-books are sold.

Below are links to Nowhere Man on the main online booksellers. Please note that if you've already bought the print edition on Amazon, you can download the updated e-book for 99 cents.

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

iTUNES

KOBO

SCRIBD

SMASHWORDS

And if you don't want to pay for it, ask for the Nowhere Man e-book at your local library. They’ll pay for it.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

October 22, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, e-books, Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, reviews

For those of you not fluent in Latin or legalese, res ipsa loquitur means "the thing speaks for itself." And the following review of Nowhere Man, which I found today on Goodreads, does just that.

I received a copy of the galley to this book several years ago, before it was published. I could not put it down! Robert Rosen effectively delves into John Lennon’s dark side, but from a wholly analytical, non-judgmental perspective. Rather, Rosen affords an in-depth exploration of the complexities of Lennon's often-tortured psyche, with the insight and precision that only a seasoned journalist can provide. His writing is stark, intelligent and authoritative. I highly recommend this book. —Alissa Wolf

Having just released an updated 15th anniversary e-book edition of Nowhere Man, now available on Amazon (for the unbeatable “matchbook” price of 99 cents) and Smashwords, this review, to say the least, reminded me why the book has endured for those 15 years.

Thank you, Alissa Wolf!

Stand By Me

October 12, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, e-books, Louie Free, The MacWire, 10 Mathew Street, Absolute Elsewhere, The Time Warped Hour, Shu-Izmz

Never have so many people, in so many places, done so much, for so long, to keep one book alive and relevant. Most of these people I've never met in person.

If the original publication of Nowhere Man was "like the end of the Vietnam war and I'm the Vietcong" (as I told M. A. Cassata when she interviewed me for Goldmine magazine in 2000), then the release of the e-book edition has been like a Ho Chi Minh Day parade celebrating 15 years of postwar survival.

A core group of supporters have been doing all they can to help me introduce the digital edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon to a new generation of readers.

Louie Free, the book-loving host of The Louie Free Radio Show: Brainfood from the Heartland, remains a rare independent voice carrying on the nearly forgotten tradition of free-form radio. In early 2000, during our first interview, a scheduled 15-minute chat turned into a four-hour Nowhere Man talkathon. Since then, from his base in Youngstown, Ohio, Louie has interviewed me dozens of times, most recently on October 9, for Lennon’s 75th birthday. I’ll be back December 8, and you can listen live here. And be sure to tune in for the holidays, when Louie will be playing Mary Lyn Maiscott’s “Christmas classic” (his words) “Blue Lights.”

M. A. Cassata and I once worked for the same publishing company. She edited and wrote for rock magazines; I edited men’s mags. Now she runs The MacWire, where she’s posted an interview and an article about the e-book.

The passion of the Spanish-speaking world for Nowhere Man took me by surprise when the book was first published in that language, in 2003. Nowhere is that passion more evident than on 10, Mathew Street, a Beatles Website based in Madrid. To celebrate John Lennon’s 75th birthday and the release of the e-book, they’ve run an interview with me in English and Spanish.

Fifteen years after Lady Jean Teeters and I first spoke about John Lennon for her Absolute Elsewhere site, I’ve come to regard the interview as a classic—an empathetic conversation that took place just as my life was undergoing a radical transition. For the e-book edition, Jean has posted promos on AE and on History Unlimited, another site she runs. You can also connect with her on Facebook’s The Spirit of John Lennon page.

Daniel Zuckerman’s The Time Warped Hour podcast and Bryan Schuessler’s Shu-Izmz site and podcast are two recent arrivals to the circle of support. Stay tuned for links to their upcoming John Lennon shows.

And a special thanks to Chris Reeves who designed the cover, an homage to the original design by Celia Wiley; to Ann Schneider who helped me secure the rights to the cover photo; and to everybody else who’s stood by me over the years. You know who you are. If you don’t, you should look here.

(Just Like) Starting Over

October 8, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Soft Skull Press, e-books, Amazon

The new introduction to the 15th anniversary e-book edition of Nowhere Man, on sale tomorrow, in commemoration of John Lennon's 75th birthday, is titled "(Just Like) Starting Over." It's one of the many updated and revised sections of the book, which Amazon is offering for 99 cents to anybody who's bought the print edition on the site.

In the intro, I look back over the past 15 years, to the multitude of things that have changed in the world, in book publishing, and in my own life since Soft Skull Press released the original hardcover.

I also address the book’s critics, some of whom were driven into what I describe as “a state of spluttering apoplexy” by my “controversial” author’s note: “Nowhere Man is a work of investigative journalism and imagination.” I go into more detail about what, exactly, that sentence means.

Tomorrow, you can read the complete intro on Amazon. It begins like this:

What you’re now reading on your “device” is the latest incarnation of a book that was rejected by everybody before Soft Skull Press, a tiny independent operating out of a tenement basement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, published it in July 2000.

New York that summer was a place where it was still possible for an underground entity like Soft Skull to exist. The city itself had not yet become a real-estate playpen for anonymous oligarchs who sheltered their fortunes in $100 million apartments in thousand-foot-tall glass towers. The Twin Towers and the economy had not yet collapsed. George W. Bush was not yet president. The U.S. had not yet invaded Iraq. People did not yet assume that every word they launched into the electronic ether was stored and possibly analyzed by the NSA. And the publishing industry had not yet been turned upside-down by e-books, piracy, and the Internet. There was no Twitter, no Facebook; there were no smartphones. I didn’t know what a blog was. It was, in short, the final moment before the Old World gave way to iWorld—and an obscure, middle-aged writer could publish a book exclusively as hardcover with a gritty indie who, through a combination of old-fashioned PR skills and relentless audacity, could ignite a conflagration of media attention that would send that book rocketing up best-seller lists in multiple countries and in multiple languages.

The Censored Cover

October 7, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Soft Skull Press, Yoko Ono, e-books

Book publishers can be a timid lot. The mere threat of a lawsuit, even a baseless one, is often enough to get them to cancel a book contract. Deep-pocketed entities with tightly held secrets (like Yoko Ono and the Church of Scientology) understand this all too well and employ the tactic routinely.

Soft Skull Press, Nowhere Man's original publisher, was a notable exception. In 2000, a young man with a George W. Bush "Bring it on!" complex was running the company, and he was fearless when it came to lawsuits. That's why Soft Skull published Nowhere Man when virtually every other publisher had turned it down.

Soft Skull acted as though lawsuits were a good way to get publicity and sell books, an attitude that almost destroyed them, as the documentary Horns and Halos—about Fortunate Son, a George W. Bush biography they published that detailed Bush’s cocaine habit—vividly demonstrates.

For Nowhere Man, Soft Skull used the back cover photo from Lennon and Ono’s Two Virgins LP for the cover of the galley, which they sent out to the media for review. The cover served one purpose only: to provoke Ono.

“You’re crazy!” I told the publisher. “It’s her photo! She’s going to sue you!”

Sure enough, within hours of Soft Skull’s releasing the galley, Ono’s attorneys demanded that they cease and desist, and in an uncharacteristic act of sanity, they withdrew the galley and reprinted it with a plain white cover.

Now, more than 15 years later, as I prepare to launch the Nowhere Man e-book, its cover an homage to the cover Soft Skull ultimately used for the best-selling hardback, the galley—there might be about a hundred in circulation—has become a newsworthy artifact, though I’d never sell it on eBay.

Instead, I should hang it on my wall as a symbol of all the insanity Nowhere Man has survived.

The Pirates, the Price, and the Book of Numbers

October 5, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, book piracy, e-books, Cheiro, numerology, book piracy, Amazon

The book piracy pandemic was one of the primary reasons that I decided to make Nowhere Man--a book that's been pirated to death for almost 10 years--available as an e-book.

I wanted to give readers an alternative to downloading pirated editions, and I especially wanted to give people who've bought the print edition from Amazon, either in paperback or hardcover, the opportunity to buy the updated and expanded e-book (with a new introduction and five bonus chapters rather than the bonus malware you often receive when you download pirated books) for the extraordinary price of 99 cents--Amazon's “matchbook” price. The book will be exclusively available on the site on October 9, Lennon's 75th birthday. Also, Nowhere Man is not DRM-protected, so you can share it, unlike with many e-books.

Pre-order now and receive Nowhere Man at midnight Eastern Time on October 9.

The 99-cent matchbook price, the $9.99 regular price, and the release date are not random numbers. As I detail in Nowhere Man, notably in a chapter titled “The Book of Numbers,” number 9, as well as its multiples 18 and 27, were numbers that played a significant role throughout Lennon’s life and death.

Lennon and his son Sean were born October 9; Yoko Ono was born February 18; Paul McCartney was born June 18; Lennon received his green card on July 27; and when Mark Chapman murdered Lennon (December 8 in New York but already December 9 in England), he believed that he was writing Chapter 27 of The Catcher in the Rye—a book that has only 26 chapters—in Lennon’s blood.

And that’s just scratching the surface of what Nowhere Man says about 9, 18, and 27.

Following the rules of Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, a volume that Lennon and Ono considered one of their bibles, I wanted the prices, a double 9 (or 18) and a triple 9 (or 27), and the release date to, as John would have thought, vibrate harmoniously with his life.

I do hope you’ll buy my book, especially if you’ve already enjoyed reading a pirated edition.

Nowhere Man: the 15th Anniversary E-book

September 27, 2015

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, e-books, Amazon

The long-awaited e-book edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is at last available for pre-order, exclusively on Amazon.

The new introduction talks about all that's happened to me and to the book since Soft Skull Press published the original hardcover edition in 2000. The cover is a 15th anniversary homage to the Soft Skull cover.

There are also five bonus chapters and additional revelations about Lennon and Yoko Ono that I was unable to include in previous editions. I’ll discuss this in more detail in future posts.

The release date is October 9, Lennon’s 75th birthday.

Anybody who’s bought any edition of Nowhere Man on Amazon can download the e-book for 99 cents. (The regular price is $9.99.)

So please, click here to pre-order the e-book, and click here to like Nowhere Man on Facebook.

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.

The Key to John Lennon's Consciousness

May 9, 2015

Tags: Uncut, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Nigel Williamson, Yoko Ono, Fred Seaman, Rolling Stone, Jan Wenner, The Dakota, diaries

Fifteen years ago this month, in the May 2000 issue, Uncut magazine ran as its cover story a 5,000-word excerpt from Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. The following interview, conducted by Nigel Williamson in an East London café, served as part of an elaborate introduction to the excerpt. It has never appeared online. Here it is, exactly as it ran in the magazine.

Robert Rosen is a freelance journalist living in New York. He has written for a number of US newspapers and magazines, and studied fiction writing with Joseph Heller and James Toback. He won a Hugo Boss poetry award in 1996

UNCUT: What did John Lennon mean to you personally?

ROBERT ROSEN:
I was a fan but not a hardcore fanatic. I bought Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road. When they broke up, I didn’t follow their solo careers closely. Then John Lennon moved to New York, which made me sit up and take notice. It’s my town.

What was your initial connection to John and Yoko?

I was at college with a guy called Fred Seaman. In January 1979, he got a job as John’s personal assistant. The very first day on the job, he said to me we should collaborate on a book. He’d call me every day from wherever they were and tell me all the gossip. He also had access to Lennon’s Mercedes and we’d go out in the car and hang out. I was having a total blast. Fred would score dope for John and take a cut and we’d joyride in the Mercedes and smoke John’s best weed.

So what kind of gossip were you hearing?

Fred described this guy who was locked in his bedroom all day raving about Jesus, who was out of his mind and totally dysfunctional. I took notes on everything he told me and that’s all in the book. Then in June 1980, Fred went with John to Bermuda. He claimed that while they were there John had told him that if anything should happen to him, it was Fred’s job to tell the true story of his life.

How did Seaman react when John died?

He showed up at my apartment within 24 hours. That’s really when the book begins. Fred knew John’s life wasn’t what people thought it was. The portrait they were painting in the media wasn’t true. He said, “Now’s the time to do the book.”

So at this stage you were going to collaborate on it?

Yes. I had an informal contract drawn up. He started feeding me material—not the diaries at first, but slides, pictures, snapshots. One of the first things he gave me was the Double Fantasy demo tapes.

At what point did you become aware of the diaries?

He gave me the diaries in May 1981 and I was just blown away. He was still saying “This is what John wants.” And I believed that John wanted it all to come out because that’s what I wanted to believe.

How had Seaman acquired the diaries?

They were there and he took them. After John died, he was taking box loads of stuff out of the Dakota every week. But I knew the diaries were the key to John’s consciousness.

So did you transcribe them?

I spent about five months reading and dipping into them, and then I transcribed them. His handwriting was really difficult to read and a lot of it was in code. I spent eight weeks, 16 hours a day, transcribing them. I got inside John’s head and saw the light and the truth as he saw it.

What did you feel when you first read them?

It was profound. He was isolated. If you think becoming rich and famous is going to solve your problems, it isn’t. All it does is exacerbate them. Everything that was wrong before he became a Beatle was magnified. That was the message of the diaries for me.

Did Seaman carry on working for Yoko after John died?

Until one day when he crashed the Mercedes and Yoko fired him. But he said we were still doing the project. Then I took a vacation in Jamaica and when I got back everything connected with the Lennon project was gone. Fred had the keys to my apartment.

So he took the original diaries?

They were kept in a safe deposit box to which we both had the key, so he had those. But I had transcripts and photocopies and he took all that. But then I realized that big sections of the diaries were running through my brain. I had the diaries memorized. I had run them through my typewriter so many times that I literally had them all in my head. So I wrote it all down again.

Then you went to work for Yoko. How did that happen?

I thought I had a story that was rock ’n’ roll’s equivalent of Watergate, so I went to Jan Wenner at Rolling Stone. He checked it out with Yoko. She didn’t even know about the stolen diaries until he told her. He said there was no way he could publish it, but he said he wanted to save my karma. He said the only thing I could do was tell her the story.

So you did?

I had a meeting with the attorneys from the Lennon estate at the Dakota in August 1982. I told them the whole story. They were stunned and astonished and freaked out. There was high-grade paranoia going on. They thought that maybe Fred Seaman had hired Mark Chapman to set this whole thing up. That turned out not to be true, but that was the mind-set they were in. They even thought maybe Fred would try to kill me, so they put me in a New York hotel under an assumed name and I sat there watching TV for several weeks.

So when did you meet Yoko?

I walked out one morning to buy a newspaper and Yoko’s bodyguards were waiting on the corner. They said Yoko needed to talk to me and it was an emergency. I said, “OK, but no lawyers.” I met with her at the Dakota and she asked to read my diaries. She said there was stuff in there that even she didn’t understand. She told me John’s journals were sacred. It was calculated to play on my guilt. I had read the forbidden sacred books.

And she offered to put you on the payroll?

We negotiated a token salary in the bathroom, standing on opposite sides of the toilet. They were very into the metaphor of money being shit. I went back the next day with 16 volumes of my diaries and transcripts. We spent several weeks reading them, everybody picking my brains and putting the story together. She still has them.

Did she also get the original diaries back from Seaman?

They used the information I gave them to have Fred arrested. Which was fine by me, because I was furious at him. He was convicted of grand larceny and got five years probation or something. He’s still out there posting stuff on the web claiming Yoko hired Chapman and nonsense like that.

And Yoko still has the diaries?

As far as I know. There is some suggestion that the 1980 diary might be missing. It could be sitting around in some dusty box in the Dakota.

What does your book tell us about Lennon that we didn’t know before?

It’s a three-dimensional portrait that takes you inside his head. I hope it tells you what it was like to be John Lennon, which was a really neurotic experience. There is a lot more detail about what was going on in his head than has ever appeared before. It is the accumulation of small details, the tone and the perspective.

Have you been hassled by Yoko’s people?

No, but our lawyers are in touch with her lawyers. She wanted to see the manuscript before it was printed, but that was out of the question. I have nothing against Yoko and I’d like nothing more than to be at peace with her.

Good Parts Only

June 9, 2014

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Sex and the Beatles, Jeff Walker

This July marks the 14th anniversary of the publication of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, and as we approach that date, the book continues to make cultural inroads. I do my best to keep abreast of them.

The latest one that’s come to my attention is a volume called Sex and the Beatles. Written by Canadian author Jeff Walker (not the be confused with Jerry Jeff Walker), the book is a compilation, drawn from a wide variety of sources, of 400 Fab Four sexual escapades that took place between the 1950s and 2013.

Among those escapades is at least one, #153, lifted from the “Lennon’s Complaint” chapter in Nowhere Man, and subtly titled “Warning: Sordid Lennon Account Not for the Squeamish.” It’s Walker’s retelling of a 1963 backstage encounter between John and a groupie.

I suspect the book is peppered with more Nowhere Man tales, like the one about the prostitute in South Africa. But having not yet gotten my hands on Sex and the Beatles, I’ll reserve final judgment until Walker does me the professional courtesy of sending one. Thanks in advance, Jeff.

Listen to the Scatterbrains Podcast Here and Now!

May 17, 2014

Tags: Scatterbrains Podcast, Alia Janine, OnMilwaukee.com, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Traci Lords, Edwin Meese



No need to even leave this website to listen to my interview with Alia Janine, which was originally posted on OnMilwaukee.com. Just click on the player. Next thing you know, you'll be hearing Alia sing the theme from Rawhide. Apparently , if you live in Milwaukee, this song has nothing to do with cowboys and everything to do with Rosen.

Scatterbrains Podcast with Alia Janine

May 6, 2014

Tags: Scatterbrains Podcast, Alia Janine, OnMilwaukee.com, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Traci Lords, Edwin Meese

Yes, I'm aware that The Sporadic Beaver has been more sporadic than usual lately, but I've been unusually busy with life, literature, and work. I will, however, break my silence with this bit of news: My Scatterbrains Podcast interview with former porn star and Milwaukee native Alia Janine is now live on OnMilwaukee.com, that city's premier arts and entertainment Website.

Alia, whose X-rated talents cannot be overstated, has developed (so to speak) into a first-rate interviewer. It’s her ability to put her subject at ease, and make an in-depth interrogation seem like a friendly chat that sets Alia apart in this competitive journalistic arena. Some of the people she’s previously interviewed include porn star Belle Knox, actor Joe Reitman, and comedian Gareth Reynolds. They’re all archived on OnMilwaukee.com.

Alia and I cover a lot of ground in a half hour, but mostly we talk about Beaver Street, deconstructing everything from the invention of free phone-sex at High Society magazine (which marked the dawn of the Age of Modern Pornography), to the Traci Lords scandal, to Edwin Meese, the rabidly anti-porn attorney general who was driven from office under a cloud of corruption.

And please stay tuned to The Sporadic Beaver for more big news.

John Lennon Through His Journals

March 4, 2014

Tags: Octavio Cavalli, Bendito Lennon, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, New York, Robert Rosen, diaries

By Octavio Cavalli

Saturday, February 15, 2014: Meeting Robert Rosen in New York City

Maybe it's because I'm a novice when it comes to researching the life of John Lennon and promoting a book based on that research. But I didn't remember until I was in the midst of publicizing my Lennon biography, Bendito Lennon, that one of my Facebook friends was New York writer Robert Rosen, author of the best-selling Lennon bio Nowhere Man. Rosen's book is based on his knowledge of Lennon's diaries, which were given to him by his friend Fred Seaman, John's personal assistant from 1979-1980.

Robert commented on a post I made about my book, which led to a conversation that we conducted mainly through audio files, which we sent back and forth, between Buenos Aires and New York. I'd ask him questions about John's diaries and he'd respond in detail.

Since mid-2013 I’ve been correcting and revising Bendito Lennon, primarily adding new information and fresh material from all phases of John’s life. Among the new things I wrote about are John’s feelings as a Beatle, in 1963, when the group was being hailed as heroes in the U.K., but hadn’t yet conquered the world, and also his way of telling stories through his poems, tales, and songs. Robert Rosen was supportive of my endeavor to revise Bendito Lennon, and especially helpful regarding the last six years of John’s life. And I was very pleased to share my new information with him, and grateful that he’d agreed to meet me and talk about Lennon when I told him I was coming to New York.

On the afternoon of February 15, in the middle of a blizzard, with the temperature plunging well below 0º C, I met Robert in the neighborhood where he lives and where John also lived for a couple of years when he first moved to Manhattan: Greenwich Village. At Cafe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street, we drank coffee and cappuccino as Robert accepted a paperback edition of Bendito Lennon and autographed my Spanish edition of Nowhere Man.

We talked about Lennon’s life, and Robert was humbled and impressed by how much I knew about John, especially his childhood. I, of course, couldn’t help but be aware that he was one of the few people who had access to John’s diaries, which covered much of his daily activities and feelings from 1975-1980. He told me what it meant to him to have Lennon’s diaries for more than six months, and he described the long task of transcribing them and deciphering every drawing, word, and letter. It was obvious, he said, that John was writing for himself, and that the diaries were not meant to be read by others, though they could have been a first draft of the memoir he never got to write.

He also told me about his shock and horror when all the material that Fred Seaman had given him, and that he’d studied and transcribed, was taken from his apartment... by Seaman. Later, Robert said, when Yoko Ono found out that Seaman, in despair after John’s death, had stolen all kinds of things from her Dakota apartments, she had Seaman arrested for grand larceny. When Robert met with Yoko to discuss what had happened, she asked him to give her his own diaries, so she could use them as evidence against Seaman. He did so, and she held them for 18 years.

Robert then told me how he wrote Nowhere Man, elaborating on what he remembered from Lennon’s diaries, incorporating notes from his own diaries, and spending years doing additional research. He concluded by talking about his impressions of John’s last years.

After Cafe Reggio, Robert and I walked in the Village, through the driving snow, to 105 Bank Street. He asked me if I knew which apartment John lived in. I wasn’t sure, and we agreed that researching John Lennon’s life is a difficult task for all writers, even ones who'd met him, and even if, like us, they'd had the opportunity to speak to members of his family, former assistants, and friends. Those closest to John are usually reluctant to talk about him to anybody who's writing a book.

Other people, thankfully, will trust an author to use their information responsibly, and will share their knowledge and opinions.

As of today, Bendito Lennon has sold out in Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico, but is still available as an e-book in Canada, the U.S., and Spain. The new edition, due to be published sometime in 2014, will be completely revised and will include all the information from my conversations with Rosen.

Even though I’d intended to be finished by now, my research continues—though I realize I have to set a limit on how much time I can spend learning the details of Lennon’s life. Because if I don’t, the work will be endless. There will always be new pieces of information, new sources, and new people to interview, and I’ll always want to rewrite some portion of the manuscript in order for the biography to be accurate and up to date. This, then, is the compromise I must make to complete the book, which has attracted readers around the world who want to know in detail the story of one of the greatest musicians and social leaders of 20th century.

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.

117 Across

August 27, 2012

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, LA Times crossword, Jeopardy

How does a writer know if his books are being read--I mean really read, and that his words are penetrating the reader's consciousness and taking up permanent residence there? Sales alone don't tell the whole story. How many books--Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections comes to mind--are bought in mass quantities only to end up as an intellectual art object on a coffee table or carried around as the latest fashion accessory? (E-readers, of course, are putting an end to this practice.)

Letters from readers and blog posts on sites like Tumblr are true indications, I think. But how many times have you read a book that you loved (or hated), and meant to tell the author about it, but just never got around to it?

Another way to tell if a book is really being read is when the book’s title or the author’s name turns up as a clue on a game show or in a crossword puzzle, indicating that the work has, indeed, become part of the popular culture. It’s happened three times that I’m aware of with my John Lennon bio Nowhere Man. The first was in December 2003, when it was a Jeopardy answer—“Rock ’n’ Roll Bookstore” for $400, Alex!” (“Nowhere Man is Robert Rosen’s take on “the final days of” this Beatle,” was the clue.) The second was two years ago, when “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon author Robert” was 118 across in the L.A. Times syndicated crossword, which was picked up by dozens of newspapers. (The link is to the Palm Beach Post.)

It happened again in the crossword puzzle in the May issue of Buffalo Spree, a venerable regional magazine from Western New York State—same clue as the L.A. Times, but this time it was 117 across, a number more in keeping with the book’s numerology themes.

So yes, I take these incidents as irrefutable and encouraging evidence that Nowhere Man has fully penetrated the popular culture. And I can only hope that Beaver Street isn’t far behind. (And if you don’t know the answer to 117 across, you can click here.)

The Never Ending "Nowhere Man" Controversy II: Little Child

March 9, 2012

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Tumblr

The other day I wrote about an excerpt from my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, that went viral on Tumblr. Well, here it is five days after the original post appeared on the site, and the virality continues. In an age when books are said to have the shelf life of yogurt, I'm amazed that these Tumblr bloggers are lavishing so much attention on a biography published a dozen years ago about a man who died long before most of them were born.

In particular, the posting on the left caught my attention. A Spanish-speaking blogger from Mexico, who goes by the name Little Child, copied the excerpt, in English, in her—I assume it’s a her—beautiful handwriting.

Little Child, whoever you are, muchas gracias por preocuparse por mi libro.

The Never Ending "Nowhere Man" Controversy

March 7, 2012

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Tumblr, Neil Aspinall, Fred Seaman

The other day on Tumblr somebody posted an excerpt from my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. The passage, from a chapter titled "Lennon's Complaint," was a description of a scene backstage just before a Beatles concert in 1963, when John had sex with a groupie. The posting went viral; dozens of people reblogged it and at last count, 144 people posted comments. Though most of these comments were positive, there was the usual amount of negativity and skepticism.

“Robert Rosen never knew or even met John Lennon,” somebody who calls themselves mclennon-forever wrote. “This quote is dubious.”

I’m going to respond to this comment because it’s so typical of the type of negativity I’ve been hearing about Nowhere Man since it was published in 2000.

First of all, the suggestion that it’s wrong to write a biography of somebody I never met is absurd on its face. Should contemporary biographers not write books about Mozart or George Washington, for example, because they never met them?

And the source of this “dubious” quote, I might add, is the late Neil Aspinall himself. In 1963, Aspinall was the Beatles’ road manager, and he was the one who procured the groupie for John. When I met Aspinall, in London, in September 1981, he was managing director of Apple. Fred Seaman, my writing partner at the time and Lennon’s former personal assistant, introduced me to him. The three of us went out to a pub near Apple, and over many pints of beer Aspinall told me the story.

The revelation of the source, of course, will not end the controversy engulfing Nowhere Man. But as always, I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions about the book. You know where to find me.

Live from New York It's Rew & Who?

December 9, 2011

Tags: Rew & Who?, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, May Pang, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Hoop, Bobby in Naziland



Two days ago I made my debut on the Rew & Who? show. If you were unable to watch the live webcast from Otto's Shrunken Head in New York City, here are the two video clips of my interview with Rew and her co-host, Alan Rand.

In addition to talking about and reading from Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, I also spoke at some length about my new book, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, which is out now in the U.K. and will be published here in March 2012, and the book I’m currently writing, tentatively titled Bobby in Naziland.



Among the people appearing with me for this tribute to John Lennon and Rew’s brother Richard “Dicky” Kesten were May Pang, whom I haven’t seen since 1981; my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, who sang Lennon’s “I’m Losing You” and her own Christmas song, “Blue Lights;” and Hoop, who played guitar for Mary Lyn, and sang his original song about Lennon, “Oh, John.”

You can see clips of all Rew’s guests on YouTube.

Three Days of Lennon

December 1, 2011

Tags: December 8, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Otto's Shrunken Head, Louie Free, Piombino, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Riccardo Bertoncelli, Paolo Palmieri

December 8 marks the 31st anniversary of the day John Lennon died. To commemorate the occasion, I'll be participating in three events on two continents. If you'd like to attend any of them, or listen on your computer or radio, here are the information and links.

Wednesday, December 7
4:00-6:00 P.M. (local time)
Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
New York City


The show’s called “Rew and Who,” and I’ll be reading from my book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. May Pang will also be appearing, and there’ll be musical performances by David Peel, HooP, Mary Lyn Maiscott, and others. It’s being streamed live on Internet TV, and it’s one of my very rare New York readings.

Thursday, December 8
10:00 A.M.-2:00 P.M. (local time)
The Louie Free Radio Show
Youngstown, Ohio
WYCL 1540 AM


The Louie Free Show is free-form talk radio, and my December 8 appearance is a tradition that goes back to 1999. Of course I’ll be talking about Lennon and Nowhere Man, and Louie will be playing lots of Lennon music. But he’s unpredictable, so there’s no telling where the interview will go. The show streams live on the Internet. Check Louie’s website that morning for the exact time.

Friday, December 9, 9:00 P.M.-Midnight (local time)
Centro Giovani
Viale della Resistenza 4
Piombino, Italy


I’m being beamed in via Skype for this major presentation of the recently published Italian edition of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon. If you want to see it, you’ll have to go to Piombino, a picturesque Tuscan city on the Mediterranean. Rock ’n’ roll expert and author Riccardo Bertoncelli will be hosting the event, and my Italian translator and avatar, Paolo Palmieri, will be answering questions about the book and translating everything I have to say as I field questions from the audience. You can get more information on Facebook.

Hope to see you everywhere!

The Sporadic Beaver

October 4, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon



The countdown clock you see here, marking the time until Beaver Street is published in the US, signifies another change in this website and in this blog in particular. As regular readers are aware, I've been posting here five days a week—on Beaver Street itself, occasionally on Nowhere Man, and on whatever might be happening in the world that I feel like writing about, like the riots in the UK and, more recently, the Occupy Wall Street protests.

For the next few months, until the US Beaver Street launch, I’ll be posting here more sporadically, adhering to no particular schedule. Naturally, I’ll continue to comment on any significant Beaver developments, as well as the recent publication of the Italian edition of Nowhere Man. But it’s time for me to focus more of my energies on other things, like the new book I’ve been writing.

So I’d like to send out a big Thank You! to everybody’s who’s bought Beaver Street (and Nowhere Man in any language), to all the critics and journalists who’ve written about my books (or are planning to), and especially to the regular readers of this blog—the ones who’ve checked in every day, and gave me a reason to keep doing it.

Keep in touch, and stay tuned for some big changes.

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.

118 Across

November 28, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, LA Times crossword

Would you believe I'm 118 across in the LA Times crossword today? Click on "Featured Puzzle" for November 28.

The Book Habits of Booksellers

October 15, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, St. Marks Bookshop, Karen Lillis

This is a very cool essay by Karen Lillis about working in the St. Marks bookstore and reading on company time. I'm pleased to report that one of the books Ms. Lillis read was Nowhere Man.

Mexican Magic

October 10, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon

What happened yesterday in Mexico and Venezuela is magic because I didn't do anything. It just happened. A prominent story in El Universal mentioned Nowhere Man in the lead. The story went out over the wire and was featured in dozens of newspapers all over the country. People pay PR firms exorbitant fees for this kind of coverage. And this was the year I was going to let go of Lennon and concentrate on Beaver Street.

Nowhere Man Vive en América Latina

October 9, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon

The book is being mentioned all over the wire services. Here's a sampling from Mexico and Venezuela.

El Universal

El Nacional

MSN Venezuela

Wicked Magazine

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.

Nowhere Man to Be Published in Italy

February 10, 2010

Tags: Nowhere Man, The Final Days of John Lennon, Italy, Coniglio

I'm delighted and relieved to announce that an Italian edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon will be published this year by Coniglio. This calls for a slice of pizza and a glass of Chianti. Hell--make that a whole pie and a bottle.