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Far From Flatbush

Yes, I know…

…today is the 37th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. I’m going to commemorate it with a moment of silence.

Sí, lo sé…


... hoy es el 37º aniversario del asesinato de John Lennon. Voy a conmemorarlo con un momento de silencio. Read More 

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Don Vicious

Illustration from Creative Commons.

(Updated Jan. 22.) I didn't write "Don Vicious." My inner 20-year-old punk-self wrote it, roused from suspended animation two weeks ago, after Donald J. Trump whined on Twitter that the cast of Hamilton should "immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."

The cast had asked Pence, after he attended the show, to “uphold our American values” and “work on behalf of all of us.”

“Don Vicious” (with apologies to Sid) came to me whole as I was walking on the High Line. I imagine it performed in the style and spirit of Pussy Riot or of Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten singing “God Save the Queen/A fascist regime...”

I’m dedicating the song to John Lennon, who in his heart was a punk till the end (listen to “Serve Yourself”), who’s been gone 36 years today, and who would have appreciated Yoko Ono’s post-election Twitter howl—a howl that I’d suggest speaks for most of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Don Vicious”...

We know you’re a total disgrace
Anyplace you show your face
We’ll fuck you up
We’ll put you down
Because you’re a malignant clown

Hey, hey Donald J.
How many girls did you grope today?
With your tiny hands
With your tiny hands

You’re a racist Nazi
Ignorant man
You steal from people
Your life’s a scam
You're like the spawn of Son of Sam

Hey, hey Donald J.
How many girls did you grope today?
With your tiny hands
With your tiny hands

You hate Muslims
You hate Jews
Women, black skin
Brown skin too

Hey, hey Donald J.
How many girls did you grope today?
With your tiny hands
With your tiny hands




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

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Live from New York, It's Wednesday Morning!


Mary Lyn Maiscott and I were married at the Municipal Building in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11. The ceremony was broadcast live on The Louie B. Free Radio Show. Soon after our 15th anniversary, we returned to the show to talk about our marriage, 9/11, my books, and Mary Lyn's music. In the ensuing years, the radio show has evolved into Louie TV. Here's a memorable hour that was broadcast live from New York on Wednesday morning, November 2.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Read More 
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A Perfect Day for Beatles Watching/Un día perfecto para ver a los Beatles


If you haven’t seen it yet, today, October 9, which would have been John Lennon's 76th birthday, is the perfect day to watch The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, Ron Howard’s documentary, which primarily covers the group from 1962–1966. Though much of the material might seen overly familiar to people who’ve been following the Fab Four since 1964 (or earlier), there are some newly uncovered tidbits, like footage from their final show at Candlestick Park, that add more depth and detail to one of the best known stories of the 20th century.

My favorite part of the film was the rooftop concert at Apple Records—they play “Don’t Let Me Down” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The impromptu performance took place in 1969 (making the film’s title a misnomer). It was the last time the Beatles played together, and yes, I’ve seen it many times before (it’s in Let It Be). But the crisply restored sound and video gave the scene an electrifying energy that came though despite the fact that I was watching it on a small computer screen. I’d recommend seeing it at a theatre to get the full effect.

And if you’d like a bracingly fresh perspective on Lennon and the Beatles, may I also recommend Nowhere Man, now available as an e-book in English and Spanish.

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Un día perfecto para ver a los Beatles

Si tú no lo has visto todavía, hoy, 9 de octubre, el que habría sido el 76 cumpleaños de John Lennon, es el día perfecto para ver Los Beatles: Ocho días a la semana, los años de gira, el documental de Ron Howard, que cubre principalmente al grupo de 1962 a 1966. Aunque mucho del material podría parecer demasiado familiar, para las personas que han estado siguiendo a los Cuatro fabulosos desde 1964 (o antes), hay algunas golosinas recién descubiertas, como el metraje de su último concierto en Candlestick Park, que agrega más profundidad y detalle a una de las historias más conocidas del siglo 20.

Mi parte favorita de la película fue el concierto en la azotea de Apple Records, ellos tocan “Don’t Let Me Down” y “I’ve Got a Feeling.” La actuación improvisada tuvo lugar en 1969 (haciendo el título de la película no apropiado). Fue la última vez que los Beatles tocaron juntos, y sí, yo lo he visto muchas veces antes (está en Let It Be). Pero el sonido y el video nítidamente restaurados dan a la escena una energía electrizante, que me llega a través, a pesar del hecho de que yo lo estaba viendo en la pequeña pantalla de la computadora. Yo recomendaría verlo en un cine para conseguir el efecto completo.

Y si tú desearas una perspectiva fresca vigorizante de Lennon y los Beatles, yo puedo asimismo recomendarte Nowhere Man, ahora disponible como e-book en inglés y español.

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

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

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

I doubt it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Newsworthy Books, Richard Nixon, and John Lennon

Before Ozy called to talk about the history of pornography in America, I'd never heard of them. But that's not surprising. So fragmented and expansive is the media today, even a high-profile news site can slip beneath my radar.

In any case, adhering to my philosophy of treating like Oprah everybody who wants to talk about my books, I spoke at length to Ozy, and when they ran the story, "How Nixon Shaped Porn in America," about the connection between Watergate and Nixon's efforts to ban the film Deep Throat, I was amazed by the results.

Not only was Beaver Street prominently featured, but the story was shared a respectable 1,760 times (and counting) on Facebook; was published in the popular German tabloid Bild as “Mister President wollte eigentlich das Gegenteil ... Wie Nixon dem Porno zum Durchbruch verhalf” (roughly translated as “Mr. President wanted the opposite of it... how Nixon helped porn to its breakthrough”); and was cited in the Washington Post and Baltimore City Paper.

That Beaver Street has remained in the news for more than four years in an environment where just about everything is forgotten within 24 hours is nothing short of miraculous. But apparently, that’s how long it’s taken the media to catch on to one of the book’s central themes: The biggest crooks—notably Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, and Charles Keating—cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest.

And speaking of books that people keep talking about long after publication, on Tuesday, July 21, at 10 P.M eastern time, and Saturday July 25, at 2:30 P.M. eastern time, the Reelz channel will broadcast the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals, in which I discuss my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. Click here to find the show on your cable or satellite system. Read More 
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I Buried Paul

If you get the reference in the title, then you're probably of a certain age--an age of turntables, vinyl LPs, and the Beatles as an ongoing musical enterprise.

If you're not of a certain age, you've still probably heard about a rumor that began in 1969. Some people believed that Paul McCartney was dead and the Beatles had replaced him with a look-alike so the fans wouldn't get upset. But because they were the Beatles, and couldn't resist playing Beatle games, they'd also left clues to his demise on their albums, both in the music and on the album covers.

One of the most famous clues can be found on the fadeout of John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It sounds as if Lennon is saying, “I buried Paul.” (“I’m very bored,” is what he claims to have said.)


I mention this now because a site called Ranker is asking people to vote for the “most outlandish conspiracy theory” about the Beatles, and “Paul Is Dead” is among the 22 theories they’ve listed.

But so am I!

A Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist has been insisting for years that I’m the CIA spymaster who ordered a hit on Lennon—or at least that’s what he seems to be saying if you delve deeply into his insane ramblings. It’s as if a conspiracy theorist is having my (Evil) Walter Mitty fantasies for me.

Ranker calls this theory “Robert Rosen, Author or Assassin?” And I have indeed buried Paul under a landslide of votes.

Yes, I am the #1 most outlandish Beatles conspiracy theory and Dead Paul is #2. This is like Bernie Sanders getting the nomination over Hillary Clinton.

So, I’d like to thank all the people who voted for me, and my campaign manager, Mary Lyn Maiscott. But keep in mind that this is only a fast start, and as long as Ranker exists, people can keep voting. Which means if Live Paul ever rallies his base for Dead Paul, “Robert Rosen: Author or Assassin?” will go the way of Michael Dukakis.

In the meantime, call me Jackal. Read More 
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How I Spent the Winter

One of the problems with writing a book and then preparing it for submission to publishers is that it's an extraordinarily time-consuming process. Take into account that I also have a demanding freelance gig, and there are simply not enough hours in the week to tend to blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting, at least if I want to have something resembling a life. Which is why it's been two months since I've posted anything new on this blog. But I am still here and I know some people have missed me.

So, aside from the book, what’s been happening since January 12? Here are a half-dozen highlights:

Like everybody else in the northeast, I’ve been getting through the winter, which can’t end soon enough, though I’ve not been letting the cold or the snow interfere with my daily walks by the Hudson River, which on some days might be mistaken for the Northwest Passage.

My wife and I spent a week in Florida, visiting my mother and being tourists in Miami. It was warmer there, I went swimming every day, and at no point was I forced to stand my ground.

For a brief moment, Beaver Street was the #1 porn book on Amazon Germany and Nowhere Man was the #1 Beatles book on Amazon Canada. Is it too soon to declare them both cult classics?

Quadrant, a conservative Australian literary journal, cited Nowhere Man in an essay comparing John Lennon to Russell Brand. The conservative media’s 15-year embrace of my work, using it to prove whatever point they’re trying to prove, continues to be a source of astonishment.

In my blog post about Charlie Hebdo, I wrote about the artist who, in the 1970s, had drawn a pornographic cartoon as a way of expressing his discontent with the Catholic Church. I’d published the drawing in Observation Post, the City College newspaper I was editing at the time. Major controversy ensued. Well, the artist read the post, and contacted me. We got together for the first time since 1974. He’s still an artist. And he’s still crazy after all these years. But so am I.

I woke up one morning to find that the porn star Stoya, whom the Village Voice had described on their cover as “The Prettiest Girl in New York,” had mentioned Beaver Street in a blog post. If I could have picked three people on planet Earth to read and appreciate Beaver Street, Stoya would have been among them, alongside Philip Roth and Joan Didion. So, I tweeted her a thank you and she tweeted back, “Thank you for writing it. Amazing glimpse into the adult industry.” Say what you will about Stoya, but I’ll say this much: The girl gives good blurb. Read More 
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'Twas the Day After Christmas

I'm not in the habit of discussing here, at least on a daily basis, the book I'm currently working on. But there are references to Bobby in Naziland on this blog dating back to October 2011, so it's hardly a secret that I've been writing a novel. And if you were one of the people who attended Bloomsday on Beaver Street II, in 2013, then you heard me read the opening pages of the book and have a sense of what it's about: a child's view of Brooklyn in the 1950s and '60s.

I haven’t posted here in nearly four weeks because I’ve been working on revisions for Bobby in Naziland, and it’s taken up what little free time I’ve had. Also, in the middle of doing those revisions, the British government passed a new censorship law, and The Independent, apparently fans of Beaver Street, asked me to write about it. The piece I wrote, “No Female Ejaculation, Please, We’re British,” went viral and was then picked up by Dagospia, an Italian political-gossip site. This was one of my two major-media highlights of 2014. (The other was an appearance on the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals, which ran multiple times on the Reelz Channel.)

So, here it is, Boxing Day, Henry Miller’s birthday, and the day after Christmas—the traditional time to reflect on the year gone by. Judging by the horror that smacks me in the face every morning when I foolishly pick up the newspaper because it’s lying outside my door, 2014 seems to have been little more than a series of catastrophies. No need to innumerate them here; we both know what they are. Which is why I’m going to take a moment to feel especially grateful that I’ve gotten through this year relatively unscathed. Also, I’m going to put aside my cynicism for a day or two and look to 2015 with a sense of hope.

Call me crazy.

In the meantime, happy holidays to all, and I’ll see you next year, if not sooner! Read More 
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Lennon Tripleheader

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

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

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

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

Hope you can tune in to one or all of these shows. Read More 
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If He Were 64



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still waiting for my mother to weigh in--she'll probably object to my not having worn a sport jacket--but I do appreciate all the positive feedback I've been getting about my appearance this week on the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals. Most of the critiques have been delivered to my face (no "book"), with a significant portion coming via e-mail and telephone.

My favorite comment: "Your shirt was terrific too."

For that I give full credit to Mary P. Fox, who selected the shirt in a second-hand store in Santa Barbara and persuaded my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, to buy it for me. I'd also like to thank Salvatore Ferragamo, who designed it. Read More 
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Must-See TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lennon episode will also air on the following days:

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


Hope you can all come together and watch this one. Read More 
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A Question of Conspiracy

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's a show on the Reelz channel--128 on Time Warner cable in New York City--called Hollywood Scandals. In April, in L.A., they interviewed me for almost two hours about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, going over the book point by point. It's the most comprehensive Nowhere Man discussion I've had with any media organization in the 14 years the book has been in print.

The show is scheduled to be broadcast on the following dates:

Thursday, August 21 at 9 P.M. ET
Friday, August 22 at 12 A.M. ET
Sunday, August 24 at 12 P.M. ET
Monday, August 25 at 2 A.M. ET


Here’s a capsule summary of the Lennon episode, taken from the Hollywood Scandals Website:

John Lennon is one of the most influential and important artists in music history. But the public face of peace, love, and revolution is a mask. Behind his righteous persona is a troubled man crippled by a traumatic childhood. John Lennon buries the pain of abandonment by spending his whole life building a myth. And when the private truth became public, it ultimately cost him everything.

I don’t know how much or which parts of my interview they used or who else they interviewed. I do know that during my interview the chemistry was right and I settled into a good story-telling groove.

I hope you’ll watch the show, and I hope to live-tweet at least one of the broadcasts.

And while I’m on the subject of Lennon, I want to send out a big thanks to the 6,074 (at last count) people on Facebook who liked the Nowhere Man Wiki mirror page. I’m sure you’ll all be watching. Read More 
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House of Secrets

El Solano, in Palm Beach, designed by Addison Mizner, and home, at one time or another, to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Larry Flynt. Photograph courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach.
"House of Secrets" was originally published, under a different title, on a Florida-based design website that no longer exists. Some of the information in this article is drawn from my book Nowhere Man, in which I write in detail about John Lennon and Yoko Ono's stay in this Palm Beach mansion. In the book, I misspell "El Solano," calling it "El Salano." Should there be future editions, this will be corrected.

On March 6, 1978, a white-supremacist serial killer, outraged by an interracial photo spread in Hustler, pumped a .44-caliber bullet into Larry Flynt near the Georgia courthouse where the magazine publisher, on trial for obscenity, had just testified in his own defense. One year later Flynt, paralyzed from the waist down because of his injuries, rented the house at 720 South Ocean Boulevard--or S.O.B., as the locals call it--in Palm Beach. His landlady, socialite Brownie McLean, would have much preferred to sell the 10,000-square-foot white elephant known as El Solano. But in those grim days of hyperinflation and gas lines, there were no takers, not even the recession-proof Flynt. So McLean, who had once refused the Hope Diamond as a wedding gift from her husband because she believed the jewel was cursed, didn't hesitate to accept a much-needed cash infusion from the man who introduced "split beaver" to a mass audience.

Most of Flynt’s neighbors took the porn publisher’s presence in stride—even though it was common knowledge that he employed a team of photographers to shoot X-rated pictorials throughout the Spanish-style mansion’s six bedrooms, five servant rooms, ballroom, and sauna, as well as by the square “morning pool” and rectangular “afternoon pool.”

Through a spokesperson, Flynt has declined to offer any more information about his season in El Solano.

The current owners of El Solano also prefer not to discuss their winter residence—though they do say, through a spokesperson, that it’s “public knowledge” that they own it, and that it’s permissible to publish their names. Apparently, this wasn’t the case in 1993 when the extensive renovations of architect Darby Curtis, working with designer Robert Metzger, were documented in Architectural Digest—the most detailed and elaborate El Solano pictorial on record. The owners were quoted anonymously, and the story failed to mention that they were the architect’s parents: Alan Curtis, an investment banker, and Christine Curtis, a freelance writer, who had bought the house in January 1990 for $4,315,000, though it’s not publicly known from whom. More surprising than this was Darby Curtis’s reaction when asked if she might shed some additional light on her work at the historic abode: “I have nothing to say.”

Perhaps Curtis’s reticence is best explained by others who’ve worked in the house, some of whom were willing to speak (anonymously) of the fact that in a small community like Palm Beach, those whose livelihoods depend on access to the super-rich—and occasionally super-famous—would be foolish to make unwanted revelations about their employers (or parents). But in the same breath these people also speak of the house’s strangeness, of their belief that things have happened in El Solano that those who have lived there simply don’t want to talk about.

In a way, El Solano exists in the realm of the mystical, a piece of unreal estate—a mansion with a long history of secrets, celebrated owners, and at least one profound occurrence that changed the course of rock ’n’ roll.

The first person to live in El Solano was the man who built it in 1919, controversial “society” architect—many considered his designs hideous—Addison Mizner, who named it both for the hot Mediterranean winds that blow through Spain, and El Solano County, California, where he was born in 1872. A mythical figure whose 11-foot-tall statue now stands in Boca Raton, a city he helped develop, and whose Mediterranean Revival style came to define the look of Worth Avenue, the six-foot-two, 250-pound Mizner settled in Palm Beach apparently for health reasons.

(Stephen Sondheim has chronicled the Florida misadventures of Mizner and his flimflamming business-partner brother, Wilson, in his musical Road Show, which portrays both Mizners as incestuous, Addison as homosexual, and in the end, according to The New York Times, reduces the brothers to “cocaine-snorting wrecks.”)

Though Mizner’s Villa Flora, which he built for J.P. Morgan, and La Guerida, which became John F. Kennedy’s “Winter White House,” may be better known than El Solano, the latter is regarded as the purest expression of Mizner’s chaotic vision—a “stream of consciousness” consisting of idiosyncratically connected spaces, as designer Michael Christiano, who also worked on the 1993 renovations, described the house to Architectural Digest.

The house so intrigued next-door neighbor Harold Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, that he bought it from Mizner and added on—as did many of the successive celebrity owners, such as actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who briefly settled into El Solano in 1973 with his second wife, Mary Lee Hartford, heir to the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company fortune.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, too, were taken by the house, and on the advice of their tarot card reader, whom they called Charlie Swan, Patric Walker’s Town & Country horoscope, and Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, bought it—on January 27, 1980, for a million dollars, a price they considered a steal. (“John made the tea, while Yoko hammered out the negotiations,” real estate broker Ben Johnson told The Palm Beach Post.)

In years to come, many stories about the ex-Beatle’s El Solano activities would filter into the public domain—a rare breaching of the house’s shield of secrecy. Most of them were inconsequential, such as details about Lennon’s ongoing feud with Paul McCartney, reports of an ugly incident that occurred when the actor Peter Boyle and his wife came to visit, and tales of locals stopping Lennon on the beach, without realizing who he was, to talk about the historically cold weather that February. But one story of significance would emerge as well: After five years of musical silence, it was in El Solano that Lennon reconnected with his muse, which many in his inner circle had given up for dead.

On February 27, 1980, Lennon and Ono were watching the Grammy Awards in the den when Bob Dylan came on to sing his latest hit, “Serve Someone,” which says it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to have to serve either Satan or God. The song provoked from Lennon a spontaneous musical explosion called “Serve Yourself.” Accompanying himself on guitar, Lennon lashed out at everything and everybody: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, his sons, his mother—the world, the universe. And this song soon primed a flood of new material that seven months later appeared on Lennon and Ono’s album Double Fantasy. (“Serve Yourself,” which Ono considered too raw, obscene, and off-message for public consumption, wouldn’t be released for another 19 years.)

On December 8, 1980, Double Fantasy was riding high on the charts. That night, John Lennon, aged 40, was shot to death by a deranged fan in front of the Dakota, his apartment building on West 72nd Street in New York City. Among the candlelight vigils held throughout the world, one took place outside El Solano, which Ono kept until 1986, adding on to its chaotic sprawl and then selling it for a numerologically harmonious $3.15 million to a Bostonian family that preferred to remain anonymous. Read More 
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On the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles in America…

February 9, 1964, left to right, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney.
The Internet is filled with thousands of Beatles forums--online communities where people can log in and discuss the Fab Four. DM's Beatles Forums, Steve Hoffman Music Forums, BeatleLinks, and rec.music.beatles are among the multitude of sites I've browsed over the decades.

If John Lennon were alive today, I think he'd enjoy posting anonymously on some of these forums, and I'm certain that whatever he said would be greeted with comments far less generous than, "You don't know shit about the Beatles!"

That's because Beatles forums tend to be vipers’ nests of ignorance and hostility, with the most vicious comments coming from the people who know the least. May Pang, for example, used to post in rec.music.beatles, but was driven off the site by malicious attacks on virtually everything she said.

The most scathing reviews of Nowhere Man that I’ve seen anywhere have been posted by people who proudly declare, “I’ve never read the book. I don’t have to. I know what’s in it.”

Last night, inspired by the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, I was browsing one of the more civilized forums, Beatles Bible, when I came across a comment that shocked me. Going against the usual party line of “Nowhere Man bad!” somebody who uses the moniker “10centwings” indulged in a bit of independent thought. Softening his or her post with the standard caveat about reading it “with one eyebrow raised,” 10centwings said, “I’m 1/3 through the Rosen book…. This one’s a page turner. I actually lunched in today just so that I could sneak in an extra hour of reading.”

A comment like this, from a “real” reader, in a forum that’s usually hostile to the book reminds me yet again why Nowhere Man endures 14 years after publication. And though the controversy will probably never cease, more people are beginning to see the book for what it is.

I can hardly wait till Nowhere Man’s 50th anniversary. Read More 
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John Lennon's Final Voyage

Thirty years ago today, on January 27, 1984, Yoko Ono released Milk and Honey, the album she and John Lennon were working on the night of December 8, 1980, hours before Lennon was murdered. In commemoration of this anniversary, NME, the venerable British music mag, has run a cover story about Lennon and the LP.

Because I read, transcribed, edited, and wrote about Lennon's diaries in my book Nowhere Man, I was one of the people they interviewed for the article.

They also spoke with my former writing partner and Lennon's personal assistant Fred Seaman, photographer Bob Gruen, and three musicians who played on Milk and Honey: guitarist Earl Slick, arranger Tony Devillo, and keyboard player George Small.

Written by Barry Nicolson, “The Final Voyage” is notable for its even-handedness. Nicolson takes pains to get beyond the myth of Lennon as a content, bread-baking househusband, and instead portrays him as a contradictory, deeply flawed, three-dimensional human being—which is probably why Ono refused to talk to him.

Nicolson balances my take on Lennon’s relationships with Ono, Paul McCartney, and May Pang, and his obsession with the occult, with Gruen’s attempts to perpetuate the myth, and Seaman’s efforts to characterize Lennon as a Republican and a supporter of Ronald Reagan. (The only thing Lennon said in his diaries about Reagan was that they’d shoot him and we’d get a CIA government. He was right on both counts... eventually.)

My only complaint about the piece is that the photo identified as “Robert Rosen” isn’t me, and I’d suggest that a correction is in order.

“The Final Voyage” is a rare example of rock journalism that neither places Lennon on a pedestal (like Ray Coleman) nor tears him down to size (like Albert Goldman). Click here to read the complete story. Read More 
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Tierra del Lennon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine if I were fluent in Spanish. Read More 
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Hey, Hey You, Come Join My Cloud

 

Let's hang around on my new SoundCloud for a while. The first file I've uploaded is my reading from J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye at a Banned Books Week event in October 2012, at the 2A bar in the East Village. That's Eric Danville introducing me.

The other file is my complete Nowhere Man reading from this past October at a John Lennon event at 2A. That’s Eric Danville introducing me again. (A video of the first two parts of this reading is available here.)

Both files are downloadable.

In coming weeks, I’ll upload additional material from my archives—readings, interviews, and anything else that seems worth posting.

But for now, to commemorate the anniversary of Lennon’s murder on December 8, I give you The Catcher in the Rye and Nowhere ManRead More 

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The Dark Side of John Lennon

More than 13 years after Nowhere Man was published in English, I continue to unearth major articles about the book that ran in the print editions of various newspapers in the early 21st century, and are just finding their way online. The latest one that's come to my attention was the cover story in the entertainment section of the June 22, 2001 issue of the irreverent Venezuelan daily Tal Cual (Just As It Is).

Hyped on page one as El lado oscuro de John Lennon (The Dark Side of John Lennon), and given the provocatively misleading cover line, La segunda muerte de John Lennon (The Second Death of John Lennon), in the entertainment section, the actual article was called Viaje al fondo del submarinista amarillo (Voyage to the bottom of the yellow submariner). It’s a semi-accurate summary of Nowhere Man, broken up by semi-sarcastic subheads like Sexo, no paz (Sex, no peace) and Nostradamus en ácido (Nostradamus on acid).

Meanwhile, as I await the impending publication of a revised edition of Bendido Lennon, by Octavio Cavalli, which will draw heavily from interviews Cavalli has conducted with me, and will be met by yet another surge of Latin American media attention, set to begin around the anniversary of Lennon’s murder, on December 8, I continue to grapple with an ongoing milagro that I became aware of three years before Nowhere Man was published in Spanish, in what may as well have been an alternate universe where people spoke a language I didn’t understand. Read More 
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Latin America Calling

My ongoing dialogue with Octavio Cavalli, author of Bendito Lennon, a comprehensive Spanish-language John Lennon biography, is unlike any interview I've ever done.

For one thing, our conversation began October 31 and may very well continue through February, when Cavilli comes to New York. For another, Cavalli, in Buenos Aires, records his questions and sends them to me as MP3s. I listen, make notes, and then record my own MP3s, which I send to him, sometimes twice a day.

Virtually every question Cavalli asks is about Lennon’s diaries, which I transcribed and edited in 1981, and which I discuss in detail in my own Lennon bio, published in Latin America and Spain as Nowhere Man: Los Últimos Días De John Lennon.

Cavalli’s book and our interview have come to the attention of Proceso, the Mexican newsweekly.

Ten years ago, Proceso ran a series of articles that helped put Nowhere Man on bestseller lists in multiple countries.

I think the revised edition of Bendito Lennon, which Prosa Amerian Editores is bringing out next year, is headed for bestseller lists, too. In the meantime, it’s breathing new life into Los Últimos DíasRead More 
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Los Últimos Días de John Lennon

In October 2003, on the eve of the publication of the second Spanish edition of Nowhere Man: Los Últimos Días de John Lennon, I traveled to Mexico City to meet the press. I knew something extraordinary was happening, something that surpassed Nowhere Man's success when it was published in the U.S. and U.K. in 2000. For six months, reviews, excerpts, thought pieces, and interviews about Nowhere Man were appearing in the Spanish-language media virtually every day. I've described my trip to Mexico City as follows: "I felt as if I'd entered an alternate universe where everything I'd been working for, for 25 years, had come to pass in a language I didn't understand. The media treated me as if I'd written Harry Potter."

Ten years later, on what would have been Lennon’s 73rd birthday, the Spanish-language media continues to write about Nowhere Man. Here are three links to stories that appeared yesterday.

La vida inconclusa de John Lennon (Originally published in January 2011, Proceso made this available online yesterday.)
John Lennon y la numerología: su obsesión y destino (Un día como hoy)
Minuto a minuto. Las últimas 24 horas de Lennon (Radioacktiva)

If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, please join me, Eric Danville, and Lainie Speiser, on Tuesday, October 15, 8:00 P.M., at the 2A bar in the East Village. I’ll be reading from Nowhere Man, in English. Read More 
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The Lennon Vibe

Today, John Lennon’s birthday--he would have been 73--is a day that I always acknowledge in one way or another. In past years, I've often spent October 9 talking on the radio about Lennon's life and death, and how a few months after his murder I was given his diaries, which became a prime source of information for my book Nowhere Man. Other years I've wandered uptown, to Strawberry Fields, to pay my respects to a man who changed my life. Today, I intend to quietly observe Lennon's birthday at home, taking at least a few moments to Imagine Peace, as corny as that might sound.

But next Tuesday, October 15, at 8:00 PM, at the 2A bar in the East Village, I will be celebrating Lennon's life by reading from three chapters of Nowhere Man. Joining me will be my Title TK co-producers Eric Danville and Lainie Speiser, adult actress Alia Janine, radio personality Ralph Sutton, writer James Sasser, character actor David Healy, and writer and musician Mary Lyn Maiscott.

The event, as always, is free, and if you have an urge to tune into the Lennon vibe, 2A is the place to be on Tuesday night. Read More 
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Lennonight

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Denial

In the Adolf Eichmann chapter of Bobby in Naziland, the novel to which I'm currently applying some finishing touches, one of the things the Mistress of Syntax flagged was my reference to a bone-grinding machine used in death camps. She wanted to know if the machine had been built specifically for use in the camps. This was a good question, I thought, and turned to Google for an answer. The search terms I put in, as shown in the graphic, were: bone grinding machine Nazis. I was shocked and dismayed to see that the first three results were Holocaust denial sites. (In a search two days later, the denial sites placed two and four, and the order continues to change.)

One of the first things that popped into my head was the idea of a kid in grade school, who knows nothing about the Holocaust, being given an assignment to write a report about the Nazis. He goes to Google and the first thing he sees is that the Holocaust didn't happen, thereby handing a tremendous victory to the deniers.

I posted this on Facebook, and it led to a surprisingly large number of comments, notably from fellow Headpress writer Shade Rupe, who’s done a great deal of Holocaust research.

What I hadn’t mentioned on Facebook was that part of the inspiration for Bobby in Naziland was my own dealings with a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who’d read Nowhere Man, and in Internet postings that described me as a “Jewish writer,” said that I was the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who’d given the order to kill John Lennon. He also tried to goad me into an online debate about whether or not the Holocaust really happened.

In the book’s endnotes, I say of this (naturally) pseudonymous fellow, “That there are people like this lurking on the Internet should come as no surprise to anybody. That other people who call themselves journalists echo such theories in cyberspace and, on occasion, have published them in books, and in at least one legitimate newspaper, is an alarming truth that cannot be ignored.”

That’s just the way it is in the fact-free 21st century. Holocaust denial is spreading and Bobby in Naziland is, in part, my own small response to it, for whatever that may be worth.

And, yes, the bone-grinding machines were specifically built to grind human bones in Nazi death camps. Read More 
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My Last Hunter Thompson Parody

Hunter S. Thompson did for journalism what the Beatles did for rock 'n' roll--he made everybody want to be a journalist, even John Lennon, who wanted to play Thompson in the movie after he read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I read Fear and Loathing when I was 21, and I saw my future. "I can do this," I thought. I wanted someone to pay me to go places, take drugs, and write stories about it.

Since that day, I’ve read Fear and Loathing so many times, my copy of the book disintegrated.

I went through a phase in graduate school where everything I wrote came out sounding like Hunter Thompson. I was possessed by him, and one of my teachers literally performed an in-class exorcism—everybody started chanting, trying to purge Thompson’s spirit from my system. It didn’t work.

I think I finally got rid of him around 1990, when I wrote a parody review of a Mercedes-Benz for D-Cup magazine—I was editing a car magazine, too, and I was always getting cars to test drive. This was the last Thompson parody I ever wrote, and it was also the last time that Mercedes ever gave me a car.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 8 P.M., at a Hunter Thompson birthday celebration in the upstairs lounge of the 2A bar, at 25 Avenue A in New York, I’ll be reading this parody, “Mein Kar” (featuring renegade Nazi Erich von Pauli), along with the passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that inspired it.

Joining me will be senior High Times editor Bobby Black, adult film star Brittany Andrews, and actor/writer Jeffery Emerson.

Hope to see you there, especially if you couldn’t make it to the last Eric Danville, Robert Rosen, Lainie Speiser production, Bloomsday on Beaver Street. There is no cover charge. Read More 
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Scenes from a Bookexpo: Robertson Gets the Rights; Romney Writes a Cookbook

"We got the rights to Beatles music and nobody gets the rights to Beatles music," said Robbie Robertson, who will turn 70 in July, and looks extraordinary for his age. "But everybody recognized how important this book is."

The former lead guitarist and lyricist for the seminal rock group The Band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1994, was talking about his forthcoming children's book, Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music that Changed the World, co-written with his son Sebastian Robertson, who was with his father on the BEA Downtown Author Stage Saturday morning, along with journalist Alan Light, who asked them questions.

Tundra Books will release Legends, Icons & Rebels in October, and it will contain a double-CD featuring the music of all 27 musicians and groups covered in the book. They include The Beatles (of course), the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Louis Jordan (but not the Rolling Stones or The Band).

Though other children’s books, such as The Book of Rock Stars: 24 Musical Icons That Shine Through History, by Kathleen Krull, and The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World, by Julius Lester, cover much of the same territory as Legends, Icons & Rebels, they don’t contain CDs (and didn’t sell especially well, either). So, when Robertson said, “There’s no other book like this,” he apparently meant that there’s no other children’s book about musicians, written by a rock star, that contains a CD with previously unattainable Beatles music.

The unattainability of Beatles music is something that’s driven home every week to anybody who watches Mad Men, as Don Draper and company live out the 1960s to a Beatles-free soundtrack. That a show this successful can’t get those rights speaks volumes. So, one can only imagine what hoops Robertson had to jump through, what rings he had to kiss, and how much money he had to spend to get the rights to those sacred songs.

I’ve no doubt that the final Beatles text had to be personally approved by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison. And I think it’s safe to assume that the John Lennon section of this completely inoffensive, non-iconoclastic book will, according to the rules of Ono, praise her as a positive influence, and contain no mention of numerology, tarot, astrology, or Colombian witches. And though the book will say that Lennon was shot by a disturbed fan, it will not mention his name.

So, what we have in Legends, Icons & Rebels is a book that parents will buy for their kids, and with any luck at all, the kids, ages 8-13, will read the book, listen to the CDs, and be turned on to some great old music.

Then, when the kids get a little older, and they’re ready for some unvarnished truth about their legends, icons, and rebels, there are books like Nowhere Man that they can grow into. Makes me glad I wrote it.

***


I was coming from the booth of my distributor, SCB, where I’d picked up a copy of their erotic books catalogue, Revel, where Beaver Street is prominently featured on the same spread as Robin Bougie’s Cinema Sewer. The catalogue was tucked under my arm when I spotted, a couple of booths down, Ann Romney, wife of Mitt, signing advance copies of her book, The Romney Family Table, from Shadow Mountain, due out in October.

I got in line.

“Can you make it out to Bob Rosen,” I said to Romney, handing her the book. (Actually, it’s more of a brochure.)

“Is that R-o-s-e-n?” she asked.

“Very good,” I replied. “I know it’s such a weird and difficult name.”

“I always won the spelling bee,” she said, laughing as she signed book.

As we shook hands and I thanked her, I discreetly admired her beautiful and tasteful ring, sapphire if I’m not mistaken, and, shamefully, I was feeling a dusting of the Ann Romney charm—the charm that had been utilized in an attempt to “humanize” Mitt in his presidential campaign.

Ann Romney, I must admit, had a good vibe. I got the sense that, despite my scruffy and possibly progressive appearance, she genuinely enjoyed our little exchange. Still, there’s no way I’d ever vote for her husband, even if she gave me that sapphire ring.

***


On the way home from the BEA, I passed, on 10th Avenue near 17th Street, Yoko Ono, dressed in a sharp white blazer, talking to a couple of people on the sidewalk. It was an omen, I thought as I walked by, though an omen of what I have no idea. Read More 

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In Silence and Secrecy

My actual room is a little more cluttered, and I use a slightly more advanced writing machine.
This weekend, as I've been doing most weekends lately, I'm going to concentrate on fine-tuning Bobby in Naziland, the novel I began writing five years ago, and had not shown to anybody until last week. As I explained in an earlier post, I plan to read the opening pages at Bloomsday on Beaver Street next month, so it was time to show at least those pages to my editor (who happens to be my wife).

I suppose most writers (as well as most readers) find it peculiar that a writer would work in total silence and secrecy for five years, especially these days, when it's become increasingly common for writers to share works-in-progress online with readers who provide instant feedback.

This is the height of literary absurdity and the best of all possible ways for a writer to achieve a state of confusion. Book writing should be a solitary activity that takes place in a room of one’s own with a lock on the door (to paraphrase Virginia Woolf). And I’ve been doing this long enough that I trust my own editorial judgment.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t prefer to be working with an editor at an actual book publishing company who’s given me an advance so substantial, I could concentrate, to the exclusion of all else, on finishing Bobby in Naziland. But I’m not the kind of writer who gets advances, substantial or otherwise, on unfinished books. On the contrary, when I finish the book and begin submitting it, I think publishers will tell me, “Great read, but there’s not enough interest in Jews, goyim, Nazis, the Holocaust, UFOs, the Rosenbergs, or Brooklyn to justify publishing this.”

This is the kind of thing that publishers say reflexively to most writers about most books. It can’t be taken seriously. When I was struggling to publish Nowhere Man—a book that would be translated into a half-dozen languages and become a bestseller in five countries—I was told time and again, for 18 years, “There’s not enough interest in John Lennon.”

Which is one reason I waited five years before showing Bobby in Naziland to anybody, especially publishers. There’s nothing more demoralizing for a writer than to hear from a so-called voice of authority that your work-in-progress is unpublishable.

I also trust the judgment of my editor, and when she reads Bobby in Naziland in its entirety, I want her to read it with a fresh eye. So, I will continue to work in secrecy and silence. Read More 
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Police Story

There's one more story about the police that's worth telling, and I've told it only once before--to the Chilean Website Paniko, when Nowhere Man was published in that country, in 2004. The writer, Javier Foxon, had asked me if Yoko Ono had returned my personal diaries--the ones I'd naively given to her, in 1982, when she asked to read them. Since Chile was 5,000 miles away, the interview was running in Spanish, and Paniko was not widely read by members of the NYPD, I figured I'd tell the truth.

I told Foxon that as the first edition of Nowhere Man was going to press, in 2000, Ono had returned my diaries--except for two small notebooks covering the summer of 1979. Foxon's inevitable follow-up question: What happened to the two volumes?

“Well,” I said, “I’m not really sure, but I don’t think their disappearance had anything to do with Ono.”

I explained that after I’d given my diaries to Ono, she turned them over to the police (and other legal and media entities), who combed though the half-million words I’d written, looking for evidence they could use to charge me with a crime, any crime, and use that as leverage to prevent me from ever writing about John Lennon’s diaries. (You can read about that fiasco here.)

But what the police found in the two volumes that had vanished were detailed notes about the gig I had in the summer of 1979, ghostwriting a novel for a former New York City cop. Those notes contained the names of cops I was taking drugs with, the dates we took the drugs, and the places we took them. In one notable passage, I described smoking a joint with a uniformed, on-duty cop in his patrol car.

“So,” I said to Foxon, “I figured the cops freaked out when they read that, and they wanted that information to disappear. I guess the two missing volumes ended up in a shredder.”

And unless I get arrested today, that’s the last police story I’m going to tell for a while. Read More 
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