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Far From Flatbush

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.

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

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.

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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.

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

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

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.

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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

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Radio Beatles Buenos Aires/Beatles Radio Buenos Aires

Octavio Cavalli, acaso el mayor experto de la Argentina en los cuatro fabulosos, es el autor de Bendito Lennon, una abarcadora y muy investigativa biografía del ex Beatle. Él es asimismo el conductor de un programa de radio semanal llamado Bendito Lennon On Air.

El domingo 17 de julio a las 8 p.m. hora de Buenos Aries (7 p.m. hora de Nueva York) Octavio me va a entrevistar en su programa, transmitido en 325radio.com.

Vamos a estar hablando de la nueva y aumentada traducción al español de mi biografía de Lennon, Nowhere Man, lanzada en todo el mundo el mes pasado.

Octavio, un abogado de profesión, es conocido por sus preguntas precisas y penetrantes. Mis respuestas, por supuesto, serán reveladoras y provocativas.

Yo espero que tú puedas sintonizar el domingo. Si no es así, puedes descargar el podcast aquí.

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And for the English speakers:

Octavio Cavalli, perhaps Argentina’s foremost Fab Four expert, is the author of Bendito Lennon, a comprehensive and well-researched biography of the ex-Beatle. He’s also the host of a weekly radio show, Bendito Lennon On Air.

Sunday, July 17, at 8 P.M. Buenos Aries time (7 P.M. New York time), Octavio will interview me on his show, streamed on 325radio.com (click on “Como sintonizarnos”).

We’ll be talking about the new and expanded Spanish translation of my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, released worldwide last month.

Octavio, a lawyer by profession, is known for his precise and penetrating questions. My answers, of course, will be revealing and provocative.

I hope you can tune in on Sunday. If not, you can download the podcast here.

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"Cuando yo cumplo 74"/"When I’m 74"

Cuando los periodistas me preguntan si alguno de los Beatles ha leído alguna vez Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, mi respuesta es un inequívoco: “Sí, absolutamente... aunque ellos nunca lo han admitido en público.”

¿Cómo puedo yo estar tan seguro? Es fácil. Es un hecho bien establecido que yo tuve acceso a los diarios de John Lennon, y lo que he comunicado en Nowhere Man es la esencia de lo que había en esos cuadernos. Hasta que los diarios sean publicados, lo cual no sucederá en nuestro tiempo de vida, Nowhere Man es lo más cerca que puedes llegar a la autobiografía de Lennon.

Si tú fueras un Beatle, especialmente si fueras Paul McCartney, ¿no querrías saber lo que Lennon escribió sobre ti en sus diarios?

La respuesta es por sí misma evidente.

Lo que McCartney descubrió tras la lectura de Nowhere Man, fue lo que Lennon pensaba de él todo el tiempo, y que estaba locamente celoso por el éxito incesante de Paul. El espíritu de McCartney embrujaba realmente a Lennon. Él oía la música de McCartney en su cabeza cuando Paul estaba en la ciudad. Él escuchó la música de McCartney, cuando trató de salir de su mala racha creativa y compuso las canciones para el Double Fantasy. La “I Don’t Want to Face It” de Lennon —grabada para el Double Fantasy, pero lanzada en el Milk and Honey—, fue una respuesta directa a la “Coming Up” de McCartney. Además Lennon, disgustado por las demandas de McCartney sobre una reunión de los Beatles, se refirió a él como McOjodeculo, y se regocijó cuando Paul fue detenido en Japón por posesión de marihuana, dándole el crédito a Yoko Ono por causar el arresto al lanzarle un hechizo mágico. “Yo quiero a Paul como a un hermano”, escribió Lennon. “Sólo que él no me gusta.”

Hoy, el 74 cumpleaños de Paul McCartney, quedan nueve días hasta el lanzamiento mundial del e-book Nowhere Man 15 aniversario ampliado y recién traducido. Tú puedes pre-ordenar el e-book en Amazon, iTunes y Barnes & Noble. Entonces, el 27 de junio, podrás conocer aún más sobre la tormentosa relación Lennon-McCartney.

Mientras tanto, vamos todos a desearle a Paul un 74 cumpleaños feliz y saludable. Que él siga brillando.

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And for the English speakers:

“When I’m 74”


When journalists ask me if any of the Beatles have ever read Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, my answer is an unequivocal: “Yes, absolutely… though they’d never admit it publicly.”

How can I be so sure? Easy. It’s a well-established fact that I had access to John Lennon’s diaries, and what I’ve communicated in Nowhere Man is the essence of what was in those notebooks. Until the diaries are published, which will not happen in our lifetimes, Nowhere Man is as close as you can get to Lennon’s autobiography.

If you were a Beatle, especially if you were Paul McCartney, wouldn’t you want to know what Lennon wrote about you in his journals?

The answer is self-evident.

What McCartney discovered upon reading Nowhere Man was that Lennon thought about him all the time and that he was insanely jealous of Paul’s unabated success. McCartney’s spirit veritably haunted Lennon. He heard McCartney’s music in his head when Paul has in town. He listened to McCartney’s music as he tried to break out of his creative slump and compose the songs for Double Fantasy. Lennon’s “I Don’t Want to Face It”—recorded for Double Fantasy but released on Milk and Honey—was a direct response to McCartney’s “Coming Up.” Yet Lennon, repulsed by McCartney’s demands for a Beatles reunion, referred to him as McAsshole, and rejoiced when Paul was busted in Japan for marijuana possession, crediting Yoko Ono with bringing about the arrest by casting a magic spell. “I love Paul like a brother,” Lennon wrote. “I just don’t like him.”

Today, on Paul McCartney’s 74th birthday, nine days remain until the worldwide release of the expanded and newly translated 15th Anniversary Nowhere Man e-book. You can pre-order the book on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. Then, on June 27, you can learn even more about the stormy Lennon-McCartney relationship.

In the meantime, let’s all wish Paul a happy and healthy 74th birthday. May he continue to shine on.

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Lo mejor de Nowhere Man

Abajo hay tres breves extractos de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, seleccionados por el traductor René Portas. La edición e-book recién traducida de este clásico de culto sale a la venta el 27 de junio. Tú puedes pre-ordenarla en Amazon, iTunes y Barnes & Noble.

La marihuana de John
Durante dos años estuvimos en un viaje mágico y misterioso. Cuando Seaman estaba en la ciudad, cruzábamos por toda Nueva York y más allá, una vez yendo tan lejos como hasta Montreal, en el flamante nuevo Mercedes Benz verde manzana de Lennon, fumando porros gruesos de la potente marihuana de John, y resonando rock ‘n’ roll en el personalizado sistema de sonido Blaupunkt.

John en Jerusalén
En el interior de las murallas, deambuló por las calles, por la vía Dolorosa, ocultándose tras sus gafas de sol, con su cabello largo por los hombros fluyendo como el de Jesús, por debajo del sombrero de Panamá. Miraba absorto a los árabes con sus tocados, sentados en los taburetes afuera de los cafés antiguos, fumando inmensos trozos de hashish, tres o cuatro de éstos halando de narguiles enormes, como Alicia en el país de las maravillas. Él también quería fumar, pero tenía miedo.

Una pareja en crisis
Algo andaba terriblemente mal con John Lennon y su esposa, Yoko Ono, mientras la nueva década amanecía en el Dakota. Sus vidas se estaban haciendo pedazos. La plegaria anual de John por el disfrute continuo de su salud y riqueza, había caído aparentemente en oídos sordos. La situación se había vuelto tan desesperada, que los sirvientes especulaban entre sí sobre la posibilidad de un suicidio doble.

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Start Spreading las Noticias

The e-book edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon is now available for pre-order on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble and will go on sale June 27, worldwide, on all platforms. You can download a free sample here.

The list price is a numerologically harmonious $9.99, but if you bought the print edition, published by Random House Mondadori, on Amazon, you can download the e-book for 99 cents.

I’m writing this in English because my self-taught Spanish, which I can read on about a fourth-grade level, is not up to the task. That’s why René Portas, who translated the original Spanish edition, has returned to do a new and improved translation.

René, who’s in Buenos Aires, and normally translates Russian writers like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, reminded me how vital yet under-appreciated translators are. Translation is not a matter of simply substituting a word in English for a word in Spanish. Rather, it’s a magical process. A great translator gets inside a writer’s head and somehow transforms his (or her) distinctive voice into an entirely new idiom.

That is what René has done with Nowhere Man. And after a 13 year absence from the market, the book will once again be available. Start spreading las noticias!

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The Long-Awaited Return of Nowhere Man en español

When Random House Mondadori (since renamed Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) first published Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon in Spanish, in 2003, it sold out immediately. Since then, the book has become so difficult to find, some online dealers have been pricing it at more than $1,000.

For the past few months, the book’s original translator, René Portas (who normally translates the works of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov), has been putting together the definitive (and long-awaited) Spanish-language incarnation of the 15th anniversary Nowhere Man e-book, which was published in English last October, on Lennon’s 75th birthday.

The Spanish edition will be available worldwide within the next month—exact publication date to be announced.

In the meantime, René continues to work on making Nowhere Man perfect. And the price for this perfection will be a far more reasonable $9.99.

Stay tuned.

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Research

"I really did believe that having oral sex with a hot young model in front of a loaded camera was a legitimate avenue of journalistic research. I also believed that to write insightfully about pornography, pornographic experience in front of the camera wasn't only invaluable, it was essential." —from Beaver Street

The above quote is from a chapter called “The Accidental Porn Star,” and when I wrote it, I’d forgotten that there is at least one other journalist who’s willing to do the kind of research that I do.

Gay Talese was not photographed as he was researching Thy Neighbor’s Wife, originally published in 1981 and described as “eye-opening revelations about the sexual activities and proclivities of the American public in the era before AIDS” and a “marvel of journalistic courage and craft.” But as Talese reminded me in his 2015 interview with Alec Baldwin on Here’s the Thing (which I just listened to), in the course of gathering material for Thy Neighbor’s Wife, he did get masturbated in a New York massage parlor.

Talese’s latest story, “The Voyeur’s Motel,” in the current issue of The New Yorker, is what got me thinking about his research methods. In the story, probably one of the strangest the magazine has ever run, Talese, now 84, describes his 35-year relationship with Gerald Foos, owner of a motel near Denver. Foos is a voyeur who bought the motel specifically because it had an attic, which he converted to a perch where he could watch his guests have sex. And he did so from the 1960s to 1995, taking notes on what he saw.

Talese, in the name of research, joined Foos in the attic, and together they watched people have sex. The article, which includes some of Foos’s notes, is both semi-pornographic and an exploration of Talese’s wrenching moral dilemma as he conducted his research.

When writers throw their bodies and souls into their work, the result is often literature that you can’t put down. Sadly, as Talese also points out in the interview, magazines that are willing to finance this kind of reporting are on the verge of extinction.

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Interview with the Pussycat


Joyce Snyder, whom I call Pam Katz in Beaver Street, released her own book, Mistress Pussycat, published last year by Headpress. Below is an interview she did with the Florida radio station WOCA, in which she discusses submissive men and her experiences as a dominatrix.

And here's a link to the story about the 1984 Critics Adult Film Awards on The Rialto Report.

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WTF Is Football Porn?

When Chelsea G. Summers wrote to me last week, asking how and when "football porn" became a thing, my first thought was, WTF is football porn?

My second thought was, Wait a minute, I know what football porn is: It's the biggest cliché in pornography (see Debbie Does Dallas). How many times when I was editing adult magazines did I run pictorials involving football players and cheerleaders?

Which reminded me of my first exposure to football porn. In the 1960s, when the Green Bay Packers ruled the football world, I came across a Playboy with a “Little Annie Fanny” cartoon strip. In that strip, the “Greenback Busters” gang-rape Annie on the 50-yard line, before a cheering, sellout crowd. (This was considered funny a half-century ago.)

I got lost in a football reverie, remembering how I covered the football team for my high school newspaper, and wanted to be a professional sportswriter. Then it took a darker turn, to locker-room hazing, sexual assault. Why, all of sudden, was there a rash of stories about this… and stories like the one out of Steubenville, Ohio, hometown of underage porn star Traci Lords and the scene of a notorious rape involving high school football players? And why was there a rash of stories about college football stars who raped and got away with it… because they were football stars and the schools made a lot of money from them?

What is it about football? Plenty, I suppose, but that’s a question that’s going to take more than a blog post to answer.

I finally told Chelsea G. Summers that there has been football porn as long as there has been football, which began in 1869, in New Jersey, where, perhaps not so coincidentally, adult magazines, under the benighted reign of Lou Perretta, went to die.

You can read Chelsea’s article, “Deep Inside the World of Football Porn,” in Vocativ.

And you can watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I hear it’s on TV.

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Who's the Vilest of Them All?

Just for the hell of it, I figured I'd rate the Republican candidates from most vile to least vile.

1. Cruz: Sets the standard for hypocrisy.
2. Trump: His response to Cruz’s New York put-down redeems him from “most vile” slot.
3. Christie: Crime boss as politician.
4. Rubio: Smug, callow warmonger.
5. Carson: World-class ignoramus.
6. Bush: He’s a Bush.
7. Kasich: Expresses his vile positions in ways that almost sound reasonable.



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Forbidden Opinions: John Lennon Edition

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. Read More 

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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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Lennon: Naked, Flawed, Mean, and Beautiful

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. Read More 

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Turn On, Tune In

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:

2019
Sunday, January 6:
8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT

 

Saturday, January 19: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT

 

2018
Thursday, January 18: 10 A.M., 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 9 A.M., 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 8 A.M., 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 7 A.M., 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT

Saturday, January 27: 11 A.M. ET; 10 A.M. CT; 9 A.M. MT; 8 A.M. PT

Friday, March 30: 10 A.M., 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 9 A.M., 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 8 A.M., 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 7 A.M., 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT

Sunday, April 22: 7:30 A.M. ET; 6:30 A.M. CT; 5:30 A.M. MT; 4:30 A.M. PT

Sunday, June 10: 4 P.M. ET; 3 P.M. CT; 2 P.M. MT; 1 P.M. PT

Thursday, June 14: 7 A.M. ET; 6 A.M. CT; 5 A.M. MT; 4 A.M. PT

Sunday, July 15: 10 A.M. ET; 9 A.M. CT; 8 A.M. MT; 7 A.M. PT

Thursday, July 19: 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT

Monday, August 20: 7 A.M., 11 A.M. & 3 P.M. ET; 6 A.M., 10 A.M. & 2 P.M. CT; 5 A.M., 9 A.M. & 1 P.M. MT; 4 A.M., 8 A.M. & 12 P.M. PT

Sunday, September 9: 10 A.M. ET; 9 A.M. CT; 8 A.M. MT; 7 A.M. PT

Friday, October 19: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT

Saturday, October 20: 1 P.M. ET; 12 P.M. CT; 11 A.M. MT; 10 A.M. PT

Sunday, November 11: 6 A.M. ET; 5 A.M. CT; 4 A.M. MT; 3 A.M. PT

Friday, November 16: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT

Monday, November 26: 7 A.M. ET; 6 A.M. CT; 5 A.M. MT; 4 A.M. PT

 

Wednesday, December 19: 9 A.M. ET; 8 A.M. CT; 7 A.M. MT; 6 A.M. PT

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

Saturday, October 14: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Monday, October 23: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT

Friday, November 3: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT

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

Monday, November 13: 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. ET, 9 A.M. and 3 P.M. CT, 8 A.M. and 2 P.M. MT, 7 A.M. and 1 P.M. PT

Friday, December 22: 8 A.M. and 1 P.M. ET, 7 A.M. and 12 P.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 11 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 10 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. Read More 

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The Woodward and Bernstein of Rock?

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. Read More 

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#179 Interview

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. Read More 
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Everywhere E-Books Are Sold

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. Read More 

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Res Ipsa Loquitur

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! Read More 

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Stand By Me

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 hereRead More 

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(Just Like) Starting Over

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.
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The Censored Cover

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. Read More 
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The Pirates, the Price, and the Book of Numbers

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. Read More 
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Nowhere Man: the 15th Anniversary E-book

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. Read More 
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Throwback Thursday

Joyce Snyder, whose book, Mistress Pussycat, will be published imminently, was looking for some photos for her own Website when she uncovered these shots from a 1986 Swank Publications Christmas party at the home of our publisher, Chip Goodman. That's me in the yellow sweater. Two other people in this photo are pseudonymous "characters" in Beaver Street. (Hint: the face of one of them is obscured.)

I’ll send a PDF of the photo section that appeared in the first U.K. edition of Beaver Street to anybody who can identify those characters by their real names or pseudonyms. (Former employees of Swank Publications are not eligible to participate. The decision of the judges is final.)

Over in Facebook Land this is Throwback Thursday. So why not on the Sporadic Beaver, too? Read More 
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Because They Can

From The Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law.
"It's a terrible thing," photographer Terry Bisbee wrote to me after she read my post on the book-pirating pandemic. "I find it hard to wrap my head around someone who would forsake the pleasure of ordering, buying & receiving a real book with its nice new book smell, cover art, and most important the author's CONTENT that they can curl up & read."

Previously unaware of the extent of the problem, she wondered what could be done.

Novelist Thomas Kennedy had been unaware of the pandemic, as well. After searching for his name and “free download,” he was surprised to find pirated copies of his books available online. He, too, wondered what could be done.

“Not much,” I told them. The Authors Guild, numerous high-profile authors, and publishers both corporate and independent have been wrestling with piracy for years. But the problem just keeps getting worse.

Meanwhile, the conglomerates that make money off piracy—the search engine companies with their ads and the monopolistic Internet providers with their breathtaking monthly bills (not to mention the major advertisers, like Citibank, Sprint, and Office Depot, that support sites like Mobilism)—have done nothing to stop it. They say that piracy is beyond their control, even though search engines are able to bury, and IPs are able to block, certain “adult” sites when they choose to.

We live in an age when anything available in a digital format—books, movies, music, video games—can be downloaded for free, and millions of people do so every day. It’s gotten to the point that the 32-million illegal downloads of Game of Thrones Season Five are looked upon as a measure of the show’s success.

Yes, occasionally someone on the Internet mentions a legitimate or quasi-legitimate reason for pirating books, such as: paperbacks are too expensive and college textbooks are grotesquely overpriced; you can only rent and not actually buy e-books from the major vendors, and they can repossess them if they want to; it only hurts the “evil” publishers if you pirate from dead authors; you buy more books than you steal, or download books that you wouldn’t normally buy; e-books are unavailable in your country; or you live on disability, cannot hold a physical book, and can barely afford to pay for medical care.

But for the most part, the Internet is full of absurd excuses and rationalizations for why people pirate books. Below is a compilation of those reasons, followed in most cases by my own comments, in italics. (Interestingly, people seem to have stopped posting this kind of stuff about two years ago. Maybe it’s all been said. Or maybe, in 2015, piracy has become so culturally ingrained, the need to justify it has become as unnecessary as the need to justify breathing.)

***

“Books have always been free to those who don’t want to pay for them. Since as far back as the 17th century, people too poor, or too cheap, to buy a book could walk into a public library and borrow it…. Pirate ebooks are just the 21st century equivalent of the lending library or of real-world book sharing, and—in all but the most egregious cases—can be safely ignored.” —Techcrunch.com

Libraries pay for books and replace them when they’re worn out. Authors, myself included, are thrilled to have their books in libraries. Maybe piracy could be ignored in 2011, when this piece was posted, but it can’t be ignored any longer. Piracy is one of the primary culprits among a multitude of perpetrators that are driving authors out of business.

“If your books are being pirated, then they’ve got something good going for them. Nobody shares stuff they don’t like. Don’t forget that the users doing the sharing are usually your biggest fans, too…. It’s not theft…. Most piracy is a minor civil crime… and it’s counted as infringement…. Everyone commits some level of piracy every day…. These days, copyright is so narrowly defined that just about anything a person does with a media file is infringement.” —Raynfall.com

Are you suggesting that passing a photocopied Dilbert cartoon around the office is comparable to downloading pirated editions of every book you want to read but don’t want to pay for?

“For some, it’s the only practical way they can access content, either because the item is not available any other way, or it costs far more than they can afford. And for others, it’s a protest against the evil hegemony of the film, music and book industries.” —Forbes.com

I’m sadly aware that the unavailability of an e-book edition of Nowhere Man has contributed to its piracy. But I was shocked (shocked!) to learn that the book’s California-based indie publisher, Quick American Archives, and Beaver Street’s London-based indie publisher, Headpress, are members of an evil hegemony.

“Publishing houses are greedy…. Sharing a book is great publicity for the author…. People who travel a lot like the convenience of ebooks, and if they already own the book in physical form they feel justified in getting a free copy…. Free sharing allows people to sample books.” —The Guardian

Book pirates are greedy. Pirating is not “great publicity for the author.” The exact opposite is true. Publicity leads to piracy. I do agree, however, that if you buy a new print edition of a book, you should, under most circumstances, be allowed to download the e-book edition for free or for a minimal price. Amazon already does this, offering $1.99 e-books to people who buy the print edition of certain books. Is it really necessary to point out that Amazon, Google, and many other “legitimate” sites allow people to sample books before they buy them?

“A lot of the reasons for book piracy amount to: ‘Because I want it.’… Obscurity is a fate worse than piracy.” —Terribleminds.com

Obscurity might be a fate worse than piracy for the tens of thousands of authors who give away their self-published e-books on Amazon and elsewhere, thereby negating the need for piracy. But the most-pirated authors are well known to begin with.

“I like to collect stuff…. I’ll never pay for an e-book.” —Teleread.com

The following series of comments were culled from a discussion on Reddit:

“I’m poor and I like to read, but I can’t pirate food, so I pirate everything else.”

Apparently you’re not too poor to pay for Internet access, a computer, and probably a smartphone, too. Have you considered the library?

“I don’t justify it. It’s wrong and I will keep doing it. If I really like a book though I will buy it.”

The percentage of people who buy books that they’ve already pirated is miniscule. You are the exception that proves the rule.

“I pirate stuff because I’m cheap.”

Which explains most piracy.

“The free flow of information, especially when it relates to books and other forms of learning, is a necessary step in the history of mankind. The future is here motherfuckers, knowledge is free on the internet, TAKE IT.”

Knowledge is not free. Authors pay for the knowledge you gain with the time they spend making it accessible and understandable. And entertainment isn’t free, either. I doubt anybody reads two of the most pirated authors—J. K. Rowling and Stephen King—for “knowledge.”

Bottom line: Downloading pirated books is a crime of opportunity. The opportunities to do so are limitless and the chances of being punished are nil. People download pirated books because they can. Read More 
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The Book-Piracy Pandemic

In 2013, best-selling author and then president of The Authors Guild Scott Turow published a major op-ed in The New York Times titled "The Slow Death of the American Author." In it, he said that on the three most popular search engines, of the first 28 listings in a search for "Scott Turow free e-books," 24 of them were pirate sites, all with paid ads appearing in the margins.

He compared this to a man standing on a street corner telling people where to buy stolen goods and collecting a small fee for his services, and also noted that piracy had virtually destroyed book publishing in Russia, where it "goes almost completely unpoliced."

In the two years since Turow’s essay appeared, the situation has grown significantly worse—it’s an epidemic that’s become a pandemic. I became aware of this about two months ago, when a flurry of publicity about Beaver Street led not to a modest uptick in sales (as might have been the case a year ago) but to an avalanche of e-mail “alerts” for sites offering free downloads of my books, one of which, Nowhere Man, isn’t even available as a legitimate e-book. At least one new pirate site sprang up every day—sometimes two-dozen new ones appeared in a single week.

Often, I’d click on a site just to see what it looked like, and many of them looked as slick as Amazon. One site, based in Russia, offered a forum where people could request pirated editions of specific titles, some of which they were willing to pay for! And though I am curious to see how good the pirated editions of my books are, I’ve never downloaded one, as this seems like an excellent way to get a computer virus.

In fact, I no longer click on the alerts, as the last time I did so, the link brought me to an attack site that uploaded malware to my computer.

As if book publishing weren’t discouraging enough on its own demerits, the piracy pandemic and the associated erosion of income has left me wondering why I should spend years writing another book, when, even if I’m lucky enough to get it published, it’ll be pirated—instantaneously if it’s popular enough.

What’s especially infuriating is that while U.K. Internet providers have blocked all “adult” sites, most of which are completely legal (you have to ask your IP to give you access), and search engine companies have made it harder to find certain adult sites, they claim there’s nothing they can do about piracy—that it’s a “whack-a-mole” proposition.

Which is true. But pirate sites are easy to recognize. They always contain such terms as “download,” “free,” “e-book,” and “pdf,” and often have “ru” (Russia) in the URL. Why a search engine can’t block these sites is beyond my comprehension. I can only assume they have no interest in doing so—because they continue to make money, unlike the authors whom they’re slowly driving out of business, just as Turow predicted. Read More 
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A Film We Made in 1971


In the spring of 1971, when I was a freshman at City College, my friend Jayson Wechter asked me if I'd like to play the lead role in a film he was making. He called it When Ya Gotta Go…, and it was about a guy who was trying to go to the bathroom but was constantly interrupted.

It sounded like fun and I agreed to do it.

Financed by a film cooperative, Jayson shot the movie at my house, in Brooklyn, where I was living with my parents, and cast it with an assortment of our friends and neighbors.

It’s a silent film, as sound syncing, in 1971, was a technological hurdle not easily overcome on a low budget. I’d also like to point out that I didn’t do nudity at the time, even if it was crucial to the plot, and that very brief glimpse of tuchas you’ll see was provided by a stand-in.

Over the ensuing decades, Jayson and I fell out of touch, and I pretty much forgot about the film. Then, through Facebook (naturally), I reconnected with Neil Zusman, the longhaired hippie on the left, in the above thumbnail. He had a digital copy of When Ya Gotta Go… and sent it to me.

How amazing it was to see myself in this time capsule, in my old apartment, with old friends and acquaintances, all of whom I’d lost touch with. If any of you happen to be reading this, here’s what I remember about you then and know about you now:

Jayson, who once made the news for pieing Watergate conspirator Charles Colson, is a private detective living in San Francisco.

The late Arthur Kirson, who plays the insurance salesman, was an English teacher at Erasmus Hall High School, in Brooklyn, and also faculty advisor to the student newspaper, The Dutchman.

Ethel Goodstein, the piano player, was my classmate at the City College of New York School of Architecture.

Neil, a classmate at Erasmus, is a Web designer, filmmaker, and teacher living in Ithica, New York.

Carey Silverstein, the other longhaired hippie, was a classmate at Erasmus and is now a rock musician living in Toronto.

Brian Rooney, the plainclothes narc, was my down-the-hall neighbor in Brooklyn.

Abby Bogomolny, who provided the music, was a classmate at Erasmus.

I don’t know who Mike Cramer (music) or S.K. Schwartzman (actor) are.

Perhaps some of you will now emerge from the mists of time to fill me in on what’s been happening for the past 40-plus years. I’m all ears. Read More 
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