Robert Rodriguez and I covered a lot of ground when we spoke recently on his podcast, Something About the Beatles. We talked in detail about the new edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which has 45 pages of supplementary material, a new introduction, and innumerable corrections, revisions, and additions. And we talked about the reading I'm doing tonight, October 4, at 6 p.m., at Subterranean Books in St. Louis, my first public event in almost four years, since the beginning of the pandemic. And we talked about the book I'm working on, tentatively titled No Future, which is set at a radical student newspaper at the City College of New York in the 1970s, as the student left is giving way to the forces of punk.
In the course of discussing the many dramas surrounding the publication of Nowhere Man, the subject of Yoko Ono's 2002 copyright infringement lawsuit against Fred Seaman came up. I was subpoenaed to testify at that trial as a witness for Ono, and I told Rodriguez about the bizarre cross-examination Seaman's lawyer subjected me to. Fresh out of law school, the attorney was up against Ono's high-priced, well-prepared legal team that had both the facts and the law on their side, in a high-profile trial that dominated the front page of the tabloids. For the young lawyer, it was a baptism of fire.
Ono's lawyer questioned me first, and I told a story that was, essentially, the same story I tell in the Nowhere Man chapter titled "John Lennon's Diaries." Except this time I told it under oath.
Then Seaman's attorney had at me. The first rule of cross-examination is: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. This cross-examination was a series of shots in the dark, the attorney hoping to hit on something, anything, that would discredit me. His first question was (and I'm paraphrasing throughout): "Did you burglarize Fred Seaman's apartment?"
I looked at him like he was crazy. "No," I said, realizing that Seaman must have believed that Ono was somehow able to force me to do this.
"Is this the first time anybody asked you that question?"
I don't recall exactly where the cross-examination went from there, only that the attorney asked me a lot of questions that did his client no good whatsoever. But I do recall his last three questions:
"Did you believe John Lennon wanted you to have his diaries?"
"Do you still believe that?"
I thought about it for a few seconds, and I'm told it was a very dramatic moment. "Yes," I finally said.
"Did you pay taxes on the money Yoko Ono paid you?"
This was his last desperate attempt to discredit me, and it pissed me off. "I sure did," I said.
The lawyer turned and walked back to his seat.
Ono won her case.
Please join me for a discussion of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon tonight, October 4, 6 p.m., at Subterranean Books in St. Louis.
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