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Flatbush Flashback

John, el último día de Lennon

Este es el musical chileno inspirado por Nowhere Man. Puede leer sobre ello aquí.

This is the Chilean musical inspired by Nowhere Man. You can read about it here.

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Cold Case II: Police Seek Information on Gay Man's 1991 Murder

In Beaver Street and on this blog, I've written about the 1991 murder of Bill Bottiggi, a former co-worker at Swank Publications. Three years ago I said that the suspect was in custody and "his DNA matched the DNA found on clothing he'd left at the scene of the murder." This proved not to be true and the suspect was released.

But the cold case squad continued to do their work, and the other day the headline, “Police Seek Information on Gay Man’s 1991 Murder,” appeared in Gay City News. The story is about the life and death of Bottiggi. You can read it here.

The police are asking anybody with information about the crime to call 800-577-TIPS. There’s a $2,500 reward if that information leads to the suspect’s arrest and conviction.

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It Takes a President

In 1998, at the height of Clinton impeachment mania, I, as editor of Sex Acts magazine, commissioned a cartoonist to illustrate “choice” parts of the Starr Report, independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s record of his run-amok investigation of a White House enmeshed in scandal—financial, political, and sexual. The report, now best remembered for its explicit descriptions of the multiple erotic encounters between a 49-year-old sitting president and his 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky, was published unexpurgated in The New York Times, marking the first time the Gray Lady had allowed “fuck” and “blowjob” to stain her pages.

One Sex Acts cartoon illustrates a tryst that, according to the Starr Report, took place in the White House study on December 31, 1995. It shows Bill Clinton, pants around his knees, displaying a curving erection of porn-star proportions that appears to be Viagra-enhanced—though Viagra wouldn’t be available to the general public for three more years. It’s an image that encapsulates much of what The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido (Twelve), by Vanity Fair editor David Friend, is about.

That’s presumably why the words “Naughty Nineties,” as they appear on the cover of this 632-page epic, are shaped like a curving, fully engorged, seven-and-three-eighths-inch phallus—though the effect is subliminal. I’d been reading the book for a month before I noticed it. I now assume that phallus is meant to represent Clinton’s penis, which is really a stand-in for every Boomer phallus that ever grew erect in the nineties.

If Bill Clinton and his penis are the star of this leave-no-stone-unturned analysis of the decade in which libidinous Baby Boomers took over America, Viagra is the co-star, and the complex, dramatic, and at times touching tale of how it was discovered, tested, named, and marketed, and then became one of the best-selling prescription pharmaceuticals ever—thus bringing erections and their dysfunction into our living rooms—may be the most fascinating part of The Naughty Nineties. (See “The Hardener’s Tale” and “Homo Erectus.”)

Hillary Clinton, weaponized gossip, and the Internet are among the major supporting players, with the latter two bearing responsibility for the “tabloidification” of an era in which “we learn not only that Prince Charles is having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, but are treated to a recording of Charles stating that he wants to be her tampon.”

It’s also a decade in which expansive silicone breasts and the $10-to-14-billion-a-year pornography industry emerged from the shadows to penetrate every segment of mainstream media and society.

My book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is among the multitude of texts that Friend, whom I work with at Vanity Fair, consulted in the course of his research, and The Naughty Nineties elaborates on some of the material I touched on. In discussing Lyndon Johnson’s porn-investigation commission, for example, I describe the president as “a corrupt Texas Democrat with a big dong,” before moving on to Richard Nixon’s war on porn. But how is it known that Johnson had a big dick? Friend explains: “He was known to flabbergast acquaintances by whipping out his Texas longhorn of a pecker.”

This kind of breezy, vernacular-laced prose makes The Naughty Nineties an entertaining alternative to the slew of turgidly written textbooks dominating undergraduate reading lists for any number of history, sociology, political science, gender studies, and communications courses, such as U.C.L.A.’s “Pornography and Evolution.”

The scene in “Chez Fleiss” of Friend’s journey through the Mojave Desert to visit “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss contains another good example: “To get here, I have driven an hour along the parched perimeter of Death Valley without spying a human soul. And then, like some portent out of Castaneda, I see a vision. A titty bar.”

Yet Friend’s intent is never less than serious, and his research sets a scholarly standard for comprehensiveness, no matter how raw the subject matter. In “Botox, Booties, and Bods,” he explores rap culture’s fetishization of the female buttocks, cataloguing, in three jam-packed paragraphs, Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot’s “crooning about the merits of a fuller moon”; Experience Unlimited’s “Da Butt,” a.k.a. “(Doin’) the Butt”; 2 Live Crew’s “Face Down, Ass Up”; Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Appelbum”; Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre’s coining the word “bootylicious”; Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”; DJ Jubilee’s inventing the term “twerk”; Juvenile’s “Back That Azz/Thang Up”; Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty”; and Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Ubiquitous and fulsome footnotes, which could comprise a volume unto themselves, enrich this meticulous detail. (The mother of all footnotes, on pages 467–68—perhaps the longest annotation I’ve personally encountered—analyzes why the institution of marriage is “on the rocks.”)

Friend is at home, as well, with the erotic. In “The Glory of O” he brings to life a masturbation workshop: “Ken, ever stroking, tells the audience, ‘Her clit just grabbed on to my finger.’ Her legs shake and flutter. ‘The clitoris is a spinning top,’ he says, ‘now spinning by itself.’”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see how the nineties set the stage for the ascent of Donald Trump and a presidency in which politics, pornography, gossip, and reality TV are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. And Friend, rising to the occasion, ends with “The Trumpen Show.” But is Trump the terrible tyrant of a passing moment—the Tawdry, Tempestuous Teens, when the Times turns to titan of adult cinema Ron Jeremy for insight on POTUS paramour Stormy Daniels, the biggest XXX superstar since Deep Throat’s Linda Lovelace? (It takes a president.) Or has he brought us to the edge of an Enervating Endtimes, leaving us longing for the days when the most horrific thing you’d read in your daily newspaper was Ken Starr’s depiction of Oval Office anilingus?

We’ll just have to wait for the return of the Roaring Twenties for an answer. They’ll be upon us soon enough.

—Robert Rosen

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Mi entrevista con El Submarí Groc/My Interview With The Yellow Submarine

En mayo de 1981 el asistente personal de John Lennon, Fred Seaman, me dio los diarios que Lennon había estado escribiendo, entre enero de 1975 y el 8 de diciembre de 1980, el día en que fue asesinado. Esos diarios, explicó Seaman, eran la clave del proyecto, que Lennon le había pedido llevara a cabo en evento de su muerte. Seaman iba a escribir la historia verdadera de los últimos años de Lennon, y quería que yo lo ayudara a hacerlo.

Yo acepté ese encargo sabiendo, que podría ejecutarlo en un espíritu que fuera verdadero para John. La historia de los diarios es la historia que cuento en Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

Desde ese día de 37 años atrás en que Seaman me dio los diarios, mucho se ha escrito sobre lo que hice con éstos. Pero una simple verdad se ha perdido en las resmas de la cobertura de los medios: yo traté esos diarios con amor y respeto, y los usé para crear un retrato de John Lennon como un ser humano tri-dimensional.

En la entrevista de María Martín a mí, en el último número de la revista beatleriana española El Submarí Groc, y en el video de abajo, en inglés con subtítulos en español, ella pone en claro esa simple verdad, diciendo en el titular que “Robert Rosen… nos acerca la belleza de un John Lennon humano.”

Ha sido como un arribo tras largo tiempo.

Para pedir una copia de El Submarí Groc, escribe a elsubmarigroc@hotmail.com.

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My Interview With The Yellow Submarine

In May 1981, John Lennon's personal assistant Fred Seaman gave me the diaries that Lennon had been writing in between January 1975 and December 8, 1980, the day he was murdered. These journals, Seaman explained, were the key to the project Lennon had asked him to carry out in the event of his death. Seaman was to write the true story of Lennon's final years and he wanted me to help him do it.

I accepted this assignment knowing that I could execute it in a spirit that was true to John. The story of the diaries is the story I tell in Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

Since the day 37 years ago that Seaman gave me the diaries, much has been written about what I did with them. But a simple truth has gotten lost in the reams of media coverage: I treated those diaries with love and respect, and used them to create a portrait of John Lennon as a three-dimensional human being.

In María Martín’s interview with me in the latest issue of the Spanish Beatles magazine El Submarí Groc (The Yellow Submarine)—and in the above video, in English with Spanish subtitles—she makes that simple truth clear, saying in the headline that “Robert Rosen… brings us the beauty of a human John Lennon” (“nos acerca la belleza de un John Lennon humano”).

It’s been a long time coming.

To order a copy of El Submarí Groc, write to elsubmarigroc@hotmail.com.

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Yes, I Read My Reviews

On a site called "Vintage Erotica Forums" (VEF), somebody asked, "What book(s) are you reading currently?" A correspondent, "Pinkpapercut," posted the review, below, which I've lightly edited for clarity. The two books preceding Beaver Street in the forum are The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, by Edgar Allan Poe and The First Socialist Schism, Bakunin vs Marx in the International Working Man's Association, by Wolfgang Eckhardt. Silas Marner, by George Elliott, follows.

Back in the 1990s I regularly used to read Headpress, the self-described "Journal of Sex, Religion and Death," which was published in my home city, Manchester.

Headpress [journal and Headpress books] moved online and to London well over a decade ago, and I lost track of them and the man who was the engine behind Headpress, David Kerekes.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to check out whether they are still around. They are, and they’re still publishing material that fits best under the heading of Sex, Religion and Death, and one of their books, Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street, caught my particular interest.

I don’t want to spoil the book by giving Rosen’s story away so I’ll just say that after being cheated by a well-known person as an aspiring writer in early 80s New York, just to keep some money coming in, Rosen applied for a job with a publisher through a classified ad and ended up working for and eventually editing porn magazines for the publisher of some well-known skin mags.

The book is promoted on its cover as “a history of modern pornography,” which it isn’t. But what it is is a fascinating tour around the personalities of the U.S. porn scene in the 80s and 90s; an insight into the practices of the publishers and video makers and the contempt in which very many of them held their customers; the influence of porn publishing on mainstream publishing including forgotten connections between porn and the origins of Marvel Comics; and the story of the decline of the porn magazines in the face of the rise of the Web.

Given that every member of VEF is here because they have an interest in some aspect of porn or—amongst the VEF VIPs—have worked in porn, there’s something in Beaver Street to interest every one of us.

Beaver Street isn’t a deep or deeply analytical book but it is an easy, informative and entertaining read from a porn insider.

Very much recommended.

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Tan alto como yo nunca he estado/As High As I've Ever Been

Cuando el programa de tv español Cuarto Milenio, el mes pasado, transmitió un episodio titulado "Los diarios secretos de John Lennon", envió Nowhere Man, en Amazon España, disparado tan alto como nunca ha estado en cualquier Amazon.

Más de 1,1 millón de personas vieron el programa, cual estuvo inspirado en la recuperación de los diarios de Lennon robados, en Berlín, en noviembre de 2017. Como se muestra en el clip anterior, el presentador Iker Jiménez discutió con detalle el contenido de Nowhere Man, así como la dramática historia de cómo yo llegué a la posesión de los diarios de Lennon.

Tú puedes ver el episodio completo aquí. El segmento de Lennon empieza a los 16 minutos y dura una hora. Las partes que discuten Nowhere Man empiezan a los 23 y los 43 minutos.

Amaiur Elizari, autor de Los 9 de John Lennon, estuvo entre los invitados presentados en el programa.

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As High As I’ve Ever Been

When the Spanish TV show Cuarto Milenio, last month, broadcast an episode titled “Los diarios secretos de John Lennon” (“The Secret Diaries of John Lennon”), it sent Nowhere Man, on Amazon Spain, rocketing as high as it’s ever been on any Amazon.

More than 1.1 million people watched the show, which was inspired by the recovery of Lennon’s stolen diaries, in Berlin, in November 2017. As shown in the above clip, host Iker Jiménez discussed in detail Nowhere Man’s contents as well as the dramatic story of how I came into possession of Lennon’s diaries.

You can watch the complete episode here. The Lennon segment begins at 16 minutes and runs for an hour. The parts that discuss Nowhere Man begin at 23 minutes and 43 minutes.

Amaiur Elizari, author of Los 9 de John Lennon, was among the guests featured on the show.

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Mi hechizo latinoamericano/My Latin American Mojo

América latina, para mí, es un universo alternativo, donde todo en lo que yo he estado trabajando, por los últimos 40 años, ha llegado a suceder en un lenguaje, que apenas puedo entender.

Cuando yo fui a la ciudad de México, en 2003, poco después que Random House Mondadori (desde entonces re-nombrada Penguin Random House), publicara por primera vez Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, y cuando retorné a México en 2005, y luego fui a Chile, los medios de esos países reaccionaron a mi visita, como si yo fuera el autor de Harry Potter. Mi rostro fue desplegado en toda la tv, los periódicos y las revistas en una extensión tan desconcertante, que la gente me reconocía en la calle, y así confirmé la verdad esencial de la antigua cita de Woody Allen: “El ochenta por ciento del éxito está apareciendo”. Y eso es especialmente cierto, si tú estás apareciendo en un lugar a 5,000 millas de distancia.

¿Pero seguiría mi hechizo latinoamericano funcionando, en 2017, para una edición española ampliada y re-traducida de Nowhere Man? La respuesta, estoy feliz de reportar, fue un resonante “sí”, y yo incluso no tuve que salir de mi casa para poner las cosas en marcha. Empezó en el cumpleaños de Lennon, el 9 de octubre —el día que la nueva edición fue publicada—, cuando el periódico chileno La Tercera divulgó un extracto de Nowhere Man, y lo continuó al día siguiente con una entrevista.

Un mes más tarde, un artículo sobre el libro en el semanario mexicano Proceso, de Roberto Ponce, basado en parte en una entrevista publicada en el sitio argentino Espectador, envió Nowhere Man a la cima de las listas en Amazon de México.

Entonces las cosas se pusieron surrealistas. Las noticias anunciaron por todo el mundo, el 21 de noviembre, que los diarios robados de John Lennon —los diarios que yo transcribí en 1981, y que habían servido como un mapa de ruta para Nowhere Man—, habían sido recuperados en una casa de subastas en Berlín. Yo no sabía que el chofer de Yoko Ono había, supuestamente, robado los diarios. (Él afirma que no los robó). Pensaba que los diarios habían sido devueltos a Ono en 1982. Aún más sorprendente fue que los medios españoles y latinoamericanos, estaban citando extensamente de Nowhere Man, dándome la clase de publicidad que el dinero no puede comprar.

Yo arribé a Buenos Aires para el lanzamiento oficial el 27 de noviembre. ¿Por qué Buenos Aires? Déjenme contar las razones: mi traductor René Portas y mi agente argentina, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, viven allí. Argentina es un país que adora tanto a los Beatles como la literatura. (El apartamento de Beatriz y René está a la vuelta de la esquina, de donde Jorge Luis Borges vivió alguna vez.) Yo nací 12 horas después que Eva Perón muriera, y siempre he sentido una conexión con ella y la ciudad. Y como un bono extra añadido, mi amigo Avi Avner estaba en la ciudad, actuando como consultante principal de la Mossad, para la película Operación Final, sobre la captura de Adolf Eichmann en Buenos Aires, cual es asimismo un tema en mi libro aún no publicado, Bobby en Nazilandia.

Lo más destacado de los medios sobre mi estadía en la capital argentina, incluye una entrevista en vivo en el programa de Martín Aragón, Eternamente Beatles, con Octavio Cavalli sirviendo como mi traductor; una entrevista con Luis Kramer para su programa, Cinefilia; y una extensa entrevista grabada en video con Vanesa Preli de Radio Zonica, que aún no está al aire.

Había más por venir cuando retorné a Nueva York: un extracto del libro en Proceso, un artículo sobre eso en Cultura Colectiva y un episodio titulado “El misterio de John Lennon”, escuchado más de 72,000 veces, en el programa de radio de internet del periodista español Iker Jiménez, Universo Iker.

Porque yo trabajo para Vanity Fair en Nueva York, mi trozo de prensa favorito fue una pieza humorísticamente salaz, titulada “Los oscuros secretos sexuales de John Lennon”, de Alejandro Mancilla, que apareció en Vanity Fair de México. Inspirado por una crítica de Rodrigo Fresan, publicada en Página 12 en el 2000, el artículo es, más o menos, un estudio de las escenas de sexo en Nowhere Man. Su toque más surrealista es ver mi nombre en negrita, al lado de algunos como Louis C.K. y Miley Cyrus.

¡Yeah, baby, yo aún tengo mi hechizo!

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My Latin American Mojo

Latin America, to me, is an alternate universe where everything I’ve been working for, for the past 40 years, has come to pass in a language I can barely understand.

When I went to Mexico City, in 2003, soon after Random House Mondadori (since renamed Penguin Random House) first published Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, and when I returned to Mexico, in 2005, and then went on to Chile, the media in those countries reacted to my visit if I were the author of Harry Potter. My face was splashed all over TV, newspapers, and magazines to the disorienting extent that people recognized me in the street, thus confirming the essential truth of the old Woody Allen quote, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And it’s especially true if you’re showing up in a place 5,000 miles away.

But would my Latin American Mojo still be working, in 2017, for a retranslated and expanded Spanish edition of Nowhere Man? The answer, I’m happy to report, was a resounding Yes, and I didn’t even have to leave my house to get things going. It began on Lennon’s birthday, October 9—the day the new edition was published—when the Chilean newspaper La Tercera ran an excerpt from Nowhere Man and followed it up the next day with an interview.

A month later, an article about the book in the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, by Roberto Ponce, based in part on an interview published on the Argentine site Espectador, sent Nowhere Man to the top of the charts on Amazon Mexico.

Then things got surreal. News broke all over the world, on November 21, that John Lennon’s stolen diaries—the diaries that I’d transcribed in 1981, and had served as roadmap for Nowhere Man—were recovered in an auction house in Berlin. I didn’t know that Yoko Ono’s chauffeur had allegedly stolen the diaries. (He claims he didn’t steal them.) I thought the diaries had been returned to Ono in 1982. Even more shocking was that Spanish and Latin American media were quoting extensively from Nowhere Man, giving me the kind of publicity that money can’t buy.

I arrived in Buenos Aires for the official launch on November 27. Why Buenos Aires? Let me count the reasons: My translator René Portas and my Argentine agent, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, live there. Agentina is a country that worships both the Beatles and literature. (René and Beatriz’s apartment is around the corner from where Jorge Luis Borges once lived.) I was born 12 hours after Eva Peron died, and have always felt a connection to her and the city. And as an extra added bonus, my friend Avi Avner was in town, acting as chief Mossad consultant for the film Operation Finale, about Adolf Eichmann’s capture in Buenos Aires, which is also a theme in my still unpublished book, Bobby in Naziland.

The media highlights of my stay in the Argentine capital include a live interview on Martín Aragón’s show, Eternamente Beatles (Beatles Forever), with Octavio Cavalli serving as my translator; an interview with Luis Kramer for his show, Cinefilia (think Terry Gross and NPR); and an extensive videotaped interview with Vanesa Preli of Radio Zonica that has yet to air.

There was more to come when I returned to New York: an excerpt of the book in Proceso, an article about it in Cultura Colectiva, and an episode titled “El misterio de John Lennon” (“The Mystery of John Lennon”), listened to more than 72,000 times, on Spanish journalist Iker Jiménez’s Internet radio show, Universo Iker.

Because I work for Vanity Fair in New York, my favorite bit of press was a humorously salacious piece, titled “Los oscuros secretos sexuales de John Lennon” (“The Dark Sexual Secrets of John Lennon”), by Alejandro Mancilla, that ran in Vanity Fair Mexico. Inspired by a critique by Rodrigo Fresan, published in Pagina 12, in 2000, the article is, more or less, a survey of the sex scenes in Nowhere Man. Its most surreal touch is seeing my name in boldface alongside the likes of Louis C.K. and Miley Cyrus.

Yeah, baby, I've still got my mojo!

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Yes, I know…

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

Sí, lo sé…

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

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Al aire en Buenos Aires/On the Air in Buenos Aires

Ayer regresé a Nueva York después de una semana en Buenos Aires, donde, bajo la hábil orientación de mi traductor René Portas y mi agente argentina Beatriz Iacoviello, lancé la nueva edición en lengua española de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

En el transcurso de esa semana, que fue precedida por la recuperación de los diarios robados de Lennon en Berlín, yo fui entrevistado en vivo en la radio por Martín Aragón, presentador de Eternamente Beatles. (¡Gracias, Octavio Cavalli, por hacer que eso sucediera!) Otras entrevistas, que serán transmitidas en fechas futuras, fueron conducidas por Luis Kramer, presentador del programa de radio de larga duración Cinefilia, y Vanesa Preli de Radio Zonica.

Mi entrevista con Rolando Gallego de El Espectador Avezado está posteada aquí.

Acaso el momento más alentador de mi estadía en Buenos Aires, fue cuando vi Nowhere Man a la venta en un kiosco de la Avenida Santa Fe, junto a Esmeralda. El libro pronto se agotó, pero estoy seguro de que volverá a ser surtido en cualquier instante.

Mientras tanto, Nowhere Man está disponible en línea dondequiera que se vendan libros, incluyendo Mercado Libre en Argentina.

De una forma u otra, todo esto es realmente asombroso.

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On the Air in Buenos Aires

Yesterday I returned to New York after a week in Buenos Aires, where, under the skillful guidance of my translator Rene Portas and my Argentinean agent, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, I launched the new Spanish-language edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

Over the course of that week, which was preceded by the recovery of Lennon’s stolen diaries in Berlin, I was interviewed live on the radio by Martín Aragón, host of Beatles Forever. (Thank you, Octavio Cavalli, for making that happen!) Other interviews, which will be broadcast at future dates, were conducted by Luis Kramer, host of the long-running radio show Cinefilia, and Vanesa Preli of Radio Zonica.

My interview with Rolando Gallego of El Espectador Avezado is posted here.

Perhaps the most encouraging moment of my Buenos Aires sojourn was when I saw Nowhere Man on sale at a kiosk on Avenida Santa Fe near Esmeralda. The book soon sold out, but I’m assured that it will be back in stock any minute.

In the meantime, Nowhere Man is available online everywhere books are sold, including at Mercado Libre in Argentina.

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Robert Rosen lee del Preludio de "Nowhere Man"

Me estoy preparando para mi viaje a Buenos Aires para lanzar la nueva edición en español de "Nowhere Man: los últimos días de John Lennon".
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Empieza a difundir la noticia/Start Spreading the News

El lunes 27 de noviembre yo arribaré a Buenos Aires, Argentina, para el lanzamiento de la nueva edición en rústica en lengua española, de mi biografía de John Lennon Nowhere Man, cual fue anunciada oficialmente hoy, en el 77 cumpleaños de Lennon.

¿Por qué viajar 5,310 millas para presentar un libro, que Random House Mondadori (ahora Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), publicó originalmente en 2003? Porque Nowhere Man no se ha impreso por años, y yo no puedo pensar un lugar mejor que Buenos Aires para celebrar su regreso. Lennon es amado en Buenos Aires, una ciudad donde los aniversarios de su nacimiento, el 9 de octubre, y muerte, el 8 de diciembre, son siempre conmemorados, y donde hay incluso un Museo de los Beatles.

Es asimismo una ciudad impregnada de mitos literarios y políticos, y aunque yo nunca he estado allí, siempre me he sentido conectado a ella, porque Eva Perón murió 12 horas antes de que yo naciera, el 27 de julio de 1952. Su muerte estaba en la primera página de todos los periódicos de Nueva York ese día. Y mi madre, quien idolatraba a “la dama de la esperanza”, siempre estaba hablando de Evita como si fuera una amiga personal.

Pero no se equivoquen: el objetivo primordial de este viaje es empezar a difundir la noticia, de que una edición re-traducida en español de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, se vuelve a imprimir después de una prolongada ausencia. Con un precio de $ 12.60 dólares, el libro está ahora disponible en Amazon España, Amazon México, Amazon USA, Barnes & Noble, y directamente en CreateSpace. (La edición e-book, por un tiempo limitado, se vende con descuento en $ 9.00 dólares, y la edición de Kindle Matchbook, como siempre, tiene un precio de 99 centavos si tú ya compraste el libro en rústica).

Mientras esté en Buenos Aires, yo estaré firmando libros en una serie de eventos, está atento a los detalles.

Así, sí, yo estoy deseando mucho conocer a mis lectores, los medios argentinos y a mi traductor René Portas. Yo asimismo espero mejorar mi muy limitado español, y quizás incluso aprender a bailar un poco de tango. Y sí, mi esposa, la cantante y compositora Mary Lyn Maiscott (a quien Nowhere Man está dedicado), se unirá a mí, y mientras esté en la ciudad, podría ser persuadida de tomar una guitarra, y cantar una o dos canciones de los Beatles.

Podría suceder.

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Start Spreading the News

On Monday, November 27, I will arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the launch of the new Spanish-language paperback edition of my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, which was officially released today, Lennon’s 77th birthday.

Why travel 5,310 miles to present a book that Random House Mondadori (now Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) originally published in 2003? Because Nowhere Man has been out of print for years, and I can’t think of a better place than Buenos Aires to celebrate its return. Lennon is beloved in Buenos Aires, a city where the anniversaries of his birth, on October 9, and death, on December 8, are always commemorated, and where there’s even a Beatles Museum.

It’s also a city steeped in literary and political myth, and though I’ve never been there, I’ve always felt connected to it—because Eva Peron died 12 hours before I was born, on July 27, 1952. Her death was on the front page of all the New York newspapers that day. And my mother, who idolized “la dama de la esperanza,” was always talking about Evita as if she were a personal friend.

But make no mistake: the primary objective of this journey is to start spreading the news that a retranslated Spanish edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon is back in print after an extended absence. Priced at $12.60 U.S., the book is now available from Amazon Spain, Amazon Mexico, Amazon U.S., Barnes & Noble, and directly from CreateSpace. (The e-book edition has, for a limited time, been discounted to $9.00 U.S., and the Kindle Matchbook edition is, as always, priced at 99 cents if you’ve already bought the paperback.)

While in Buenos Aires I’ll be signing books at a number of events—stay tuned for details.

So, yes, I’m very much looking forward to meeting my readers, the Argentine media, and my translator, René Portas. I’m also hoping to improve my very limited Spanish and perhaps even learn to dance a little Tango. And yes, my wife, the singer-songwriter Mary Lyn Maiscott (to whom Nowhere Man is dedicated), will be joining me, and while in town she might be persuaded to pick up a guitar and sing a Beatles song or two.

Could happen.

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(Justo como) empezar de nuevo otra vez/(Just Like) Starting Over Again

Una nueva edición impresa en lengua española de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, se está abriendo paso lentamente hacia las plataformas de venta de libros por todo el mundo.

Aunque la fecha oficial de publicación es el 9 de octubre, el cumpleaños de Lennon, Nowhere Man ya está a la venta en Amazon España, Amazon US y Barnes & Noble. Amazon México lanzará la edición impresa el 9 de octubre. Búscala ahí, vinculada a la edición Kindle.

Las copias de reseña están ahora disponibles y el aviso de publicación ha empezado a difundirse. El sitio de los Beatles, 10, Mathew Street, con sede en Madrid, ha posteado un artículo sobre el libro y mi próximo viaje a Buenos Aires para el lanzamiento. Ese viaje debe tener lugar a finales de noviembre-principios de diciembre. Tan pronto como los detalles se finalicen, yo voy, por supuesto, a postear sobre eso aquí.

La nueva edición, re-traducida por René Portas, quien hizo la traducción original para Random House Mondadori (ahora Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), presenta una foto de cubierta del difunto Jack Mitchell, quien retrató a Lennon y Yoko Ono el 2 de noviembre de 1980 , un mes antes de que un fan trastornado asesinara al ex Beatle frente al Dakota.

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(Just Like) Starting Over Again

A new Spanish-language print edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon is slowly making its way onto book-selling platforms throughout the world.

Though the official publication date is October 9, Lennon’s birthday, Nowhere Man is already for sale on Amazon Spain, Amazon US, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon Mexico will release the print edition on October 9. Look for it here, linked to the Kindle edition.

Review copies are now available and word of publication has begun to spread. The Beatles site, 10, Mathew Street, based in Madrid, has posted an article about the book and my upcoming trip to Buenos Aires for the launch. This journey should take place in late November–early December. As soon as the details are finalized, I will, of course, post about it here.

The new edition, re-translated by René Portas, who did the original translation for Random House Mondadori (now Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), features a cover photo by the late Jack Mitchell, who shot Lennon and Yoko Ono on November 2, 1980, one month before a deranged fan murdered the ex-Beatle in front of the Dakota.

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Paparazzo of Porn

Back in the 1980s, John Mozzer was porn star Alan Adrian. He was also a photographer, a paparazzo of porn whose archive is now online. He recently sent me this photo of Bill Bottigi and "Izzy Singer," both of whom are major "characters" in Beaver Street. (I enclose Izzy Singer in quotes because at the time Beaver Street was published, he didn't want his real name, Neil Wexler, used in the book.)

Mozzer took the photo on April 15, 1987, at the downtown New York club Heartbreak, at a launch party for 2029, a German photography magazine published by Leslie Barany and Diane Brandis.

In Beaver Street, I describe Singer/Wexler as “the ingenious creative force behind Swank’s sleaziest stroke book,” For Adults Only, and a man who “possessed an unrivaled knowledge of the fair-market value of everything having to do with commercial sex.” Today he remains one of the last working writers in porn. You can check out his Website here.

Also in the book, I detail the controversial story of Bill Bottigi’s murder, 25 years ago.

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Legal Marijuana and Tobacco Industry Paranoia: A 1979 Time-Capsule of Investigative Journalism

A tin of marijuana cigarettes from the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.

I wrote the article and sidebar below, about the tobacco industry's efforts to gear up for the legalization of marijuana, on spec for The Nation, in 1979. Since I couldn’t definitively prove that the tobacco industry was gearing up for marijuana legalization, The Nation passed.

A few weeks ago, I read the story for the first time in 38 years and found another flaw: I’d buried the lead. I should have begun with the Philip Morris corporation’s legal action against a small Long Island drug-paraphernalia manufacturer. But who knows if even that would have made a difference?

This time capsule of amateur investigative journalism has never been published. I’m publishing it now, exactly as I wrote it then.

Armies of journalists have invested a great deal of time during the past 15 years attempting to unravel a web of marijuana rumor and misinformation so complex it defies clarification. They’ve met with little success. Chasing bizarre leads into every segment of government and industry, occasionally managing to dispose of some of the more ludicrous rumors, they’ve created a paranoiac atmosphere where new rumors—as absurd and tantalizing as the ones they’ve put to rest—breed like bacteria in a petri dish.

The most widespread, persistent rumors concern the tobacco industry’s plans to gear up for the inevitable legalization of pot. It’s not true, for example, as Time magazine reported on January 11, 1971 that “One of the very biggest cigarette makers is experimenting with pot cigarettes in Puerto Rico.” Nor is it true, as James Ridgeway reported in the April 1971 Ramparts, “Justice Department officials asked Philip Morris to design and make a marijuana cigarette for test purposes.” It’s entirely believable, but probably not true either, as Jack Anderson said in his syndicated column of July 22, 1976, “Tobacco companies have set aside choice southern land for future marijuana harvests, competent sources say.”

No solid evidence has ever been documented linking the tobacco industry to marijuana. Yet, they remain terrified of even the vaguest associations, and vehemently deny everything. Stories like the ones printed in Time and Ramparts have provoked the industry to treat the press with contempt and hostility, an attitude that invariably spawns more rumors.

The trail of every rumor linking the tobacco industry to marijuana always leads to the same place: the Research Triangle in the pine woods near Durham, North Carolina. An industrial park conceived 20 years ago, its purpose was to stop the “brain drain” of PhDs from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University to greener, out-of-state pastures. The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is one of the many corporations located within the park. Its research ranges from the “study of catastrophic illness addressing spinal injury” to “data analysis and survey procedures for measuring pupil’s English language proficiency” to clinical studies of marijuana, which have been going on since 1969, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to the tune of $220,000 per year. It has a reputation of being one of the top research laboratories in the world. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that this is where the government has chosen to set up its joint-rolling factory—in the heart of tobacco country.

The government has chosen to set up its joint-rolling factory in the heart of tobacco country.

Commonly known as Durham’s third cigarette maker (along with American Tobacco and Liggett & Meyers), it’s no secret what’s being manufactured in RTI. Rumors of potential rips offs, hijacked marijuana shipments, kidnapped employees and links to tobacco companies abound.

“Security is a delicate area,” said Dr. Monroe Wall, President of Chemistry and Life Science. “You don’t want the Mafia to come down here and raid the area.”

“Our attitude isn’t one for paranoia, but we have reason to be apprehensive sometimes,” added C.X. Larrabee, Public Relations Director, referring to the rumors.

Three years ago, RTI acquired from one of the local tobacco companies an old cigarette rolling machine and a retired employee familiar with the “Rube Goldberg–like” instrument who helped convert it for the production of marijuana cigarettes. Originally, Dr. Wall said that they appealed directly to the tobacco companies for assistance in setting up the operation, but “paranoid” about any associations with marijuana, they refused. It took several months to get the machine operational.

Now, also under NIDA contract, Columbian, Mexican and Jamaican dope is shipped in 60 kilo barrels and crates marked “First Class Registered Mail” to RTI from the government pot farm at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. There, under the auspices of project director Dr. Carlton Turner (who denied rumors that tobacco companies frequently request information on growing marijuana), about 1,000 kilograms of 50 to 100 varieties of the most potent pot on the planet—some five times stronger than anything you can cop on the street—are growing on 5½ acres or rich, Mississippi topsoil.

The Research Triangle Institute rolls about 100,000 joints per year.

RTI rolls a ton of marijuana per year, about 100,000 joints, and processes some into liquid and pills, which are mostly used for glaucoma research. It’s a five-man operation and two people are needed to run the machine which, churns out 1,000 perfectly rolled 9-gram joints per minute. The size of non-filter cigarettes, stamped at one end with a thin red line and an “M” for marijuana, the carefully monitored THC content (the major psychotropic agent) ranges from 1% to 2.5%. (Average street dope, according to NIDA is .8% THC content.)

“If we sold the 2.5% THC marijuana on the street for $75 an ounce,” Richard Hawks, a chemist in NIDA’s research division commented, “people would be getting a bargain.”

Rolling goes on four or five times a year. Joints are packed 350 to a container the size of a coffee can. Some is stockpiled in a bank vault. The rest is distributed at no expense to researchers in the United States and Europe—provided they’re licensed and involved in legitimate research programs—and to a government pharmacy in Washington DC where Bob Randall, a 28-year-old glaucoma victim, the first and once the only legal pot smoker in the country, fills his prescription for 70 joints per week, which he receives in brown prescription jars with “child-proof” caps.

RTI officials stressed that their research is “legitimate,” “there’s nothing to hide,” and there are no links with the tobacco industry. Yet, they did everything possible to hide two simple, perhaps even trivial facts: Who supplied the rolling machine and who supplies the rolling paper. In tracking down this information, it becomes clear why a cloud of rumor hangs over RTI. Why should it take one month and more than 100 phone calls to ascertain information which in the end seems meaningless? The search for the information, not the information itself, indicates somebody is working very hard to cover up links between RTI and the tobacco industry.

As it turned out, the rolling machine came from the American Tobacco Company via Gonzalez International of Baltimore, a used machinery firm that specializes in tobacco machinery. The rolling paper is supplied by Ecusta Inc., a division of Olin Inc.—hardly astounding information.

Originally, officials at American claimed they knew nothing about one of their cigarette rolling machines being used to roll joints at RTI. Though, after being told his company was identified as the source of the machine, Cleveland Kern, the manufacturing director, recalled the entire transaction and remembered that RTI even asked to borrow one of their employees to set up the machine. But a superior in the corporate hierarchy quickly contradicted him. “We disposed of the machine to Gonzalez,” Robert Stinnette, assistant to the chairman of the board, claimed. “What they did with it after that is their business.” He was not able to explain how Mr. Kern knew the machine was being used at RTI.

The case with Ecusta was more complex. “They are doing a favor for the government and for science,” Dr. Wall explained. “The amount of paper they supply us with is negligible. They make no money off it. They don’t want their name associated with marijuana. If it is, we’re afraid they’ll withdraw the supply. Because of what the paper is used for, it was difficult to find a supply.”

Ecusta, located in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, the largest of three rolling paper manufacturers in the country, wasn’t difficult to find. A secretary answered the telephone. She thought I was a potential customer referred to them by RTI, whom she recognized as a customer. Then she realized I was a reporter and transferred me to the marketing director who claimed he “wasn’t aware RTI was an account of ours.” Later, though, he confirmed it.

If the amount of paper they supply to RTI is “negligible,” why did a secretary immediately recognize the name? Perhaps the amount isn’t negligible. One of the many rumors flying about suggests RTI manufactures 500,000 joints per year, not 100,000.

RTI felt confident if Ecusta was publicly identified as the source of their rolling paper, the company wouldn’t hesitate to cut off their supply and legitimate marijuana research would be “seriously damaged.”

An Ecusta spokesman said they wouldn’t cut off the supply under any circumstances, but quickly added, “We don’t pander to the marijuana trade,” implying his concern for rumors that they did pander to the marijuana trade. Ecusta supplies paper to US Tobacco, the makers of Zig-Zag, a perennial joint rolling classic.

A lot of people believe a rumor fueled by ex–California Governor Ronald Reagan, who said, in 1972, that 14 tobacco companies have already registered trademarks like Acapulco Gold and Panama Red for use on marijuana products after legalization. Mr. Reagan was apparently unaware it’s impossible to register a trademark for a non-existent, or worse yet, illegal product.

It is true, though, that the General Cigar and Tobacco Company has registered the trademark “Tijuana Smalls” for their commercially successful little cigar. It’s been suggested that this trademark is being used only temporarily. Once marijuana is legalized, General Cigar can switch the trademark from cigars to pot. Though possible it’s unlikely. Switching names is a terrible business practice that only leads to consumer confusion. Imagine the shock of a loyal Tijuana Smalls smoker whose favorite little cigar suddenly appears on the market with a 2% THC content and has him hallucinating long before his fifth puff.

The latest breaking marijuana rumor, though, is the most believable to come along in years. It’s public record that Philip Morris Inc., an international conglomerate with revenues of $6 billion per year, has blocked a trademark application for “The Lid,” by Brasshead Inc., a small Long Island paraphernalia manufacturing company. Philip Morris claims it interferes with its product, Lido cigarettes.

You’ve probably never heard of Lido mentholated cigarettes. Philip Morris originally registered the name in 1957. Test marketing of the product began in 1969, in Venezuela, Costa Rica, and the United States, and still continues today. Though Philip Morris marketing executives prefer the term “diminishing results,” Lido has been a commercial disaster. Twelve hundred packs were sold in the United States in 1978. In Venezuela, sales between 1974 and 1977 dropped from 36.5 million packs to 9.9 million. Clearly, Lido cigarettes are going nowhere fast. Yet, test marketing continues, and in 1975 the trademark was renewed for another 20 years.

Brasshead Inc. of West Babylon, Long Island, a tiny member of the $350 million a year drug paraphernalia industry, was formed in 1970 by Mike Michaels, its 30-year-old president. Michaels, in 1975, came up with a relatively innocuous product called “The Lid,” classic street slang for an ounce of pot. In a zip-lock plastic bag, he packages a small, wooden hash pipe, extra screens, a roach clip, and rolling papers. It retails for $1.99. When he tried to register the trademark “Lid,” Philip Morris formally objected, in part because it said that Lid so resembled Lido that it was deceptive, would cause the consumer to confuse the two products, and would lead to the belief that Philip Morris manufactured both products.

“We’re not interested in marijuana because we can’t make enough money on it,” a Philip Morris spokesman said. “People can’t smoke 20–30 joints a day.”

How anybody can confuse a kit for getting stoned with a pack of mentholated cigarettes known mostly in Venezuela and Costa Rica may very well be one of the more intriguing questions of the day. Philip Morris doesn’t have a particularly good answer. “We’re not interested in marijuana because we can’t make enough money on it,” a spokesman said. “People can’t smoke 20–30 joints a day.” It’s a straightforward trademark case, they claimed, and as always, they’re ever-vigilant in protecting trademarks because they don’t want to see the laws eroded.

Michaels finds the case absurd. “Why should Philip Morris bother us on a trademark they’ve more or less abandoned here?” he wondered. “Maybe they’re trying to save the name in case marijuana is legalized. To me the name isn’t even important. I can call it ‘Bib’ and still sell the same amount. It’s a matter of principle.”

A number of patent lawyers agree the case is “peculiar.” Nobody has ever heard of one quite like it, in which a major conglomerate, protecting a trademark for a doomed product, contests a distantly related trademark by a much smaller company.

It seems entirely possible that when marijuana is legalized, Philip Morris could simply drop the “o” from Lido and call a marijuana product “Lid.” If Lido cigarettes should suddenly vanish from the marketplace, unlike Tijuana Smalls, you can be sure nobody will miss them, not even Philip Morris. A phone call to its Park Avenue headquarters revealed only one person who ever heard of the product. It took several days to locate him.

There’s one provocative rumor that will probably never die no matter what’s proven or disproven: Tobacco companies stand to make the fortune of the century when marijuana is legalized. Pot, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a $48 billion a year business, the third largest in the country, behind only General Motors and Exxon, which are tied for first at $53 billion. Naturally, like good businessmen, tobacco moguls are gearing up on all fronts—production, advertising, marketing, and agricultural. When legalization hits, they’ll be ready to roll joints within the hour.

Tobacco companies have already made one of the fortunes of the century. In the process of promoting lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, they’ve also drawn intense criticism from such people as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, a vigilant anti-smoking campaigner. Companies insist that the last thing they want is more government heat from marijuana, which some studies show is more harmful to the lungs than tobacco because it’s inhaled more deeply and remains in the lungs longer.

“We don’t need marijuana,” tobacco companies say, claiming they’re so rich and diversified, if cigarettes were outlawed tomorrow, they wouldn’t go out of business. Philip Morris, for instance, not only makes Marlboro, Benson and Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Virginia Slims, and Multifilter, but also Miller Beer, Lowenbrau, and 7Up.

Rumor naturally lurks behind the DEA’s claim that pot is a $48-billion industry. The enforcement of marijuana laws, the DEA’s principle obsession, is as much a business as selling marijuana itself. It keeps men working. They claim $48 billion in order to wangle a bigger budget from Congress. Without grass, the agency would be forced to exclusively pursue more dangerous drug criminals, like heroin and cocaine smugglers, who are more difficult to collar because their contraband is trafficked in much smaller quantities.

More realistic estimates from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORMAL) and Penthouse magazine peg marijuana sales somewhere between $4 and $12 billion, which at least holds a respectable position on the Fortune Top 100.

For the time being, at least, it’s possible that tobacco companies really aren’t gearing up for marijuana. Legalization, according to NORMAL—who already has brought about decriminalization in 11 states—is at least 7–15 years off. Before legalization can occur, international treaty obligations, which call for the prosecution of drug criminals, must first be repealed, and then, legalization would still be two years off. The tobacco companies know there’s no reason to stand poised with a finger on the joint-rolling button. If a crash program were invoked, it’s estimated that they could be rolling marijuana cigarettes in six to nine months.

Getting High in the White House

Only God knows how many reporters have been looking for drugs in the White House since Jimmy Carter took office. With a son who was thrown out of the Navy for toking up on board ship, a Rolling Stone endorsement by notorious gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who promptly told High Times about snorting cocaine with the White House staff and press corps, and the sudden departure of Drug Advisor Dr. Peter Bourne for writing bogus Quaalude prescriptions for a White House secretary and snorting cocaine with NORMAL Director Keith Stroup, the paranoia there is intense. Just call up the press office and ask about pot. It doesn’t matter what the question is. As soon as they hear “marijuana,” the answer is, “No drugs are used inside the White House and anybody found doing so will be fired.

Former speechwriter for the Secretary of the Air Force, Bob Rosen, a New York based freelance writer, recently completed a book on the Pentagon, Ground Zero Paranoia.

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Journey Through the Past

All three parts of "The Provocateur," my series on artist and filmmaker Robert Attanasio, are now posted on Erotic Review.

In the 1970s, I worked with Attanasio on Observation Post, the radical student newspaper at the City College of New York. We published a lot of controversial material, much of it having to do with pornography and religion. Working on OP changed the course of our lives, but we drifted apart after graduation and eventually lost touch. I hadn’t heard from Attanasio in 30 years. Then, in February 2015, he contacted me and we reunited. By November he was dead—from cancer.

“The Provocateur,” adapted from a book I’m working on about the moment in the 1970s when the student left gave way to punk, is a retrospective of my relationship with Attanasio, and a journey through his art and film.

Click here to read Part I, Part II, and now Part III.

Attanasio appears at the beginning of this episode of The Madness of Art.

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Los últimos días de John Lennon

Yo he estado trabajando en una nueva edición impresa, de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon en lengua española, programada para salir a la venta el 9 de octubre de 2017, en el 77 cumpleaños de Lennon.

René Portas, quien tradujo la edición original en lengua española, publicada por Random House Mondadori en 2003, ha hecho una traducción actualizada y mejorada, que incluye cinco capítulos extra.

Aquí está la foto de una primera prueba. La nueva foto de portada fue tomada por el difunto Jack Mitchell, en noviembre de 1980, poco antes de que Lennon fuera asesinado.

Si tú no puedes esperar hasta octubre para leer la nueva edición impresa, una edición e-book está ahora disponible en iTunes, Kindle y todas las otras tiendas que venden e-books.

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I've been working on a new print edition of the Spanish-language Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, scheduled to go on sale October 9, 2017, Lennon's 77th birthday.

René Portas, who translated the original Spanish-language edition, published by Random House Mondadori, in 2003, has done an updated and improved translation, which includes five bonus chapters.

Here’s a photo of an early proof. The new cover photo was taken by the late Jack Mitchell, in November 1980, shortly before Lennon was murdered.

If you can’t wait until October to read the new print edition, an e-book edition is available now from iTunes, Kindle, and all other stores that sell e-book.

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Birth of a Book

The way things are in publishing these days, it's as difficult for me to sell a magazine article as it is to sell a book. So I usually don't bother writing articles because even if I do sell one, it'll be around for a month at best. My books, however, tend to endure. Nowhere Man remains in print 17 years after publication.

Ironically, both my books began as failed magazine articles. In 1982, Rolling Stone and Playboy turned down an early version of what became Nowhere Man--because I couldn't prove to their satisfaction that what I'd written was true. I started writing Beaver Street in 1995 on assignment from The Nation. It was supposed to be an article about the economics of pornography. They rejected it for not being “political enough.”

But sometimes the stars line up and something I write finds its way into a magazine. This month, the first part of a three-part series called “The Provocateur” has been published on a British site, Erotic Review. The series is an excerpt from a book about the 1970s that I’ve been working on, and it’s the story of my old friend Robert Attanasio, an artist and filmmaker who died in 2015.

It was Attanasio’s death that helped me find a focus for the book and made me realize what its central theme should be—the moment when the student left gave way to Punk.

Part I comes with multiple trigger warnings and a big NSFW. Stay tuned for parts II and III.

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The Front Page

Observation Post, December 20, 1978.

As I contine to immerse myself in the 1970s, reconstructing that time for a book I've been writing, I'm continually reminded of how much I forgot.

Fortunately, I have an archive of Observation Post, a student newspaper at the City College of New York. I joined OP in 1971, as a sophomore; became editor in chief as a senior; remained a contributor as a grad student; and in 1978 and '79, while living with the then editor in chief, I acted as surrogate editor.

OP was a radical, political, pornographic embodiment of First Amendment freedom of expression, underwritten by City College, and produced by both students and former students turned professionals. Its readership extended beyond the campus. By the end of its 32-year run, OP had become a record of the staff and contributors’ emotional turmoil, and nowhere is this more apparent than in a Christmas issue, dated December 20, 1978.

The memory-jogging front-page reminded me how far out of our fucking minds we were.

“OP Editor dies of drugs after being forced to resign” was fake news. The editor in question, the one I was living with, did not die. (As far as I know, she’s still alive.) But in December 1978, her life had descended into a state of chaos and despair. The coup de grâce came when the school forced her to give up her beloved editorship because she wasn’t registered as a student. To share her feelings with the administration (and the world), she died a metaphorical death in the pages of OP.

My book focuses on the moment in history when the student left gave way to punk, and it was in this issue of OP that punk won. The fake-news death of the editor foreshadowed both the real heroin-overdose death of Sid Vicious, of the Sex Pistols, little more than a month later, and the symbolic punk-suicide of OP itself the following year.

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Upon Looking Into an Old OP

For the past few years I've been immersing myself in the 1970s, trying to reconstruct what it was like to live and go to school in New York City at that chaotic time, as the student left was giving way to punk. Lately (in an effort to think about something other than Trump), I've been re-reading old newspapers that were published at City College, like The Campus, The Paper, and Observation Post (OP), which I edited.

In 1975, when I was in grad school, the Pentagon invited me to be a speechwriter for Air Force secretary John McLucas. Despite strong anti-war and anti-military sentiments, I accepted the offer. It was a paid writing gig, an “internship,” the Pentagon called it—the Air Force hoped that upon completing my degree, I’d make the military my career. Gerald Ford was president, the Vietnam War had just ended, and I was an ambitious, rebellious 22-year-old, hungry for experience.

Upon returning to City College for the fall semester, I sat down with three OP editors—Herb Fox, Mark Lipitz, and Fred Seaman—to discuss my stint at the Pentagon. They published their interview with me in the November 5, 1975, issue. Reading it now, more than 40 years later, my unguarded anger and the way I shot off my mouth startles me. I’d apparently not yet developed a filter and did not fully understand the effect my words might have on a wider audience, especially my former Pentagon coworkers. The interview, however, does serve as a window into my unruly consciousness and the mindset of the military in the immediate aftermath of having lost a war for the first time since 1812.

Here are some excerpts from the interview, with the names of my former coworkers redacted.

OP: What was your first day at the Pentagon like?

Bob Rosen: I couldn’t sleep the night before. I didn’t know what I was getting into. In the morning I had to wait at the main information desk with about 20 other interns. After an hour, some Air Force people took us to be “processed in,” which was filling out tax forms, taking loyalty oaths, and having your arms checked for needle marks. Then I went up to the speechwriting office and met the people I was going to be working with. I was terrified. It was the first time I ever came in contact with the military. There were three lieutenant colonels and a captain. Lieutenant Colonel A_____, the chief, asked me to come into his office and said: “Well, Bob, you’ve got to hang loose. This is a very loose place.”

OP: What did he mean by that?

Rosen: He meant speechwriting was a very frustrating job. It takes about ten days to write a speech. It’s a very long process, involving a lot of research and interviewing. You spend entire days talking to people on the phone, running around the Pentagon tracking down “experts,” going through microfilm files, and reading up on relevant material. Then you write a rough draft and finally hand in a polished speech. But McLucas is a callous pig. He looks at a lot of speeches and says: “I don't like this. Do it over!” Then you’d have to do the whole fucking thing over. When he actually gives a speech, he usually reads the first paragraph, throws the rest away, and spins off on his own. It killed everyone in office. It wouldn’t have bothered me if he was a good impromptu speaker, but he was terrible at it. He’d go off on all kinds of boring tangents that put people to sleep. He did it to gratify his ego, to prove to himself he was more witty and more articulate than his speechwriters. He treated us like garbage. A couple of times he said things that got him in trouble. For instance, during a speech to a group of scientists in San Francisco he started to ad-lib and called the Vietnam War a “debacle.” That made banner headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle. It got people in the Pentagon really pissed at him.

OP: You said that at first you tried to be as “truthful” as possible [when writing a speech]. What do you mean by that?

Rosen: Okay. Let me use my first major speech as an example. McLucas had to speak to a group of ROTC cadets who were graduating from college this year and expected to join the Air Force right away. Now these cadets had entered college during the Vietnam War, when the ROTC program was going full force. However, since the end of the war, the size of the Air Force has been reduced by about 30 percent, and there’s going to be no room for these cadets. McLucas had to explain to them they had to wait up to two years before they could join the Air Force, and he had to come up with something to tell them to do during these two years. So I wrote a speech suggesting these cadets should run off and become hippies, and then when the time came they would be able to go into the Air Force with a completely new perspective on life.

OP: I suppose they killed the speech right away.

Rosen: No, they didn’t kill it that fast, which surprised me. Each speech, before it gets to the Secretary, has to go through a chain of about 15 experts. My supervisor, Lieutenant Colonel A_____, actually liked it, so I figured that there really was a chance it might get through. It passed three people before someone realized I was subtly suggesting these cadets go off and become hippies. I got an angry memo from the Pentagon Commandant of ROTC saying: “I don’t think the Secretary of the Air Force should suggest our future pilots become hippies.”

Another weird thing happened to me with that speech. After I had finished writing it, I typed a separate paragraph they wanted to include, mentioning there had been a 69 percent increase of women in the Air Force since 1969. I showed the paragraph to one of the officers there, Lieutenant Colonel B_____, and he said: “You can't use this 69 percent.”

“Why not?” I asked. “I triple-checked it. There’s a 69 percent increase.”

“Well, you see,” he said, “you’re going to be speaking to a group of ROTC cadets and they’re all males. Here you are talking about women. You just can’t use 69 percent when you’re talking about women to an all-male group. Some of their minds might not be in the right place. You have to change that.”

I thought he was joking and started to laugh. When I looked around I saw nobody else was laughing. It wasn’t a joke. I had to change the 69 percent to something else.

OP: Are there many religious people at the Pentagon?

Rosen: That’s another incredibly weird aspect of the Pentagon—the way people there are into religion. This one speechwriter, Captain G_____, tried to convert me to Christianity. He was a Charismatic Christian. He’d tell me how he talks to Jesus every night when he drives home in his car. There’s something very frightening about an officer in a high government position telling you how he talks to Jesus every day. He also gave me religious books to read that painted horrible fire and brimstone visions of hell. These passages would always be followed by a paragraph that said, “But, if you accept Christ you don’t have to go there.”

He told me I was in the Pentagon because God wanted me there.

“Why would God possibly want me in the Pentagon?” I asked, and he said: “Well, when the Messiah comes maybe He’ll want you to be His speechwriter. He has you here to learn about speechwriting and to learn about Him.”

OP: Tell us about your trip to Florida.

Rosen: I’d written a speech for a graduation exercise at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, and I got to fly down there with McLucas, his military aide, and Lieutenant Colonel A_____. [In Florida, A_____ and I shared a hotel room. It] was the first time I’d ever roomed with a lieutenant colonel.

He liked to talk to me about my politics and drugs. A_____ had been in the military for 19 years and he only came into contact with other people in the military. I’d say, “I take drugs and opposed the war.” He’d say, “Gee, I never met anybody who admitted he took drugs. I don’t know people who opposed the war.”

I told him there were a lot of people like me. He had only seen them on TV and read about them in the newspaper, and now he’s suddenly rooming with one. He used to ask me a lot of questions whose answers seemed obvious, like: “How come you didn’t like the war?” I’d give him a pretty standard answer about the United States having no right to destroy a country halfway around the world for its own selfish interests. Then I’d ask: “How come you did like the war?” He’d tell me he’s a patriot and the Communists were the aggressors, the usual story. He’d keep on saying we didn't bomb civilian targets. It was the most “surgical” bombing job in the history of the Air Force. He’d use expressions like, “We didn’t want to destroy the whole country, we just wanted to twist the Communists’ arms till they saw things our way.”

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American Sociopaths: The Rise and Fall of the Mini-Trumps

Plastic-Pussy Grabber: Mini-Trump Carl Ruderman, publisher of High Society, shows his secretary an artificial vagina, early 1980s.

Fran Lebowitz described Donald Trump as a poor person's idea of a rich person. But Trump is hardly the only rich person who comes across as vulgar, bigoted, and megalomaniacal. There's an entire subspecies of extremely wealthy men, some perhaps wealthier than Trump, who admire his lifestyle and all he stands for. In an effort to be like Trump, they do their best to emulate him.

I worked for two such people—both of whom happened to be porn-magazine publishers (and both of whom went to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact that pornography was their primary source of wealth).

Carl Ruderman owned the company that published High Society. Lou Perretta owned the company that published Swank. I wrote about them both in Beaver Street—long before Trump had become a threat to the country and the planet. Though Beaver Street looks at 20th century history, politics, and culture through a pornographic lens, I made no effort to draw a comparison between these two prominent sleazemeisters and the man who will soon have the power to start a nuclear war. Between 2004 and 2009, when I was writing Beaver Street, Trump, to me, was an easily ignored ignoramus whose self-aggrandizing horseshit was generally confined to the pages of certain gossip rags. I didn’t even know he had short fingers.

But now that reality has shifted so radically, I thought it might be instructive to look at the similarities between my former overseers and America’s about-to-be-installed overseer.

Born Rich: Ruderman, Perretta, and Trump, though all born on third base, suffer from the belief that they hit a triple and got to where they are due to their own innate superiority. Trump, however, does admit that he was helped along by a “small loan” of $1 million from his father.

Thy Father’s Business: Ruderman took over Drake, his father’s lucrative publishing company that specialized in how-to and home improvement books. Perretta took over Great Eastern, his father’s printing plant, once the largest employer in Poughkeepsie after IBM. Trump, of course, took over his father’s real estate empire.

The Porn Connection: It seems that men of a certain ilk who inherited their wealth find the pornographic milieu irresistible. Though Trump did not literally go into the porn biz, as the two Mini-Trumps did, it should be noted that the first-lady-to-be, Melania Trump, has posed in a pornographic lesbian pictorial and Trump himself has appeared in a Playboy Video Centerfold.

Transformers: Ruderman and Perretta apparently chose the porn biz because it’s illegal to print money. Between High Society magazine, “free” phone sex, and “Celebrity Skin,” Ruderman turned Drake into a bigger cash cow than it was under his father—free phone sex alone (he made two cents every time somebody called the number) generated $70,000 in profits per week at its 1983 peak. Like Trump, Ruderman published a luxury lifestyle magazine, Elite Traveler. Perretta, who never seemed to grasp the difference between being a printer and being a publisher, enhanced his fortune by buying up virtually every porn mag in existence, using them as fodder to keep his presses running 24 hours a day, and turning a profit on a 15 percent sale of any press run when his competitors needed to sell 30 percent to do so. In between bankruptcies, Trump transformed his inheritance into a branding empire, notably Trump University, an overt scam for which he recently agreed to pay a $25 million fine to settle fraud allegations by former students.

All in the Family: Ruderman didn’t believe in nepotism, though perhaps he should have. He hired and fired with impunity, to the extent that anybody who survived at High Society for more than a year was considered an old-timer. Perretta, like Trump, believed that loyalty is far more important than competence, and filled all key positions with relatives (preferably blood relatives) whenever possible. Trump’s offspring Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka are all executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization and have played key roles on his transition team. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in violation of nepotism laws, has been named as a senior White House advisor.

Greed Is Good: Ruderman, Perretta, and Trump are all driven by the desire to enrich themselves and their families at all costs while lording it over everybody else, especially their employees.

Bully Boys: Ruderman was a quiet bully who rarely raised his voice but took pleasure in humiliating his employees. At staff meetings he’d call on anybody, from a top editor to the mailroom boy, and ask, “What have you done this week to make my magazine a household name?” If the employee didn’t have a satisfactory answer, Ruderman would say, “Do you want to be standing on the breadline?” Perretta was a classic screamer who routinely berated his employees for the most trivial mistakes. The more trivial the mistake, the louder he screamed. Trump’s Twitter feed, a litany of insults and intimidations, serves as a perfect illustration of two of his most pronounced character traits: pathological bullying and a reflexive need to destroy anybody who criticizes him.

Some of My Best Jews Are Accountants: Ruderman acted as if women were pieces of meat fit only for display in pornographic magazines, but he was smart enough to not express any overt racial or religious bigotry in front of his employees. Perretta, however, couldn’t help himself. On one occasion he said to an African-American art director, “Shrink that photo, like your ancestors shrunk heads!” On another occasion he referred to his African-American employees as “animals.” On a third, he told three Jewish employees, all of whom were sporting facial hair, “This place is starting to look like a Yeshiva.” He was eventually sued for age and sex discrimination. Trump’s vile remarks about minorities and the opposite sex are so ugly, my inner 20-year-old punk-self wrote a song about it, “Don Vicious,” which includes the lines, “You hate Muslims/You hate Jews/Women, black skin/Brown skin too.”

Imagine More Possessions: Ruderman, who was chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth and lived in mortal fear that he’d be barred from the most exclusive country clubs if they found out he was a pornographer, was the most nakedly obvious Trump-lifestyle emulator. When Trump bought a helicopter, Ruderman bought one, too. Though lower-key than Ruderman and Trump, Perretta owned a yacht and a Mercedes and strove to insure that grandchildren yet unborn would also ride in their own Mercedes cars. Trump’s private-jet-gold-plated-spare-no-expense luxury lifestyle is as famous as his bigotry, his lying, and his compulsion to humiliate.

The Beauty, the Splendor, the Wonder: The once silver-haired Ruderman now dyes his coif an unnatural shade of jet-black rather than choosing Trump’s unnatural regal gold. Perretta, meanwhile, sports a hairdo of all-natural gray.

Make America Hate Again: Ruderman has despised Larry Flynt ever since he made him Hustler’s “Asshole of the Month” and did not support Flynt’s run for president. But he kept his other political views under wraps, at least in front of his employees. This was undoubtedly a good decision. Perretta, like Trump, is a staunch supporter of right-wing causes and has donated money to his former New Jersey Tea Party Congressman Scott Garrett, one of the most radical members of the House of Representatives. A “birther” who was finally defeated in November after 14 years in office, Garrett was anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-minority, anti-voting rights, anti-environment, and anti-poor—positions that meshed perfectly with Perretta’s own political views.

American Sociopaths: I think Trump and the Mini-Trumps would all agree that empathy is an emotion for losers and women only.

Lock Them Up: In the late 90s, as free Internet porn became ubiquitous and sales of High Society were headed for oblivion, control of the company was given over to an organized crime family who tried to turn things around with a credit card scam that defrauded consumers of approximately $730 million dollars. Prosecutors soon caught on and charged the “X-Rated Mobsters,” as they were called in the tabloids, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, extortion, and money laundering. Though Ruderman, claiming he was a “silent partner,” escaped prosecution, some of his Mafia colleagues went to prison, and the company, in a judgment reminiscent of what happened to Trump University, was fined $30 million. Ruderman then sold the smoldering ruins of High Society to Perretta. Ultimately, though, both the High Society and Swank pornographic empires went belly-up amidst collapsing sales and criminal and civil legal actions. As for Trump, so rabid is his disdain for the Constitution and so myriad are his conflicts of interest, impeachment seems inevitable. Uncorroborated as they may be, recent claims that the Russians have videos of Trump “employing a number of prostitutes to perform ‘golden showers’” (among many other bits of damning and salacious information) indicate that blackmail resulting in treasonous acts is a distinct possibility. Perhaps Trump will be indefinitely detained in Guantanamo Bay while awaiting trial. Like all sociopaths large and small, Trump believes that the law does not apply to him. This may very well be his ultimate downfall.

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Don Vicious

Illustration from Creative Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Live from New York, It's Wednesday Morning!

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

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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.

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

Y el Mersey Beat sigue

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

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

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

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

La entrevista aparece en la página de Facebook de Harry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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