"I really did believe that having oral sex with a hot young model in front of a loaded camera was a legitimate avenue of journalistic research. I also believed that to write insightfully about pornography, pornographic experience in front of the camera wasn't only invaluable, it was essential." —from Beaver Street
The above quote is from a chapter called “The Accidental Porn Star,” and when I wrote it, I’d forgotten that there is at least one other journalist who’s willing to do the kind of research that I do.
Gay Talese was not photographed as he was researching Thy Neighbor’s Wife, originally published in 1981 and described as “eye-opening revelations about the sexual activities and proclivities of the American public in the era before AIDS” and a “marvel of journalistic courage and craft.” But as Talese reminded me in his 2015 interview with Alec Baldwin on Here’s the Thing (which I just listened to), in the course of gathering material for Thy Neighbor’s Wife, he did get masturbated in a New York massage parlor.
Talese’s latest story, “The Voyeur’s Motel,” in the current issue of The New Yorker, is what got me thinking about his research methods. In the story, probably one of the strangest the magazine has ever run, Talese, now 84, describes his 35-year relationship with Gerald Foos, owner of a motel near Denver. Foos is a voyeur who bought the motel specifically because it had an attic, which he converted to a perch where he could watch his guests have sex. And he did so from the 1960s to 1995, taking notes on what he saw.
Talese, in the name of research, joined Foos in the attic, and together they watched people have sex. The article, which includes some of Foos’s notes, is both semi-pornographic and an exploration of Talese’s wrenching moral dilemma as he conducted his research.
When writers throw their bodies and souls into their work, the result is often literature that you can’t put down. Sadly, as Talese also points out in the interview, magazines that are willing to finance this kind of reporting are on the verge of extinction.
I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Read More
"I really did believe that having oral sex with a hot young model in front of a loaded camera was a legitimate avenue of journalistic research. I also believed that to write insightfully about pornography, pornographic experience in front of the camera wasn't only invaluable, it was essential." —from Beaver Street
Joyce Snyder, whom I call Pam Katz in Beaver Street, released her own book, Mistress Pussycat, published last year by Headpress. Below is an interview she did with the Florida radio station WOCA, in which she discusses submissive men and her experiences as a dominatrix.
And here's a link to the story about the 1984 Critics Adult Film Awards on The Rialto Report.
I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.
When Chelsea G. Summers wrote to me last week, asking how and when "football porn" became a thing, my first thought was, WTF is football porn?
My second thought was, Wait a minute, I know what football porn is: It's the biggest cliché in pornography (see Debbie Does Dallas). How many times when I was editing adult magazines did I run pictorials involving football players and cheerleaders?
Which reminded me of my first exposure to football porn. In the 1960s, when the Green Bay Packers ruled the football world, I came across a Playboy with a “Little Annie Fanny” cartoon strip. In that strip, the “Greenback Busters” gang-rape Annie on the 50-yard line, before a cheering, sellout crowd. (This was considered funny a half-century ago.)
I got lost in a football reverie, remembering how I covered the football team for my high school newspaper, and wanted to be a professional sportswriter. Then it took a darker turn, to locker-room hazing, sexual assault. Why, all of sudden, was there a rash of stories about this… and stories like the one out of Steubenville, Ohio, hometown of underage porn star Traci Lords and the scene of a notorious rape involving high school football players? And why was there a rash of stories about college football stars who raped and got away with it… because they were football stars and the schools made a lot of money from them?
What is it about football? Plenty, I suppose, but that’s a question that’s going to take more than a blog post to answer.
I finally told Chelsea G. Summers that there has been football porn as long as there has been football, which began in 1869, in New Jersey, where, perhaps not so coincidentally, adult magazines, under the benighted reign of Lou Perretta, went to die.
You can read Chelsea’s article, “Deep Inside the World of Football Porn,” in Vocativ.
And you can watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I hear it’s on TV.
1. Cruz: Sets the standard for hypocrisy.
2. Trump: His response to Cruz’s New York put-down redeems him from “most vile” slot.
3. Christie: Crime boss as politician.
4. Rubio: Smug, callow warmonger.
5. Carson: World-class ignoramus.
6. Bush: He’s a Bush.
7. Kasich: Expresses his vile positions in ways that almost sound reasonable.
It shouldn't take any courage to compile a list of "Great Books" about John Lennon. But the American rock establishment live in mortal dread of offending the wrong rock star (What if they never grant me another interview?), record company (What if they never give me another backstage pass?), or magazine (What if they never give me another assignment?), so that, for professional rock 'n' roll scribblers (and those who hope to be), it requires a great deal of courage to publish a wide range of "forbidden" opinions about the extensive body of John Lennon literature.
Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon has been included on its share of “best” lists. Among them are: Christianity Today’s “10 Best Books of 2000” (which also includes The Human Stain, by Philip Roth); iLeon’s “10 Essential Music Biographies of All Time”; “The Top 20 Beatle Books,” a chapter in The Beatles: Having Read the Book, by Greg Sterlace; and The Examiner’s “Top 3 Conspiracy Theories Revolving Around the Death of John Lennon” (a bizarre list that I share with J. D. Salinger and Stephen King).
Obviously, none of these publications and Websites can be considered mainstream sources of rock-establishment opinion, and, it’s safe to say, none of the writers who assembled these lists harbor any ambitions of working for Rolling Stone or interviewing Yoko Ono.
That’s why I was astonished to wake up one morning last month and find Nowhere Man on The Huffington Post’s list of “12 Great Books About John Lennon.” Dennis Miller (the author, not the right-wing comedian) wrote the piece, in which he calls Nowhere Man a “cult classic.” Though Miller is not a card-carrying member of the rock establishment, The Huffington Post is well within the mainstream.
Miller’s list contains several of the usual suspects, like John Lennon: The Life, by Philip Norman; Tune In: The Beatles, by Mark Lewisohn; and The Love You Make, by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. But, in addition to Nowhere Man, Miller includes what is arguably the most radioactive book in the Lennon canon: The Last Days of John Lennon, by Frederic Seaman.
Suffice it to say that Seaman, Lennon’s former personal assistant, gave me Lennon’s diaries, which enabled me to write Nowhere Man. (I tell the story of our relationship in the intro.) And Yoko Ono so hated The Last Days of John Lennon, she was finally able to force Seaman to withdraw the book a decade after it was published, thus making it the only banned book on the list. (Copies are still available on the Internet.)
Though I’m no fan of Seaman’s book, I was still happy to see it on the Huffington Post list—because I hate the idea of anybody having the power to repress any book. The Last Days of John Lennon is a fascinating combination of flattering and unflattering truths about Lennon, unflattering truths about Ono, and a liberal smattering of overt lies about everybody involved, including me. It’s also a book that’s well worth reading, especially if you read it alongside Nowhere Man.
So, I’d like to commend Dennis Miller for putting together this unorthodox list, though I may never know if it was a product of bravery in the face of the rock establishment, charming naïveté, or simply a dozen books that he happened to like very much. Read More
On this 35th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination, I'm finding it difficult not to think about guns. But it seems that anything I could say about them has already been said repeatedly by people far more conversant with the issue than I am.
Is there anything to be gained by expressing my disgust with the NRA, who apparently believe that everybody over the age of three should be armed; the Congress, who are on the take from the NRA; and the menagerie of candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination, one of whom, a medical doctor, has said, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away”?
I doubt it.
In Nowhere Man, I explain that Mark David Chapman acquired the handgun he used to murder Lennon by telling a lie on his pistol-permit application. He said he’d never been institutionalized for mental illness, when, in fact, he had. But nobody did a background check, and Marky got his gun.
Of Chapman’s delusional act, I wrote, “Nobody has ever assassinated a popular entertainer before. This is completely different, a new kind of madness. It’s very scary shit.”
Thirty-five years later, this “very scary shit” has gone well beyond assassinating popular entertainers. I now live in a country that’s in the throes of a guerrilla war being waged by terrorists and unaffiliated crazies of all stripes and their supporters in the NRA, Congress, and on the campaign trail.
The other night, my wife and I were eating dinner in a crowded restaurant that we’ve been going to for years. And though I didn’t say a word about it at the time because I didn’t want to ruin the meal, I kept glancing out the window and thinking that this is probably not a good place to eat anymore. The restaurant, situated on a wide avenue that branches off into a warren of streets and provides easy access to bridges and tunnels, is a good target for somebody who wants to do a mass shooting and escape. It’s better to eat in a restaurant on a narrow side street prone to traffic jams—I thought that would be a less inviting target.
This is what it’s come to in the land of the free and the home of the brave—everybody walking around thinking about how to avoid being shot and how to protect yourself when the shooting starts. And though it would be nice if Yoko Ono’s “Imagine Peace” were something more than a cliché as absurd as the Republicans’ offering “thoughts and prayers” to victims of the latest massacre, it’s not.
It’s going to take a lot more than imagination and prayer to solve the problems of a country where at last count there were more guns (357 million) than people (317 million).
In 2015, we are all at least as vulnerable as John Lennon was, and he was more vulnerable than he ever imagined. Read More
There’s nothing more I can add to Michael Nirenberg's essay, "Rock n Roll Watergate," that ran on The Huffington Post last week. Nirenberg, a filmmaker, best known for his Hustler magazine documentary, Back Issues, simply expressed the passion he felt for Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which was released last month as a 15th anniversary e-book edition.
Nirenberg said that the book made him feel as if he were “inside the Dakota with John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” and that Lennon came across as “naked—flawed, mean, and beautiful.”
So, yes, all these years after publication, the book continues to affect people and inspire them to communicate their feelings about what they’ve read. This is what every writer wants his or her books to do.
To me, this is especially satisfying because for 18 years nobody would publish Nowhere Man—editors had deemed it “unpublishable.”
I think it’s now safe to say that they were wrong. Nowhere Man is the book that refused to die. And in this season of thanksgiving I can only give thanks to all the people who’ve read Nowhere Man and made up their own minds about it. Read More
The Reelz channel often rebroadcasts, coast-to-coast, the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals. It's also streaming on Amazon. On the show, I discuss my book Nowhere Man, Lennon's diaries, his assassination, and the delusional motives of his killer, Mark David Chapman.
You can tune in on the dates and times below:
Sunday, May 10: 6:30 A.M. ET; 5:30 A.M. CT; 4:30 A.M. MT; 3:30 A.M. PT
Monday, June 22: 6:00 A.M. ET; 5:00 A.M. CT; 4:00 A.M. MT; 3:00 A.M. PT
Sunday, September 20: 9:00 A.M. ET; 8:00 A.M. CT; 7:00 A.M. MT; 6:00 A.M. PT
Monday, December 7: 7:00 A.M. ET; 6:00 A.M. CT; 5:00 A.M. MT; 4:00 A.M. PT
Sunday, January 6: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Saturday, January 19: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Sunday, February 17: 10 A.M. ET; 9 A.M. CT; 8 A.M. MT; 7 A.M. PT
Saturday, March 9: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Sunday, April 7: 6 A.M. ET; 5 A.M. CT; 4 A.M. MT; 3 A.M. PT
Sunday, May 5: 6 A.M. ET; 5 A.M. CT; 4 A.M. MT; 3 A.M. PT
Thursday, November 21: 6 A.M. & 9 A.M. ET; 5 A.M. & 8 A.M. CT; 4 A.M. & 7 A.M. MT; 3 A.M. & 6 A.M. PT
Monday, November 25: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Thursday, January 18: 10 A.M., 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 9 A.M., 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 8 A.M., 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 7 A.M., 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT
Saturday, January 27: 11 A.M. ET; 10 A.M. CT; 9 A.M. MT; 8 A.M. PT
Friday, March 30: 10 A.M., 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 9 A.M., 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 8 A.M., 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 7 A.M., 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT
Sunday, April 22: 7:30 A.M. ET; 6:30 A.M. CT; 5:30 A.M. MT; 4:30 A.M. PT
Sunday, June 10: 4 P.M. ET; 3 P.M. CT; 2 P.M. MT; 1 P.M. PT
Thursday, June 14: 7 A.M. ET; 6 A.M. CT; 5 A.M. MT; 4 A.M. PT
Sunday, July 15: 10 A.M. ET; 9 A.M. CT; 8 A.M. MT; 7 A.M. PT
Thursday, July 19: 1 P.M. & 4 P.M. ET; 12 P.M. & 3 P.M. CT; 11 A.M. & 2 P.M. MT; 10 A.M. & 1 P.M. PT
Monday, August 20: 7 A.M., 11 A.M. & 3 P.M. ET; 6 A.M., 10 A.M. & 2 P.M. CT; 5 A.M., 9 A.M. & 1 P.M. MT; 4 A.M., 8 A.M. & 12 P.M. PT
Sunday, September 9: 10 A.M. ET; 9 A.M. CT; 8 A.M. MT; 7 A.M. PT
Friday, October 19: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Saturday, October 20: 1 P.M. ET; 12 P.M. CT; 11 A.M. MT; 10 A.M. PT
Sunday, November 11: 6 A.M. ET; 5 A.M. CT; 4 A.M. MT; 3 A.M. PT
Friday, November 16: 8 A.M. ET; 7 A.M. CT; 6 A.M. MT; 5 A.M. PT
Monday, November 26: 7 A.M. ET; 6 A.M. CT; 5 A.M. MT; 4 A.M. PT
Wednesday, December 19: 9 A.M. ET; 8 A.M. CT; 7 A.M. MT; 6 A.M. PT
Thursday, January 19: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Saturday, January 21: 3 P.M. ET, 2 P.M. CT, 1 P.M. MT, 12 P.M. PT
Sunday, January 22: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Monday, January 23: 10 P.M. ET, 9 P.M. CT, 8 P.M. MT, 7 P.M. PT
Wednesday, February 22: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT
Sunday, February 26: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Saturday, March 11: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Friday, March 17: 10 P.M. ET, 9 P.M. CT, 8 P.M. MT, 7 P.M. PT
Saturday, March 18: 5 P.M. ET, 4 P.M. CT, 3 P.M. MT, 2 P.M. PT
Wednesday, March 22: 7 and 10 P.M. ET, 6 and 9 P.M. CT, 5 and 8 P.M. MT, 4 and 7 P.M. PT
Friday, March 24: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Sunday, March 26: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Monday, March 27: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Friday, April 7: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT
Saturday, April 8: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Wednesday, May 3: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT
Monday, May 22: 8 A.M. and 1:30 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. and 12:30 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 11:30 P.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 10:30 P.M. PT
Sunday, June 4: 11 A.M. ET, 10 A.M. CT, 9 A.M. MT, 8 A.M. PT
Tuesday, June 13: 1 P.M. ET, 12 P.M. CT, 11 A.M. MT, 10 A.M. PT
Thursday, July 13: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Sunday, July 23: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Thursday, August 3: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Sunday, August 13: 4 P.M. ET, 3 P.M. CT, 2 P.M. MT, 1 P.M. PT
Sunday, September 17: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Friday, September 22: 8 A.M. and 12 P.M. ET , 7 A.M. and 11 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 10 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 9 A.M. PT
Saturday, October 14: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Monday, October 23: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Friday, November 3: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Sunday, November 5: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Monday, November 13: 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. ET, 9 A.M. and 3 P.M. CT, 8 A.M. and 2 P.M. MT, 7 A.M. and 1 P.M. PT
Friday, December 22: 8 A.M. and 1 P.M. ET, 7 A.M. and 12 P.M. CT, 6 A.M. and 11 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. and 10 A.M. PT
Wednesday, March 23: 9 P.M. ET, 8 P.M. CT, 7 P.M. MT, 6 P.M. PT
Saturday, April 2: 6 P.M. ET, 5 P.M. CT, 4 P.M. MT, 3 P.M. PT
Wednesday, April 20: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Saturday, May 21: 12 P.M. ET, 11 A.M. CT, 10 A.M. MT, 9 A.M. PT
Tuesday, May 31: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Wednesday, June 1: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Thursday, June 9: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Tuesday, June 28: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Wednesday, August 3: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Friday, August 26: 8 A.M. ET, 7 A.M. CT, 6 A.M. MT, 5 A.M. PT
Monday, September 5: 1:30 A.M. ET, 12:30 A.M. CT, 11:30 P.M. MT, 10:30 P.M. PT
Tuesday, September 6: 6 A.M. ET, 5 A.M. CT, 4 A.M. MT, 3 A.M. PT
Wednesday, September 7: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Sunday, September 25: 9:30 A.M. ET, 8:30 A.M. CT, 7:30 A.M. MT, 6:30 A.M. PT
Wednesday, September 28: 9 P.M. ET, 8 P.M. CT, 7 P.M. MT, 6 P.M. PT
Saturday, October 1: 10 A.M. ET, 9 A.M. CT, 8 A.M. MT, 7 A.M. PT
Friday, October 21: 9 A.M. ET, 8 A.M. CT, 7 A.M. MT, 6 A.M. PT
Reelz (TWC 128/Fios 233 in New York City) is not available on demand, so set your DVR. Click here to find Reelz on your local cable or satellite system. Read More
If you missed my previous appearances on the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals, the Reelz channel will re-broadcast the show, coast-to-coast, on the dates and times below:
Saturday, November 7: 3 P.M. ET, 2 P.M. CT, 1 P.M. MT, 12 P.M. PT
Sunday, November 8: 12 P.M. ET, 11 A.M. CT, 10 A.M. MT, 9 A.M. PT
Reelz is not available on demand, so set your DVR if you can’t tune in at the appointed times. (In New York City, Hollywood Scandals is on Time Warner Cable 128 and Fios 233 .) Click here to find the show on your local cable or satellite system.
If you’re wondering why Hollywood Scandals asked me to talk about Lennon and my bio Nowhere Man (which has just been re-released as an e-book), there are a lot of good reasons. You can find the latest one in a just-published book titled The Beatles: Having Read the Book, by Greg Sterlace. In this volume, the author, using Robert Christgau’s “Consumer Guide” format, reviews “the best and worst of the Beatle tomes.” In his Nowhere Man critique, he calls me “the Woodward and Bernstein of rock” and gives me an “A.”
That’s a title and a grade I can live with. Read More
In 2002, when the paperback edition of Nowhere Man was published, I started keeping track of interviews. I'd already been doing a lot of talking about the book for the two years since the hardcover had come out, and I knew that I was going to be doing a lot more. Also, having developed an abiding interest in numerology, I found numbers... significant.
Since the release of the 15th anniversary Nowhere Man e-book on October 9, I find myself in the midst of another interview frenzy. My chat with Daniel Zuckerman on his Time Warped Hour podcast—my second appearance on the show—is #179 since the publication of the paperback 13 years ago.
Zuckerman and I cover a lot of ground, discussing everything from conspiracy theories to John Lennon’s eating habits to (naturally) his music.
Over the course of the interview, Zuckerman, a Beatles aficionado, plays a lot of good Lennon tunes, including some obscure cuts that I’d never heard before. Perhaps the most surprising track is Elvis Costello’s cover of Yoko Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice,” the song she and Lennon were working on the night he was assassinated.
So turn off your mind, relax, click on the player, and float through 86 minutes of provocative music and conversation. Read More
If you haven't had a chance to download the Nowhere Man e-book, I'm happy to report that it's now available everywhere e-books are sold.
Below are links to Nowhere Man on the main online booksellers. Please note that if you've already bought the print edition on Amazon, you can download the updated e-book for 99 cents.
BARNES & NOBLE
And if you don't want to pay for it, ask for the Nowhere Man e-book at your local library. They’ll pay for it. Read More
For those of you not fluent in Latin or legalese, res ipsa loquitur means "the thing speaks for itself." And the following review of Nowhere Man, which I found today on Goodreads, does just that.
I received a copy of the galley to this book several years ago, before it was published. I could not put it down! Robert Rosen effectively delves into John Lennon’s dark side, but from a wholly analytical, non-judgmental perspective. Rather, Rosen affords an in-depth exploration of the complexities of Lennon's often-tortured psyche, with the insight and precision that only a seasoned journalist can provide. His writing is stark, intelligent and authoritative. I highly recommend this book. —Alissa Wolf
Having just released an updated 15th anniversary e-book edition of Nowhere Man, now available on Amazon (for the unbeatable “matchbook” price of 99 cents) and Smashwords, this review, to say the least, reminded me why the book has endured for those 15 years.
Thank you, Alissa Wolf! Read More
Never have so many people, in so many places, done so much, for so long, to keep one book alive and relevant. Most of these people I've never met in person.
If the original publication of Nowhere Man was "like the end of the Vietnam war and I'm the Vietcong" (as I told M. A. Cassata when she interviewed me for Goldmine magazine in 2000), then the release of the e-book edition has been like a Ho Chi Minh Day parade celebrating 15 years of postwar survival.
A core group of supporters have been doing all they can to help me introduce the digital edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon to a new generation of readers.
Louie Free, the book-loving host of The Louie Free Radio Show: Brainfood from the Heartland, remains a rare independent voice carrying on the nearly forgotten tradition of free-form radio. In early 2000, during our first interview, a scheduled 15-minute chat turned into a four-hour Nowhere Man talkathon. Since then, from his base in Youngstown, Ohio, Louie has interviewed me dozens of times, most recently on October 9, for Lennon’s 75th birthday. I’ll be back December 8, and you can listen live here. And be sure to tune in for the holidays, when Louie will be playing Mary Lyn Maiscott’s “Christmas classic” (his words) “Blue Lights.”
M. A. Cassata and I once worked for the same publishing company. She edited and wrote for rock magazines; I edited men’s mags. Now she runs The MacWire, where she’s posted an interview and an article about the e-book.
The passion of the Spanish-speaking world for Nowhere Man took me by surprise when the book was first published in that language, in 2003. Nowhere is that passion more evident than on 10, Mathew Street, a Beatles Website based in Madrid. To celebrate John Lennon’s 75th birthday and the release of the e-book, they’ve run an interview with me in English and Spanish.
Fifteen years after Lady Jean Teeters and I first spoke about John Lennon for her Absolute Elsewhere site, I’ve come to regard the interview as a classic—an empathetic conversation that took place just as my life was undergoing a radical transition. For the e-book edition, Jean has posted promos on AE and on History Unlimited, another site she runs. You can also connect with her on Facebook’s The Spirit of John Lennon page.
Daniel Zuckerman’s The Time Warped Hour podcast and Bryan Schuessler’s Shu-Izmz site and podcast are two recent arrivals to the circle of support. Stay tuned for links to their upcoming John Lennon shows.
And a special thanks to Chris Reeves who designed the cover, an homage to the original design by Celia Wiley; to Ann Schneider who helped me secure the rights to the cover photo; and to everybody else who’s stood by me over the years. You know who you are. If you don’t, you should look here. Read More
The new introduction to the 15th anniversary e-book edition of Nowhere Man, on sale tomorrow, in commemoration of John Lennon's 75th birthday, is titled "(Just Like) Starting Over." It's one of the many updated and revised sections of the book, which Amazon is offering for 99 cents to anybody who's bought the print edition on the site.
In the intro, I look back over the past 15 years, to the multitude of things that have changed in the world, in book publishing, and in my own life since Soft Skull Press released the original hardcover.
I also address the book’s critics, some of whom were driven into what I describe as “a state of spluttering apoplexy” by my “controversial” author’s note: “Nowhere Man is a work of investigative journalism and imagination.” I go into more detail about what, exactly, that sentence means.
Tomorrow, you can read the complete intro on Amazon. It begins like this:
What you’re now reading on your “device” is the latest incarnation of a book that was rejected by everybody before Soft Skull Press, a tiny independent operating out of a tenement basement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, published it in July 2000.
New York that summer was a place where it was still possible for an underground entity like Soft Skull to exist. The city itself had not yet become a real-estate playpen for anonymous oligarchs who sheltered their fortunes in $100 million apartments in thousand-foot-tall glass towers. The Twin Towers and the economy had not yet collapsed. George W. Bush was not yet president. The U.S. had not yet invaded Iraq. People did not yet assume that every word they launched into the electronic ether was stored and possibly analyzed by the NSA. And the publishing industry had not yet been turned upside-down by e-books, piracy, and the Internet. There was no Twitter, no Facebook; there were no smartphones. I didn’t know what a blog was. It was, in short, the final moment before the Old World gave way to iWorld—and an obscure, middle-aged writer could publish a book exclusively as hardcover with a gritty indie who, through a combination of old-fashioned PR skills and relentless audacity, could ignite a conflagration of media attention that would send that book rocketing up best-seller lists in multiple countries and in multiple languages. Read More
Soft Skull Press, Nowhere Man's original publisher, was a notable exception. In 2000, a young man with a George W. Bush "Bring it on!" complex was running the company, and he was fearless when it came to lawsuits. That's why Soft Skull published Nowhere Man when virtually every other publisher had turned it down.
Soft Skull acted as though lawsuits were a good way to get publicity and sell books, an attitude that almost destroyed them, as the documentary Horns and Halos—about Fortunate Son, a George W. Bush biography they published that detailed Bush’s cocaine habit—vividly demonstrates.
For Nowhere Man, Soft Skull used the back cover photo from Lennon and Ono’s Two Virgins LP for the cover of the galley, which they sent out to the media for review. The cover served one purpose only: to provoke Ono.
“You’re crazy!” I told the publisher. “It’s her photo! She’s going to sue you!”
Sure enough, within hours of Soft Skull’s releasing the galley, Ono’s attorneys demanded that they cease and desist, and in an uncharacteristic act of sanity, they withdrew the galley and reprinted it with a plain white cover.
Now, more than 15 years later, as I prepare to launch the Nowhere Man e-book, its cover an homage to the cover Soft Skull ultimately used for the best-selling hardback, the galley—there might be about a hundred in circulation—has become a newsworthy artifact, though I’d never sell it on eBay.
Instead, I should hang it on my wall as a symbol of all the insanity Nowhere Man has survived. Read More
I wanted to give readers an alternative to downloading pirated editions, and I especially wanted to give people who've bought the print edition from Amazon, either in paperback or hardcover, the opportunity to buy the updated and expanded e-book (with a new introduction and five bonus chapters rather than the bonus malware you often receive when you download pirated books) for the extraordinary price of 99 cents--Amazon's “matchbook” price. The book will be exclusively available on the site on October 9, Lennon's 75th birthday. Also, Nowhere Man is not DRM-protected, so you can share it, unlike with many e-books.
Pre-order now and receive Nowhere Man at midnight Eastern Time on October 9.
The 99-cent matchbook price, the $9.99 regular price, and the release date are not random numbers. As I detail in Nowhere Man, notably in a chapter titled “The Book of Numbers,” number 9, as well as its multiples 18 and 27, were numbers that played a significant role throughout Lennon’s life and death.
Lennon and his son Sean were born October 9; Yoko Ono was born February 18; Paul McCartney was born June 18; Lennon received his green card on July 27; and when Mark Chapman murdered Lennon (December 8 in New York but already December 9 in England), he believed that he was writing Chapter 27 of The Catcher in the Rye—a book that has only 26 chapters—in Lennon’s blood.
And that’s just scratching the surface of what Nowhere Man says about 9, 18, and 27.
Following the rules of Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, a volume that Lennon and Ono considered one of their bibles, I wanted the prices, a double 9 (or 18) and a triple 9 (or 27), and the release date to, as John would have thought, vibrate harmoniously with his life.
I do hope you’ll buy my book, especially if you’ve already enjoyed reading a pirated edition. Read More
The new introduction talks about all that's happened to me and to the book since Soft Skull Press published the original hardcover edition in 2000. The cover is a 15th anniversary homage to the Soft Skull cover.
There are also five bonus chapters and additional revelations about Lennon and Yoko Ono that I was unable to include in previous editions. I’ll discuss this in more detail in future posts.
The release date is October 9, Lennon’s 75th birthday.
Anybody who’s bought any edition of Nowhere Man on Amazon can download the e-book for 99 cents. (The regular price is $9.99.)
So please, click here to pre-order the e-book, and click here to like Nowhere Man on Facebook. Read More
I’ll send a PDF of the photo section that appeared in the first U.K. edition of Beaver Street to anybody who can identify those characters by their real names or pseudonyms. (Former employees of Swank Publications are not eligible to participate. The decision of the judges is final.)
Over in Facebook Land this is Throwback Thursday. So why not on the Sporadic Beaver, too? Read More
Previously unaware of the extent of the problem, she wondered what could be done.
Novelist Thomas Kennedy had been unaware of the pandemic, as well. After searching for his name and “free download,” he was surprised to find pirated copies of his books available online. He, too, wondered what could be done.
“Not much,” I told them. The Authors Guild, numerous high-profile authors, and publishers both corporate and independent have been wrestling with piracy for years. But the problem just keeps getting worse.
Meanwhile, the conglomerates that make money off piracy—the search engine companies with their ads and the monopolistic Internet providers with their breathtaking monthly bills (not to mention the major advertisers, like Citibank, Sprint, and Office Depot, that support sites like Mobilism)—have done nothing to stop it. They say that piracy is beyond their control, even though search engines are able to bury, and IPs are able to block, certain “adult” sites when they choose to.
We live in an age when anything available in a digital format—books, movies, music, video games—can be downloaded for free, and millions of people do so every day. It’s gotten to the point that the 32-million illegal downloads of Game of Thrones Season Five are looked upon as a measure of the show’s success.
Yes, occasionally someone on the Internet mentions a legitimate or quasi-legitimate reason for pirating books, such as: paperbacks are too expensive and college textbooks are grotesquely overpriced; you can only rent and not actually buy e-books from the major vendors, and they can repossess them if they want to; it only hurts the “evil” publishers if you pirate from dead authors; you buy more books than you steal, or download books that you wouldn’t normally buy; e-books are unavailable in your country; or you live on disability, cannot hold a physical book, and can barely afford to pay for medical care.
But for the most part, the Internet is full of absurd excuses and rationalizations for why people pirate books. Below is a compilation of those reasons, followed in most cases by my own comments, in italics. (Interestingly, people seem to have stopped posting this kind of stuff about two years ago. Maybe it’s all been said. Or maybe, in 2015, piracy has become so culturally ingrained, the need to justify it has become as unnecessary as the need to justify breathing.)
***“Books have always been free to those who don’t want to pay for them. Since as far back as the 17th century, people too poor, or too cheap, to buy a book could walk into a public library and borrow it…. Pirate ebooks are just the 21st century equivalent of the lending library or of real-world book sharing, and—in all but the most egregious cases—can be safely ignored.” —Techcrunch.com
Libraries pay for books and replace them when they’re worn out. Authors, myself included, are thrilled to have their books in libraries. Maybe piracy could be ignored in 2011, when this piece was posted, but it can’t be ignored any longer. Piracy is one of the primary culprits among a multitude of perpetrators that are driving authors out of business.
“If your books are being pirated, then they’ve got something good going for them. Nobody shares stuff they don’t like. Don’t forget that the users doing the sharing are usually your biggest fans, too…. It’s not theft…. Most piracy is a minor civil crime… and it’s counted as infringement…. Everyone commits some level of piracy every day…. These days, copyright is so narrowly defined that just about anything a person does with a media file is infringement.” —Raynfall.com
Are you suggesting that passing a photocopied Dilbert cartoon around the office is comparable to downloading pirated editions of every book you want to read but don’t want to pay for?
“For some, it’s the only practical way they can access content, either because the item is not available any other way, or it costs far more than they can afford. And for others, it’s a protest against the evil hegemony of the film, music and book industries.” —Forbes.com
I’m sadly aware that the unavailability of an e-book edition of Nowhere Man has contributed to its piracy. But I was shocked (shocked!) to learn that the book’s California-based indie publisher, Quick American Archives, and Beaver Street’s London-based indie publisher, Headpress, are members of an evil hegemony.
“Publishing houses are greedy…. Sharing a book is great publicity for the author…. People who travel a lot like the convenience of ebooks, and if they already own the book in physical form they feel justified in getting a free copy…. Free sharing allows people to sample books.” —The Guardian
Book pirates are greedy. Pirating is not “great publicity for the author.” The exact opposite is true. Publicity leads to piracy. I do agree, however, that if you buy a new print edition of a book, you should, under most circumstances, be allowed to download the e-book edition for free or for a minimal price. Amazon already does this, offering $1.99 e-books to people who buy the print edition of certain books. Is it really necessary to point out that Amazon, Google, and many other “legitimate” sites allow people to sample books before they buy them?
“A lot of the reasons for book piracy amount to: ‘Because I want it.’… Obscurity is a fate worse than piracy.” —Terribleminds.com
Obscurity might be a fate worse than piracy for the tens of thousands of authors who give away their self-published e-books on Amazon and elsewhere, thereby negating the need for piracy. But the most-pirated authors are well known to begin with.
“I like to collect stuff…. I’ll never pay for an e-book.” —Teleread.com
The following series of comments were culled from a discussion on Reddit:
“I’m poor and I like to read, but I can’t pirate food, so I pirate everything else.”
Apparently you’re not too poor to pay for Internet access, a computer, and probably a smartphone, too. Have you considered the library?
“I don’t justify it. It’s wrong and I will keep doing it. If I really like a book though I will buy it.”
The percentage of people who buy books that they’ve already pirated is miniscule. You are the exception that proves the rule.
“I pirate stuff because I’m cheap.”
Which explains most piracy.
“The free flow of information, especially when it relates to books and other forms of learning, is a necessary step in the history of mankind. The future is here motherfuckers, knowledge is free on the internet, TAKE IT.”
Knowledge is not free. Authors pay for the knowledge you gain with the time they spend making it accessible and understandable. And entertainment isn’t free, either. I doubt anybody reads two of the most pirated authors—J. K. Rowling and Stephen King—for “knowledge.”
Bottom line: Downloading pirated books is a crime of opportunity. The opportunities to do so are limitless and the chances of being punished are nil. People download pirated books because they can. Read More
He compared this to a man standing on a street corner telling people where to buy stolen goods and collecting a small fee for his services, and also noted that piracy had virtually destroyed book publishing in Russia, where it "goes almost completely unpoliced."
In the two years since Turow’s essay appeared, the situation has grown significantly worse—it’s an epidemic that’s become a pandemic. I became aware of this about two months ago, when a flurry of publicity about Beaver Street led not to a modest uptick in sales (as might have been the case a year ago) but to an avalanche of e-mail “alerts” for sites offering free downloads of my books, one of which, Nowhere Man, isn’t even available as a legitimate e-book. At least one new pirate site sprang up every day—sometimes two-dozen new ones appeared in a single week.
Often, I’d click on a site just to see what it looked like, and many of them looked as slick as Amazon. One site, based in Russia, offered a forum where people could request pirated editions of specific titles, some of which they were willing to pay for! And though I am curious to see how good the pirated editions of my books are, I’ve never downloaded one, as this seems like an excellent way to get a computer virus.
In fact, I no longer click on the alerts, as the last time I did so, the link brought me to an attack site that uploaded malware to my computer.
As if book publishing weren’t discouraging enough on its own demerits, the piracy pandemic and the associated erosion of income has left me wondering why I should spend years writing another book, when, even if I’m lucky enough to get it published, it’ll be pirated—instantaneously if it’s popular enough.
What’s especially infuriating is that while U.K. Internet providers have blocked all “adult” sites, most of which are completely legal (you have to ask your IP to give you access), and search engine companies have made it harder to find certain adult sites, they claim there’s nothing they can do about piracy—that it’s a “whack-a-mole” proposition.
Which is true. But pirate sites are easy to recognize. They always contain such terms as “download,” “free,” “e-book,” and “pdf,” and often have “ru” (Russia) in the URL. Why a search engine can’t block these sites is beyond my comprehension. I can only assume they have no interest in doing so—because they continue to make money, unlike the authors whom they’re slowly driving out of business, just as Turow predicted. Read More
In the spring of 1971, when I was a freshman at City College, my friend Jayson Wechter asked me if I'd like to play the lead role in a film he was making. He called it When Ya Gotta Go…, and it was about a guy who was trying to go to the bathroom but was constantly interrupted.
It sounded like fun and I agreed to do it.
Financed by a film cooperative, Jayson shot the movie at my house, in Brooklyn, where I was living with my parents, and cast it with an assortment of our friends and neighbors.
It’s a silent film, as sound syncing, in 1971, was a technological hurdle not easily overcome on a low budget. I’d also like to point out that I didn’t do nudity at the time, even if it was crucial to the plot, and that very brief glimpse of tuchas you’ll see was provided by a stand-in.
Over the ensuing decades, Jayson and I fell out of touch, and I pretty much forgot about the film. Then, through Facebook (naturally), I reconnected with Neil Zusman, the longhaired hippie on the left, in the above thumbnail. He had a digital copy of When Ya Gotta Go… and sent it to me.
How amazing it was to see myself in this time capsule, in my old apartment, with old friends and acquaintances, all of whom I’d lost touch with. If any of you happen to be reading this, here’s what I remember about you then and know about you now:
Jayson, who once made the news for pieing Watergate conspirator Charles Colson, is a private detective living in San Francisco.
The late Arthur Kirson, who plays the insurance salesman, was an English teacher at Erasmus Hall High School, in Brooklyn, and also faculty advisor to the student newspaper, The Dutchman.
Ethel Goodstein, the piano player, was my classmate at the City College of New York School of Architecture.
Neil, a classmate at Erasmus, is a Web designer, filmmaker, and teacher living in Ithica, New York.
Carey Silverstein, the other longhaired hippie, was a classmate at Erasmus and is now a rock musician living in Toronto.
Brian Rooney, the plainclothes narc, was my down-the-hall neighbor in Brooklyn.
Abby Bogomolny, who provided the music, was a classmate at Erasmus.
I don’t know who Mike Cramer (music) or S.K. Schwartzman (actor) are.
Perhaps some of you will now emerge from the mists of time to fill me in on what’s been happening for the past 40-plus years. I’m all ears. Read More
In any case, adhering to my philosophy of treating like Oprah everybody who wants to talk about my books, I spoke at length to Ozy, and when they ran the story, "How Nixon Shaped Porn in America," about the connection between Watergate and Nixon's efforts to ban the film Deep Throat, I was amazed by the results.
Not only was Beaver Street prominently featured, but the story was shared a respectable 1,760 times (and counting) on Facebook; was published in the popular German tabloid Bild as “Mister President wollte eigentlich das Gegenteil ... Wie Nixon dem Porno zum Durchbruch verhalf” (roughly translated as “Mr. President wanted the opposite of it... how Nixon helped porn to its breakthrough”); and was cited in the Washington Post and Baltimore City Paper.
That Beaver Street has remained in the news for more than four years in an environment where just about everything is forgotten within 24 hours is nothing short of miraculous. But apparently, that’s how long it’s taken the media to catch on to one of the book’s central themes: The biggest crooks—notably Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, and Charles Keating—cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest.
And speaking of books that people keep talking about long after publication, on Tuesday, July 21, at 10 P.M eastern time, and Saturday July 25, at 2:30 P.M. eastern time, the Reelz channel will broadcast the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals, in which I discuss my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. Click here to find the show on your cable or satellite system. Read More
The probable motive for the murder, the police deduced, had to do with sex letters Bottiggi had solicited from hundreds of prisoners, most of whose names he’d gleaned from the Stag correspondence files. He’d promised these prisoners that he’d split with them whatever money he made selling their letters to an array of straight and gay porn mags that he contributed to regularly. But instead, Bottiggi kept all the money for himself—approximately $25,000. Apparently, one of these men, upon being paroled, tracked Bottiggi down to demand his payment—probably not more than a couple of hundred bucks—and when Bottiggi balked, proceeded to carve him up with a steak knife.
If this is, in fact, true will soon become known. Nearly a quarter century after committing the crime, the murderer has been caught. Though the information I have is vague and incomplete, this much I do know: The murderer was already in prison for an unrelated crime, and his DNA matched the DNA found on clothing he’d left at the scene of the murder.
As more information becomes available, I’ll post it here. Read More
If you get the reference in the title, then you're probably of a certain age--an age of turntables, vinyl LPs, and the Beatles as an ongoing musical enterprise.
If you're not of a certain age, you've still probably heard about a rumor that began in 1969. Some people believed that Paul McCartney was dead and the Beatles had replaced him with a look-alike so the fans wouldn't get upset. But because they were the Beatles, and couldn't resist playing Beatle games, they'd also left clues to his demise on their albums, both in the music and on the album covers.
One of the most famous clues can be found on the fadeout of John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It sounds as if Lennon is saying, “I buried Paul.” (“I’m very bored,” is what he claims to have said.)
I mention this now because a site called Ranker is asking people to vote for the “most outlandish conspiracy theory” about the Beatles, and “Paul Is Dead” is among the 22 theories they’ve listed.
But so am I!
A Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist has been insisting for years that I’m the CIA spymaster who ordered a hit on Lennon—or at least that’s what he seems to be saying if you delve deeply into his insane ramblings. It’s as if a conspiracy theorist is having my (Evil) Walter Mitty fantasies for me.
Ranker calls this theory “Robert Rosen, Author or Assassin?” And I have indeed buried Paul under a landslide of votes.
Yes, I am the #1 most outlandish Beatles conspiracy theory and Dead Paul is #2. This is like Bernie Sanders getting the nomination over Hillary Clinton.
So, I’d like to thank all the people who voted for me, and my campaign manager, Mary Lyn Maiscott. But keep in mind that this is only a fast start, and as long as Ranker exists, people can keep voting. Which means if Live Paul ever rallies his base for Dead Paul, “Robert Rosen: Author or Assassin?” will go the way of Michael Dukakis.
In the meantime, call me Jackal.
That's yesterday’s news.
In 2015, in order for me to get another deal, an agent must submit my book pre-reviewed and pre-publicized.
Recently, filmmaker Michael Nirenberg, best known for his Hustler magazine documentary, Back Issues, asked if he could read my just-completed novel, Bobby in Naziland. The book is about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s, in the aftermath of World War II and in the shadow of the Holocaust.
Nirenberg liked it enough to interview me for The Huffington Post. It’s Bobby in Naziland’s first taste of publicity.
Thus begins the long journey to publication. Glad you’re along for the ride. Read More
When Nigel Williamson interviewed me, in February 2000, he was preparing articles for both Uncut magazine and The Times of London. Though Nowhere Man had been garnering media attention for several months at this point, it was the one-two punch of these widely read British publications that set the book on a lunar trajectory; it would soon land on bestseller lists in the U.S. and U.K.
Fifteen years ago today, on May 27, 2000, this article ran in the Metro section of The Times. It marked a long-awaited turning point in my career, the moment when all the emotion and frustration I'd been carrying with me for 18 years had at last found an outlet. This was one of the first Nowhere Man interviews I'd ever done, and I had a lot to say. Like many newspaper articles published in the early 21st century (or late 20th century, if you want to be technical), "Lennon Juice" is not available online. I’ve reproduced it word-for-word below.
The Times | May 27, 2000
Every fan knows the story of the last chapter of John Lennon’s life. The contented, if eccentric, days he spent in the apartment he and Yoko shared in New York’s Dakota building have become part of rock ’n’ roll legend.
While Yoko looked after business, Lennon was the happy househusband, baking bread and bringing up their son Sean. It was, Ono recalled, interviewed in Metro two years ago, “the happiest time” in their entire relationship.
At least that is the official version. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s death, New York journalist Robert Rosen is telling a far darker tale, an account of Lennon’s Dakota days based loosely on the intimate diaries the former Beatle kept between 1974 and 1980.
There are a series of leather-bound New Yorker desk diaries, in which Lennon recorded his every action, every private thought, every dream, even his every meal. And Rosen is one of the few people alive to have read them.
Sitting over breakfast in an East London café, Rosen admits the book is certain to cause major controversy among Lennon fans. He describes the character who emerges as “a dysfunctional, tormented superstar, disintegrating under the effects of fame and living in a high-rent purgatory of superstition and fear.”
Far from being lived in domestic bliss, Lennon’s last years, waited on by a retinue of servants whose appointments had been vetted by a tarot card reader, were characterized by “boredom and pain punctuated by microseconds of ecstasy,” he says. Rosen details a myriad of slavishly followed obsessions, from numerology to vows of silence to Billy Graham. In this account, Lennon is even responsible for Paul McCartney’s 1980 incarceration for drug possession in Tokyo, having asked Yoko to put a curse on his former partner.
Past biographies have either been uncritical eulogies (Ray Coleman’s 1984 Lennon) or have magnified Lennon’s weaknesses (Albert Goldman’s 1992 Sound Bites), Rosen states. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is, he says, simply the truth.
“It’s a three-dimensional portrait of John that’s as honest as I could possibly make it. I hope it tells you what the neurotic experience of being John Lennon was like. It’s a journey through his consciousness, the story of the last years of his life, as seen through his eyes.” But is it? Many, including Ono and Sean Lennon, would probably strongly dispute the accuracy of the portrait and questions Rosen’s powers of accurate recall.
They will point out that the author, by his own admission, has not read the lost diaries since 1982 and that even the notes he made at the time are no longer in his possession. For legal reasons, he is forced to declare in the preface to the book: “I have used no material from the diaries. I have used my memory of Lennon’s diaries as a roadmap to the truth.”
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt. When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m going to tell it.”
Yet there is no dispute that the lost Lennon journals exist and that for several months in 1981 they were in Rosen’s possession. And he insists his memory is perfect. “I spent 16 hours a day for weeks on end transcribing them, and I realized that I had huge chunks of the diaries memorized. I had worked so hard on them and run them through my typewriter so many times, I had them all in my head.”
At the time of Lennon’s death at the hands of obsessive fan Mark David Chapman in December 1980, Rosen was a 28-year-old cab driver with a master’s degree in journalism. He had never met the former Beatle, but he did know Fred Seaman, the singer’s personal assistant, from college. “Twenty-four hours after Lennon’s murder, Seaman told me that while they were in Bermuda together that summer, Lennon had asked him to write the true story of his Dakota days,” Rosen recalls. “It was to be the ultimate Lennon biography and he told me, ‘It’s what John wants.’”
Six months later, in May 1981, Seaman delivered Rosen the crown jewels of the Lennon archive—six volumes of stolen personal diaries. The would-be author began transcribing them. “I’d never seen anything like it. He got it all down—every detail, every dream, every conversation, every morsel of food he put in his mouth was recorded in a perpetual stream of consciousness. I thought the story was rock ’n’ roll’s Watergate.”
When he finished, Rosen sent a detailed story based on the diaries to various publishers, including Jann Wenner, the founding editor of Rolling Stone.
Wenner alerted Yoko, who was still unaware that the diaries had been stolen. After a court case they were eventually returned to her and Seaman was convicted of grand larceny. At the same time, Ono also persuaded Rosen to join her payroll and while he was in her employment he handed over 16 of his own notebooks based on the Lennon journals. They remain in Ono’s possession to this day.
Why he has waited so many years to write the book is not entirely clear. There were legal ramifications under American copyright law, further complicated by the fact that the diaries had been stolen. “Legally, I can’t say what I would like to say,” he says. “It took me all these years to put the book together in a form that I was happy with, but I’m not allowed to say it is based upon the journals. It is a work of investigative journalism, intuition and imagination. That’s the line.”
Rosen admits to having feelings of guilt about the book and he has never taken legal steps to recover his own journals from Yoko. “I did something that wasn’t 100 per cent kosher, even though my intentions were entirely honourable. Because the diaries were stolen, I feel that I owe her something. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel guilt.
“When I met Yoko my heart totally went out to her. But I’ve got a story and I’m a professional journalist. So I’m going to tell it. This is a great story that deserves to be told.”
Ask him if he thinks Lennon ever meant the diaries for public consumption and he hesitates. “I don’t know. I think it was the basis of something he wanted out. I think his diaries were a very early rough draft of what could have been the great memoir.”
What made Lennon such a compelling subject was less his money and fame and more the contradictions within his character, Rosen says. “Every facet of his life was a paradox. Part of him aspired to follow the way—Jesus, Gandhi and whoever. The other part of him just wanted sex and drugs. Part of him wanted a perfect macrobiotic diet. Another part of him wanted chocolate chip cookies.”
Gossip and cheap innuendo or the most complete and honest portrait of Lennon yet written.
Unless Yoko decides to publish the original diaries herself, perhaps we will never really know. But fiction or non-fiction, Nowhere Man is a gripping read that no Lennon fan will be able to resist.
Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is published by Soft Skull Press on June 1, price £14.99/£11.99.
Fifteen years ago this month, in the May 2000 issue, Uncut magazine ran as its cover story a 5,000-word excerpt from Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. The following interview, conducted by Nigel Williamson in an East London café, served as part of an elaborate introduction to the excerpt. It has never appeared online. Here it is, exactly as it ran in the magazine.
Robert Rosen is a freelance journalist living in New York. He has written for a number of US newspapers and magazines, and studied fiction writing with Joseph Heller and James Toback. He won a Hugo Boss poetry award in 1996
UNCUT: What did John Lennon mean to you personally?
ROBERT ROSEN: I was a fan but not a hardcore fanatic. I bought Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road. When they broke up, I didn’t follow their solo careers closely. Then John Lennon moved to New York, which made me sit up and take notice. It’s my town.
What was your initial connection to John and Yoko?
I was at college with a guy called Fred Seaman. In January 1979, he got a job as John’s personal assistant. The very first day on the job, he said to me we should collaborate on a book. He’d call me every day from wherever they were and tell me all the gossip. He also had access to Lennon’s Mercedes and we’d go out in the car and hang out. I was having a total blast. Fred would score dope for John and take a cut and we’d joyride in the Mercedes and smoke John’s best weed.
So what kind of gossip were you hearing?
Fred described this guy who was locked in his bedroom all day raving about Jesus, who was out of his mind and totally dysfunctional. I took notes on everything he told me and that’s all in the book. Then in June 1980, Fred went with John to Bermuda. He claimed that while they were there John had told him that if anything should happen to him, it was Fred’s job to tell the true story of his life.
How did Seaman react when John died?
He showed up at my apartment within 24 hours. That’s really when the book begins. Fred knew John’s life wasn’t what people thought it was. The portrait they were painting in the media wasn’t true. He said, “Now’s the time to do the book.”
So at this stage you were going to collaborate on it?
Yes. I had an informal contract drawn up. He started feeding me material—not the diaries at first, but slides, pictures, snapshots. One of the first things he gave me was the Double Fantasy demo tapes.
At what point did you become aware of the diaries?
He gave me the diaries in May 1981 and I was just blown away. He was still saying “This is what John wants.” And I believed that John wanted it all to come out because that’s what I wanted to believe.
How had Seaman acquired the diaries?
They were there and he took them. After John died, he was taking box loads of stuff out of the Dakota every week. But I knew the diaries were the key to John’s consciousness.
So did you transcribe them?
I spent about five months reading and dipping into them, and then I transcribed them. His handwriting was really difficult to read and a lot of it was in code. I spent eight weeks, 16 hours a day, transcribing them. I got inside John’s head and saw the light and the truth as he saw it.
What did you feel when you first read them?
It was profound. He was isolated. If you think becoming rich and famous is going to solve your problems, it isn’t. All it does is exacerbate them. Everything that was wrong before he became a Beatle was magnified. That was the message of the diaries for me.
Did Seaman carry on working for Yoko after John died?
Until one day when he crashed the Mercedes and Yoko fired him. But he said we were still doing the project. Then I took a vacation in Jamaica and when I got back everything connected with the Lennon project was gone. Fred had the keys to my apartment.
So he took the original diaries?
They were kept in a safe deposit box to which we both had the key, so he had those. But I had transcripts and photocopies and he took all that. But then I realized that big sections of the diaries were running through my brain. I had the diaries memorized. I had run them through my typewriter so many times that I literally had them all in my head. So I wrote it all down again.
Then you went to work for Yoko. How did that happen?
I thought I had a story that was rock ’n’ roll’s equivalent of Watergate, so I went to Jan Wenner at Rolling Stone. He checked it out with Yoko. She didn’t even know about the stolen diaries until he told her. He said there was no way he could publish it, but he said he wanted to save my karma. He said the only thing I could do was tell her the story.
So you did?
I had a meeting with the attorneys from the Lennon estate at the Dakota in August 1982. I told them the whole story. They were stunned and astonished and freaked out. There was high-grade paranoia going on. They thought that maybe Fred Seaman had hired Mark Chapman to set this whole thing up. That turned out not to be true, but that was the mind-set they were in. They even thought maybe Fred would try to kill me, so they put me in a New York hotel under an assumed name and I sat there watching TV for several weeks.
So when did you meet Yoko?
I walked out one morning to buy a newspaper and Yoko’s bodyguards were waiting on the corner. They said Yoko needed to talk to me and it was an emergency. I said, “OK, but no lawyers.” I met with her at the Dakota and she asked to read my diaries. She said there was stuff in there that even she didn’t understand. She told me John’s journals were sacred. It was calculated to play on my guilt. I had read the forbidden sacred books.
And she offered to put you on the payroll?
We negotiated a token salary in the bathroom, standing on opposite sides of the toilet. They were very into the metaphor of money being shit. I went back the next day with 16 volumes of my diaries and transcripts. We spent several weeks reading them, everybody picking my brains and putting the story together. She still has them.
Did she also get the original diaries back from Seaman?
They used the information I gave them to have Fred arrested. Which was fine by me, because I was furious at him. He was convicted of grand larceny and got five years probation or something. He’s still out there posting stuff on the web claiming Yoko hired Chapman and nonsense like that.
And Yoko still has the diaries?
As far as I know. There is some suggestion that the 1980 diary might be missing. It could be sitting around in some dusty box in the Dakota.
What does your book tell us about Lennon that we didn’t know before?
It’s a three-dimensional portrait that takes you inside his head. I hope it tells you what it was like to be John Lennon, which was a really neurotic experience. There is a lot more detail about what was going on in his head than has ever appeared before. It is the accumulation of small details, the tone and the perspective.
Have you been hassled by Yoko’s people?
No, but our lawyers are in touch with her lawyers. She wanted to see the manuscript before it was printed, but that was out of the question. I have nothing against Yoko and I’d like nothing more than to be at peace with her.
I contacted the writer, suggested he read the book, and told him that he was well qualified to receive a review copy. He reached out to Headpress and they sent him one.
His unabashed review, illustrated with a number of photos I’d never seen (like the two above), expresses his profound appreciation of Beaver Street.
If the publishing industry is to survive as a viable, profit-making institution, it’s the multitude of sites like Pulp Informer that they can thank. Read More
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's: 26,433 words
Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: 27,622 words
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice: 28,770 words
Joan Didion, Play it as it Lays: 32,482 words
Albert Camus, The Stranger: 36,451 words (Translated from French to English by Stuart Gilbert)
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness: 37,746 words
Saul Bellow, Seize the Day: 38,816 words
Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John: 41,909 words
Robert Rosen, Bobby in Naziland: 44,527 words
Lorrie Moore, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?: 45,361 words
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea: 45,499 words
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby: 47,104 words
Paula Fox, Desperate Characters: 47,739 words Read More
I worked with Joyce for 15 years at Swank Publications. She was one of the rare people at that company who was a total professional and always conducted herself with the utmost integrity. So when she asked me to review Mistress Pussycat, which you’ll be hearing a lot about here and elsewhere in the months to come, I was happy to do so. This is what I had to say:
Mistress Pussycat is a disturbingly honest, highly arousing, laugh-out-loud-funny memoir by cat-loving career pornographer Joyce Snyder. At age 60, after half a lifetime spent cranking out low-rent stroke books and X-rated films, she embarks on a madcap journey of erotic self-discovery and learns the true nature of her own sexuality—she’s a “femdom,” a woman who wants to enslave men. Her quest for the perfect, obediently worshipful male is an eye-opening tour through the demented demimonde of BDSM, a secret world barred to the “vanilla”—anybody not into BDSM—featuring “adult babies,” “pony parties,” “pain sluts,” “pay pigs,” human furniture, masochists begging to be publicly humiliated, dominatrices expert in the art of testicular torture, and men who want only to suffer forevermore as naked “slave beasts,” their penises caged in diabolical chastity devices. Snyder’s sharply drawn portraits of the more than a dozen torment-craving “subs” who audition for her ministrations are frighteningly real, well written, and well researched, and because she experienced or witnessed everything she so skillfully describes, it’s hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey. Reading Mistress Pussycat is a literary pussy-whipping… and you’ll learn a lot about cats, too. Read More