We’d finished filming John and Yoko for the video a day or so before he was shot to death. It was their last video, but of course, we didn’t know it at the time. There was film of them holding hands and walking in Central Park in the place that would later become “Strawberry Fields.” We’d filmed them rolling naked in bed together in a Soho Art Gallery where she looked healthy and ample and he looked small and slight, with skin that was almost translucent. I remember being slightly surprised by the fact that Lennon’s need for Ono was so constant and palpable. He was seldom more than two feet away from her side and had the disconcerting habit of calling her “Mommy” whenever they spoke.
My role was as “executive producer” which really meant that I was to stand around with a roll of hundred dollar bills and pay-off the Teamsters and solve other problems with copious applications of money. It was an odd job in more ways than one, but I was grateful to have it at the time.
We’d sent the last of the film to the lab, and my old friend and director Ethan Russell had gone back to Los Angeles to begin editing. The crew had dispersed and I’d taken to my bed racked with pain. The job, this time, had been so tough and high stress that my neck had gone out. I could barely turn my head without feeling as if a sledge was hammering a hot-needle into the cervical vertebrae. I was lying carefully propped on the bed eating Bufferin as if they were Tic-Tacs and trying not to move. My neck was held in one of those tight foam collars. Not moving was the best thing to do at the time and I was doing it with all my might.
It was a small one-bedroom apartment on the East Side of Manhattan. My first wife and I were there after three years of living in London, Paris, the Algarve, and other European locations. She was eight months pregnant with our daughter and looked as if she was trying to smuggle a basketball across state lines for immoral purposes. Her mood, never really cheerful, was not improved by her situation.
The apartment was on loan from her uncle’s girlfriend. I was down to my last few thousand dollars and was looking for a job. The film gig had been a gift from my old friend Ethan, and I’d been glad to get it. But it was over and, with a baby banging on the door of the world, things were not looking up. At the time, the only thing looking up was me since my neck required me to lie flat and gaze at the ceiling. It had been a rough two weeks but I thought things would certainly improve.
And of course, that’s when things got worse. It got worse in the way most things do, the phone rang and my wife called out, “It’s for you.”
Some New York wag once said, “Age fourteen is the last time in your life when you’re glad the phone is for you.”
I groped blindly to the side of the bed and picked up the extension. It was Ethan calling from an editing room in Los Angeles. “John’s been shot. He’s dead.” [continue reading…]