Monday, December 18, 2006

Annual Report to My Readers: The State of Chapter 27

I just had to look, cause I wrote the book: The opening page of Nowhere Man’s “Chapter 27,” originally published in 2000.


Now that Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman, and Lindsay Lohan as Jude, a Lennon groupie (and Chapman’s girlfriend), is set to make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, I’ll take this opportunity to address a question that many readers of this blog have been asking: Why, at this late date, have the film’s producers, Peace Arch Entertainment, not yet acknowledged that the title of their movie was inspired by “Chapter 27” in my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man?

Since Peace Arch, a Toronto-based company, has thus far been unwilling to provide an answer, I can only conclude that they’ve picked up through their L.A. office a touch of a parasitic virus that’s reached epidemic proportions in the area. The most common symptom of this “Hollywood Flu”: The infected corporation or individual acts as if it’s their birthright to incorporate into any film project whatever material they want without acknowledging its source, especially if the source is in no position to wage a costly and difficult legal battle—which means just about anybody who doesn’t have the financial resources of, say, Yoko Ono. In the most virulent cases, entire plots, characters, ideas, and screenplays are ripped off wholesale.

Perhaps the most notorious known outbreak of Hollywood Flu occurred in 1988, when Paramount studios helped themselves to columnist Art Buchwald’s script idea, and turned it into the Eddie Murphy vehicle Coming to America. So blatant and obvious was this unauthorized “borrowing” that Buchwald was able to sue Paramount, and receive a settlement reported to be over $1 million.

Compared to this, Peace Arch expropriating my title barely registers as a minor felony—and one that I couldn’t take legal action against even if I wanted to, as titles can’t be copyrighted. But it’s not the title itself that I feel I should be credited for. My contention has always been that if not for “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man—which remains the only book that explains the numerological significance of 27, and shows how it karmically connects Mark David Chapman to John Ono Lennon—this film would not be called Chapter 27.

I believe I should be credited for my extensive research and reporting, which gives the title a spooky meaning and resonance that goes far beyond a 26-year-old madman’s inscrutable reference—uttered moments before a judge sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison—to writing the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon’s blood.

“I feel like a bloodied prizefighter in the 27th round,” Chapman told a hushed courtroom, after reading from The Catcher in the Rye, and offering J.D. Salinger’s words as his confession, his final statement to the world.

Should media scrutiny of the connection between Chapter 27 and Nowhere Man ever reach the point that Peace Arch or their oddly anonymous screenwriter and director, Jarrett Schaeffer, are forced to respond to any questions about the source of their title, I assume they’ll say that they’ve never heard of Nowhere Man. The most charitable interpretation of such a claim, however, is that Schaeffer had failed to do some very basic research about the subject of his movie. And it’s worth noting that since I began keeping this blog a year ago, in response to the first flurry of Chapter 27 publicity, the inherent truth of my contention that the film’s title was inspired by Nowhere Man remains unchallenged—because it’s self-evident to anybody who’s read the book.

Strangely enough, the only thing I’ve had to defend here is my contention that Peace Arch should be allowed to make, and profit, from Chapter 27, and that rather than boycott the film (and help the producers make even more money), people who feel the need to publicly express an opinion about it should see it first.

I’d also like to answer another question, which I’m sure many of my readers have been wondering about: Who, besides Yoko Ono’s attorneys and people affiliated with Chapter 27, is reading this blog?

I keep my endlessly entertaining site meter set on “private” because I prefer (for obvious reasons) not to share any information that a corporation might use to put together, or refine, a precision-targeted online marketing campaign. But I will say this much about my readers: Though modest by the success-is-a-million-hits-a-day-standards of the Internet, the number of people who log on here is surprisingly large for a blogger who posts about once a month on a blog dedicated solely to the uncredited connection between a book with a cult following and a movie that hasn’t been released yet.

These people comprise the core audience for Chapter 27, as well as those who feel most fanatical about boycotting it. They’re the ones who want to know every scrap of information about the movie and the people who made it. They’re the ones who are going to line up to see it (or picket it) at a theatre on the all-important opening weekend, rather than wait for it to be released on DVD. A vast majority of these people—who include a number of professional journalists and writers, and at least one radio talk-show host—are either bloggers themselves, or active, if not compulsive, Internet posters, particularly on sites like MySpace, IMDB, Amazon, Wikipedia, and a variety of bulletin boards.

Looking at last 100 visitors on the site meter’s world map feature, I can also report that the eastern half of the United States is saturated with readers at this moment (as it usually is), and that there are a few hits, like distant constellations, scattered in places like Australia, Peru, and England. As for the precise location of my most regular visitors, let me put it this way: Qué pasa, New York? Wassup, Mexico City? Buenos días, London! Cheers, Santiago! Qué tal, Toronto? Good morning, Buenos Aires! Te amamos, Chicago! How’s it going, Madrid? Muchas gracias, Mountain View! Hola, Helsinki! Hello, Ohio! Hasta la vista, Ft. Worth! Abrazos y besos, L.A.—and get well soon! (Can I interest anybody at Peace Arch in buying some precision-targeted advertising space?)

It’s also not terribly surprising that the two most popular individual postings on this blog are “John Lennon’s Bible and the Occult Significance of 27” and “27: The Unluckiest Number in Rock n’ Roll.” More than 30 percent (though I’d have preferred to say 27 percent) of my readers—including virtually every one of the approximately 400 visitors I’ve gotten from India—arrive on one page or the other courtesy of Google searches on numerology, usually having to do with the number 27.

I say it’s not surprising because readers have been telling me for years that their favorite chapter in Nowhere Man is “The Book of Numbers,” which explains Lennon’s obsession with numerology and Cheiro. Apparently, people all over the world share with Lennon a fascination with the occult in general and numerology in particular, and this, in part, is responsible for keeping Nowhere Man in the public eye for seven years.

I can only wonder if Peace Arch will harness the energy of this global fascination to market Chapter 27—and if they do, I can only wonder if they will at last acknowledge the source of their very curious title.


Happy holidays and thanks to everybody for reading!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Karma (and Dogma) of December 8

John Lennon statue in El Parque de los Rockeros, Havana, Cuba. © 2006 Victoria Looseleaf


Why is this day, December 8, the 342nd (3+4+2=9) day of the year, different from all other days? Because on this day, strange energies (or karma, as John Lennon would have called it) seep through a small tear in the fabric of the universe, upsetting the established order of human activity. Things happen on December 8 that don’t normally happen; people who veritably ooze powerful and/or twisted vibrations leave, or come into the world. It’s not only the day of the Immaculate Conception—according to Catholic dogma, the Virgin Mary became miraculously pregnant with Jesus Christ, cleansing us all of original sin—but Jim Morrison, founder of the Doors who died in 1971 at age 27, was born (as were Greg Allman, now 59, Ann Coulter, 45, and Sinéad O’Connor, 40).

And, of course, 26 years ago, on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was assassinated in the archway of the Dakota by a deranged fan who’s now the subject of two movies, The Killing of John Lennon, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in August, and the upcoming Chapter 27, whose title was inspired by “Chapter 27” in my Lennon bio Nowhere Man. In that book’s first chapter, “John Lennon’s Diaries,” I give my personal account of that still-reverberating night that changed so many things.

In my previous entry I wrote about my friend Louie Free, a radio talk-show host broadcasting on WASN 1500 AM out of Youngstown, Ohio, and on the Internet, Monday-Friday, 7 A.M.-Noon Eastern time. On December 8, 2000, the 20th anniversary of the murder, and a few months after the publication of Nowhere Man, I received, courtesy of Free, an especially memorable demonstration of how the transformative power of John’s sprit continues to flow through that tear in the universe—because that day it seemed to be flowing directly, and with unusual force, into Free himself, inspiring him to push the limits, just as Lennon once did.

Though I already knew that Free was not your ordinary talk-show host—our first conversation a few months earlier, a scheduled 15-minute chat, had turned into a spontaneous four-hour marathon—I wasn’t prepared for his asking me to read on the air the last chapter of Nowhere Man, the one that follows “Chapter 27.”

“I’d love to, Louie,” I said from my desk in New York, speaking on the phone, our conversation broadcast live. “But there’s words in there I can’t say on the radio.”

“Just read it,” he answered.

This is what I read:

Dakota: A Fantasy

New York City, Wednesday, January 9, 1980, 2:07 P.M.—John Lennon inhaled deeply from his joint of Thai weed, the second of the day, thick enough to be a spliff. Sitting in the “bogus position” on his bed, the quote from The National Enquirer stuck in his brain, rattling about: “If I hadn't made money honestly, I’d have been a criminal. I was just born to be rich.” And his mind reeled backwards through the years. He saw himself in Liverpool, in the Cavern Club, in 1961, leather-clad and sweating, playing to a lunchtime audience, the women shrieking, grabbing at him.

But what if fucking Brian had never walked in? What if it just never bloody happened? Imagine me stuck in Liverpool at 21, going nowhere fast, drinking meself into a fucking stupor every night. I’d be mugging bloody seamen down by the docks for a couple of extra quid. Yeah, right, some fucking genius. I’m lucky I didn’t go mad and fucking kill someone. It could have happened. But it didn’t and instead I’m doing me time in a gilded prison.


A few weeks later, Louie told me that one of his listeners had, indeed, informed the Federal Communications Commission that I’d said “fucking” four times on the air, and that the FCC had sent him a letter asking him to respond to the charge.

Free’s response: It was necessary for Mr. Rosen to say “fucking” four times in order for him to maintain the artistic integrity of his work.

That the FCC served any purpose other than keeping America’s airwaves safe for the homogenized “purity” of corporations like Clear Channel was news to me. So, it came as quite a shock that they accepted Free’s audacious explanation at face value and, for reasons that I may never fully understand chose not to impose a crippling fine, or to do anything but let the matter drop, and allow Louie Free to remain a vital voice in the ever-shrinking field of free-form independent radio.

This year I’ll be making my traditional December 8 appearance on “Radio Free Ohio” at 10 A.M. Eastern time. Since the final two hours of the show are now broadcast only on the Internet, Louie and I are at liberty to say or do anything we want, without fear of censorship, fines, or government interference of any kind. So please tune in. The Louie Free Show is always a good place to get a blast of instant karma. And on a day like this I’d think we can all use one.


Additional Program Notes

My December 8 appearance on The Louie Free Show is now archived. To listen to it, click here, then click on “Part 1” under Dec 8.

On Monday, November 20, I made an unscheduled appearance on The Louie Free Show to talk about this blog. Click here, then click on “Part 1” under Nov 20 to listen to the show. (It’s about three quarters of the way into the show.)

On Thursday, November 30, at 3:30 P.M. Eastern time, The Looseleaf Report, an L.A.-based cable TV show, will rerun their interview with me, originally recorded in February 2003. In New York City the show will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable, channel 56, and streamed on the Internet. To watch it online, click here, and then click on TW 56 / RCN 84. (Windows Media Player is required.)


Para mis lectores que hablan español, aquí es el capítulo:

El Dakota: Una Fantasía

Ciudad de Nueva York, miércoles 9 de enero de 1980, 2:07 p.m. John Lennon inhaló profundamente de su pitillo de mota tailandesa, el segundo del día, lo suficientemente grueso para su un churro. Sentando en la “posición espuria” en su cama, la cita del National Enquirer golpea su cerebro vivamente: “Si yo no hubiera hecho dinero honestamente, hubiera sido un criminal. Yo nací justamente para ser rico.” Y su mente vuela hacia atrás, a través de los años. Se ve en Liverpool, en el Club La Caverna, en 1961, vestido de cuero y sudando, tocando para una audiencia a la hora del almuerzo, el chillido de las mujeres enloquecidas con él.

¿Pero qué si el maldito Brian nunca hubiera entrado? ¿Qué si esto nunca hubiera sucedido? Me imagino estancado en Liverpool a los 21, bebiendo como un cosaco en un jodido estupor cada noche. Sería un maldito marinero gruñón, que baja por los muelles por un par de libras extras. Sí, claro, algún genio de mierda. Soy afortunado porque no me volví loco y no maté a alguien. Esto podría haber sucedido. Pero no sucedió, y en lugar de eso estoy pasando mi tiempo en una prisión dorada.

English version from Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon
Quick American Archives, 2002
© 2000, 2002 Robert Rosen

Versión español desde Nowhere Man: Los Últimos Días de John Lennon © 2003, Robert Rosen.
© 2003, de la traducción, Rene Portas
© 2003, Groupo Editorial Random House Mondadori, S.L.
Barcelona, España
© 2003, Editorial Grijalbo, S.A. de C.V.
México, D.F.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

October 9: Time Out for Peace

Detail from Nowhere Man cover, Random House Mondadori, 2003. John Lennon, May 26, 1967. © Hulton Deutsch Collection/Corbis


I just wanted to remind anybody who’s reading this blog that October 9 is John Lennon’s birthday, and that he would have been 66 had he lived. Last year, on October 9, I was in Mexico City, speaking out for peace as I believe Lennon would have, telling the media that Lennon’s birthday should be recognized as an international day of peace, and that everybody had to do whatever they could to overcome language barriers and distance barriers to communicate with each other and to work together. Because if we didn’t, then something unimaginably cataclysmic was going to happen.

Also, using a phrase that should be included in every tourist guide, I told the “men of the press,” en español: George Bush no es Estados Unidos; Estados Unidos no es George Bush. Please click here if you’d like to read this story in La Jornada—a newspaper that should be commended for recently printing on its front page a blunt truth that no American newspaper I’ve seen has expressed as clearly: “U.S. Legalizes Torture for All Foreign Enemies.”

This October 9, as I seem to do every October 9 that I’m in New York, I’ll probably go on the Louie Free Radio Show, broadcasting on WASN 1500 AM out of Youngstown, Ohio, and on the Internet, Monday-Friday, 7 A.M.-Noon Eastern time. “Radio Free Ohio,” as I call the show, is my home away from home. Usually Louie and I talk about Lennon, the Beatles, and Nowhere Man, but we also talk about politics, and a couple of weeks after 9/11, he even broadcast my wedding, live from the Municipal Building in downtown Manhattan, a few blocks from Ground Zero. It was, he said, an affirmation of life in the midst of horror and mass death. Though I’ve never met him face to face, I consider Louie Free my friend and my brother. Like John Lennon, he’s a man of peace, a courageous independent voice speaking out in a vast wasteland of talk radio.

I urge you all to listen to his show, even when I’m not on it—if only because Louie also plays some very good music.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Letters to Chapter 27

In addition to the comments readers post on this blog, I also receive numerous e-mails, generally of a longer and more complex nature. I always treat them as private correspondences. Recently, however, a reader granted me permission to post the letter that appears below. The writer has obviously put a great deal of thought into Chapter 27—perhaps more than I have—and has come up with a number of compelling, yet highly speculative, ideas about the film. The letter, of course, expresses opinions that are not necessarily my own.

In keeping with my policy of free speech for all, I will continue (when given permission) to post reader letters in this fashion, even if I differ with what they have to say. I would even, should the opportunity arise, post a letter from Yoko Ono’s spokesman Elliot Mintz, whom I suspect will disagree with some of the points raised in this critique.


McLennon Happy Meal

My name’s David, I’m a Lennon fan and an actor from London. In the 1970’s, a few friends of mine met Mark Chapman in the West End. He was hanging out at stage doors collecting autographs. One actor I know even has a photo Chapman sent him of the two of them together outside the show he’d just performed in. I’ve seen the photo—very unnerving.

I’m writing to say that I find your blog fascinating and that I’ve read Nowhere Man, too. The book gives you a real feel for John—an artist who changed so many things in the world, or at least showed us how we could effect change. Thank you for writing it and for seeing it through to publication. It seems to have cost you quite a lot.

As for Chapter 27, I think the film will be a complete failure, at least for people who want a true examination of Lennon, the murderer, and the murder itself. Since J.D. Salinger has not given permission, there will be no Catcher in the Rye voice-overs, which I think are integral to the plot. And since Yoko Ono has not given permission, there will be no Lennon music, either.

The movie seems to be primarily drawing on an incomplete psychological profile of Chapman borrowed from Let Me Take You Down, the book by that Jack Jones chap, who visited him inside Attica. Chapman, as you may have noticed, has a knack for PR, and like an old rock star, he talks about himself in the third person—which Jones dutifully repeats. To get an accurate picture of Chapman’s state of mind, surely you’d have to talk to his wife and his family, which Jones didn’t do.

But the worst problem, I think, is using Jude as a link between Chapman and Lennon. She’s just a marketing device to give the film a romantic subplot—a way to use this hot new young thing, Lindsay Lohan, to put some bums in the seats. This is grossly unfair to the real Jude, and quite simply incorrect historically.

A better solution would be to build on the truth: Use Paul Goresh as the link. He’s the amateur photographer who took the picture of Lennon signing Chapman’s Double Fantasy album. Both Goresh and Chapman were fans who became stalkers. I realize Goresh, a fat guy from New Jersey, isn’t sexy. But an actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman would be perfect for the role. The result would be a movie with more depth and character analysis that might teach us something about celebrity culture and obsession.

I know there’s artistic license, but the filmmakers also have to take some responsibility to at least tell the general facts that are known to be accurate. And if Lohan did meet Ono, and if Ono gave Lohan her blessing to do the film, then I think Yoko’s got final cut on a few sensitive areas that the movie may touch upon—like security.

Yoko, apparently, had scheduled a meeting for December 9 to talk about security. Her security chief, Doug MacDougall, had warned her the previous month that because they were now back in the public eye, they were running huge risks. But Ono either ignored his advice, or thought it wasn’t a problem.

John himself had said in BBC interviews, conducted on December 5 and 6, two days before the murder, how wonderful it was to walk around the city unmolested. Naively, he didn’t recognize that the situation had changed. Lennon, believing he was “of the people,” saw no point in security. He figured that it wouldn’t make a difference. First they shoot the bodyguards, he said, then they shoot the guy they’re protecting.

Most people probably don’t even know about the security situation, and if it’s shown in the movie, Yoko might be subjected to a huge backlash. Maybe the film will show that there was no way to stop Chapman, even with a team of bodyguards. (Personally, I think Chapman couldn’t have been stopped, and I believe Yoko is not to blame.) So, maybe Ono did ask that security issues not be discussed in the movie. Who can blame her?

Yet, the question remains: How much say does Ono have in the movie as a whole? As you well know, she’s notorious for shutting down (or attempting to shut down) “unauthorized” projects that have anything to do with John. (I’m sure the Chapter 27 producers read in Nowhere Man that it took you nearly 20 years to publish the book—they must have shat themselves.) All I’m saying is don’t perpetuate a myth that has little basis in reality. Your book shows John as a human being, with frailties. We respect, understand, and warm to him even more because of those weaknesses, and because he was able to achieve so much with all his insecurities. As the man said, “Gimme some truth.”

The problem that the filmmakers are facing is that without full permission on the various rights involved, they can only go the way of conspiracy theories, unsubstantiated rumors, and nonexistent romantic subplots, such as making Jude a major character. All this plays directly into Yoko’s hands, again allowing her to drip-feed us what she wants every few years, so we get only a taste of the man, and then it’s gone again. Sorry, but it’s crap, the way Yoko trots out this repackaged stuff, and the way her spokesman, Elliot Mintz—a man whom Lennon, as you know, had little time for—belches forth the cartoon peace and love and househusband stuff. We end with another McLennon happy meal, processed garbage for the masses.

There is enough real evidence available to comprehensively examine this terrible act and the protagonists without making shit up. Writer/director Andrew Piddington has apparently done this in his recently released The Killing of John Lennon. And, of course, you’ve done it in Nowhere Man—which is a great piece of work because it contains a lot of information that isn’t public knowledge. It’s a creative, evocative examination of Lennon, and more importantly, it’s inspired from a direct source. And you managed to do it even though Yoko made it as difficult as possible for you by not returning your journals for 18 years.

But people will go to see Chapter 27. I think it’ll be huge—if Yoko likes it. If she doesn’t, then her press machine will say it’s making money off a murdered family man and hero. And it’ll be buried. Let’s hope she doesn’t like it, and people (like you) will continue to dig out the truth and say, “This is the life of the real man.”


Sunday, August 20, 2006

25 Years Ago: Chapman Sentenced to 20 Years to Life

A scene from The Killing of John Lennon: the ex-Beatle’s body is taken to the morgue moments after he dies from gunshot wounds.


Twenty-five years ago, on August 24, 1981, in a New York City courtroom, Judge Dennis Edwards asked Mark David Chapman if he had anything to say before he was sentenced for the murder of John Lennon. Chapman, who’d pleaded guilty to the crime (thereby avoiding a trial), chose to read a passage from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the book that he said inspired him to kill Lennon.

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all,” said Chapman, reading from the book, his faltering voice growing stronger and more confident with each word. “Thousands of little kids and nobody around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And, I’m standing on the edge of some scary cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

This was Chapman’s message and confession. He was the Catcher in the Rye for his generation; he’d murdered John Lennon to save the little children.

Chapman then told the hushed courtroom, “I feel like a bloodied prizefighter in the 27th round.” These were the exact words he’d said to a psychiatrist in Hawaii after his suicide attempt. But nobody knew what he was talking about. They understood neither the significance of 27, the triple 9, nor the significance of Chapter 27, the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye, Chapman’s chapter written in Lennon’s blood. They were just the meaningless words of a madman, signifying nothing.

The judge then sentenced Chapman to 20 years to life in Attica prison, and the murderer was taken away in manacles. He walked fearlessly out of the courtroom, holding his head high, veritably glowing with pride. He’d done what he came to do—become the world’s most famous antihero.

This is, in part, how I described the courtroom scene in “Chapter 27” of my John Lennon biography Nowhere Man. I don’t know yet how the scene will be depicted in Andrew Piddington’s new film, The Killing of John Lennon, which premiered recently at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. (The film is unavailable in the United States at this time.)

But an accurate recreation of Chapman’s sentencing will presumably be in the movie—because it was Piddington’s goal to put onscreen an unflinching presentation of the truth, as seen through Chapman’s eyes, as he goes from his dead-end job as a security guard in Hawaii to the aftermath of the murder and his solitary confinement in Attica. All dialogue and voiceovers are based on the assassin’s journals, statements he made to the police and psychiatrists, interviews, depositions, and court transcripts.

Judging by press reports from Edinburgh, Piddington seems to have indeed created an uncompromising work of art and achieved a high degree of cinematic verisimilitude. The film has been described as documentary-like. The writer/director has also said that he wants The Killing of John Lennon to generate “controversy, adverse criticism and scorn.”

He can count on it. With scenes like the one in the picture above, showing the ex-Beatle’s body being taken to the morgue moments after he died from gunshot wounds, Piddington will have more than his share of controversy—primarily because a small but vocal army of self-appointed censors feel that Lennon’s killer is an unfit subject to explore in a film. Any movie about Chapman, they say, will give him the fame he wanted.

These censors, of course, have been in an uproar since they learned late last year that Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto as Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as a Lennon fan he befriends a few days before the murder, was in production. Well, now the censors don’t have to wait for the release of Chapter 27; the movie they’re dying to boycott is here now. (I can already hear the tap-tap-tap of a thousand hammers pounding nails into picket signs.)

The Killing of John Lennon, which has been in production for three years, and stars Jonas Ball as the murderer, seems to have snuck up on a press that has confined its Chapman biopic coverage to Leto’s gout and diet, Lohan’s asthma attacks and nightclub exploits, and Yoko Ono’s denunciation of Chapter 27, which, curiously, she also seems to be collaborating on.

The Killing of John Lennon appears to be everything Chapter 27 isn’t: truly independent, no bullshit, no stars, no interference from Ono, just the real story told as accurately as possible. It even has a straightforward title the producers made up themselves, rather than expropriating one from Nowhere Man.

Someday, I’d imagine, it’s going to make for one half of an enthusiastically picketed double feature.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Killing of John Lennon

Jonas Ball as Mark David Chapman in The Killing of John Lennon.


The Killing of John Lennon premiered this week at Edinburgh International Film Festival. Written and directed by Andrew Piddington, and shot over the past three years, in Hawaii, Decatur, Georgia, and New York, the movie is described as a meditation on the relationship between celebrities and their public, as well as a look into the mind of Lennon’s killer. Shot on a $500,000 budget, and starring Jonas Ball as Mark David Chapman, the film takes Chapman from his dead-end job as a security guard in Hawaii to the aftermath of the murder, with the assassin in solitary confinement in Attica prison.

“I wanted the film to be controversial,” says Piddington, who has directed two other features, Shuttlecock (1991) and The Fall (1999). “I wanted it hard, realistic, and unflinching in its presentation of the truth.”

Unlike Chapter 27, The Killing of John Lennon takes no fictional liberties. According to the director, nothing was made up and there are no invented characters. All of Chapman’s dialogue is based on his journals and statements he made to the police and psychiatrists. All of the voiceovers are based on interviews, depositions, and court transcripts.

The murder itself is presented realistically, Piddington says. “We see Lennon being shot. We see blood exploding from his body. We see Lennon’s last gasping breath as he hits the tiled floor. We hear the crunch of his bones as he’s being lifted and carried to the cop car.”

In a deliberate nod to Taxi Driver, the final image is Chapman standing naked to the waist, finger pointed to his head like a gun, just like Travis Bickle.

No information is available at this time when the film is coming to America.

Monday, July 17, 2006

El Capítulo 27 y Chapter 27

Para celebrar ambos, que cumplo 54 años (¡5+4=9!) el ¡27! de julio (2+7=9) y el 30 aniversario del día cuando el gobierno le concedió el permiso de Residencia a John Lennon, he puesto el “El Capítulo 27” de Nowhere Man: Los Ultimos Días de John Lennon. Esta es una forma de decirle gracias a quienes compraron Nowhere Man y quienes escribieron sobre el libro, convirtiéndolo en el éxito que es en Latinoamérica y España. Y quiero agradecer especialmente a todas las personas de México y Chile, que me dieron la bienvenida a sus países dispensándome su fina hospitalidad. Gracias, muchas gracias, de todo corazón.


El Capítulo 27

El 24 de agosto de 1981 fue un día sofocante—un día parecido a los de Honolulú—; cerca de doscientos miembros de la prensa y un puñado de espectadores esperan a que el famoso asesino sea conducido ante la Corte Suprema del estado de Nueva York, en el centro de Manhattan, y condenado por el delito de asesinato en segundo grado. La sala de la corte está abarrotada, y el nivel de energía es anticipadamente alto, con ese habitual tipo de anticipación previo a un concierto de rock. Todos estiran sus cuellos para ver con claridad a la estrella esposada, cuando entra en la sala con un chaleco antibalas debajo de una camisa azul oscuro. Chapman luce triste y patético, una presa entre las garras de algo que apenas entiende. Aunque no haya ya ninguna necesidad de juicio, hay la necesidad primaria de la humillación pública, un linchamiento verbal ante los medios de todo el mundo. Todos saben por qué Mark David Chapman lo hizo. Lo han sabido por ocho meses. Él lo hizo por la fama.

Y hay ciertamente mucha fama en los arrebatos de la sala de la corte esa día. Sería injusto sugerir que todos allí—todos los periodistas, testigos oculares, abogados—tienen el mismo objetivo: ser famoso. El juez Dennis Edwards, por ejemplo, parece bastante benigno, un viejo amable, de conducta moderada. En verdad, parece casi aburrido con lo que sucede, y tan soñoliento bajo la pesada humedad de agosto, que dormita por unos instantes en el banco, pero nadie parece advertirlo, u ocuparse de ello. Y el abogado defensor, Johnathan Marks, se conduce con aire de dignidad. Parece estar interesado en que su cliente tenga una audiencia imparcial.

Pero parece haber sólo una diferencia entre Chapman y virtualmente todas las demás personas que participan en esta audiencia: el acusado tiene ideas mucho más radicales acerca de cuán lejos está dispuesto a llegar para alcanzar la celebridad. Por un instante grotesco, Chapman, un cobarde perdedor, una cáscara vacía como ser humano, procura dominarse, es una actuación con el coraje de sus monstruosas convicciones. Él ha hecho exactamente lo que quería hacer, se ha transformado a sí mismo en el antihéroe mundial más famoso.

Por consiguiente, el aire está caldeado por celos vengativos. La gente está furiosa con Chapman no sólo porque él mató a John Lennon, sino también porque cometió un ataque brutal contra el statu quo, un acto de lucha de clases. John Lennon era un profesional muy exitoso, un miembro de la élite de poder. Y los profesionales más exitosos de la sala de la corte toman eso personalmente. Chapman se ha robado la fama de John Lennon, y ellos no están dispuestos a que la disfrute. Pero el triste hecho es que, de todas formas, la breve fama que ellos puedan alcanzar por esos días dependerá directamente de su relación con el asesino. Yo lo psicoanalicé a él. Yo lo acusé a él. Yo escribí una historia sobre él.

Los testigos oculares se han preparado bien para su momento ante los reflectores, para esa combinación de lo personal con lo histórico. Los psiquiatras podrían ser tomados por actores que audicionan para una miniserie de TV. Si puede hallarse un defecto en su actuación, es porque son transparentes en su mayoría. Sonríen demasiado. Parecen demasiado felices, demasiado presumidos, como si no les competiera cualquier noción anticuada de justicia, sino su lugar, pensar en contratos para escribir libros.

Los psiquiatras de la fiscalía repiten lo que han estado diciendo desde diciembre: Chapman estaba cuerdo, él sabía perfectamente lo que estaba haciendo, y lo hizo por la fama. Los psiquiatras de la defensa, desde luego, hablan de su esquizofrenia, de “la gente pequeña”, de su dolor.

Aparentemente, nadie se familiariza con la intrigante declaración de Yoko Ono sobre la reencarnación: “Tu hermano es la persona que tú asesinaste en tu vida pasada”. Por tanto, nadie se ha molestado en preguntar a Chapman: ¿Usted espera ser el hermano de John Lennon en su siguiente vida?

Los fans de Lennon añaden un toque surrealista a los procesos. Muchos de ellos llevan el pelo largo, como John lo usaba en el 68. Llevan lentes con bordes de cable y playeras con la imagen de Lennon. Ellos son más que los reporteros al menos en una relación de dos a uno, y están ansiosos por compartir sus opiniones con “los hombres de la prensa”.

“Mark David Chapman—opina un fan—era sólo un cabrón cobarde que lo hizo la fama.”

“Ahora él merece morir—añade otro—. Y yo estaría feliz de bajar el enchufe.”

Allen Sullivan, el fiscal, describe a Chapman como un hombre que “nunca mostró algún verdadero remordimiento” y está “interesado sólo en sí mismo, en su propio bienestar, en lo que le afecta, lo que le importa en este preciso momento”. Entonces insiste en que Chapman “lo hizo por la fama, por la exaltación personal, para llamar la atención sobre él, para halagar a su propio ego. El acusado estaba dedicado todo el tiempo a hacerse famoso”. Su prueba: Chapman quería que el fotógrafo Paul Goresh, quien previamente había fotografiado a Lennon cuando firmó la copia del Double Fantasy para Chapman, esperara hasta que Lennon regresara de su sesión de grabación, para que pudiera hacer la foto del asesinato.

Sullivan lo hace parecer como si el deseo por la fama fuera una cosa vergonzosa, un crimen en sí mismo. Pero sus palabras suenan huecas. Es un feo espectáculo que pasa por alto intencionalmente, el único hecho horrible que flota como una niebla sobre la sala de la corte. Es un hecho que nadie se atreve a mencionar: en Estados Unidos, en 1981, particularmente en una ciudad como Nueva York, la fama es una ventaja crucial, y el anonimato es una condición tóxica que puede conducir a la rabia asesina.

Holden Caulfield o John Lennon, en cuanto a eso, se habrían vomitado.

Antes de que el juez Dennis Edwards pronuncie la sentencia, a Chapman se le concede la oportunidad de hablar. Pero es poco lo que puede hacer para ayudarse a sí mismo. Chapman ya se ha declarado culpable. La evidencia en su contra es abrumadora. Es literalmente un arma humeante. El veredicto también podría estar predestinado. Él se ha enterrado en algún lugar por el resto de su vida. Alguna vez, la única duda verdadera era si él iba a estar en una prisión o en una institución para criminals dementes. Ahora no hay duda.

Visto como un mártir con un chaleco antibalas, se pone de pie y enfrenta al juez. Tiene su “Biblia” con él—su copia muchas veces hojeadas de El guardian entre el centeno—. “Yo he escogido este pasaje como mis últimas palabras”, jura—un juramento que pronto romperá—. Abre el capítulo 22, en el que Holden, tras ser expulsado de la escula por reprobar cuatro materias, dice a su pequeña hermana, Phoebe, lo que quiere hacer con su vida.

El asesino empieza a leer. “De todos modos, yo sigo imaginando a todos esos niños pequeños jugando algo en ese gran campo de centeno y eso es todo.” Está nervioso y al principio vacila. Entonces algo le da fluidez y pone empeño, su voz de repente es fuerte y clara, regular e impecable. Él ha ensayado bien, y hace justicia a Salinger.

“Miles de niños pequeños y nadie alrededor—nadie grande, quiero decir, excepto yo—. Y estoy parado al borde de un temible precipicio. Lo que tengo que hacer es capturar a todo el que empiece a acercarse al precipicio. Me refiero a que si ellos corren y no miran a donde van, yo tengo que salir de algún lugar y capturarlos. Eso es lo que yo hago todo el día. Yo sólo soy el guardián entre el centeno, y eso es todo.”

Éste es su mensaje y confesión. Mark David Chapman es el guardián entre el centeno de su generación; él ha asesinado a John Lennon para salvar a los niños.

Entonces Chapman dice a la callada sala de la corte: “Me siento como un peleador sangriento premiado en el round 27”. Ésas son las palabras exactas que había dicho a un psiquiatra en Hawai, tras su intento de suicidio. Pero nadie sabe de qué está hablando. Tampoco entienden el significado del 27, el triple de 9, ni el significado del capítulo 27, el capítulo perdido de El guardián entre el centeno, el capítulo de Chapman escrito con la sangre de Lennon. Son sólo unas palabras insensatas de un loco, que no significan nada.

El juez entonces pronuncia la sentencia y Chapman es sacado; con las esposas sale sin miedo de la sala de la corte, llevando la cabeza en alto, realmente brillando de orgullo. Él ha hecho lo que vino a hacer.

Instantes después, afuera de la sala de la corte, los medios, con sus bolígrafos, reflectores y cámaras listas, descienden sobre los testigos oculares de la fiscalía y Sullivan, el fiscal. Ellos son el equipo ganador. Están de pie en un nudo apretado y pequeño, arreglados para los reflectores, cada uno sonriendo ampliamente, empujándose el uno al otro hacia atrás, felicitándose interiormente por el trabajo bien hecho. Lo único que se echa de menos es el champagne, que probablemente vendrá más tarde, en una fiesta privada.

“¿Se hizo justicia?”, los medios quieren saber.

Por supuesto que se hizo justicia. El asesino muy probablemente pasará el resto de su vida en la cárcel.

Entonces no les queda nada más que hacer sino irse a casa y verse en las noticias nocturnas, mirarse fotografiados en los periódicos matutinos.

Con excepción de Mark David Chapman. Él continuará la gran caída descrita en la oscura profecía del capítulo 24 de El guardian entre el centeno. El Sr. Antolini, un viejo maestro de Holden—otro “pervertido” en realidad—, le dice: “Yo pienso que esta caída que estás conduciendo es una clase especial de caída, horrible. Al hombre que cae no se le permite sentir u oírse a sí mismo cuando toca fondo. Él sólo sigue cayendo y cayendo”.

Chapman pronto descubrirá lo que hay en el fondo del abismo “sin fondo”: un confinamiento solitario en Attica, poseído por los demonios.

Imagina que no hay posesión.

“Esto me mata.” Eso es lo que Holden Caulfield hubiera dicho, de todos modos.

Desde Nowhere Man: Los Últimos Días de John Lennon © 2003, Robert Rosen.
© 2003, de la traducción, Rene Portas
© 2003, Groupo Editorial Random House Mondadori, S.L.
Barcelona, España
© 2003, Editorial Grijalbo, S.A. de C.V.
México, D.F.


The Translation

To celebrate both my 54th birthday (5+4=9!) on July 27 (!) and the 30th anniversary of the government granting John Lennon his green card, I’ve posted “El Capítulo 27” from Nowhere Man: Los Últimos Días de John Lennon. This is my way of saying thank you to all the Spanish-speaking people who’ve bought Nowhere Man, who’ve written about the book, and who’ve made it such a success in Latin America and Spain. And I especially want to thank all the people in Mexico and Chile who welcomed me to their countries with such graciousness and hospitality. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


Chapter 27

On the stifling day of August 24, 1981–a Honolulu-like day–about two hundred members of the press and a handful of spectators wait for the famous assassin to be brought before the New York State Supreme Court in downtown Manhattan and sentenced for his crime of second-degree murder. The courtroom is packed, and the energy level is high with anticipation, the kind of anticipation that normally might precede a rock concert. Everybody cranes their necks to get a good look at the manacled star as he is marched into the room wearing a bulletproof vest under a dark blue shirt. He looks sad and pathetic, a pawn in the clutches of something he barely understands. Though there is no longer any need for a trial, there is a primal need for a public shaming, a verbal tarring and feathering before the world media. Everybody knows why Mark David Chapman did it. They’ve known it for eight months. He did it for fame.

And there’s certainly a lot of fame up for grabs in the courtroom this day. It would be unfair to suggest that everyone there–all the journalists, expert witnesses, lawyers–has the same objective: to be famous. The judge, Dennis Edwards, for example, appears to be utterly benign, a kindly old man, low-key in his demeanor. Indeed, he seems almost bored by what is happening, and so drowsy from the heavy August humidity that he dozes off for a few moments at the bench, but nobody seems to notice, or care. And the defense attorney, Jonathan Marks, carries himself with an air of dignity. He does seem to be concerned that his client be given a fair hearing.

But there appears to be only one difference between Chapman and virtually everybody else who is participating in this hearing: The defendant has far more radical ideas about how far he’s willing to go to achieve celebrity. For one grotesque moment, Chapman, a cowardly loser, an empty shell of a human being, managed to manipulate himself into acting with the courage of his monstrous convictions. He has done exactly what he wanted to do; he has transformed himself into the world’s most famous antihero.

Consequently, the air is thick with vengeful jealousy. People are furious at Chapman not only because he killed John Lennon, but also because he committed a brutal attack on the status quo, an act of class warfare. John Lennon was a very successful professional, a member of the power elite. And the very successful professionals in this courtroom take it personally. Chapman has stolen John Lennon’s fame, and they’re not about to let him enjoy it. But the sad fact is that whatever fleeting fame they might be able to grasp this day will depend strictly upon their relationship to the killer. I psychoanalyzed him. I prosecuted him. I wrote a story about him.

The expert witnesses have prepared well for their moment in the spotlight, for this merging of the personal and historical. The psychiatrists could be mistaken for actors auditioning for a TV miniseries. If there is fault to be found in their performances, it’s that most of them are transparent. They smile too much. They look too happy, too smug, as though they aren’t concerned with any antiquated notions of justice, but are thinking instead about book deals.

The psychiatrists for the prosecution repeat what they’ve been saying since December: Chapman was sane, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it for fame. The defense psychiatrists, of course, talk of his schizophrenia, the “Little People,” his pain.

Apparently, nobody on either side is familiar with Yoko Ono’s intriguing statement on reincarnation: “Your brother is the person you murdered in your past life.” So nobody has bothered to ask Chapman, Do you expect to be John Lennon's brother in your next life?

The Lennon fans add a surreal touch to the proceedings. Many of them are long-haired in that “John ’68” style. They wear wire-rimmed glasses and T-shirts with Lennon’s image on it. They’re outnumbered by reporters by at least two to one, and they’re anxious to share their opinions with “the men of the press.”

“Mark David Chapman,” opines one fan, “was just a cowardly fuck who did it for fame.”

“Now he deserves to die,” adds another. “And I’d be happy to pull the switch.”

Allen Sullivan, the prosecutor, describes Chapman as a man who “has never exhibited any true remorse” and who is “only interested in himself, his own well-being, what affects him, what’s important to him at this particular moment.” He then proceeds to hammer home the point that Chapman “did it for fame, personal aggrandizement, to draw attention to himself, to massage his own ego. The defendant was concerned throughout that he become famous.” His proof: Chapman wanted photographer Paul Goresh, who’d previously photographed Lennon signing Chapman’s copy of Double Fantasy, to wait until Lennon returned from his recording session so he could get a photo of the murder.

Sullivan makes it sound as if the desire for fame is a shameful thing, a crime in itself. But his words ring hollow. It’s an ugly show that intentionally overlooks the one hideous fact that hangs like fog in the courtroom. It is the one fact that nobody dares mention: In America in 1981, particularly in a city like New York, fame is a crucial commodity, and anonymity is a toxic condition that can lead to murderous rage.

Holden Caulfield, or John Lennon for that matter, would have puked.

Before Judge Dennis Edwards passes sentence, Chapman is given the opportunity to speak. But there’s little he can do to help himself. Chapman has already pleaded guilty. The evidence against him is overwhelming. There is literally a smoking gun. The verdict may as well have been preordained. He is getting locked up somewhere for the rest of his life. Once, the only real question was if it was going to be in prison or in an institution for the criminally insane. Now there is no question.

Looking like a martyr in a bulletproof vest, he stands up and faces the judge. He has his “Bible” with him–his well-thumbed copy of The Catcher in the Rye. “I’ve chosen this passage as my final spoken words,” he vows–a vow he'll soon break. He opens to Chapter 22, in which Holden, after being thrown out of school for failing four subjects, tells his little sister, Phoebe, what he wants to do with his life.

The murderer begins reading. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.” He’s nervous and at first he falters. Then something clicks and he hits his stride, his voice suddenly strong and clear, smooth and flawless. He is well rehearsed, and he does Salinger justice.

“Thousands of little kids and nobody around–nobody big, I mean–except me. And, I’m standing on the edge of some scary cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

This is his message and confession. Mark David Chapman is the Catcher in the Rye for his generation; he has murdered John Lennon to save the little children.

Then Chapman tells the hushed courtroom, “I feel like a bloodied prizefighter in the 27th round.” These are the exact words he said to a psychiatrist in Hawaii after his suicide attempt. But nobody knows what he’s talking about. They understand neither the significance of 27, the triple 9, nor the significance of Chapter 27, the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye, Chapman’s chapter written in Lennon’s blood. They are just the meaningless words of a madman, signifying nothing.

The judge then passes sentence, and Chapman is taken away still wearing manacles. He walks fearlessly out of the courtroom, holding his head high, veritably glowing with pride. He’s done what he came to do.

Afterwards, outside the courtroom, the media, with their pens and floodlights and cameras at the ready, descend upon the expert witnesses for the prosecution, and Sullivan, the prosecutor. They are the winning team. They stand in a tight little knot, preening in the floodlights, everybody smiling broadly, patting each other on the back, congratulating themselves on a job well done. The only thing missing is champagne, which will probably come later, at the private party.

“Was justice served?” the media demands to know.

Of course justice was served. The killer will most likely spend the rest of his life in jail.

Then there is nothing for them to do but go home and watch themselves on the evening news, look at their pictures in the morning newspapers.

Except for Mark David Chapman. He will continue the great fall described in the dark prophesy in Chapter 24 of The Catcher in the Rye. Mr. Antolini, an old teacher of Holden’s–another “pervert,” actually–tells him, “This fall I think you’re riding for–it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling.”

Chapman will soon discover what lies at the bottom of the “bottomless” pit: solitary confinement in Attica, possession by demons.

Imagine no possession.

“That kills me.”

That’s what Holden Caulfield would have said, anyway.

From Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon
Quick American Archives, 2002
© 2000, 2002 Robert Rosen

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why Don’t Those “Chapter 27” People Make a Film About John Lennon Instead of Mark David Chapman?

A scene from the disastrous Broadway musical Lennon, a Yoko Ono-authorized project that ran for a few weeks in the summer of 2005. © 2005 Joan Marcus


It’s a good question, one I’ve seen raised in numerous online forums, including IMDB. Since I seriously doubt the filmmakers will answer it before Chapter 27 is released next year (if they ever answer it), I’ll attempt to answer it myself. But before I do, I just want to say to Chapter 27’s writer/director J. P. Schaefer: Hey J. P., when you’re ready to talk, let’s do an interview for Proceso, the Mexican Time/Newsweek. In case you haven’t heard, the Mexicans think Mark David Chapman is a fascinating character—a grotesque symbol of the maddening juxtaposition of wealth/poverty/fame/anonymity/sanity/insanity in America. Yes, J. P., I think we could do quite the entrevista.

As for the question: I think that Chapter 27’s producers, Peace Arch Films, did want to make a movie about John Lennon; they probably spent a year or two trying to figure out how—only to realize that without Yoko Ono’s permission they couldn’t make the kind of “serious” film they wanted to make. Chapter 27, I suspect, is what they chose to do instead.

Other people, of course, have made unauthorized Lennon films, and some of them are quite good. The Hours and Times (1991), starring Ian Hart as Lennon, is about John’s alleged affair with the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. Backbeat (1994), again starring Hart as Lennon, is about the Beatles in Hamburg in the early 1960’s. The Two Of Us (2000), starring Jared Harris as Lennon and Aidan Quinn as Paul McCartney, is about a fictional reunion John and Paul had in New York in the mid-1970’s. But in each case the producers had to overcome seemingly insurmountable legal and creative obstacles: Because Ono controls both the rights to Lennon’s music and the screen rights to the registered trademark known as “John Lennon,” they couldn’t use music written by Lennon (or the Beatles), they couldn’t quote Lennon from published sources, and The Two Of Us, which took place during the Dakota years, couldn’t use Ono or Sean Lennon as characters.

And Ono still probably wanted to sue—because the only John Lennon story she wants told is her authorized “official” version. But Ono’s lawyers presumably told her in each case that a lawsuit was a bad idea. Not only would it bring more attention to these films, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that they were taking money out of her pocket or that a reasonable person might mistake them for authorized products of the Lennon estate, thereby infringing on her Lennon trademark. (Apple Records recently sued Apple Computer in British courts for this kind of trademark infringement…and lost.)

Chapter 27, however, is a different kind of movie because the subject matter is so “controversial” and because it’s getting so much high-profile publicity. When Ono’s attorneys found out about it, they probably sent Peace Arch a letter telling them (as if they didn’t know) that Ono controls the screen rights to her own character, to Lennon, and to Sean, and they probably asked to vet both the script and the film—just to make sure that Peace Arch hadn’t infringed upon any trademarks or copyrights.

In response, I’d imagine the Peace Arch attorneys told Ono’s lawyers to chill, assuring them that nothing had been infringed, and they’d do their own vetting, thank you very much. (I also suspect that Ono’s attorneys were not at all happy when they saw photos of the pseudo-Double Fantasy album cover, which could be mistaken for the real thing. They probably fired off another warning letter to Peace Arch, and it remains to be seen if the album stays in the picture.)

Well, this is all very interesting, people may say. But then they often ask: Why doesn’t Ono just give her approval to a great filmmaker, like Martin Scorsese or Robert Altman, and let him make the Lennon movie everybody wants to see—one with proper music, characters, and dialogue?

The answer is simple: Independent-minded directors of Scorsese’s or Altman’s stature would never collaborate with somebody who, like Ono, would demand complete control of the film and final approval over everything associated with it. When Ono gives permission for a Lennon project, it’s not to artists and auteurs; it’s to pliant journeymen she can bend to her will—like Don Scardino, for example, the “conceiver”/director/writer of the Broadway musical Lennon, which ran for a few weeks in the summer of 2005 and met with uniformly disastrous reviews before closing.

In a lengthy critique of Lennon I wrote for Proceso (available en español as an e-document on Amazon, or for a few pesos less from Proceso), I said that the primary problem with the play was that it never took you into John’s world; you never believed for a second that what you were seeing onstage was an accurate representation of his life; and that Lennon himself never came alive—partly because nine different actors, men and women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds, took turns playing him, with one serving as the “main” narrating Lennon. (Ono has said that no single actor is capable of playing Lennon.)

In the article, I also contrasted Scardino’s experience putting together Lennon with my own experience, in 1981, collaborating with Lennon’s former personal assistant, Fred Seaman, on what was supposed to be an authorized Lennon biography based on John’s diaries—a project that 19 years later became the very unauthorized Nowhere Man. I think the following excerpts will help explain why Peace Arch chose to make Chapter 27 rather than a Lennon biopic:

Scardino, [probably best known for directing a few episodes of Law and Order and the Cosby show], has said that he didn’t want Lennon to be a “whitewash” but was uneasy about including any material that portrayed John in a negative light. He’s also said that Ono insisted that he keep a scene where John humiliates her at a party, loudly making love to a girl in the next room. Though the scene does remain, it’s neutered. There’d be no way to know what was going on if “narrating John” didn’t tell you.

Which raises a ticklish question: Is everybody who collaborates with Yoko Ono on any Lennon project reduced to being a propagandist? I’m not sure. But I can say this much: Every day [as I struggled to put together the authorized Lennon bio], Seaman and I confronted the same two questions: Is there anything we can write that Ono will approve? Is there any way to please “Mother”? The problem was that every time Seaman spoke to Ono, he divined different answers.

“Write something that makes Yoko look like a star in her own right…and write it fast,” he’d tell me Monday. Then Tuesday he’d say, “Don’t use any words at all; it has to be a picture book.”

Our discussions left me creatively paralyzed, and I suspect that it was a similar kind of fear and confusion that drove Scardino to rely completely on Lennon’s previously published words, to write virtually no original material, and to reduce John’s last five years to little more than the official myth: “I was taking care of the baby.”

At the least, Ono should have insisted that Scardino show Lennon’s dramatic struggle in Bermuda, in the spring and summer of 1980, to write the music for his final album, Double Fantasy—show a creative giant awakening from a five-year slumber to recapture his muse. Instead, for reasons I do not pretend to understand, it was airbrushed out—along with his mistress, May Pang, his son Julian, tarot, magic, astrology, numerology, servants, money, marijuana, and his diary.


Assuming the copyright laws (which Congress, pressured by well-funded Disney lobbyists, recently revised to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain), aren’t changed yet again, John Lennon and his creative output will begin to pass into the public domain in 2055. Until then, all we can do is take what we get and hope for the best. Chapter 27 is hardly the last word. There are a lot of independent-minded and fiercely creative people who will not rest until they find innovative and “legal” ways to tell the John Lennon story that they want to tell, that John would have wanted told, and that deserves to be told in our lifetime.

Monday, May 15, 2006

All He Was Saying Was “Give Me a Job!”

Mark David Chapman’s mug shot, from December 9, 1980.


Late in the afternoon of December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman confronted John Lennon as the ex-Beatle emerged from the Dakota. But instead of shooting Lennon, he handed him a copy of Double Fantasy. Yet even more than Lennon’s autograph, Chapman wanted a job. Because he’d read in Lennon’s Playboy interview that sometimes he hired fans off the street.

Here’s how I describe the scene in Nowhere Man:

In his deranged mind [Chapman] figures that he might like to work in the Dakota, and if John hires him, there’ll be no need to kill him.

“Is this what you want?” John asks, scrawling his name and the date on the [album] cover.

Mister Lennon, are there any jobs available in your office? It is a triumph of will [for Chapman] to get the words out.

Paul Goresh, an amateur photographer who haunts the Dakota, snaps a picture—24 hours later it will be on the front page of The Daily News.

“Send in your resume,” John suggests to Chapman. He then climbs into the limousine, which speeds off towards Columbus Avenue.

An excerpt from Nowhere Man (en español) about what it was like to work for John Lennon just ran in Soho, a popular Colombian “lad” magazine (kind of like Maxim). It reminded me of this passage, so I figured I’d post a link to the article. (The original English is, of course, accessible through Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature, though it’s easier to just buy the book.)

While I’m at it, two other Nowhere-Man-related items—an interview in Paniko and a news article about Paniko in the Chilean newspaper La Nación—have recently been published. Para los lectores que hablan español, aquí están los enlaces:

Las drogas de Lennon

Periodismo adolescente se toma la red

(Anybody else who wants to know what these articles say can do a rough translation with Google language tools.)

For the record: Because Nowhere Man has received so much attention in Latin America, I’ve made the effort over the past 18 months to learn Spanish. I’m probably reading on a third-or-fourth-grade level now. Fortunately, I have cooperative editors and a very good translator.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

27—The Unluckiest Number in Rock ’n’ Roll

Born on December 8, the day that would become better known as the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, Jim Morrison, founder of the Doors, died at age 27—as did Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain.


Though Cheiro said that 27 is “a fortunate number” promising “reward…authority, power, and command,” it appears to be an especially unlucky number for rock stars—and not just because Mark Chapman wanted to write Chapter 27, the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye, in John Lennon’s blood. It’s as if 27, the triple 9, formed a numerological Bermuda Triangle that has swallowed at least five great musicians.

Here are the birth and death days of rock stars whose lives ended at age 27:

Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones
Born: February 28, 1942, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
Died: July 2, 1969, Hartfield, Sussex, England
Cause of Death: Found dead in his swimming pool. “Death by misadventure,” the coroner’s report said.
Age: 27

Jimi Hendrix
Born: November 27, 1942, Seattle, Washington
Died: September 18, 1970, London, England
Cause of Death: Apparently drowned in his own vomit after drinking wine and taking 9 sleeping pills.
Age: 27

Janis Joplin
Born: January 19, 1943, Port Arthur, Texas
Died: October 4, 1970, Hollywood, California
Cause of Death: Overdose of heroin and alcohol.
Age: 27

Jim Morrison, founder of The Doors
Born: December 8, 1943, Melbourne, Florida
Died: July 3, 1971, Paris, France
Cause of Death: Heart failure, according to the official report.
Age 27

Kurt Cobain, founder of Nirvana
Born: February 20, 1967, Aberdeen, Washington
Died: April 5, 1994, Lake Washington, Washington
Cause of Death: Self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, according to Seattle police.
Age: 27

If I’m leaving anybody out, please let me know.

(Thank you Trickyhappyelf on IMDB.)


Though a number of people have asked me to post more often (and I appreciate the encouragement), I still intend to limit what I say here to my thoughts on Chapter 27, the movie, and its connection to “Chapter 27” in my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, which is the inspiration for the movie’s title. In other words, I see this blog as a database, not a place to post my daily stream of consciousness. (If I feel like doing that, I’ll start another blog.)

In my first entry, “The Roots of Chapter 27,” I said that I’d post when I had time to write. That appears to be happening every 3 to 4 weeks, though I always respond as soon as possible to e-mail and to people who post comments. (Please do check out the ongoing and often provocative dialogues in the “Comments” sections of various postings, especially “Astute Readers.”)

In the spirit of this blog, I will try to post new material around the 9th, 18th, or 27th of each month. But I also want to let everybody know that I’m into keeping this blog for the long haul, and I will continue posting at least until the release of Chapter 27 in 2007.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The 27 I Missed

Lindsay Lohan on the cover of the February ’06 Vanity Fair. In Chapter 27, Lohan plays a fan, presumably based on a woman known as “Jude” Stein, whom John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, played by Jared Leto, befriends a few days before the murder.


In my previous posting, “John Lennon’s Bible and the Occult Significance of 27,” I said, “In Nowhere Man, the number 27 doesn’t come up in relation to Lennon until Chapman appears on the scene.”

Apparently, I hadn’t read my own book carefully enough. On page 33 of the Quick American Archives edition, I say, speaking of Lennon’s “green card,” “On July 27 [1976] his application for a visa was approved.”

Roberto Ponce, my editor at Proceso, pointed this out in his column of December 5, 2005.

So there you have it. One of the best days in John Lennon’s life, the day the government allowed him to remain in the United States, rather than deport him for a 1968 marijuana conviction, was a number 27—“a fortunate number,” just as Cheiro had said in his Book of Numbers.

(For a full explanation of how the number 27 “karmically” connects Chapman to Lennon, please see my earlier posting, “The Roots of Chapter 27.”)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Astute Readers, Aspiring Censors, and IMDB: The Chapter 27 Page

Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27.

As one astute reader of this blog pointed out, Nowhere Man, my John Lennon biography, is not the first book to mention “Chapter 27.” That honor, if I may use such a word, belongs to Jack Jones’s Mark David Chapman bio, Let Me Take You Down, which I used for my own Chapman research and credited accordingly. But one of the flaws in Jones’s book is that he was unaware of the numerological significance of the number 27—that it’s more than the number that follows 26, the final chapter of The Catcher in the Rye—and he didn’t show how Chapter 27 played into the heart of Lennon’s obsession with numerology, the number 9, and all its multiples. Nor did Jones show how, in a very spooky way, the number 27 karmically tied Chapman to Lennon, and gave the events a more chilling resonance. (For a full explanation of all this, please see my first two postings: “The Roots of Chapter 27” and “John Lennon’s Bible and the Occult Significance of 27.”) That’s why Jones mentions Chapter 27 only once, early on in his book, and never elaborates on it.

The Chapman section in Nowhere Man, which I call “The Coda,” picks up where the Jones bio leaves off, bringing Chapter 27 to the forefront of the story. It probes the meaning of what Chapman did more than it plumbs the ooze of Chapman’s mind, from Chapman’s lunatic point of view, as the Jones bio does.

That’s why the only people who seem to fully understand what Chapter 27 means are those who’ve read Nowhere Man or this blog. That’s also why the Mexican newsweekly Proceso has been covering this story in-depth, wasting no time in saying that Chapter 27, the movie, comes from “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man. In other words, if the producers of Chapter 27 hadn’t read my book, then they’d be calling their film Let Me Take You Down. But they totally get the numerology thing, and they’re placing all their bets on number 27—which is one reason they’re releasing the movie in 2007, probably on September 27.

Some people, presumably enraged Beatles fans, are not happy about this. Perhaps believing that Chapter 27 will inspire other deranged individuals to assassinate a celebrity so they, too, can spend the rest of their lives rotting in jail, these fans are petitioning for a boycott of the film. Apparently, they don’t think that Chapter 27 is getting enough publicity on its own—even with 500 newspapers running stories about Lindsay Lohan’s asthma attacks and Jared Leto’s diet; Yoko Ono herself denouncing the film (except when she’s collaborating on it); and Sean Lennon “dating” Lohan. These fans are also apparently unaware that censorship always backfires.

The case of one Richard M. Nixon should serve as a cautionary tale. The week the Watergate scandal broke in 1972, Nixon, in an attempt to distract the country, ordered the FBI to shut down every theatre showing Deep Throat, confiscate the prints, and arrest the filmmakers and actors on obscenity charges. The result: a mediocre porn flick, shot in a week for $25,000, became the 11th-highest-grossing film of 1973, with earnings of over $600 million, and Linda Lovelace became the world’s first porno “superstar.” (And Nixon still had to resign the presidency, in disgrace, to avoid impeachment.)

I might also remind any aspiring censors that long before Chapman was autographing copies of The Catcher in the Rye in his prison cell, the book was a perennial best-seller, thanks in part to the high school principals all over America who’d been banning it for 29 years.


To get a sense of all the “bad karma” swirling around this film, I took a look at the Chapter 27 page on IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base, which includes a public forum on which I posted a few comments. One of my postings, an attempt to explain the meaning of Chapter 27, prompted another writer, who calls himself Berberis, to talk about his aversion to the word “hate,” which he said “is bandied about on this board—and others—with a willingness I find both alarming and saddening.” Speaking of Chapman, he then asks if the level of hatred towards people we don’t understand is a recent development, or if it’s just easier to express now.

I told him, “Obviously the Internet has made it easy for any maniac who knows how to use a computer to broadcast their hatred worldwide. As for somebody like Chapman: a good way to become a target of virulent hatred is to murder one of the most beloved icons of the 20th century. I, however, think it’s better to make an effort to understand people like Chapman, which is what I did in the final section of Nowhere Man, what Jack Jones did with his Chapman bio—and what I hope the producers of Chapter 27 are doing.

“The original draft of Nowhere Man ended the afternoon of December 8, 1980, before the murder. I wanted to show people what the world looked like through John Lennon’s eyes, and that vision had nothing to do with Chapman. But my publisher insisted that I make an effort to explain what Chapman did—because he didn’t understand it. Since I’d attended the court proceedings and felt I had something new to say—and since the numerology angle gave the story a deeper resonance—I agreed to write the section called ‘The Coda.’

“I was, of course, horrified and repulsed by the murder. But in writing about Chapman, I came to feel a certain sympathy for him because he was (and probably remains) a deeply disturbed human being—the ultimate Nowhere Man.”

Chapter 27 should be allowed to stand or fall on its own. If the film’s a disaster, then the media will crucify it, as they did with Lennon, the clueless Broadway musical, which closed after 40-some-odd performances and lost millions of dollars. But if Chapter 27 is any good—and I hope it is—then it will bring us to a deeper understanding of an event which, on the surface, seems to make no sense at all. And that would be a rare step in the right direction—one that I might even get a little credit for.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Perfect 9: For Yoko Ono on her 73rd Birthday

John Lennon, age 29, and Yoko Ono, age 37, in Denmark. From Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, AP/Worldwide Photos

February 18 is Yoko Ono’s 73rd birthday and to commemorate the occasion I’ve done a numerological workup, based on John Lennon’s bible, Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, on the “name number” and “birth number” of rock’s foremost widow.

17 = 8

19 = 10 = 1
8 + 1 = 9

Yoko Ono
30 = 3
8 + 1 + 3 = 12 = 3

Born February 18, 1933
2 + 18 + 1933 = 27 = 9
2 + 9 + 7 = 18 = 9

I explained in my previous post, on the occult significance of 27, how I calculated these numbers, and their numerological significance according to Cheiro. But I didn’t explain the numbers 12 and 3, which are also the name numbers of “John Lennon.”

The number 12, Cheiro says, is the number of “suffering and anxiety of the mind, it is indicated as ‘the sacrifice’ or ‘the victim’ and generally foreshadows one being sacrificed for the plans or intrigues of others.” Threes, on the other hand, love discipline, are “decidedly ambitious, are never satisfied by being in subordinate positions” and “rise to the highest positions in any profession they choose.” Their aim, he adds, is “to have control and authority over others.” (John’s nickname, “Walrus,” is a 3, as well.)


On my way to meet a friend (who blogs anonymously) at an Authors Guild gathering, I saw Yoko Ono on the street. It was about 6 p.m. on January 25, and I was walking uptown, at a brisk pace, on New York’s 5th Avenue, near 38th Street. She caught my eye from about a half block away—a tiny woman wearing a white leather jacket, a mod white cap, and black pants, walking downtown, at an equally brisk pace, accompanied by a tall, athletic-looking fellow, whom I assumed was a bodyguard. But I still wasn’t sure it was her until we strode past each other and I saw the side of her face, behind her sunglasses. I was amazed: she looked even younger than she did the last time I saw her, in September 2002, the day I testified on her behalf at a copyright infringement trial. I’d go so far as to say that she’s the youngest-looking 73-year-old woman I’ve ever seen—and it made me think about what she said in an interview that I’d read a few months ago in what I believe was a British women’s magazine. Death, Ono told the reporter, was avoidable and she didn’t believe in it—or words to that effect.

I’d like to know if she was talking about a Faustian bargain, cryogenic freezing, or an impending medical breakthrough. Because there is no other way to explain eternal life, at least in the physical sense.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Program Note

For any Spanish-speaking readers: I will be talking with Eli Bravo about Nowhere Man and John Lennon on Union Radio Venezuela on Friday, February 10, 12:30-1 pm eastern standard time (1:30-2 pm Venezuela time).

The broadcast is streamed but you need to register. The show is en español.

Photo by Mariola Guerrero, LUN

Sunday, February 05, 2006

John Lennon’s Bible and the Occult Significance of 27

The Catcher in the Rye was, of course, Mark David Chapman’s bible, and the “missing chapter,” 27, was the chapter he wanted to write, as I said in Nowhere Man, in John Lennon’s blood. But Lennon, too, had a bible: Cheiro’s Book of Numbers. After Lennon discovered this book, which explained in simple language the occult “science” of numerology, he couldn’t so much as dial a phone number without first consulting Cheiro, and he couldn’t walk out of the house without finding mystical significance in every license plate, address, and street sign.

Lennon, who was born on October 9, had always been aware of the strong presence of the number 9 in his life. He considered it his lucky number. His son Sean was also born on October 9; he’d written songs titled Revolution 9, One After 909, and No. 9 Dream; Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles at The Cavern on November 9; and he met Yoko on November 9.

But it was only after reading Cheiro that Lennon came to understand that the multiples of 9, particularly 18 and 27, were as important as 9 itself. As Cheiro explained, the single numbers 1 to 9 represent “the physical or material side of things” and compound numbers from 10 on represent the “occult or spiritual side of life.”

Here are a few things Cheiro wrote about 9:

“Number 9 persons are fighters in all they attempt in life. They usually have difficult times in their early years but generally are in the end successful by their grit, strong will and determination. They are hasty in temper, impulsive, independent and desire to be their own masters.”

“When number 9 is noticed to be more than usually dominant in the dates and events of their lives, they will be found to make great enemies, to cause strife and opposition wherever they may be and are often wounded or killed either in warfare or in the battle of life.”

“They have great courage and make excellent leaders in any cause they espouse. Their greatest dangers arise from foolhardiness and impulsiveness in word and actions. They generally have quarrels and strife in their home life. They strongly resent criticism. They like to be ‘looked up to’ and recognized as ‘head of the house.’ For affection and sympathy they will do almost anything, and men of this number can be made the greatest fools of if some woman gets to pulling at their heart strings.”

“This number 9 is the only number that when multiplied by any number always reproduces itself. The number 9 is an emblem of matter that can never be destroyed. At the 9th hour the savior died on the cross. All ancient races encouraged a fear of the number 9. The number 9 is considered a fortunate number to be born under, provided the man or woman does not ask for a peaceful or monotonous life and can control their nature by not making enemies.”

The symbol for number 18, Cheiro wrote, is “a rayed moon from which drops of blood are falling; a wolf and hungry dog are seen below catching the falling drops of blood in their open mouths, while still lower, a crab is hastening to join them. It is symbolic of materialism striving to destroy the spiritual side of the nature. It generally associates a person with bitter quarrels, even family ones, war, social upheavals, revolutions; and in some cases it indicates making money and position through wars. It is a warning of treachery, deception by others, also danger from explosions. When this ‘compound’ number appears in working out dates in advance, such a date should be taken with a great amount of care, caution and circumspection.”

Lennon spent a great deal of time making notes on the “birth numbers” and calculating, according to Cheiro’s arcane formula, the “name numbers” of those closest to him. There were 9’s and 18’s everywhere. Yoko Ono was born February 18. Paul McCartney was born June 18. John equals 18 or 9. (According to Cheiro’s laws, all compound numbers should be reduced to a single number.) Yoko Ono equals 9. Sean Ono Lennon equals 9. Paul equals 9. Richard Starkey (Ringo’s real name) equals 9. Mimi Smith (the aunt who raised him) equals 9. The Dakota, on West 72nd Street (9), was built in 1881, which equals 18 or 9. And the year, 1980, was also an 18 or 9.

In Nowhere Man, the number 27 doesn’t come up in relation to Lennon until Chapman appears on the scene. Cheiro, ironically, calls 27 a “good number” symbolized by the scepter. It is, he says, “a promise of authority, power, and command. It indicates that reward will come from the productive intellect; that the creative faculties have sown good seeds that will reap a harvest. Persons with this ‘compound’ number at their back should carry out their own ideas and plans. It is a fortunate number if it appears in any connection with future events.”

Once upon a time, Mark Chapman—whose first name, according to Cheiro, calculates to 9, and whose last name calculates to 27—I’m sure, would have agreed. He certainly did carry out his plan.


Here’s Cheiro chart for calculating name numbers. Each letter is given a numerical value from 1 to 8 as follows:

A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 E=5 F=8 G=3 H=5 I=1 J=1 K=2 L=3 M=4 N=5 O=7 P=8 Q=1 R=2 S=3 T=4 U=6 V=6 W=6 X=5 Y=1 Z=7

Here’s the complete workup for Chapman:

4122 = 9

41614 = 16 = 7

3518415 = 27 = 9

9 + 7 + 9 = 25 = 7

Seven is also the number of John Winston Lennon. Sevens, according to Cheiro, “make extremely good writers, painters or poets, but in everything they do, they sooner or later show a peculiar philosophical outlook on life that tinges all their work. They often become rich by their original ideas or methods of business but they are just as likely to make large donations to charity. They create a religion of their own, but one that appeals to the imagination and is based on the mysterious. They have wonderful dreams and a great leaning to occultism; they have a gift of intuition, clairvoyance, and a peculiar quieting magnetism of their own that has a great influence on others.”

You can look it up—in the Book of Numbers.