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.


Berberis said...

I've just done a number check on Jared Leto. If you include his middle name (Joseph, according to IMDb) then it's 7.

Robert Rosen said...

Hi Berberis,
Thank you for your provocative IMDB postings.
So, according to your Cheiro calculations, Jared Joseph Leto’s name number is equal to Mark David Chapman and John Winston Lennon. What do you think it means? Are you suggesting that it’s one of the reasons he got the part?

Berberis said...

That didn't occur to me when I worked it out, no. To be honest, in that I don't actually know for certain that his middle name is Joseph, the whole calculation could be totally meaningless. If you leave out his middle name, the number is 5. What does that mean?! I've no idea.

I've not read Cheiro's book: numerology has always struck me as one of those things teenage girls do to work out who they're going to marry. Don't ask me how that works, though, because it's been a long time since I was a teenage girl...

Whatever the meaning or reason behind this apparent co-incidence I happen to believe that the main reason Jared Leto got the part was because - with the addition of 62lbs - he looks eerily like Mark Chapman.

It's not a popular stance, but I hope the film does well. Jared Leto is a fine actor, still very underrated. However, from some of the comments on the IMDb, you'd think he was the Devil himself.

I am constantly astonished, and not a little scared, at the vehemence of the attacks on him - and, for that matter, on Linsday Lohan - not only as an actor but as a person by so-called 'fans' of the late John Lennon. There are a worrying number of people in this world who are unable to differentiate between fact and fiction; if, by being provocative, I can get even one of them to realise this, then any flames will be worth it.

Another plus: I shall be buying your book, despite the rather scathing review on Amazon, because I prefer to make up my own mind.

Robert Rosen said...

There are some people, like John and Yoko, who take numerology—as well as tarot, magic, and astrology—very seriously. Though I, personally, don’t believe in these things, I did get hooked on the occult for a while when I was researching “Nowhere Man.” I found that numerology, in particular, is highly addictive—because it’s easy to understand, and can be applied to anything. (It didn’t hurt matters that I was born on July 27.)

One of the reasons that “Nowhere Man” is so “controversial,” and has been the target of such harsh, and often vicious, criticism, is because the book blurs the boundaries of fact and fiction. As I’ve explained in several interviews, I used a fictional technique to draw the most accurate portrait of John Lennon’s consciousness and inner life that you’ll find in any biography. Had I adhered to the so-called rules of objective journalism, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. Though this upsets a lot of people, it’s also inspired a provocative dialogue in many languages that’s been ongoing for six years.

The last time I checked Amazon there were 38 reader reviews, most of them positive, though the nastiest one was written by somebody who didn’t read the book.

One of the most perceptive “Nowhere Man” reviews I’ve seen is posted here:

I’m glad to hear you’re buying “Nowhere Man,” and I look forward to your critique. Since your IMDB postings indicate that you appreciate a pithy quotation, I’ll leave you with one of my favorites, from the preface of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”:

“Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex and vital. When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.”

javier said...

por favor lea
hay un articulo sobre usted.

abrazos señor

Robert Rosen said...

Hola Javier,

I was wondering when the interview was going to pop up. It looks good. Buena fotografía. Gracias!

(For my English-speaking readers, the interview es en español, and is about the drugs Lennon took. Go to

Chile has been very much on my mind lately, especially with Michelle Bachelet being inaugurated as your new president. Congratulations! It’s an amazing story. And it’s inspiring to know that a country once ruled by a murderous dictator is capable of turning it around and electing as president a woman who was tortured by that dictatorship, and whose father was essentially murdered by them.

Abrazos desde Ciudad de Nueva York

javier said...

this was the cañamo piece, but they told me that instead of just lennon, i should do the beatles, still im quoting you.

glad to hear from you

Robert Rosen said...

Hey Javier,

I’ll tell you what the great Latin American question is re The Beatles and drugs: Did John, Paul, George, and Ringo all eat magic mushrooms with la bruja Maria Sabina (aka “Saint Mother of the Mushroom”) in the Mexican desert in the district of Huautla de Jimenez, in the state of Oaxaca, sometime in the 1960’s? I get that question, or some variation on it, every time I go to Mexico. There does not seem to be a definitive answer. Perhaps your Cañamo piece will shed some new light on it. I look forward to reading it.

Howard said...

Let me explain the motivation for and the petition that you dismiss out of ignorance. Boycott does not equal censorship. There is not a direct correlation and obviously the correlation is inverse, the boycott is being presented for 3 reasons.
The first of which is to attempt to cause any economic hardship possible for the company responsible for glorifying the murder of John Lennon, it's not being done for Yoko, or to damper free speak, only to spread the word of the greed being perpetrated by "Peace" Arch entertainment. The second is education; the teenagers of today are about to be sold a film utilizing "stars", with no understanding of just who was destroyed by this maniac (other than...wasn't he the singer in the Beatles?). Third, if this film and boycott can be used as a stepping-stone for a message of peace (especially to youngsters) then perhaps all is not lost.
You pose yourself as such an intellectual, but then you put down individuals attempting to make a difference, and that my friend is not very intelligent.
We could use your support rather than simple dismissal.


Robert Rosen said...

Thank you for writing. First of all, let me say that I’m a free speech purist. I do not believe that any work of art should be censored for any reason. People should be able to see or read virtually anything they want, and make up their own minds about it.

Though a boycott is not censorship per se, it comes mighty close. You’re trying to stop people from seeing “Chapter 27,” and punish the company that’s making it. As I said in my posting, it’s going to have the opposite effect; it always does. It’s going to make people want to see the film even more.

Also, you don’t know that “Chapter 27” is going to glorify Lennon’s murder. You won’t know what it’s going to do until you see it. Again, as I said in my posting, if the film’s done well, it may “bring us to a deeper understanding” of Chapman’s insanity, and what caused it. That would be a good thing, a rare step in the right direction.

On the other hand, “Chapter 27” may very well be a schlocky piece of exploitative dreck, and if that’s the case, I have every intention of saying so on this blog, and in any other newspaper or magazine that invites me to write about it.

I might also point out that the last film I saw that somebody tried to boycott was Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” It was blasphemous, the “Christian” right said. How dare anybody show Jesus as a human being with sexual thoughts.

As it turned out, I found the film inspiring. I walked out of the theatre wanting to be more like Jesus. And, of course, there was a picket line out front, a bunch of people carrying signs saying I was going straight to hell for watching a movie they obviously hadn’t seen.

So, Howard, though I can’t support your boycott, I do respect your right to attempt a boycott. And I'd be happy to continue this debate.

Howard said...


Allow me to begin this reply with an apology, I have found myself so enraged by the subject, that my emotions have been getting the best of me when discussing the topic. My initial post, while I still believe correct, should have been more politely worded.
As I see it, a boycott is almost the perfect opposite to censorship, as we are looking to educate the public with our viewpoint, a far cry from a government forcing its viewpoint on a people. And when you say that a boycott or action ALWAYS has the opposite effect, would that include the actions of men like Ghandi and Martin Luther King? (and believe me, I am in no way comparing myself to these heros) I'm sure you can imagine how "sexy" the trailers will be for this film. Wouldn't you prefer a well-educated public, rather than one blinded by sex appeal or mystery.
As far as my "assumptions" that this film will glorify a murderer, I have taken this viewpoint based on articles I have read, written by individuals who have read the screenplay first hand. One of which was entitled "Lennon Film Script: A New 'Springtime for Hitler'". I will be happy to supply you with the URL if you have not read the article ( or just google the title).
Than I ask you, is there really wisdom to be gained by "further understanding the mind of a madman". To me it is difficult to believe that we can learn from a deranged murderer, will other psychopaths act in a similar fashion? After all, I would think the fact that one is insane would almost guarantee a thought process, which is not likely to be repeated.
A statement you made in your initial reply got me thinking, you may be contradicting yourself. You stated, "I have every intention of saying so on this blog, and in any other newspaper or magazine that invites me to write about it." Meaning that you have a vested interest in this film, you win either way, but if a financial success, your knowledge of the subject pays far better. Which led me to an interview in which you replied to a question with "His diaries are a vivid example of how money and fame are not going to solve your problems". Consider this when you dangle bait in front of people, seemingly encouraging them to see this film in the hopes of gaining "wisdom".
I do look forward to future communications, as this debate will hopefully inspire people to think and remember the message that John wanted to spread around the world, rather than the action of the animal who took him from us.


Robert Rosen said...

I’m not talking about boycotting corporations that do business with South Africa to protest their apartheid policies—that boycott worked and it’s one of the reasons that South Africa is no longer an apartheid nation.

I’m specifically talking about boycotting works of art: films, books, plays, paintings, etc. Successful boycotts generate headlines, they create more interest in the work of art in question, and more people go to see it. That’s what happened with “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and that’s what happened with “Sensation” at the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago. Included in the exhibit was Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary,” a painting that was partially composed of elephant dung. Our mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, found it offensive and tried to shut down the exhibit. Consequently, “Sensation” was mobbed.

I dare say that the best thing that could happen to “Chapter 27” would be for the media to start paying attention to your boycott.

I read the “Springtime for Hitler” story, and I think it’s absurd to condemn a film based on two direct quotes from, and a capsule summary of, a screenplay that probably wasn’t even the final draft. (And I’d look with extreme skepticism upon anything that appears on

And yes, I think there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from understanding the forces that drove a madman over the edge. That’s why I wrote the Chapman section of “Nowhere Man.”

My only vested interest in “Chapter 27” is that the producers acknowledge that “Chapter 27” in my book was the inspiration for their title. (Why aren’t you boycotting “Nowhere Man,” by the way? It presents Lennon’s killer as a deeply troubled human being, rather than a monster.)

If the film’s a disaster, nobody will go to see it, and nothing I publish will change that. But I do make my living as a writer, so if somebody asks me to write about the film, what, exactly, is wrong with earning a little money by writing insightfully (I hope) about a subject I happen to know something about?

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