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.”

Cheers,
David

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was a great post. Do you consider John Lennon a hero as a peace activist and etc?

Robert Rosen said...

I think it was great that Lennon used his celebrity to gain a forum to speak out for peace. I don’t know if that makes him a hero or not. My idea of a hero is more conventional—say, a fireman who runs into the World Trade Center to save complete strangers.

But Lennon’s political activism, as na├»ve as it may have been in certain ways, did indeed make a difference: He made the world more aware that the Vietnam war was a grotesque mistake, that it was the work of the criminals who ran our government. As the film “The U.S. Vs. John Lennon” should show, he paid the price.

Moose said...

Robert,

I thought you might find this video very interesting, it's a video about Paul Goresh (a crazy Lennon fan that knew Lennon in the 80's)he took the photo of Chapman with Lennon. Part 1 is about 7 mins long and part 2 is about 6 mins long. If you watch this let me know what you think. After watching this it tells you that Lennon was very disturbed but he had a good heart.

Here's the link for part 1
http://youtube.com/watch?v=MwUcFUipQJY

Here's the link for part 2

http://youtube.com/watch?v=JOWgNp2UWUk

Robert Rosen said...

Hi, Moose,
Thanks for sending those links. Actually, I saw them a few weeks ago. (David in the UK, who wrote the current post, sent them to me.) Part 2 fooled me. For a couple of seconds I thought I was looking at real footage, rather than a re-creation. I couldn’t understand how I’d never seen it before.

Please do continue to send me any links that you think might be of interest.

Anonymous said...

My Republican teacher at school believes all democrats are all evil and he believes George W. Bush is a God. He says that in Lennon's Imagine he was spazing Karl Marx is that just a bunch of BS? Why do Republicans hate this song so much? It get's banned everywhere and from my perspective he was just preaching peace.....

Robert Rosen said...

“Imagine” is a pretty good song, but not Lennon’s best—in my opinion. It has nothing to do with Karl Marx…only Lennon. It’s a utopian dream, a plea for peace on earth, as you say. If Republicans hate it, then I guess it’s because they hate peace and sharing and stuff like that. Without fear and hatred, Republicans would have nothing to sell—they’d be out of power, and I suppose that’s a terrifying thought for a Republican.

Jesse said...

As an author who has studied John Lennon's life, do you believe that Albert Goldman was a hack job who only wanted to sell books? Did you ever meet Goldman?

Robert Rosen said...

I’ve never met Albert Goldman nor do I think very much of his work. He had a vicious streak; he essentially described Lennon as a homosexual murderer who could barely play the guitar. That’s absurd. But not everything Goldman writes is completely false. “The Lives of John Lennon” strikes me as little nuggets of truth wrapped in layer upon layer of bullshit.

In “Nowhere Man” I said that I believed that most of Goldman’s book is grossly exaggerated, but I did find it useful for names. I also said that it’s the only book that succinctly explains the complex lawsuit involving Lennon’s “Rock ’n’ Roll” album and Morris Levy.

Tim said...

Robert what's your next book going to be about? When Chapter 27 comes out are you going to do a book tour with signings to coincide with the release of the movie?

Robert Rosen said...

Tim,
My next book, which I intend to finish by the end of the month, so help me God, has nothing to do with John Lennon, and I’d prefer not to discuss it in this forum. If you’d like to send me an e-mail, I’d be happy to answer your question.

Though I’ve toured Mexico and Chile, doing book signings and press conferences, ironically, I’ve never done one in the US, though I’d love to. (For the past seven years, since before “Nowhere Man” was published, I’ve mostly been doing radio interviews.)

I doubt I’m going to do a US book tour when “Chapter 27” is released—primarily because, at this time, there is no “official” connection between “Nowhere Man” and the movie, which is the reason I’m keeping this blog. Of course, a lot can change between now and the release date, whenever that is, so who knows what might happen.

Anonymous said...

I got a question about May Pang. Did John still love her when he died? She say's that he did. Is she credible or a wack job????

Robert Rosen said...

I wish you people would read “Nowhere Man” before you post questions here, because the answers to about 90% of them—the above question being a perfect example—can be found in the book. In this case, on page 95, towards the bottom, it says: “Even after he went home to Mother, John pined for May until the day he died, constantly repressing the urge to call her. He made no effort to hide from Yoko the fact that running back to May was always on his mind.” So, yeah, John carried a torch for May until the bitter end—something May Pang herself learned when she read an interview with me on Lady Jean’s “Absolute Elsewhere” site: http://articles.absoluteelsewhere.net/
Articles/robert_rosen_int.html

Anonymous said...

Absolute bullshit!!! Rosen admitted that he and Fred Seaman stole John's diarys and that Rosen largely wrote his book from "Memory" of those diarys. Rosen should not have filled May's head with all this garbage as May is now on a rampage to convince the world that John loved her more then Yoko. May IS a total wack job, because even if what Rosen wrote was loosely based on truth (the real passage in the diary might have been that John had a passing thought of May if he was lonely) he stirred up this dumb bitch who is taking what Rosen said as gospel truth, and spreading it around like John said it himself. May found out about this "revelation' in the news for goodness sake. If John cared about her so much he would have told her himself. I don't care who you are, famous or not, rich or poor, if you are a MAN who wants to screw around on the side, you WILL find a way to do it. John stopped seeing May in 1977 which is confirmed by both May and Cynthia

Robert Rosen said...

First of all, Anonymous, I didn’t steal Lennon’s diaries. Fred Seaman gave them to me. He said that John wanted him to write a book based on the diaries and I believed him. When Seaman burglarized my apartment and stole the diaries from me, I told Yoko Ono what happened. She didn’t know the diaries were missing and if it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have gotten them back. Second, I didn’t fill May’s head with garbage. I met her once, in 1981. Contrary to your characterization of her as a “a total wack job,” I found May to be a charming and delightful woman. After spending an evening in her company, it was absolutely clear to me why Lennon fell in love with her. Third, what I wrote in “Nowhere Man” is not “loosely based on the truth.” It is the truth. I show what the world looked like through Lennon’s eyes, and in the eight years since the book was published nobody’s been able to find anything of significance that’s false. In fact, Ono holds my credibility in such high esteem that her lawyers asked me to testify on her behalf at Seaman’s trial in 2002. And if there’s one thing that came across loud and clear in my research, it’s that John loved May and pined for her till the day he died. I explain all this in detail in “Nowhere Man.”

Anonymous said...

yeah well I read your book and it sounds like made up pandering nonsense to sell a book. In fact you open your book admitting you made some of it up. If John loved May so much why did he go back to Yoko? Anything in his diaries to explain that one? I'm glad Yoko respects you enough to testify against the worm Seaman but you have propelled May into a fantasy land that she is trying to sell the world. She had moved on until she heard about your book. So congratulations on perpetrating another myth about John that he can't defend himself on. Wouldn't want to be you when you run into him on the other side. Cheers

Robert Rosen said...

Obviously, your mind’s made up about “Nowhere Man,” and nothing I, or anybody else, says will change it.

John went back to Yoko, as I say on page 95 of the U.S. paperback (Quick American Archives), “because he loved her and needed her.”

This blog, by the way, is not a forum to bash my book, May Pang, or anybody else. It’s about “Chapter 27,” the movie. Thanks for your interest (especially in my afterlife), but unless you can keep your comments on topic, you’ll need to confine your postings to other areas of the web.