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.
© 2003, Editorial Grijalbo, S.A. de C.V.