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!


Jamie M. Forbes said...

Found Chapter 27 last night after football was over. Blew me away. I've been in northeast Ohio due to several overlapping and simultaneous family medical situations.

And...You have finished your new book?

Most of my personal-contact info is inaccessible in New York on nearly dead computers, and I don't see an email function for this blog -- goes...I'm...

Robert Rosen said...

Hey Jamie,
Good to hear from you, and thanks for your kind words about “Chapter 27.”

Yes, I’ve finished my new book and I’m in the process of trying to sell it.

Actually, you can e-mail me through the blog. Click on “View My Complete Profile” (under “About Me” on the blog page) and then click on Email.

Dale said...

In your mind do you think Yoko does a good job of protecting John Lennon's image?

Robert Rosen said...

It’s very easy to criticize Yoko Ono for perhaps putting the John Lennon logo on one too many baby diapers and trying to turn her husband into a Disneyfied peacenik moptop with some endearing personality quirks. I’ve certainly been critical of this kind of thing—in “Nowhere Man,” in magazines like Proceso, and on this blog.

The truth about John Lennon is far more complex than this PR image that Ono has so skillfully created. Fortunately, a significant number of people do want a warts-and-all three-dimensional portrait of Lennon.

As one of my readers said: “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.”

Ono is creating the image that she believes will move the most product and portray Yoko Ono in the kindest way. But ultimately history and future generations will be the final arbitrators of Lennon’s and Ono’s images. Though Ono may be unwilling to believe or accept this, it’s beyond her control.

Anonymous said...

what's your favorite Lennon song?

Robert Rosen said...

Tough question, but “Working Class Hero” and “Watching the Wheels” are definitely up there.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me what you think of John Lennon's Imagine? Do you think it's the best song in the past 50 years? I still remember hearing this song for the first time when I was little and this song always had a special place in my heart.

Robert Rosen said...

“Imagine” is a beautiful song, but it’s not among my personal favorites. I prefer the harder-edged, brutally honest material from “Plastic Ono Band.” Actually, I like Neil Young’s version of “Imagine” far more than Lennon’s—because Young is honest enough to sing, “Imagine no possessions, I wonder if I can…”

BoycottChapter27 said...

Did you happen to notice the front page of the NY Daily news today?

Remember John, not his killer.
Do not profit from Johns murder.

F.....Jackie and Stuttering John

Robert Rosen said...

If you’re referring to the piece about your boycott, yes, I saw it. And I wondered if Peace Arch Entertainment, the producers of “Chapter 27,” had hired you to do publicity. Because you’re doing an excellent job of keeping “Chapter 27” in the news. Congratulations! With enemies like you, who needs friends?

By the way, did you see that the other Chapman movie, Andrew Piddington’s “The Killing of John Lennon,” was picked up for U.K. distribution and international sale? I look forward to seeing the double feature.