New York City
PART TWO NEW YORK CITY
It was July, 1971 in New York City. We were having our morning coffee in a hotel room facing the park. Two things were upsetting John . One was he had learned that his manager suggested that the other Beatles use the same bank that he used. A big faux pas on the part of the manager as far as John was concerned. To John, that meant that he was not special to the manager. He was just part of the package deal. The other was that George was doing a Bangladesh Concert at Madison Square Garden, and because of that, many musicians from India had been put up in the same hotel as us. John had so many years of being bundled together with the other Beatles in a hotel, with hangers-on of the famous and near famous, that he was particularly sensitive to those situations. “It’s getting mighty crowded," he said, wiggling his nose.
Then, still in the middle of our breakfast, we got this idea to write an Xmas song. We were fast workers, so the song was born by the time we finished our last morning coffee. That made John feel better.” This is going to be bigger than White Xmas, you’ll see." He wiggled his nose again, this time with satisfaction. Then a phone call came and John picked it up. He was saying "Yeah....yeah.....yeah," I saw that he was getting very upset. He hung up the phone without saying a word. “What was that?" "Oh, that was George." A long pause.” He’s saying. 'Join the Bangladesh concert,' and all that. Dylan is coming. too. I'm not going." "Why? I think we should go. It's a charity. It's for a good cause." I said. “We’re not doing it." "Why?" "Because it's George's little thing. We’ll do our own. you and me." "I think we should go", I said. "Does it matter that it's George's?" John was getting angrier and angrier. I was getting angry. too. I thought John was being big-headed about it. “Okay. if you don't want to go I'll go. I'll go alone." I said. John flipped out. "You want to be a performing flea, go ahead! You'd perform with a drop of a hat with any excuse, anywhere...!"
Well, it was true that before I got together with John. I was an avant-garde performer. who believed in performing in situations that most people would not even consider. It was also true that I was beginning to miss those days when I used to perform all the time as a performance artist. But this was something else. altogether. “I think we should go." "I'm leaving!" John left the room in a huff. I just sat there. Then after quite a while. I called D's room. D was our assistant. John called him Dracula behind his back because he looked pale during the day and bright at night.” Is John there?" I asked. D said "Wait." and obviously went to another room. “Yes, he is," he said in a whispering voice.” Well. is he okay?" "Yes, he is. He is fine. He wants me to take him to the airport. He wants to leave New York. It'1I be fine. My suggestion is that you shouldn't worry. I'll take care of it." D sounded like he couldn't hide his excitement about all this. "Oh. okay then." I couldn't think of what else I could say or do.
I got a call from John's manager the next morning. ”Come to my office". As I opened the door to the office, the manager was sitting behind a huge desk. He gestured to me to sit on the chair opposite to him. I sat and waited for what he had to say. The manager seemed like he was searching for the right words. and then gave up and just said. "John's waiting. He kept calling me all night. You've got to go to him right away." "Why should I? He walked out on me." "I know. He told me everything. You've got to go to him. He's waiting." I started to tell him about how New York was my town, and it would be good if I could stay around here for awhile... to think what I'm doing with myself... with my life... "I need a rest from all this, you know." I said. The manager was looking at me like he couldn't believe his eyes, like what is this woman talking about! JOHN LENNON is waiting for her. "John is not sleeping well. He didn't stop talking to me all night. You gotta go to him right away." He looked at his watch. "I gotta go now. Patti Harrison is in town. I have to take her to George. He's on the boat. There's a party." It seemed like there was a Bangladesh bash. Patti was a strikingly beautiful blonde woman, and I always wondered why when New York businessmen talked about Patti, their voices went a notch higher. “You gotta go. John's waiting." The manager stood up and left me there.
I went back to my hotel room. I thought of calling my friends in New York from the old days. But when I tried to think who, I went blank. I couldn't think of anybody I wanted to talk to at that very moment. I started to miss John. I called D and asked him to escort me to the airport. I expected John to be at the London airport waiting for me. He was not there. Only Les Anthony, our driver was standing there with a grim face. Maybe John is standing at the entrance of Tittenhurst (our home in Ascot), I thought. John was not. I went inside the house and asked the maid where John was. "He's upstairs." "Oh." I was really upset by then. I went to our bedroom and opened the door in a huff. There on the floor John was kneeling inside the black bag. "I'm sorry" he said.
We compared notes. At the hotel, John thought I would run after him as soon as he had left our room. He waited for me at the elevator for awhile, but I didn't come after him. So he went to D's room since he couldn't think of anywhere else to go. "I called D's room, you know," I said. "I thought you might want to talk to me." "He didn't tell me that!" John said, "I thought of ways to go back to our room, like open the door and say, 'Oh, did I forget something?' but I thought, 'Sod it', because you were so angry." "Oh, alright so I was angry." "Damn right you were." We laughed. I told John that I nearly turned around and went back to New York when I realized that he wasn't waiting for me at the airport. "Good thing you didn't. It was getting hot inside the bag," he said. It was nice to relax in each other's arms, listening to our heartbeat. But then I suddenly felt very sad. "We're probably going to lose each other... you know... if we ever separate... because nobody wants us to be together... and you're so emotional and I'm so proud." "Well, we'll be careful, won't we!" John said in his sleepy voice.
John and I totally forgot about the Xmas song we wrote in the hotel room because of what happened that morning. in November, John remembered the song and called the manager to release it as a single for Xmas.
"John, it's too late... printing the cover... advertising." "Well, try." The single was out, but the manager was right: it was too late for anything and it bombed. Happy Xmas only became big after John's passing in 1980.
There is a twist to the story of "that morning." I heard much, much later, that George Harrison told John to come alone to the Bangladesh show, without me, that is. Was that the real reason John did not want to do the show? I guess I will never know.
Yoko Ono Lennon NYC 1998
Illustration "Power To The People" by John Lennon, colored by Yoko Ono Lennon.
from John Lennon Anthology CD box set booklet.