Tag Archives: John Lennon

“The War Is Over! John Lennon Lost!”: Did the FBI Kill John Lennon?

1 Aug

uslennon

Yesterday I wrote about Allen Ginsberg’s connection to Timothy Leary and the CIA. I’ve already told you before that the Beat Generation influenced The Beatles, and today I’m here to tell you John Lennon had a connection to Timothy Leary and the FBI. Welcome back to Conspiracy Theory week!

Years ago, I went to the Angelica to see the film Jesus Camp, which I reviewed for Burnside Writers Collective. During the screening, a woman burst into the theatre and shouted:

The war is over! John Lennon lost!

Only in New York, right?! I think she was in the wrong room. The year was 2006, and another film was out at that time: The U.S. vs. John Lennon. That film pointed to evidence that the US government had tried to silence John Lennon, who had become increasingly counter-cultural as the years wore on and influential in his anti-war protests. From what I’ve read, it is alleged that, under Nixon, the government tried to deport Lennon, who was living in New York when he was fatally shot.

Most know the story of John Lennon’s murder outside the Dakota on December 8, 1980, as the lone act of Mark David Chapman, who plead guilty. He was examined at Bellevue Hospital—where Beat icons William S. Burroughs, Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs, Carl Solomon, and Allen Ginsberg spent time (read my book Burning Furiously Beautiful for more details!)—and believed to be psychotic. He had been carrying J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye at the time of his murder and said it “holds many answers.” However, Chapman eventually decided he wanted the insanity defense dropped, and he plead guilty. He’s been in jail ever since, denied parole at every appeal. In August of this year he’ll be up for his next parole hearing.

Conspiracy theorists hold that the US government killed John Lennon.

  • Steve Lightfoot wrote a booklet that suggests that Nixon, Reagan, and even Steven King are tied to John Lennon’s murder
  • Mae Brussell writes in “Conspiracy Planet” about a conspiracy chain revolving around Lennon’s murder

Plug in a search online for “John Lennon murder conspiracy,” and you’ll find dozens of websites devoted to allegations that the US government and FBI were involved in The Beatles’ death.

Of course some conspiracy theorists also say Paul is dead.

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Happy 84th Birthday, Gregory Corso!

26 Mar

corso-gasoline

Gregory Nunzio Corso was born on March 26, 1930, in New York City. He would’ve been 84 today.

He’s one of my favorite poets, and to celebrate his wit and warmth, here is a link to his poem “I Am 25.”

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The British Are Coming!: The Beat Generation’s Influence on The Beatles

12 Nov

9781617804618_p0_v1_s260x420Check out the turtlenecks on the cover of Meet the Beatles

Yesterday, inspired by Olivia Cole’s article “Won over by the West: The irresistible allure of Americana for post-war Britons” for the November 2013 issue of British GQ, I kicked off a week-long series about the relationship between the Beat Generation and the British Invasion. I didn’t get too much into her article, but instead I wrote about the general history of each “group” (please take this term lightly; neither was an intended movement or formal group) and how and why they are connected. Today, I want to share a fun story with you about the two longest love affairs (Oh gosh, take that even lighter. People get so mad when I use hyperbole.) of my life: the Beatles and the Beats.

I was a HUGE Beatles fan back when I was in high school. I can’t quite remember how I got into the Beatles, but I know it’s not because of my parents. My dad didn’t listen to music. I was raised on smooth jazz, Prince, Lionel Ritchie, and Stevie Wonder, thanks to my mom. As I grew up and started discovering music on my own—Vanilla Ice, Boyz II Men, Snow, Positive K, Arrested Development, REM (should I go on? Ah, nostalgia)—she was the cool mom that listened to whatever I listened to on the radio. My mom was actually too young to be into the Beatles. In the craze of my own private Beatlemania, I pestered her for information, and she said she remembered her older sister getting a letter from their cousin in Sweden talking about this new band The Beatles and how popular they were.

One of the first exposures I had to Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation came through The Beatles. I owned a VHS — yes, I’m that old! — documentary about The Beatles. It was a pretty low-quality documentary that I think I picked up at the K-Mart at the Closter Plaza. I don’t remember the name of it, but I used to watch it over and over again after school. I remember it saying that John Lennon named The Beatles, in part, because he was influenced by the Beat Generation. I didn’t know what the Beat Generation was at the time, nor did I bother to look it up — again, I’m old, and this was before I’d ever even heard the word “Internet,” so looking things up required going to the Closter Public Library and rifling through the encyclopedias. Still, when you watch something on repeat enough times, it gets ingrained in your memory, and when you suddenly learn something new, the threads of your brain weave everything together.

Wayne Mullins explored this in his essay “Long John Silver and the Beats” for Beatdom:

Several name changes occurred in the early life of the Beatles before John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe decided to honour the memory of Buddy Holly by changing the band name to the Beetles (as a play on Buddy Holly and the Crickets), but as John Lennon was a fan of clever word play he decided to change the spelling of The Beetles to Beatles as a way to suggest “beat” or “beat music”. As John Lennon said in a 1964 interview, “It was beat and beetles, and when you said it people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music.”

Mullins goes on to prove the Beat–Beatles by discussion John Lennon’s art school education and the exposure he had to instructors who were fans of the Beats and the meeting of Lennon and Allen Ginsberg. He also makes notable claims about the parallel paths the Beats and the Beatles took toward enlightenment, coming from religious upbringings, looking toward the East, and returning (or at least considering) the religions of their youth. The article also points out that Jack Kerouac and Lennon both rejected the associations people made with them, preferring to remain autonomous.

Steve Turner’s book Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster also speaks to Kerouac’s influence on Lennon:

[John Lennon’s] fellow student Bill Harry specifically remembers Lennon reading “On the Road” and the short story “The Time of the Geek”, which was published in an anthology called ‘Protest’ in 1960. “He loved the ideas of open roads and travelling,” says Harry. “We were always talking about this Beat Generation thing.”

Mullins’ story about Lennon’s meeting Ginsberg was just one incident. The Allen Ginsberg Project post “Sunday 9th – John Lennon” recalls when Ginsberg invited The Beatles to his birthday party and Lennon and George Harrison showed up with their wives.

When the Nixon administration wanted to deport Lennon and Yoko Ono, Beat poet Gregory Corso wrote a letter, as did a whole lot of other famous people, according to John Weiner’s article “How Bob Dylan, Gregory Corso, Joyce Carol Oates and Others Helped Stop Nixon From Deporting John Lennon and Yoko Ono” in the Los Angeles Times.

The Beatles also had an affinity for William S. Burroughs, who appeared on the cover art of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Not only that, in the Dangerous Minds article “The William S. Burroughs/Beatles connection,” Richard Metzger writes:

Over the weekend, I noticed the following passage in the book With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker by Victor Bockris:

Burroughs: Ian met Paul McCartney and Paul put up the money for this flat which was at 34 Montagu Square… I saw Paul several times. The three of us talked about the possibilities of the tape recorder. He’d just come in and work on his “Eleanor Rigby.” Ian recorded his rehearsals. I saw the song taking shape. Once again, not knowing much about music, I could see that he knew what he was doing. He was very pleasant and very prepossessing. Nice-looking young man, hardworking.

He goes on to elucidate the obvious connection: Barry Miles, whom The Allen Ginsberg Project also points to. Miles deserves his own post, but in short the thing to know is that he owned a bookshop in London that was frequented by the Beats when they were there, and he wrote about The Beatles and 1960s London underground culture.

Tune in tomorrow when I finally get into the meat of Cole’s article by discussing her commentary on The Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies’ new memoir.

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Warby Parker Glasses for Halloween

31 Oct

alvie_small-900x620via Warby Parker

Happy Halloween! Though I tortured my sleepover guests with classic horror films when i was a preteen, I’ve never been real big into the scary stuff of Halloween. I do, however, think it’s a super fun opportunity to play dress and reinvent one’s identity for a day.

Then again, I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my style and personality even on an average day. You know how in The Breakfast Club there was the jock, the princess, the brain, the basket case, and the criminal? Or how when you ride the L train you can always tell who’s going to get off at Union Square versus who’s going to Bedford Avenue? I’ve never really identified with one social group or another. One day I might dress preppy in pearls and a button-down shirt with a sweater over it and the next day I might wear lots of dark eye shadow and all black. Likewise, some days I wear glasses and some days I wear contacts. It would be fun to own multiple pairs of glasses to switch out depending on my mood.

Glasses are such a defining accessory/medical need. Certain glasses styles have become synonymous with certain celebrities. Think John Lennon’s little circles. Buddy Holly’s thick frames.

Warby Parker says, “There are plenty of characters to be channeled with the right pair of glasses.” They’re featuring costume ideas like Tootsie, and Dr. Strangelove, Alvie Singer (Annie Hall) on their blog, complete with the prescription glasses they sell. Oh sure it’s a gimmick to get you to buy their merch, but — and I’m not at all affiliated with them and not getting anything for saying this — it’s a rather clever idea. Because sometimes it’s fun to channel someone else for a day!

Also, I really like Warby Parker’s business model: for every pair you buy, they donate to someone in need.

Oh, and get this: their name is a Jack Kerouac reference! Here’s the story:

We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.

So what I want to know then is why they don’t have a blog post for dressing like Allen Ginsberg?! You can’t help but think of his glasses when you visualize him. Plus, with all the Hollywood attention on the Beats lately — characters based on Ginsberg or Kerouac’s alias for him appear in On the Road and Kill Your Darlings — you’d think he’d be a fun person to dress up as for Halloween.

Or maybe I’m the only nerd who thinks dressing like authors and literary characters is a perfectly normal Halloween costume?

And, for a story about the time Allen Ginsberg lost his glasses, check out Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It’s available as an ebook and paperback.

 

Lowell Celebrates Kerouac: The Typewriter

9 Oct

 

One evening, a student came into our writing workshop at The New School and announced he’d bought a typewriter.  We were all very impressed.

“What kind?” we asked.

“Where did you get it?”

Most of us were in our twenties or thirties and had grown up using computers.  Many of us had entire mini computers—smart phones—jammed into our pockets and purses at that very moment.  We’d attended readings in bars across Manhattan, where authors had read poetry off their iphones.

But a typewriter!  Now that sounded really literary.  The click-clack of the keys echoing in a bare-bulb room.  Allen Ginsberg’s first-thought-best-thought mantra forced upon a generation accustomed to the “backspace” button on our keyboards.  Facebook procrastination less accessible.

And the history!  Continuing the beautiful tradition of authors attached to specific models of typewriters.

This evening, the documentary The Typewriter will screen at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center Theater (245 Market St.) as part of the Lowell Film Collaborative with Lowell Celebrates Kerouac.  Here’s a little bit about the film from its website:

Three typewriter repairmen the filmmakers have interviewed all agree that their business is better than it has been in years.

Perhaps it is a reaction to the plugged in existence of today’s 24/7 communications world. Perhaps it is mere nostalgia and kitsch. Perhaps it is an admiration for the elegance of design and the value of time-tested workmanship. And for some, like typewriter collector Steve Soboroff, it is the appeal of owning machines on which American writers like Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Jack London typed some of their finest work. (He also owns typewriters once owned by George Bernard Shaw and John Lennon)

The film is directed by Christopher Lockett and produced by Gary Nicholson.  You can read fascinating typewriter stories here.

As for Jack Kerouac, he owned several typewriters throughout his lifetime but most famously used a 1930s Underwood typewriter.  His father was a printer, so even from a very young age, Kerouac was in a world full of language, literacy, typography, and printing presses.  Not surprisingly, he had a reputation for being a speed typist.  myTypewriter.com offers some background information on Kerouac’s—as well as other literary figures’—use of typewriters.  Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road will also include information about Kerouac’s typewriter.  Larry Closs‘ novel Beatitude also includes a plot involving Kerouac and typewriters.

Here’s a tip for those of you attending Lowell Celebrates Kerouac or if you happen to find yourself in Lowell any other time: you can see one of Kerouac’s Underwood typewriters, and other memorabilia firsthand at the Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit at the Morgan Cultural Center.  It may sound like an unlikely place to view some of Kerouac’s possessions, and it’s not really well advertised, so it’s easy to miss if you don’t know about it, but the exhibit is open 1:30-5:00pm except on major holidays.  It’s free, but even if it weren’t the entire exhibit is fascinating.  The case display for Jack Kerouac is very small, but literary pilgrims will appreciate it nevertheless, since it’s rare to have opportunities to view his personal travel gear and typewriter in person.  The exhibit is engaging in retelling the story of immigration to Lowell.  Many of the immigrants were from Greece so the exhibit gives insight into the influence of Greek culture on Lowell.

Gripster: Community’s Starburns Is “Creepy, Seems Greek”

7 Mar

Greendale Community College held an impromptu election for student government on the last episode of Community, “Intro to Political Science.”  As usual, Jeff scoffed at the idea and then, wearing a leather jacket and tight black jeans, used his lawyerly tricks to prove votes aren’t based on anything of substance.

Troy and Abed gave a rundown of the candidates, which included Starburns.  Describing him, Troy said, “creepy, seems Greek, possible drug dealer.”  The ethnicity on the screen shot shows: Cambodian.  This is right after they said another candidate changed his last name to get the Hispanic vote and right before they mentioned Jeff, whose ethnicity was listed as Northern European.  Mind you, the ethnicity of the ever-perky Annie is listed as “hot.”

Starburns’ given name, we find out via Troy and Abed’s campaign coverage, is Alex Osbourne.  So what gives with the “creepy, seems Greek” comment?  Well, in case you didn’t know, Alex “Starburns” Osbourne is played by Greek-American actor Dino Stamatopoulos.

Stamatopoulos was born in Norridge, Illinois, on December 14, 1964.  He attended Columbia College Chicago before becoming a writer for such shows as The Ben Stiller Show (for which he won an Emmy), The Dana Carvey Show, the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, MADtv, and Important Things with Demetri Martin (another fellow Greek-American).  He also wrote the claymation episode of Community that everyone raved about: “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”

Pretty good for a guy whose Myspace page humbly says, “He’s also written and produced many of show business’ least-watched shows, but he doesn’t care.”  Oh, and according to said Myspace page, he’s got great taste in music.  He likes The Mountain Goats, Nick Cave, John Lennon, and The Magnetic Fields.

If you’re looking to get into screenwriting or comedy writing, you may want to study Stamatopoulos’ Emmy-Award-winning writing.

The next episode of Community will air March 17 and is entitled “Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy.”