Tuesday, March 27, 2012

John in Philly '72

This story of a fan meeting John and Yoko during the tape of the Mike Douglas show in Philadelphia in January 1972 is from May/June 1977 issue of The Write Thing.  It was written by Holly Price of Grand Rapids Michigan.   What impresses me about Holly is that she was so independent as a 17 year old Lennon fan.   She was able to get tickets to see the show and go to the after-party at a hotel in Philadelphia all by herself.   Maybe for John I would have been more independent, but overall I am not like that and especially not when I was 17 years old. 

This account is about John and Yoko; that is to say it consists of the effects of prolonged Beatlesmania, adolescence and shock.  I met them in January 1972 while they were in Philadelphia co-hosting the Mike Douglas show.  At the time I was seventeen.

The fact that they were coming to town was a secret I managed to pry out of a man who worked at KYW-TV.  I’d hit them all, that day and he was the only one who would answer me.  “John Lennon –yeah, he’ll be here tomorrow with Yoko.  He’s coming in five Fridays to guest host.”  I was just going crazy very serenely.  An usher informed me that George was going to be a guest on the show … can you see it?!?!  He also told me that Ringo, yes, Mr. Starkey MBE himself, would also be on one of the shows.  I nearly screamed hysterically, “and Paul?”  “No Paul couldn’t make it.”

As we all know now, it was yet another of the reunion rumors that occurs anytime one of them goes anywhere.  It didn’t matter – if John could render me speechless, I knew I might pass out if all four were there.

 I called the ticket office to see if there were any cancellations for Friday’s show.  No luck, so on Friday (January 14) I went to the studios and there began the long wait.  It was 20 degrees outside.          

I met two guys who were Beatle freaks or whatever you wanna call it but they were very obnoxious.  Usually I can get along with anyone who shares that particular interest but it wasn’t worth it with these two.  So I ignored them.  I put my name on the stand-by list in case there were extra seats.  I was third on the list.

A woman showed me Yoko’s autograph and we talked about her.  “I saw her on the Frost show yesterday,” she said, “and she’s got a good head.”  I think Yoko would have liked that comment.

The two obnoxious guys went to get coffee.  By the time they had returned, I had met John & Yoko and seen Phil Spector.  Ha—the suckers!

I was standing facing the door of KYW when I hear, “Here some someone.”  I turned around and my heart took a dive into my feet.  There, crossing the street toward us, were John and Yoko Lennon.

It happened so fast.  He was wearing a baseball uniform shirt and a jacket.  Yoko had her hair pulled back and looked old.  People were asking them to sign things which I wasn’t going to do but figured what the hell.  I grabbed the pen in my pocket and fished in my shoulder bag for some paper.  My hands were frozen – but mind over matter.  Yoko was going on about peace, but my nerves were too fuzzy to concentrate.  An older man showed John and old Beatle picture form 1963 and John sort of grinned.  The man asked him to sign a cloth hanging of the Beatles.  I was not in a thinking state of mind, but now I wonder John didn’t run in, away from all those strange people who identified him with his past.  Or say, at least, I’m not a Beatle anymore, y’know.

But he didn’t.  He said something like, “I’ve never seen that before.”  The man asked him to sign it on the collar. 
“Which one are you?”
“There I am,” John pointed out after careful scrutiny.  He got down on the sidewalk and asked for my pen.  I gave it to him gladly, and he gave me a Lennon smile.  After he signed the hanging I asked him to sign for me and he did.  The only paper I could find was my school roster, ironically enough, because I was cutting school brazenly. 

You may wonder where Yoko was all this time.  He was right there, but my eyes were riveted (frozen, more like) to only John.

They went in.  My eyes filled up and I started to shiver all over from cold and nerves.  I found out that George wasn’t on the show, but the day was young yet (And I, as you may have guessed, was crazy!).

I saw Phil Spector arrive in a black limousine and then the two obnoxious guys came back.  I enjoyed myself telling them what they’d missed.  They were furious.

Meanwhile, the lucky people with the tickets were beginning to arrive.  I stood by the door asking if anyone would sell theirs.  I was told then if I solicited tickets I wouldn’t get in, even on stand-by.  But my informer suggested I ask for extras.  This worked immediately.  But once inside, an usher said we were eon stand-by and couldn’t come in until everyone else was seated.  For those of you who have never watched Mike Douglas, it’s usually rather mediocre and the audience consists of old ladies and sometimes young housewives.  You must write weeks in advance for the tickets and you are never told who will be on.  It was a safe bet that most of that audience could have cared less that John and Yoko were on.  It was enough to make you scream!

At 12:30 everyone on the stand-by list was allowed to go in.  We had to wait while a man known forever as Mr. Crab kept us in suspense for 10 minutes.  Finally, five of us got in.  Half of me was in satori and the other half was upset because none of my friends made it (they’d arrived too late).   Everyone wished me luck and I went in.  I sat in the last seat on the farthest row, the worst in the house.  But I was there.

Mike Douglas began his song of the day - -Michele – faux pas indeed! Afterwards he introduced them, “and the writer of that song…”  When they sat down, John said, “I didn’t write that song, you know.  Only the middle eight.”  John and Yoko looked great.  Until the camera began getting in front of them and I could see only their feet.

John and Yoko had thought of an event.  For the five shows they wanted the guests and the audience to sign a huge canvas which would eventually be give to a charitable cause.  Of course, it never reached the back row.  An usher came up to me and said, “There’s a seat up front.”  I grabbed everything and followed him to the front row.  I could hardly have had a better seat.  One of those unbelievable blessings which sometimes fall on the devoted!

I was just in time for the band, Elephant’s Memory, and two songs, “It’s so Hard” and “Midsummer New York.”  This was followed by Yoko’s phone event (calling up an arbitrary person in the phone book and telling her/him you loved them).  They called all the John Lennon’s listed in the Philadelphia phone book – no one answered.  John remarked, “All the Lennons are in bed!” (This comment was of course edited when the show was on the air a month later).

The ending is filmed twice and before the second one John came over to our row and sat down about three seats away from me.  He was besieged with requests for autographs.  I was standing there holding a pen and he asked to use it.  I decided to buy him some pens.  Yoko came over and began signing too, standing next to me.  I couldn’t believe how tiny she was.  She signed one for me too, and then they called to re-film the ending.  Yoko said, “come on John.”  He finished and got up.  At the last moment he turned and gave me my pen.  I was too nervous to look him in the eye so I looked at his hand (what a thrill!)  They did the ending again and everyone began to leave.

Friday 28th January 1972:  This day, their last day, I had a ticket.  The format had drastically changed – this time the first 2 rows were filled with press people and relatives of KYW people.  I sat near Jerry Rubin and talked to him before the show began.

They announced they were going to tape a segment of the audience asking questions.  A man asked John, “Did you hear the new McCartney album?”
“The Wings one?”  John asked. (Wildlife).
“Did you like it?”  “Did you?”  Replied john.
“Well, I like some of the things on it.  I think he’s improving.”  They talked about Paul and John said he had dinner with him the other night.  This astonished me to no end – it was in the thick of the John vs. Paul business.  Someone asked why John wrote “How do you Sleep?”  John said something to the effect that he was replying to RAM and that Paul understood.

At the end they passed to canvas into the audience and I got to sign it.  Somebody had written, “You know my name – look up my number.”

I went to the Warwick Hotel directly after the show was over and there were a lot of out of town people.  After a while they came in, and I numbly watched the crowd bother them.  I was behind Yoko as they waited for the elevator and I asked her, “Yoko could I please talk to you?”

“Not now, we must hurry.” She said.  We were being literally crushed by the mob.  I had a question for her that I didn’t get to ask on the show.  One guy was yelling, “Please John, just one picture!”  He followed this up with, “I grew up with you, John!”

I was sickened.  John said, “Forget it man.”  The elevator came and they left.  There was a rush for the elevators and I was swept along with the crowd.  Upstairs, the corridor was packed with people.  I couldn’t believe it.  I left and wandered around the mezzanine, where they were setting up for a press conference.  I saw May Pang, although at the time I didn’t know her name.  I also had the luck to see Allen Klein.  But I knew it was over.  They would have a press conference and then leave and I had to go home.  I was only seventeen and still subject to my mother’s wishes.  “I’ve put up with enough, “she told me, “out late at night downtown, chasing the Beatles around…”

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