Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoko's Birthday

I typically don't share stories of meet a Beatle wife because I know you all are here for the goods:  the Beatles themselves.   However, this story of meeting Yoko Ono on her birthday in 1983 really struck me.   This story comes from the June/July 1983 issue of "Instant Karma" magazine.  It was written by Paula Leach.   What really strikes me about this story is that Yoko really took the time to still talk to the fans that were hanging outside the Dakota.   As when John was alive on his birthday, Yoko sent cake down to the fans (why they bought her more cake is beyond me).   It was only a little over 2 years since John had been murdered by someone hanging around the Dakota.   No one would have blamed Yoko if she chose to ignore the fans.  But she understood that not all of the fans are crazy and still reached out to them.   I think that is amazing.

Yoko on her 50th birthday.  Photo by Diane Carroll

Diane Carroll, Yoko and Paula Leach.  Photo by Sam Havadtoy

Yoko, Sean and Sam Havadtoy.  Photo  by Diane Carroll
Yoko’s birthday

By Paula Leach
February 18th of this year (1983) had to be the best day of my life.  There was a group of Beatlefans in Strawberry Fields (I’d say a little more than a dozen).  I got there about 12:30.  We were all talking and signing birthday messages for Yoko on the back of a painting a guy did for her.  As I was sitting in the park, I saw a truck stop and a guy carrying a bunch of balloons into the Dakota.  
I knew those had to be for Yoko so I told everyone.  We all knew she was there having a party.  Then after a while we decided to go to the front of the Dakota to drop off the cards, letters and presents for her.  We hung around the Dakota for a few minutes, then I noticed a bodyguard of Yoko’s standing right at the archway, so I went up to him and said, “Excuse me, is Yoko coming out?”  He said, “Yes, she’ll be coming down in a couple of minutes.”   So when he said that, I felt like I was hit over the head!   I couldn’t believe it!  I turned around and told my friends that she was coming out.  We were all going nuts (to say the least).  Then all of a sudden, Yoko came out with a bright red shirt and black pants and Sean carrying tons of balloons with a bodyguard and assistants carrying the birthday cake and napkins.  The first thing I noticed was Yoko had her hair cut a lot shorter.  I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at her and Sean.  He’s so cute.  He’s a lot smaller in person than in pictures.  Then all of a sudden, as Yoko and her crew were walking towards us, Yoko said, “There’s some cake left I brought for you.”  Then I said, “Happy birthday” and Yoko said, “Thank you.”  As this was going on, Yoko had a video crew filming this whole event.  Then Yoko was holding a big bunch of balloons and she handed them to Sean and then Sean took them to the sidewalk and let’s go of them.  The balloons flew up in the air and everyone cheered and Sean yelled, “Don’t crash!”   then he ran back to Yoko and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  As we were singing it, I got chocked up because she looked so happy Then Sean looked up at her face and Yoko looked down and smiled to him as we were singing.  As soon as we stopped singing, Yoko said, “thank you thank you!”  And then some kids handed her cards and Sean kept yelling “Don’t crash” to the balloons, as he and Yoko walked quickly into the Dakota.  My friends and I turned around and screamed and hugged one another.  We couldn’t believe it all. Then we went over to the assistant who was handing out the cake and I swathe guy with the video camera filming us.  The assistant handed us napkins with rainbows on them and after everyone took a piece of cake, the assistants went in.  

 We were all so happy!  It was the greatest feeling.  You could fee John’s presence there, the warmth and happiness from it all.  Then the video crew came back out and said “Yoko wants to know what do you want to be when you’re 50?”  He asked a couple of people then came to me and I said, “I just wanted to be relaxed and happy.  Fifty’s just a number.  You can be as old as you want to or as young as you want to, as the old saying goes ‘Life Begins at 40.’”  Then he went to a few more people.
After all the excitement, we decided to chip in and send a cake up to Yoko.  After we did that, we hung around Strawberry Fields, then later we found out she was going to be going out somewhere so we stood around the front of the Dakota and waited a while.  Finally her limo came out and we could hardly see her because of the dark widows.  Everyone was waving and Yoko waved back.  Then the limo went up the street.  After that, we stayed around a bit longer playing Beatles music.  Then we decided to leave.  Everyone felt happy – we felt a natural high from it all.  I really didn’t’ think she would come


  1. I had my own encounter with Yoko outside of the Dakota in 1986 and, while no where near as special as this one I will offer the little story to attest that she remained generous and (seemingly) unafraid with well-wishers and supporters in the years after what happened...

    I'd just graduated college and was living with friends on 83rd & CPW, about ten blocks north of the Dakota. By chance I'd happened upon a live radio Larry King interview with Yoko and I kept thinking "oh, I wish I could get thru via phone" but I knew it'd be probably impossible to do so. I'd LONG been a Yoko fan (aside from loving J/Y and the Beats), and I just wanted to tell her what she, her music and her message had done for me over the years. At any rate, they kept announcing that this Broadcast was "live from NYC" after the commercial breaks and it suddenly dawned on me that she'd probably be coming home after the B'cast ... why not walk down there and see if I can meet her? It was later at night - I'd been laying in bed listening to the radio and I think the show ended at midnight, so about twenty minutes before I decided to give it a try and dressed, grabbed a pen and a bit of heavy paper, and trekked south toward 72nd...

    It was late, dark, and kind of spooky around there. I was the only one standing outside the building. If you've ever been on that block later at night (especially in front of that building) you might know what I mean by "kind of spooky." The guards go home and the gates in front of the arch are closed by that time of night; it was autumn and chilly and I felt a bit foolish just standing there, but I decided to give it a half hour or so before going home. Sure enough, a limo pulled up and an assistant popped out of one of the doors, calling in through the gate "can you open up for Yoko?" I suddenly felt really guilty standing there - I was afraid my being there might have scared her, given what had happened before. But Yoko popped out of the limo apparently unafraid and without visible security. Out of my guilt I immediately held forth my paper/pen to try and indicate I was simply some dumb fan and not a threat and she almost skipped/hopped right over to me! She was so tiny and so ... indescribably beautiful!!! I am 6'4" and she barely came up to my chest but she looked up at me and smiled, and I simply cannot describe the light in her eyes! She locked her gaze onto me and she was so incredibly gracious ... I have to admit that a flood of thoughts and emotions boiled up in me, there were so many things I wanted to say to her, so many thanks I wanted to give, but of course all that came out was some kind of lame "I heard you on Larry King tonight and ..." and nothing else, LOL. I felt like a COMPLETE bumbling dork but she just grinned and began asking me questions: what is my name, where am I from, how is my evening so far kinda stuff. The gate into the building had long since been opened for her but she still stood there for a few minutes, chatting me up and putting me at ease. She did sign for me "For Gary, Love Yoko, and the date." I thanked her and she did that little throat-clearing noise she makes and wished me a good night and she practically skipped into the building; the gate slid closed behind her. She had been wearing the wrap-around glasses she was soon to shed and a sparkly, fringed blue jacket and she was carrying a pack of Euro ciggies, her lighter, and a little notebook or something of that sort. She was SO youthful in how she moved and such, I had just felt like I'd seen what was so attractive about her, what had attracted the likes of John to her. Not a sexual thing (for me) but just an inner beauty and energy and warmth.

    Just thought I'd share my dumb and ordinary little encounter story here. Thanks for reading - and thank you Yoko, for everything:)

  2. what a lovely story, gary, thanks so much for sharing!

    1. What a great story, beautiful, more in-depth than my encounter!