Sunday, March 9, 2014

April 1978

As much as we know about John Lennon's life, there are a few years in the late 1970's that have some question marks about them.    We know that John was living a life as a Househusband and taking care of Sean in 1978, but there are very little photographs of John from this year.    All we have are photos of  John at Andy Warhol's birthday party of Yoko in February, family photos from Japan from July-September and John/Sean's birthday party in October.   That leaves a lot of unknown times.   One of these times is April of 1978, which is when two fans named Billy and Jimmy went and saw John and Yoko for a moment outside of the Dakota.   They did not bring a camera along with them and since they ended up seeing the couple after dark, a photo most likely wouldn't have turned out even if they had.    

I am posting this CNN unknown photo of John and Sean leaving the Dakota in 1980.

This story is from the October 1983 issue of "With a little help from my friends."

Sunday April 9, 1978
By Bill Goldsmith

My friend Jimmy and I were unspectacularly just occurred to us that it would be a great time for us to go to the Dakota and see “how the other half lives.”  Undeterred by the very real potential stumbling block that John and Yoko might very well be out of the country, out of the city, or just not coming out, we boarded the next Long Island Railroad train that came along and were swept to Penn Station as if on the wings of angels.

Upon our arrival in the Big Apple, we took an uptown bus and somehow we both knew we were going to see them.  We didn’t want to ruin the karma by talking out loud about it, but we couldn’t resist anyway.  We got to the Dakota and things were quiet – we didn’t see any other fanatics in the area; only the usual blasé, jade New Yorkers going to and fro, people walking eight dogs at once, and one man who was pulling a train of skateboards with a bunch of cats on them.    I think we just waited a while, soaking up the atmosphere and deciding when to play “interrogate the doorman.”  When we did (“Is John Lennon here?”), he didn’t let on much, but we found no reason to be discouraged.  He didn’t say outright anything like, “they’re in Japan” which was always a possibility, but he did say “Sometimes they stay in for days.  People come from all over the world and wait for days, and as soon as they leave, they come out.”   We shuddered.

Soon, some other tuned-in Beatle people came by and their radio was blasting out “I want to Hold your hand.”  They told us they had seen John recently and he was real skinny.  After a while, they split.

At one point soon thereafter, Sean was wheeled out by his nanny in a stroller holding a red plastic baseball bat.  Not to traumatize the child, we just hung out, coolly.  This meant they must be here, and we were sorry we hadn’t brought cameras.   By the time Sean came back, we resolved to hold out as long as it took.  I was hoping John and Yoko would go out for dinner, or come in for dinner, or go out after dinner, or come in after dinner, or anything else I hadn’t thought of.

After a while, Jimmy couldn’t take it anymore, and had to run down the block into a darkening Central Park to…relieve himself.  “Stall them if they come out.” He said.

Since it was dinnertime, and we were hungry, we bought some infamous New York city street hotdogs and sodas from a vendor and ate while leaning on a parked car.  The doorman, whom we had struck up such a good rapport with, said he was going out for few minutes, and Jimmy asked him to buy some cigarettes.  The doorman came back with them.

It grew darker and cooler, but our spirits remained high. 

The pivotal moment came when this long black and grey limo pulled up into the driveway of the Dakota.  We knew many celebrities lived in the building, as well as a few rich people (even though we were surprised to learn how many welfare families lived there too).  But “Ah-hah!”  I said.  “The license plate number is ‘101’ and that’s the catalog number of the White album! What an omen!”  We knew.  Now it was around 7:00 and it was very calm and quiet and the only people there were jimmy and I and the doorman and the chauffeur. 

It’s hard to believe it now, but Jimmy,, the same person who was wily enough to find his way into the Wings’ sound check at Nassau Coliseum and get Linda to pose for a picture at the keyboards, Jimmy was inexplicably looking out at 72nd Street at the big moment, while I was correctly staring at the southeast door past the office booth.  “There’s Yoko,” I had to say to get him to turn around.

Yoko had come out by herself and was dressed up all in white.  She had on a white dress and a white “Yoko hat” and her hair was down on her shoulders – she looked great.  I said, “Hi Yoko” for lack of anything else to say, but she didn’t seem to hear.  Now she was standing there staring at the door too. 
Now you can imagine how we both felt at this point.  Hours seemed to go by, even though it’s hard to gauge time in these situations.  Was John doing this for our benefit?  We were freaking out.  (He was probably tucking Sean in).  Finally John did come out.  He was also all dressed up, in a grey suit, with maybe a light brown tie?  His hair was too long but it was combed down – kind of like MMT times.  And he wore the round rims.  Since we only had the distance it took for him to walk from the door to the car, I only had time to say “hi John” and John said, “How’re ya doin’?” in our direction and go into the car (Yoko had circled around to the left side of the car).  What I remember most was the way he walked – kind of loping with his shoulders bobbing up and down – just that way.
Despite almost total paralysis and the inability to talk, we both shuffled over to John’s side of the car to have look, but of course not to bother him.   John was holding a book and playing it cool – he’d been through this many times before.

After those gold moments, the car started pulled away, so I said, “Might as well follow it til we lose ‘em in traffic.”  Like true Beatlemaniacs, once we started losing it, we started to run after it.  It was heading south down Central Park West, so I was kind of sorry I hadn’t asked them for a left to Penn Station.

Anyway, we were so excited, we ended up running practically all the way back to the train station non-stop.

Epilogue:   We went back the next Sunday to see if lightning struck twice, and we saw Sean again, and jimmy snapped his picture, much to Sean’s nanny’s displeasure,.   But we had no luck in seeing his folks again.

P.S.:  I wouldn’t have thought 15 years ago that Long Island would end up being such a Beatles hot-spot, but I also saw Paul this past August at East Hampton.  He was driving by his in-law’s house in an inconspicuous station wagon with Linda, and smiling.  Hopefully he was enjoying his holiday because no one was bothering him too much.


  1. This is so cool! Bill and Jimmy have been my friends since we met at a Beatlefest in the early 80's in New York.