Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I am the Boston Walrus

I wonder why John and Yoko and Sean all went to Boston in September of 1976?   Very little seems to be known about that trip.  And it seems that a lot of photographs were taken, but not a whole lot have surfaced over the years.   

I am the (Boston) Walrus
By Tempy Snow
With a Little Help from my friends (Issue #17—January 1977)

Most of us don’t live in New York, L.A., or London and consequently we don’t get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning to go Beatle chasing.  Rather, we wait for tours and recording sessions – provided we have the appropriate bank balance for planes and trains.
Living in Boston was no exception until 1976.  Pepperland graced us with Paul in concert, George in party clothes and John….

September 16, 1976 (Thursday).  Alarm went off at 9:30 a.m.  I dragged out of bed, ate nothing and brushed teeth well because I had to be at the dentist’s at 11.  Against my will I made the dentist’s chair on time, heard the bad news about cavities and departed starving.  On my way home I stopped off at a sandwich shop and bought lunch.  As I walked back, bag in hand, I passed the Copley Plaza, one of Boston’s posh old hotels.  However, ripples of extra sensory perception did not go through my head – rather it was more like the refrains of “Just Another Day.”

Ate lunch at 12:30pm.  At 1:00 the phone rang.  It was Denny, another local Beatle freak, so cried, “I heard on the radio John Lennon came into town last night.  He’s staying at the Copley Plaza.  I’m there right now.  Come down and take pictures!”

“You’re kidding,” I said.  “My camera is broken, but if you don’t mind, I’ll come over anyway.”
He didn’t mind and I hung up thinking, good grief, what do radio stations know?  And what would the walrus be doing in Boston anyway?  We’re not the chosen hunting grounds like L.A.  But it’s in the blood, the love of excitement, adventure, hope – in other words an incurable Beatle freak.   I dropped everything and rushed over, making the 14 minute walk in 7.  Denny was standing nervously outside.  He’d heard from different sources inside the Copley that John was there and he wasn’t.  Still skeptical but all business, I suggested we stand at one corner of the hotel so we could watch the two main exit doors at once.  About 15 minutes passed.  IW as still busy peering around the corner when Denny suddenly said, ‘There he is.”

The utter calmness of his voice made me slow to turn.  I thought he meant some friend of his.  But lo and behold!  Parked out in front of the hotel was the impossible – a green station wagon, driven by a young Japanese man.  And getting out of the station wagon were John, Yoko and their nanny with Sean.  Yoko had on a long dress and John:  he looked like he had just stepped off the set of Magical Mystery Tour.  His hair was short and he was wearing those famous wire-rimmed glasses.  The only difference was that he was growing a beard and was wearing blue jeans and a denim jacket.  He also looked extremely slim, almost bordering on skinny.   George beware!  The nanny and Sean I barely glimpsed – she whisked Sean inside the hotel faster than the speed of light.

Luckily for us, John had to take time to get Sean’s pram out of the back of the car or else I know I at least would have stood there rooted to the ground in what I can only call Beatle-shock.   Denny, who’d never met John before, was the one who threw his instamatic to me, muttered, “take pictures” and walked up to John.   Denny managed to stop John by showing him a picture in one of his photo albums of John during his Plastic Ono Band days.  But John pointed to the pictures on the opposite page of George in concert and asked Denny if he had taken it.   We George fans can be lucky that John has good taste!  Then Denny asked if John would pose for picture with him and John readily agreed.  Robot like I took it of the two of them.  Then Denny asks for another one for insurance and john stops again.  I noticed Yoko was just standing there so I asked her to step in with them – Linda would have been proud of me. 

Feeling no longer like a gaping dingbat I confidently raised the camera again.  It didn’t click.  John, Yoko and Denny remained standing there staring at me.  I must have then looked like a dingbat about to commit suicide because John said to me, “Don’t panic, just take your time.”  The famous Lennon sarcasm cleared my brain and I remembered instamatics have to be wound twice for the next frame whereas 35mm cameras don’t.  I took the second picture.   I think I shook his hand after that but barely remember it.  Then I wished him a good day and in they went.

Then the freaking out started.  Denny and I must have repeated the phrase, “I don’t believe it” about 100 times between us.  I was the most stunned that for me it had happened within the span of a half an hour and in my back yard.  Seven minutes traveling time to meet a Beatle?  Unheard of.  Little did I know that exactly two months from that day, on November 16th, I would meet George in the same hotel, with Denny and his photo album would be looked at again.

I made it to work very late and very spaced.  I called my fellow George freak, Blue, and spaced her out.  About 6 of us (including Denny and Blue) waited outside the hotel until 1 a.m. that night but the walrus was hibernating and we all finally went home to try to believe it.

September 17, 1976 (Friday) was black Friday for Blue and I.  blue had to work a day shift and I got called in early, so we both missed seeing John come out of the hotel early that afternoon and stand around talking for 10 minutes.  At least Denny was there again.  After work, I went back to the hotel and heard stories about people pounding on John’s door at 2 in the morning, so I decided not to stick around that night.  Besides, word was out that John would be leaving the next morning, so there would be one more chance to see him.  I went home and still tried to believe it.

September 18, 1976 (Satuday)—The news that there was more than beans and ancient history in Boston reached as far as Connecticut.  The Harrison Alliance drove up as well as Zig and Jim Montgomery from Springfield, Mass.  All told, over 20 people showed up Saturday morning, quite amazing that after 12 years so much power and magic remained.  Laurianne Lavallee (another George freak) and I arrived at 8am only to find other people already there waiting.  We sat around trying to look like tourists while another group waited by the elevators.  This nanny brought Sean down the elevator, took one look at the crowd and went right back up again.  I nudged Laurianne and said, “I bet she’s going to come down the back elevators,” and sure enough, they came out those and zoomed outdoors.   We decided to follow them just to see Sean but not to take pictures because I’d heard too many stories about both John and the nanny being very uptight about cameras and crowds around Sean.  Well, the nanny saw us right off and Laurianne promised “no pictures” and the nanny said, “I no trust,” and turned and fled.  Sean was beautiful though, bright-eyed and intelligent looking.  I felt like I could have held a ration conversation with him.  But we didn’t follow and we didn’t tell anyone else Sean was on the streets.  I felt devious about it but there was a limit.  Pounding at doors at 2 am and hounding a baby were beyond my capacity as a Beatle fan. 

By mid-morning the lobby was full of Beatle fans and other celebrity seekers.  The Plaza never looked so successful with us all hanging out, but that was amazing in itself.  No one hassled us for all being there; in fact, we were ignored more than anything else.  Then we got word that a couple of people had gone up to sit outside John’s room.  We were gnashing our teeth at how that placed us all in jeopardy when they came down again.  Our relief didn’t last long.  A short while later someone got the bright idea to call the room, and Yoko answered.  From what I heard that Yoko said, I gather she was pleasant but disgusted – something about “John can’t get any sleep and you’re bothering us, but bless you anyway.”  Ten points for Yoko!  Needless to say, right after that we all got kicked out of the lobby.  There we were suddenly out in the cold and wind, getting ulcers trying to watch the Copley’s three exit doors at once.  The head Blue Meanie couldn’t have done any better to spread misery in Pepperland, but we gritted our teeth and played the fan game the best we could—thanks to the few who still wanted to play it the 1964 way. 

When a few people went back inside to go to the bathroom and didn’t get bothered, I decided after a while I better make the trip too.  I went in the back door just not to be so obvious.  As I came out of the bathroom who should I see but the nanny and Sean coming in once more.  I melted into the telephone booths pretending I didn’t see them and watched them go up the elevator.  Then I went out and passed John’s driver going in!  Parked outside the back door was the green station wagon.  And on the corner up the street were 20 or more people staring at the car and me!  It was kind of a freak out to bop out a door and see a crowd in a sense waiting for you.

After that, A Hard Day’s Night played at the Copley Plaza.  Richard Lester couldn’t have directed it any better.  John’s driver went in and out several times on errands.  Each time he’d drive away we’d circle the hotel again and again trying to spot him when he returned and each time he did, two dozen people would run like bats out of hell for that doorway.  I was just about to buy a pair of track shoes and audition for the Olympics when the driver came out the back door for the final time and drove to the front.  The sidewalks burned as we all screeched after him.  Then while we caught our breath, bellboys started loading John’s luggage into the car, covered with a white furry rug.  A hundred pictures got taken of a bunch of suitcases and a rug.

Then the driver takes off around the corner to the other side door and knowing that this was the end of the long morning, we panted after him.  Cameras were raised, shaking cigarettes were lit and everyone’s eyes were glued to the door.  Well, almost everyone’s.  Someone saw John and family thought he windows coming out of a hotel restaurant.  I got up to the window in time and got a good glimpse of John standing around with Sean in his arms, still wearing blue jeans and a denim jacket.  Then suddenly the nanny, Yoko and John came walking out, John still holding Sean in his arms.  Shades of Paul with Mary during “Ram” recording days in New York!  The mob closed in on them but luckily people only took pictures.  I never saw Yoko except for the back of her head as she got into the car but I caught a good view of the famous Lennon profile as he threaded his way to the car.  Once John was in the car, it was surrounded.  The driver managed to take off only to be caught by a red light 30 feet away.  Everyone madly ran out into the street and surrounded them again.  I’m sure the people driving in the back of John’s car are still wondering to this day just what the chase scene was with the green station wagon in front of them!

Of course, being incurable, I was right in the middle of it and managed to get up to the window opposite John.  I’ll never forget seeing Sean sitting beside him, still so bright-eyed and intelligent looking.  People were pounding on the windows and even screaming but the only reaction I saw John give was to Blue, only I didn’t know it was her at the time.  She was up against the window almost beside me, in Beatle-shock, and her attempt to wave became limp-wristed.  John gave her a limp-wristed wave back!  We nearly died laughing about it later.

The light finally decided to change and off they went, back to New York, probably wondering where stately old Boston coughed up so many Beatlemaniacs.  Blue, Laurianne and I went off down the street arm in arm crying over and over, “He was so beautiful!”  Blue and Laurianne were especially freaked as neither of them had ever seen John before.  And to this day, I still don’t know why he was here.  The most circulated story was that he was visiting friends in a suburb.  But whatever the reason, it could happen again.  London, L.A. and New York eat your hearts out!


  1. Wow, this is really cool! As a lifelong New Englander and Beatles fanatic, the city has always had a huge love for the Fabs, but this under-the-radar visit I had never heard of before! Thanks for sharing this!

    1. John came to Boston several times over the years & preferred to stay at the Copley hoping for privacy while there

  2. Hi! I am trying to get a photo of the top picture of John & Yoko outside the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.(Holding Sean) If you have access to this, please let me know1

    1. Sorry Joe---I don't have a copy of that one. I will keep looking though.

    2. Hi! Thank you so much for your response! I work at said hotel and we would really appreciate a copy of that photo...