|Photo by George Tebbins|
A Carefree, Relaxing Weekend in Fun City
By Sharon Uzarewicz
With a Little Help From My Friends
Sunday, December 28, 1975
If it was possible for things to get worse, on Sunday they did. Nancy wanted to do some sightseeing so while the rest of us were getting dressed she went to get her camera out of the car trunk and somehow managed to lock her only set of keys in it as well. The locksmiths we called watched $60 to come and open it but luckily, we managed to break into the car and pull out the back seat and retrieve them ourselves, with only an hour delay.
As we proceeded to the Dakota and of course there was no sight of John. We sent up a card similar to the first mentioning we’d be back later that evening. We arrived at JFK hours before Paul’s flight and as 7:00 approached the tension became unbearable. We were so certain we’d see him that we almost refused to believe that 7 had come and gone without his arrival. We checked with the ticket agent. Paul had been booked for that flight and he hadn’t canceled. He was simply, as the agent put it, “a no-show.”
Eventually, we drove back to Manhattan and (you guessed it) the Dakota. As we drove past the doorman waved at us but we thought it was only in recognition and we didn’t stop as we were going a few blocks down for something to eat. When we returned, Nancy got out to talk to him and it turned out that he was waving at us to follow the limo a few cars ahead of us which contained John and Yoko! Nancy and the doorman had quite a long chat and when she showed him the photos, I’d brought he was quite impressed and said, “John hasn’t got anything like these upstairs. I’m sure he’ll really like them. You ought to stick it out and wait for him to return.” He also told her that they had a Japanese babysitter who looked after the baby when they went out and that John was quite nice but he didn’t like Yoko. According to Jose, she was jealous of the fans and had called the police on a number of occasions to stop them from hanging around. (The day before a different doorman had told us that John was horrible to the fans. Apparently, some had come from Ohio and Philadelphia and he’d just shoved them aside, saying “Leave me alone” – at least that’s what the doorman said.)
Knowing how much it meant to me to see John, Nancy and George agreed we should wait at least a few hours (it was around 10pm) but then we’d have to leave and start the drive home because both Nancy and myself were supposed to be at work on Monday morning. The whole trip had been such a bitter disappointment. Eventually, George fell asleep in the back seat and Nancy curled up by the steering wheel. I thought it best to let them sleep as they had such a long drive in front of them and I kept a lookout on every car and cab that passed by.
Monday, December 29, 1975
It was 3AM when the silver Lincoln Continental pulled up and without seeing its occupants, I knew it was them. I shook George and Nancy and tried to gather my photos and Instamatic and jump out of the car. I had a little trouble getting out of the car but when I did and I turned around, John was standing there looking very, very paranoid as if he was unsure whether I was carrying a camera or a revolver. What I later learned was that when I woke Nancy her first reaction was to start the car, gun the motor, and flash on her headlights. I guess I was just bursting out of the car at the exact same time John, not knowing our intentions, literally jumped a foot. As I turned around, all I caught was his paranoid expression. Forgetting the gate was locked and remembering what the other doorman had said about his brushing past fans, I hurried over to him and said, “John, we’re from Chicago and I have some photos I’d like to give you.” His face relaxed and he replied, “Oh, sure.” Then I heard George behind me asking whether or not we could take some photos and he said all right. I pulled out the photos I wanted to give him and he took it and said, “Yoko, look at this.” He genuinely seemed to like it and asked me where it was taken. I said “Chicago” and he looked down and me and said, “But when was that? What was I doing there?” Being completely freaked out by that point, I told him he’d been in town to visit Dick Gregory and he replied that was strange because he’d just been talking to Dick that very day. In the photo I gave him he was wearing a scooped neck black-t-shirt and denim jacket and when he looked at this he said, “What was I wearing? A low-cut black bra?” and “Was I fat then.” Yoko commented that it must have been warm because they were both wearing t-shirts.
I believe it was Nancy who asked if they’d gotten our cards and he said yes and they were sorry they couldn’t come down, “but we’re very busy – with the baby shittin’.” He added that they get cards and letters all the time even from Rome “but we can’t come down and look for the Romans.” It was as if he was actually apologizing for not coming down and that he really wanted us to understand why. George asked if he’d pose for a photo and he seemed very willing. After I took two shots, I wanted to get in a photo myself but I was too shy to ask him even though I’m sure he would have said yes. Instead, I sort of walked in back of him while he was signing something and leaned my head around his side just so it would get in some of the photos George was taking. I didn’t think John knew I was there and I was waiting for George’s flash to go off when suddenly John ducked his head down next to mine making a funny face. Overcome, I touched his back and mumbled a thank you, moving away.
When hew as finished signing things I realized Yoko hadn’t signed mine and I asked if she would. He took it from me and told her to. George was holding out a felt pen but John said, “No, someone give me the ball point I was using before – it works better.” I fumbled in my pocket and gave it to him. Someone mentioned that we’d been in the car for three days and he said, “That’s a helluva way to live.” It wasn’t a put-down, it was more like, you must be crazy to go through all that for me, but I’m pleased you have.
Then I remembered I had more photos with me and I handed them to him telling him he could have them if he liked. He genuinely seemed to like them and he went through them more than once showing them to Yoko. He looked down at me and repeated, “But I want to know what I was doing when I look at these.” It was incredible of him to say something like that. Whether he intended to toss them out or not, it was still fantastic of him to give the impression that they meant something to him and that he’d be looking at them again.
Yoko was rather quiet but once out of the blue she looked at me and very sweetly said, “I like that top you are wearing.” I was so stunned that she even noticed. All I could think of to say was “Thank you. I got it just for the trip.” When we finally left she wished us all a happy new year. John asked us if we had everything (at least 3 times we’d asked him for “one for photo” and he didn’t seem bothered at all) and then they walked to the gate and rang for the doorman. George and I took some distance snaps of them by the gate but after he’d been so wonderful to us we didn’t go any closer.
No matter how many times I repeat it, I just can’t convey how absolutely marvelous he was toward us. He really seemed to care about us. He understood what we’d been through and he was pleased to give us a little of his time. He must have been tired but he didn’t rush us in the least. He was fantastic. He also looked fantastic. The most recent photos I had seen of him made him look old and tired. When we saw him in the flesh he looked like he was in his early 20s – healthy and happy. His hair was drawn back into a ponytail and he was wearing a blue beret and a long navy blue pea coat and beige slacks. I didn’t get a good look at anything but Yoko’s face. Her hair was very long and she was pale but looked beautiful to me. She was incredibly sweet to us and not at all the way the doorman had described her. She talked to us but mainly stayed in the background and didn’t seem to mind how hysterical we were becoming over her husband. It really proved to me how little of what you hear 2nd and 3rd hand can be believed.
WE left NYC as soon as the Lennons went in but it was several hours before any of us came back down to earth. Just a brief mention about our return trip – the roads were clear until we hit Indiana where we came into freezing rain which transformed the roads into a slide. Never, and I repeat, NEVER, were three people more thankful to arrive home on that Monday evening than were Nancy, George, and myself. Was it worth it? You’d better believe it was worth it – it’s “just a helluva way to live.”