Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Day Barbara saw John Lennon


The day I saw John Lennon

 by Barbara Kaminski-Stern

 December 12, 2012 

May 17, 1975, I was 13 years old. I had just become a Beatles fan. Although I knew who they were, I wasn't that interested. Until I watched Help! with a friend. I was mesmerized. I was a bored teenager to be, and this was interesting. I was hooked. A month later, John Lennon came to town. That sealed the deal. 

John Lennon was friends with Larry Kane, a TV reporter and head announcer at WPVI studios in Philadelphia, off Cityline Avenue. Kane had toured with the Beatles when they first came to America. Everyone listened to WFILam pop radio. I used to collect their playlist (and still have some). They announced that John Lennon was coming to Philly to raise money for the Helping Hands charity. I was over the top, excited. The only way we could get to WPVI Studios was by Septa e-bus or a parent. My friend Robyn went with me. We were both interested in music. We had seen Cat Stevens together, and that was enough to bond.  I think we took the bus. We got off at the Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center, and our first stop was Record Music to pursue the 45s.  I wanted to buy Paul's "Mary had a little lamb" with cover sleeve, but thought I'd wait for another day (no pun intended). Today was John's day, and I wanted to look good and focused.

 We were so excited. I wore my favorite white hipster pants and a cool light green shirt with a cartoon drawing on the front, a leather belt, hair pulled back in a "chicken," glasses, and big earrings. I wanted to look my best for John. 

When we got there, a crowd already formed. We were in the back of the studio near the parking lot. Nothing fancy here. The back door was higher than we were, so other fans helped Robyn and me climb onto the raised floor. I brushed off my white hipsters. I had money with me because we knew we'd have to make a donation. Someone from the studio came out with autographs, Lennon singles, and "Mind Games," a $2 donation. I raised my hand for one and got it. Ironically, the only thing I had with me to autograph was the WFIL playlist. Why didn't I bring a Beatles album? To be honest, I didn't own any Lennon albums at that point. I had just become a fan, and I wasn't well off. I may have had two Beatles albums at the most. I figured I used my playlist for a second autograph. Suddenly, the crowd started screaming. Out came a DJ and... John Lennon. 

It was very surreal. I thought if I just laid back and be respectful, he would notice me, but Robyn was having none of that. "John!!!", she shouted, and I handed her my playlist, and she got an autograph. He yelled, "Give us the greens!" and I put money into a container. I was so close, just a foot away, I looked beyond his glasses. Noticed his shoulder length, straight hair, beret, striped beige and white scarf, his J necklace. He wore a suit, but he was funky, very 70s. This was not hippie, John. This was NYC, John. I wanted to remember it all.

Fortunately, my good friend Mindy lived next door to a photographer who took photos of John while he was here. He seemed to have the same outfit on all weekend.  Mindy got her photo taken with John while he was on the air. It's so funny because she looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but she gave me a copy. Then my sister went the next night, she got a double autograph, John's "Rock and Roll" album. You could say I "borrowed" it indefinitely. 

Some of my friends got autographs on their arms. I could have done that, but I wasn't so bold, and I wanted a real autograph to keep. I was on cloud nine that day. It was one of the best days of my life.

 I went home and was so excited. My neighbors were hanging out with my mom on the front patio of our West Philadelphia row home. "Why are you so excited?" Joan asked. My mom told her "she saw John Lennon today." Joan replied, "Oh, he doesn't appeal to me". They were not impressed, but I was. I ran in and played the Mind Games 45 on my record player. I was overwhelmed.

 I changed into jeans and wrote Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr on each leg with blue ink. I wore them to the Sacred Heart School Fair off Cityline and Harvarford avenues. I was in heaven. Nothing could go wrong that day. I was so close. And I had his autograph. And I was there. Although, I felt lucky I didn't realize how lucky I was.

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