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You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away: The Mythic in the Life and Death of John LennonGo Back to Table of Contents
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Photography by: Douglas Sobers

There’s a puzzle that has lingered long after the loss of John Lennon. It’s one of those forms of vexation not quite resolved to the degree that grief can be dissipated into reflective sorrow. Walking past the Dakota, where Lennon was shot, and into a cafe around the corner, even now, so much later in time, one can still feel an edge of anxiety more associated with panic than grief, with dread than mourning--the deep-seated suspicion that something here had gone unalterably and irreparably wrong.
This sense of wrongness indicts the present as much as the past because so much of the trauma of the Sixties has never been truly been mitigated into forgiveness; but rather diluted into superficial raucous commercial nostalgia of MTV and VH1, or sentimentalized. Like the status of the Sixties, the impact of Lennon’s loss remains unresolved. Something was won. Something was lost. Nothing was clarified or forgiven. The decade has been diluted into trivia so that whatever energy had emerged and searched for a new world fifteen years after the end of the Second World War had been quickly killed by drugs and politics--and then forcibly drowned in its own image without a fitting eulogy. Now, seated in the cafe, I can almost hear the sirens’ dirge for that era: Hey! You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away!

But John Lennon never really did hide his love away. I still remember the naked photos, the press conferences from his bed with Yoko, the flowers, bead necklaces, and the naked buttocks. His was the pre-Eden image of the Flower Children: naked and unashamed. But there had been a difference between Lennon and a Flower Child, that was for sure--and then it suddenly struck me that that may be why Lennon had been perceived, in his time, as such a threat by so many. Lennon wasn’t a child at all--and initially, not one of the flower variety, either. His image had gone from the rebel to the bad boy to the effeminate Beatle dominated by his wife-mother, Yoko. When the Beatles made it big, it had been Paul who was the “mop-topped” icon of the band, Ringo and George the British version of Good Old Boys. But Lennon had turned out to be the unpredictable power behind the boys, and therefore Lennon was the threat--capable of abandoning, and even indicting, the very pop culture that had nurtured his celebrity.
Now I had been asked to write about the mythic in the life and death of John Lennon. That meant as well that the real John Lennon was already being converted into myth, and therefore an abstracted entity. If I had followed the stereotypes, I would have gone from Satyr exhibitionism to the Oedipal Complex, non-stop, and have been done with it. But that uneasy feeling of dread set in every time I thought of John Lennon--so instead of writing, and wanting to forget every agony the memory of John Lennon conjured up, I went out for a walk in the cold rainy streets of Manhattan.

I had stepped out precisely in order to avoid anything to do with the life and death of John Lennon, of his murder and of misogyny in general. Now why, in order to accomplish this nontask, I should head straight for Cafe La Fortuna is beyond me. La Fortuna was one of Lennon’s haunts on the West Side, and it was closed: lights out, door locked. I walked around the corner to an overpriced pizza joint.

Grasping a cup of cappuccino and staring at my eggplant parmesan sandwich, and more or less minding my own business, and more or less drying off, and less than more trying once again to forget all about John Lennon, I inadvertently overheard the name, “Yoko.”

As best as I could cull from the conversation, two mundane fellows were recalling a time when Yoko had wanted to do a documentary about John, and had asked to do some filming in La Fortuna. She had called the thuggish-looking restaurateur, who was now speaking to what appeared to be the thuggish-looking owner of the pizza joint, and this Neanderthal barked her name, “Yoko!” several times as though he were baying at the full moon. This she-wolf, he implied, had messed up enough lives already, and he (the thug) wasn’t going to be pushed around by this geek-mamma. She, he said, had had to wait on him. He had not been some cuckold waiting on her.

In siphoning the warm, creamy ellipse from the top of my cappuccino, I found a respite from this rainy little sin which echoed out over West Sixty-Ninth Street. “Yoko--the bi--”. For what it’s worth, Christians can relax. No deed, no matter how small, vicious, mean-spirited, or petty, goes unwitnessed, or without audition, in New York City.

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