Meeting John Lennon

By Jonathan Wolpert

I was dreaming of the past……….

17 November 1974, I met John Lennon. It remains one of the greatest thrills of my life.

I was 16. The Beatles were my first musical love and Lennon was my favorite Beatle. Loved his solo work as well — John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (aka the Mother album) as much as I enjoyed the Beatles.

I loved the music of Lennon as well as his persona.

My dad used to bring home the late edition of the NY Post. Before turning to Sports, I used to look at Earl Wilson’s column as he would sometimes have photos of hot looking women. One night, he wrote that John Lennon would be appearing at the opening of the play Sgt Pepper at the Beacon theatre on Nov 17, 1974 (not to be confused with the film of the same name).

My mother was kind enough to take the train from Long Island to the Beacon in NYC to secure me two tix for opening night. Once I had tix in hand, I put together a petition for Lennon. This was when the US was trying to deport him. I spent two weekends at a mall and an additional weekend at a shopping center and secured in excess of 2000 signatures.

John Lennon and May Pang at the Beacon Theater.

My friend Howie and I arrived at the Beacon on opening night. I introduced myself to a young Ron Delsner (the promoter) and he told me I could wait in front of the rope for Lennon to arrive so I could present the petition. As celebs arrived, I asked them to sign it as well: Bianca Jagger, David Johanssen, Johnny Winter, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter and even Yoko Ono. Yoko was separated from John – at the time, I was surprised to see her. She thanked me for my efforts.

When Lennon arrived, the fans mobbed him. It was insane and I didn’t get anywhere near him. After 20 minutes, Delsner took me to Lennon’s seat (about 10th row aisle in orchestra). My friend Howie took two quick pics of John and was told to stop — there were to be no photographs.

I had it in my mind not to mention the “B” word. This was four years after the Beatles broke up and there was still quite a bit of tension. I presented the petition to John – it was titled “help Keep John Lennon in America”. He thanked me – seemed very genuine. I wished him good luck with his efforts to getting a green card. I congratulated him on the success of his then new “Walls and Bridges” album.

A rep from his company gave me a “Listen to the Badge” promo button. He was with May Pang. Finally I asked “when is Look Back coming out” – He said “What’s Look Back” – I said “your oldies album” to which he responded “oh, it will be out in January. It’s called Rock and Roll”. Then he leaned over closer and thanked me again for the petition – how much it meant to him and how badly he wished to stay in the US.

John Lennon at the Beacon Theatre, 1974

The only awkward moment came when my friend Howie had the following exchange with Lennon:

Howie: “Beatle John, Beatle John ”
(i was cringing)
Lennon: “yeah?”
Howie: “Where’s Pete Best? ” (Best was original drummer tossed out in favor of Ringo)
Lennon: (peering at Howie above his eyeglasses) “eh, he’s backstage — why don’t you go look for him!”

I loved his response. It was as if he said “hey kid, go play in traffic.”

Howie also walked up to Bianca Jagger and said “your husband’s gay”. This was 1974 and Mick had just started wearing eye make-up..

The play was not memorable. Took the LIRR home and couldn’t sleep at all that night.

Subsequently, I met Paul, George twice and Ringo three times. But nothing was like meeting Lennon……

Last year, the documentary The United States of America vs. John Lennon came out. Near the end, upon receiving is green card – he looks at the camera and says “I’d like to thank everyone who supported me – and all the kids that went around with petitions and speaking up on my behalf” I know he was talking about thousands of us, but I also felt he was talking directly to me…….

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