My Brief Conversation with John Lennon

john lennon

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

In an interview, John said he got two questions all the time while living in New York -- "Are the Beatles getting back together?" and "Aren't you John Lennon?"

Though John Lennon was world famous, identity was a frequent topic for him.
In his song Nowhere Man -- which he wrote about himself -- John seems to be asking Who am I? Who is John Lennon? The lyric answers that question with another question -- Isn't he a bit like you and me?

In A Hard Day's Night, there is a scene where a woman suspects John may be THE John Lennon. But after talking to him, she assumes she is mistaken...

hard day's night

MILLIE: Oh, wait a minute, don't tell me you're ...

JOHN: No, not me.

MILLIE (insistently): Oh you are, I know you are.

JOHN: No, I'm not.

MILLIE: Well, you look like him.

JOHN (examining himself in the mirror): My eyes are lighter.

MILLIE (agreeing): Oh yes.

JOHN: And my nose...

MILLIE (starting to walk away): You don't look like him at all.

Sometime in New York City: The Night I Met John Lennon
Until long after midnight I wandered the streets of mid-town Manhattan. I was a kid in a candy store, on my own for the first time in my life in a city that made my own Chicago look like a small town.

I couldn't believe that a city could be so alive, so filled with people, lights and action after 2AM.

I wanted to see it all -- Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway...


More lights, the roar of traffic and the constant hum of people all hurrying somewhere in the middle of the night. But further down on Broadway there was dark building that caught my attention.

The Ed Sullivan Theatre
I approached it and saw that it was the old Ed Sullivan Theatre. David Letterman's Late Show is broadcast from there now but this night, so many years ago, it was empty, dark and abandoned.

I stood there under the historic marquee, peering through the entrance door windows trying in vain to see inside.

All the time I was thinking, this was where the Beatles first performed on their first American tour when 73 million Americans tuned in to see the Fab Four on television.

A car approaches...
It was then that I noticed that a car had pulled up behind me and parked at the curb. The rear passenger window rolled down slowly. I could hear laughter and talking inside. Someone stuck his face out of the window and spoke to me.

It was a man who I had seen on television, in movies, in magazines and on album covers. It was the man who had taught me how to play guitar by listening over and over to the dozens of hit songs he'd recorded.

It was the man who -- with the three other members of his band -- got his superstar start in the very building that we were now in front of.

The Liverpool accent was unmistakable.

John: "Whot's 'appenin' brutha?!"

Me: "You're John Lennon."

John: "That's right, mate."

The face receded from the car window. After a few more moments of laughter and chatter, the vehicle pulled away.

What just happened here?!, I thought. Had I just met John Lennon in front to the Ed Sullivan Theatre? Was that possible?

And if it was possible and if it had indeed happened, couldn't I think of something better to say than what was clearly obvious to him?

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Disbelief, Doubt...
When I got back to Chicago and told my friends what had happened, they didn't believe me. It didn't make any sense. It was too surreal to be true.

After awhile I almost began to doubt it all myself. But there really was no question...

Seeking out the Master
It was many years later that I read that while John lived at the Dakota in New York City, new bands would seek him out. Aspiring rock musicians all wanted an audience with the man who had helped to change the face of music.

And sometimes he would take them on a tour of his city. But there was one place they all wanted to see -- the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

By some strange coincidence, the night I roamed the late night streets of New York happened to be a night that he was, no doubt, giving some new band a tour.

And all I could come up with to say to him was...

Me: "You're John Lennon."

Identity and the Last Dark Day at the Dakota...
But I was reminded of that brief -- though in retrospect quite poignant -- conversation a few years later, reading about the night John was shot.

He was semi-conscious and bleeding profusely as the police rushed him to the hospital. Officer James Moran tried to keep him from slipping into the darkness by talking to him, trying to keep him alert.

"Do you know who you are?," Officer Moran asked. John, moaned and nodded as if to say ... yes.

My very brief conversation with John Lennon suddenly took on special meaning to me.

Yes, indeed John... You're John Lennon...

John Lennon 1940 - 1980