How John Lennon became ‘mesmerized’ by Yoko Ono after she relentlessly pursued him – popping up everywhere he went including the Indian Himalayas, got him hooked on heroin and gifted him a 22-year-old mistress
- John Lennon became mesmerized by Yoko Ono after she set her sights on him, writes author Ray Connolly in new book Being John Lennon: A Restless Life
- Yoko was aggressive, constantly badgering John with letters and appearing at places he was
- Yoko broke into ‘the orbit of the Beatles’ after meeting John at the Indica Gallery in London, where she was preparing for a show the next day
- ‘From the very beginning of her career, she understood the power of networking and self-promotion; especially self-promotion,’ according to Connolly
- John ‘felt that she was the star and he the audience’, never had he met anyone like this ‘odd little Japanese woman dressed in her black intellectual’s uniform’
- Yoko was writing letters to John, getting under his skin and was everywhere he was, even showing up at a meeting with a yogi in the Indian Himalayas
- Yoko and John became inseparable and he insisted Yoko be at all sessions – inhibiting to the other Beatles and driving a wedge between John and Paul
- Their relationship became strained by 1972 and Yoko decided to get John a mistress – May Pang, 22, a Chinese girl who had been working for the couple
John Lennon became mesmerized by Yoko Ono after she relentlessly pursued him everywhere he went – in person and with letters, a new book reveals.
Yoko initially targeted the millionaire rock star to be her sponsor for her ‘event art’, claiming to have bumped into him out of sheer luck at an art gallery in London, writes author Ray Connolly in Being John Lennon: A Restless Life.
The 5’2 artist was aggressive and immune to rejection, constantly badgering the Beatle with letters and appearing at places he was. It worked, but apart from John no one else was as captivated.
Lennon’s aunt Mimi called Yoko a ‘poisoned dwarf’ and John’s band mates Paul, Ringo and George did not want her sitting in on album recording sessions or label meetings.
The heroin addict turned up in Lennon’s life during a time when he was seeking a spiritual rebirth and turned him onto her drug of choice, and she would eventually be instrumental in breaking up the Beatles, Connolly writes.
John Lennon became mesmerized by Yoko Ono (pictured in 1968) after she relentlessly pursued him everywhere he went – in person and with letters, a new book claims
The superstar’s aunt Mimi called Yoko a poisoned dwarf and John’s band mates Paul, Ringo and George did not want her sitting in on album recording sessions or label meetings. Pictured: Yoko in the studio with the Beatles (pictured in 1969)
But by 1972, the ‘dazzle had gone out of their lives’. The only way out Yoko could see was to get John a mistress and she set up the relationship with May Pang, 22, (pictured with John in the 1970s) a beautiful Chinese girl who had been working for the couple
Their relationship would lead to suffocation for John and he talked of divorce while Yoko had found her métier running the iconic British band’s empire.
‘Her detractors, however, and there are many, point to some clever plotting and attention-seeking behavior on her behalf’, writes Connolly.
‘A little-known avant-garde artist who was wishing to make a name for herself in a new country could do no better than by finding a way of association with the Beatles, and especially John Lennon, whose every action was newsworthy and was now rich enough to be a very important person’.
The Beatles lived in a feel-good party bubble for two years after finishing their first North American tour in the summer of 1964.
Author Ray Connolly writes in Being John Lennon: A Restless Life that Yoko found a way to make a name for herself through John
Lennon was already taking Preludin, an amphetamine, to keep up the intense booking schedule, as well as drinking alcohol.
When Bob Dylan introduced the band to marijuana, consumption quickly progressed to smoking it for breakfast.
LSD became John’s next drug of choice and he took acid while reading a book by Timothy Leary about destroying your ego.
Lennon’s drug habits caused him to start panicking about death threats to the group, who were then confined to their hotel while touring.
When crowds started spitting at them, the band decided it was time to ‘give rock a rest.’
‘It was f***ing humiliation,’ John said. ‘One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what the Beatles were.
‘The whole Beatle thing was just beyond comprehension. I was eating and drinking like a pig, and I was as fat as a pig’.
‘The Ku Klux Klan had nailed Beatles albums to burning crosses and radio stations began to ban the playing of Beatles records,’ writes the author.
‘To John, ever dissatisfied with the way things were, the idea of a spiritual rebirth, a starting again, was always attractive’.
The group went their separate ways – George went to India, Paul composed music for a movie, Ringo took a holiday and John went to Spain before returning to London.
The Beatles (above in 1965) lived in a feel-good party bubble for two years after making their first North American tour in summer of 1964. Lennon was already taking Preludin, an amphetamine, to keep up the intense booking schedule, as well as drinking alcohol
Yoko, a heroin addict, turned up in Lennon’s (pictured in 1969) life during a time when he was seeking a spiritual rebirth and turned him onto her drug of choice, and she would eventually be instrumental in breaking up the Beatles
Enter Yoko Ono, who always claimed that their meeting at the Indica Gallery in London was ‘purely by accident’.
John had been dropped off at the gallery by owner John Dunbar. He viewed the art as a con and suspected that he was being hustled to buy something.
Downstairs he was introduced to ‘a very small Japanese lady wearing a black sweater and black trousers, peering out from between two curtain folds of long black hair’.
She was preparing her exhibition opening the following day and was in London with her current husband and child, Kyoko.
Yoko claimed she hadn’t recognized John ‘although she had insisted to Dunbar that a Beatle be invited’, writes the author.
One of her art pieces was a board with a chain and a hammer hanging on it and a bunch of nails at the bottom.
John asked: ‘Can I hammer a nail in it’? ‘No’, she said and walked away.
She came back and asked for five shillings. Lennon had no money on him and said he would give her five imaginary shillings to hammer in an imaginary nail.
She later contacted Lennon and asked him for an original music score for a short film. He sent lyrics to one of the Beatles’ songs but John didn’t know that she had initially asked Paul who refused her request.
‘Yoko had broken into the orbit of the Beatles’, writes the author.
A few weeks after the Indica Gallery meeting, she showed up at the Beatles’ office in Mayfair hoping to speak to John.
She wanted financial backing to wrap the statues of the lions in Trafalgar Square in canvas.
Yoko had John finance her art project that featured a room that had half of every object. Pictured: Yoko sitting in her ‘half bedroom’ in 1968
Yoko has always claimed that she met John at the Indica Gallery in London ‘purely by accident’. Yoko claimed she hadn’t recognized John ‘although she had insisted to Dunbar that a Beatle be invited’, writes the author. Pictured: The couple in 1971
In John’s absence, she pitched the idea to Ringo who was ‘non plussed — and commented she might just as well have been speaking in Japanese for the little he understood of her plan’.
‘From the very beginning of her career, she understood the power of networking and self-promotion; especially self-promotion,’ according to Connolly, a veteran journalist and screenwriter who John befriended in the late 1960s.
Yoko’s next move was to send John a copy of her self-published book of ‘instructional poems’ called Grapefruit.
One poem was: ‘Stir inside of your brains with a penis until things are mixed up. Take a walk. Smoke everything you can, including your pubic hair’.
John ‘felt that she was the star and he the audience’.
He hadn’t felt that for a long time. She was an enigma to him. Never had he met anyone like this ‘odd little Japanese woman dressed in her black intellectual’s uniform,’ writes the author.
In the summer of 1967, the Sgt. Pepper album was released, while John was still high on LSD and feeling ‘needles of jealousy’ towards Paul for his clever songwriting.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein was dead of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, leaving John feeling guilty having introduced his old friend to pills.
John knew years earlier that Epstein, openly gay, had fallen in love with him. It made John question his own sexuality and he once let Brian pleasure him him but then he later turned on him and called him a ‘queer Jew’.
Throughout all of this, Yoko was writing letters to John, getting under his skin and suddenly was everywhere he was.
She even showed up at a meeting that John, Paul and Jane Asher had with a yogi in the Indian Himalayas.
Throughout all of this, Yoko was writing letters to John (pictured in 1969), getting under his skin and suddenly was everywhere he was. She even showed up at a meeting that Paul and Jane Asher had with a yogi in the Indian Himalayas
Yoko wrote John multiple times a week while he was in India. He collected the letters at the post office so his wife, Cynthia, would be none the wiser.
Yoko never quit the chase and John made up his mind to divorce Cynthia, his high school Brigitte Bardot fantasy, and leave his wife and child for Yoko.
Yoko, seven years John’s senior, was born in Tokyo, her father a wealthy banker and a Christian, her mother a Buddhist.
When her father was posted to a position in the U.S. and the family moved to Scarsdale, New York, Yoko enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers but dropped out after meeting a Japanese composer, Toshi Ichiyanagi, studying at the Julliard School, a performing arts conservatory.
They were married and with little money, Yoko waitressed to support her bohemian lifestyle and her conceptualist art.
‘If she received any reviews at all, they were usually critical, but criticism and rejection never stopped her’, writes the author. ‘Her belief in herself was total’.
She had affairs during that short-lived marriage and the couple separated with Yoko returning to Japan and putting on one of her conceptual art ‘events’.
Failing to ignite any excitement, she was institutionalized by her husband and family after overdosing on sleeping pills.
American filmmaker, Tony Cox pursued Yoko in Japan and helped her get out of the hospital. She got pregnant, quickly divorced Toshi and married Cox.
Cox delivered the baby at home and continued to do most of the childcare for their daughter. When fame eluded Yoko in Japan, she returned to New York.
Yoko, seven years John’s senior, was born in Tokyo, her father a wealthy banker and a Christian, her mother a Buddhist. When her father was posted to a position in the U.S. and the family moved to Scarsdale, New York. Pictured: Yoko aged two with her parents in 1935
Today, Yoko is aged 85 and still lives in New York City (pictured in September)
One of her ‘events’ was called ‘Cut Piece’ where she stood on stage in a little black dress and handed out scissors to the audience with instructions to cut off her clothing.
When her bra fell away, she covered her breasts and the event was over. There were no reviews.
Invited to appear at a symposium in London, she reconnected with John who ‘finally found someone who was balmy as I am’, John told his friend Pete Shotton.
Yoko and John became a couple and a brand — JohnandYoko — and the ‘poisoned dwarf’ finally got her wish. ‘She was becoming famous’.
They were never apart for the next three years before moving to Manhattan in 1971.
With Yoko, he was no longer the front man as he was with the Beatles and never away from her side.
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They dressed in matching white suits and both parted their long hair down the middle.
John insisted that Yoko be at all recording sessions –inhibiting to the other Beatles and helped escalate the final demise of the band.
Yoko had already expressed she didn’t like rock and roll music and viewed it as culturally crude. She made suggestions in a field she knew nothing about.
She was staging her own ‘events’ that critics viewed as ‘Yoko’s vanity projects that John was funding. Interest in them was low to non-existent,’ writes the author.
John sued Cynthia for divorce citing adultery, a charge later withdrawn and reversed to John’s uncontested adultery.
Now he could marry Yoko but she was still married to Cox who had originally encouraged Yoko to pursue John as an art patron and she owed him a lot of money.
Inseparable, John insisted that Yoko be at all recording sessions –inhibiting to the other Beatles and helped escalate the final demise of the band. Pictured: John and Yoko in one of the last photos of John before he was shot dead in 1980
‘He got her out of the mental hospital in Japan, he kept her going, raised money for her shows…went after all the publicity, found backers for her films, borrowed money from banks…’ writes the author, and now she was dumping him for someone rich and famous.
John was blinded by Yoko and saw her as the most intelligent woman he had ever met as well as being very beautiful.
The workforce at Apple Records didn’t like Yoko and remembered her as ‘a very pushy broad with not an ounce of humble in her’.
Mimi, John’s aunt, told a reporter, ‘I didn’t like the look of her from the start’. ‘My God, what’s that?’ she said on first sight and dubbed her ‘the poisoned dwarf’.
Little did Mimi know at the time that Yoko introduced heroin to John who began sniffing it regularly.
John and Yoko were busted for hash, traces of marijuana and half a gram of morphine. John’s own arrest didn’t phase him.
‘I was stoned all the time and just didn’t give a s**t’, he told Connelly.
He was so stoned, he no longer cared about the once magical writing relationship with McCartney.
While John was ‘lost in the glow of love’, he never recognized that Yoko was generating ill from fans and the general public who hated her music.
While John was ‘lost in the glow of love’, he never recognized that Yoko was generating ill from fans and the general public who hated her music. Neither did the other Beatles who wanted to get the group back to being only four
After Yoko gave her blessing to May and John (pictured together in 1974), the pair escaped to Los Angeles and stayed together for eighteen months. Yoko phoned John a dozen times a day still high on heroin
They just didn’t like her – and neither did the other Beatles who wanted to get the group back to being only four. ‘I think you’re both nuts, the pair of you’, Ringo told John.
Yoko had driven a wedge between John and Paul as well as into the management battle and the new agent asking for a larger percentage.
Life at the Dakota apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where the couple lived turned into suffocation for the Beatle. John spent hours sleeping or staring mutely at the TV.
‘The dazzle had gone out of their lives’, writes the author. The myth of perfect love evaporated by 1972.
The only way out Yoko could see was to get John a mistress and she set up the relationship with May Pang, 22, a beautiful Chinese girl who had been working for the couple.
The pair escaped to Los Angeles and stayed together for eighteen months.
Yoko phoned John a dozen times a day.
John was now happier than he had been in years — until Yoko rang saying she had found a cure for John’s cigarette smoking – hypnotism and that could only take place at the Dakota.
May wasn’t invited to the session and off John went in January 1975.
John never revealed what transpired during the session but he became quite ill and the author suggests some kind of aversion therapy transpired.
John saw May on the sly but he was back in the grip of Yoko.
‘She was more than a wife to him. She was more like a mother. ‘Perhaps that was why he began to call her Mother’. Pictured: John and Yoko in November of 1980
‘She had needed him for his fame and the cachet it gave her, for his money and the limousines. She made him feel clever and not just a rock and roller. Now as she ran the Dakota apartment and staff, and sat in his place on the Apple board, she seemed to offer to bring order to his life’, writes Connolly.
‘She was more than a wife to him. She was more like a mother. ‘Perhaps that was why he began to call her Mother’.
She took control of all of John’s finances and became his manager.
But his muse was dried up and for the next four years, John was rarely seen in public.
He had nowhere to go, no one to see and spent time watching Dumbo cartoons with their young son, Sean.
He became anorexic thin and was sure that the FBI was listening in on all his calls. No calls from friends were put through to him.
‘Yoko has him all locked up’, Mick Jagger said.
‘Yoko had found her métier in life – she ran the busy Lennon empire’ – according to whether or not Mercury was in retrograde.
Lennon’s days were spent living on the fringes of ‘a world that Yoko was running without him’.
It was only when John went on a stormy sailing trip from Cape Town, South Africa to Bermuda that he regained his self-confidence and sense of self-worth.
On his return he was ready to write and record again. But it wasn’t to be.
John was shot dead by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 outside of the Dakota.
Thirty-eighty years after the crime, Chapman remains in Attica State Prison.
Ray Connolly’s Being John Lennon: A Restless Life is available here.
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