Penthouse Retrospective

by John Green Originally Published: July, 1983

John Lennon and Yoko Ono


“I had to send him away,” Yoko was telling me. “He was destroying everything.” It was summer and as usual John had gone to the ocean to swim and sunbathe in the nude. “H ’s been wanting to get away since the early spring. He’s like this every year. As soon as the sun comes out he has to be in it. I said that we couldn’t leave just yet and that made him angry and he got very quiet and you know how dangerous that can be. Finally it got so bad he attacked the baby. It was terrible.”

“Attacked?” John was a screamer and had a habit of yelling at Sean to stop crying, but attack sounded more serious.

“Yes, he kicked him. We were in the bedroom, having our meditation. We were doing it almost every night because it was good for family harmony. We would sit naked in a little triangle, because that ’s the symbol of ascension, and just meditate, and if anyone had anything to say they could just say it. Well, Sean can ’t really say anything but he can make little sounds and he has as much right to make those sounds as we have to talk, and usually John was very good about it. But on the last night we did it Sean was crying, and John hates it when the baby cries, but I felt that that was Sean ’s right to express himself. I mean, if John wanted to cry or I wanted to cry, then that would have been all right.

“I didn’t really notice how angry the crying was making John, because I was very deep into my meditation, but all at once he stood up and I opened my eyes and saw him walk toward Sean, and I thought he was going to step on him but he just brought his foot up and kicked him! It was very vicious. Then he just stood there, looking stupid, and the baby was screaming and I didn’t know what was going to happen next. So I jumped up and grabbed Sean and took him to his room. I didn’t even stop for a robe or anything, I was in such a hurry. I was afraid that he was going to kill the baby. I stayed with Masako [the Lennons’ nurse] and the baby for a little while. But then I got afraid of what John might be doing, so I thought that I had better get back and see what he was up to.

“He was still just standing there. And I thought, ’He’s gone crazy. He’s going to kill us! ’ So I sent him to Long Island.”

“But you sent Sean out there with him.” “Yes, John wanted to take him and I think Sean wanted to go, too. He has Masako to look after him and I think he should be safe. As long as John gets what he wants, he usually isn’t too dangerous. Maybe you should read on it and see if Sean is all right out there.” I cast the cards and all seemed well. “John is like that, you know. He has that side of him you never see. He kicked me before, too, you know. He even kicked me once when I was pregnant with Sean. I didn’t want to tell you, because I thought that it would be bad for John, but you know how worried I was that there would be something wrong with the baby. Well, it was because I didn’t know what kind of damage he might have done.” I didn’t know whether to believe her or not.

“Fortunately nothing was wrong.” I was being cautious.

“Yes, thank God. I think that it was because of all the prayers and the magic. But still there might be some damage that we don’t even know about, something that won’t show itself until much later. Things like that can happen, you know.”

The pattern was invariable. John would attack, revel in his cruelty, more to justify it than because it gave him any actual pleasure. Then guilt would shoot him down. He would try to make up by showering Yoko with attention and presents. In time frustration would send him out on the prowl again. And when that happened I was sure to hear about it. My phone rang a few nights later, interrupting a “Late Show” rerun. It was Yoko.

“Charlie, this is an emergency, very important. John just called.”

“From where?” I stretched and groaned and pulled out the cards for another predawn session.

“I don’t know, he just called and said that he was somewhere and he didn’t know where it was but that he was tripping and watching these three lesbians making it and that he hoped they would make it with him next. But more than that he wanted me to come and get him, but I don’t know where he is – he just hung up!” I could imagine the wicked smile on John’s face. “Where do you think he is? What should I do? This could be very dangerous, you know! … I want you to pray for him.”

So I did. “Dear Lord, as long as she’s going to be crazy and I’m not going to get any sleep, at least let John have a good time.”

A compelling view from a unique perspective on a rock music icon and the absurdities that surround him.

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