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From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Transit

Scenes

THERE I STOOD, next to Paul McCartney and John Lennon — calm, but without a thing to say. I wasn’t intimidated, but more amazed I had managed to get through an endless skein of Beatlemanic intrigue. But with the aid of my press card there I was, for 15 minutes altogether, with them as they were hustled from one custom’s checkpoint to another last Saturday afternoon. Only while driving back to the city later did I remember that I had forgotten to ask them about all the rumors. Was it true that they were here to denounce the Maharishi? Was it true that they were breaking up and that’s why only two of them had come? Was it true that they were merely in New York to help promote their Apple enterprise into another million dollar Beatle spinoff?

(Tuesday at their press conference it turned out that the only rumor that wasn’t true — as usual — was that they were breaking up. Gently putting down the Maharishi, Lennon said they still meditate now and then but, speaking for all four Beatles, he said they feel they made a mistake about him. “After all we’re only human.”)

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Back at the airport, I did ask Paul if the screaming teenyboppers still turned him on and he said of course. He did a lot of sophisticated waving, and signed autographs for some of the airport personnel. John, more aloof and at times sort of surly, looked pretty tired even in white suit, white shirt, white tie, white shoes, and a plain white button on his lapel. He scrawled autographs without looking at the paper or the beseecher.

There had been reports all week, but the Beatles press people had kept the actual day and time of their arrival a good secret and so only two or three press people were there to greet them. But several thousand frantic crying teenyboppers in last year’s bellbottoms, informed by WMCA Good Guys, were racing all over the International Arrivals building trying to find out where the plane would unload. Watching them float was fantastic. If a girl screamed in one part of the terminal, maybe just out of frustration, a hundred others rushed shrieking in that direction.

After John and Paul left by way of a distant airport exit road in their black Caddy limousine (driven by a chauffeur wearing yellow shades), I headed out through the terminal to my car but a burly airport security supervisor stopped me.

“I can’t convince these kids that the Beatles have left. They just won’t believe someone like me,” he pleaded, while over his shoulder I could see at least a thousand of the tearful faithful trying to get in the doors I had to get out.

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“Someone who looks like you they would believe. You tell them that they left and they’ll all go home.” I said all right.

“Hey kids, this fellow is a reporter and he just had an exclusive interview with the Beatles and …” Two squealing girls grabbed my sleeve and the whole crowd suddenly found me fascinating and they screamed and screeched. I finally got everyone quiet enough to be heard if I yelled. They immediately began planning hurriedly at which hotel they would set up vigils until they could get a glimpse of their idols.

The Beatles are still up there. ❖

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From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES

In Bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Scenes

I WAS IN TORONTO last week to do an interview for WABC-FM with John and Yoko Ono Lennon; one of the reasons the Lennons were there, as you probably already know, was to announce their “peace festival.” It seems everyone and his greedy brother is slapping together a rock festival, but this one sounds like it might headline the summer’s fare, and include one unique and cozy feature. The entire stage will be in the form of a massive bed, and so this July 3, 4, and 5 the joyful noise of “rock, peace, poetry, and whatever” will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons would like to tuck the whole package in and take it on a world tour, especially to Russia and Czechoslovakia.

When I asked him about the Beatles as an entity, John said casually that they might never play again, then added that they feel that way every time they finish an album. On the other hand, he mentioned that it is getting increasingly hard to fit all their songs on one lp, notably since George has begun to write so prolifically. He did seem sure they would never tour again as a group. As for music, John felt they hadn’t made any dynamic changes since “Sergeant Pepper,” and their music should go further out again. He also denied that the Beatles are leaving the Allan Klein management, and in fact said he liked Klein, not only as a businessman but also as a person.

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When asked why he comes to Canada so often, other than problems with his U.S. visa, John answered, “Because it talks to China.” Another reason why he was there this time was to sign the 5000 copies of his erotic lithographs. In between writer’s cramp and macrobiotic meals (served by two chefs flown in from the Caldron on the Lower East Side), the Lennons planned the next phases of their peace campaign. They just completed their billboard event in Times Square and 10 other major cities, and will present another surprise in Japan by remote control in the next few weeks.

Both John and Yoko seem unaffected that war is even more powerful a piggy now, despite all their dove flutter and commotion. “We believe in selling peace … nobody says to give up Christianity because Christ died.”

Their latest angle will be a “peace poll.” Letters, postcards, or any other voucher from the peace-bent will be sent to a prescribed — as yet to be announced — address. They think that maybe a mountain of this mail can be delivered to one of those masters of war who is impressed by statistics. ❖

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CULTURAL COMMERCE ARCHIVES From The Archives

Beam Us Up. No Wait — Just Get Us Outta Here!

[Archivist’s note: When we saw the ad in the October 10, 1968 issue of the Voice, we thought, hmm, this looks interesting — “INTERCOURSE begins at EARTH. Hallucinate yourself in a variety of environments where everyone joins hands in a new coalition understanding and love.”

Talk therapy? Group sex? It was 1968 on East 49th Street, after all.

Two weeks later we got an answer of sorts when the intrepid, street-level culture reporter Howard Smith made the scene at EARTH in his weekly column.]

SCENES
October 31, 1968
By Howard Smith

I guess the sociologists could explain why people act like lemmings whenever anything new opens in town. Just use the right pop words and huge first night crowds will appear. I made myself the victim of this two weeks ago while attending the opening of a new discotheque called EARTH. The invitation beckoned: “We would like to include you as an honored guest … when the chic inherit the ‘EARTH.’ New York’s most avant-garde restaurant and discotheque. A whole new concept in dining and entertainment. Be kind to all you see and touch. A deep sense of oneness with nature … The earth steams gently … touch the warm wetness … Breathe in fragrances … The enchantment of ‘EARTH’ is knowing the joy of being alive. The newest sights, the newest sounds. Opening a whole new world … ‘Earth.’” Pretty good reading, but the discotheque was something else.

Full page ad for EARTH

Outside was the proving ground of human behavior. It was as if THE BOMB had fallen and this was the only refuge for the beautiful people. To get in became the only aim in life, and how was unimportant.

Suddenly the invitation seemed prophetic. I had a deep sense of oneness with the crowd. Tempers were steaming gently. I couldn’t help but touch the warm wetness of the person pressed against me. It was impossible not to breathe in the fragrances. I was kin to all I saw and touched, but far from a meaningful encounter, everyone was gagging from this unwelcome shoving kinship.

Earth’s owners, who managed to raise enormous sums of money to open their doors, were unable to manage the doors themselves. There was an ability gap. Even their publicity people would do nothing more than smile. Pleas of form a line, please, were ignored when it became apparent that brandishing invitations, press passes, even folded money didn’t accomplish what just plain shoving did. A few creative people used their tongues when elbows were rendered useless in the crush: “I work here … and besides I left my coat inside.”

The fact that people were struggling to get out as intently as others were struggling to get in did not dim anyone’s determination. When at last the resistance gave way and I penetrated the inner depths of this “new concept” in entertaining, the experience was literally over.

The inside story was the biggest let-down of the season. The first floor, dubbed “Earth Gardens,” was crammed with tables, chairs, potted plants, and perplexed people. The hot-house atmosphere was carefully created by that infamous interior design firm of Broken Air Conditioner.

Onward, with much climbing of stairs and peeking into hot, dim caverns. Each floor had its own self-conscious name: “Cafe Intergalactic,” “Karamu Safari’ Room,” and “Up.” There was the usual light show and deafening music. A visual miasma of rather passé day-glo wall decoration and the dismal sensation of flash bulbs popping at unexpected moments did cause me to blink occasionally. The soul food buffet was tasty but in short supply. Kool-Aid flowed like wine, increasing everyone’s thirst and irritability. Squeezing back down the steps required almost the same elbows and determination that it took to get in.

Looking over the invitation again, it seems someone had a great idea in his head. Too bad we don’t all fit.

Howard Smith's SCENES column, which appeared every week.
Continuation of Howard Smith's SCENES column, which appeared every week.
Categories
Equality PRIDE ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Full Moon Over the Stonewall

View from Inside: Full Moon Over the Stonewall
July 3, 1969

During the “gay power” riots at the Stonewall last Friday night I found myself on what seemed to me the wrong side of the blue line. Very scary. Very enlightening.

I had struck up a spontaneous relationship with Deputy Inspector Pine, who had marshalled the raid, and was following him closely, listening to all the little dialogues and plans and police inflections. Things were already pretty tense: the gay customers freshly ejected from their hangout, prancing high and jubilant in the street, had been joined by quantities of Friday night tourists hawking around for Village-type excitement. The cops had considerable trouble arresting the few people they wanted to take in for further questioning. A strange mood was in the crowd — I noticed the full moon. Loud defiances mixed with skittish hilarity made for a more dangerous stage of protest; they were feeling their impunity. This kind of crowd freaks easily.

The turning point came when the police had difficulty keeping a dyke in a patrol car. Three times she slid out and tried to walk away. The last time a cop bodily heaved her in. The crowd shrieked, “Police brutality!” “Pigs!” A few coins sailed through the air. I covered my face. Pine ordered the three cars and paddy wagon to leave with the prisoners before the crowd became more of a mob. “Hurry back,” he added, realizing he and his force of eight detectives, two of them women, would be easily overwhelmed if the temper broker. “Just drop them at the Sixth Precinct and hurry back.”

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The sirened caravan pushed through the gauntlet, pummeled and buffeted until it managed to escape. “Pigs!” “Gaggot cops!” Pennies and dimes flew. I stood against the door. The detectives held at most a 10-foot clearing. Escalate to nickels and quarters. A bottle. Another bottle. Pine says, “Let’s get inside. Lock ourselves inside, it’s safer.”

“You want to come in?” he asks me. “You’re probably safer,” with a paternal tone. Two flashes: if they go in and I stay out, will the mob know that the blue plastic thing hanging from my shirt is a press card, or by now will they assume I’m a cop too? On the other hand, it might be interesting to be locked in with a few cops, just rapping and reviewing how they work.

In goes me. We bolt the heavy door. The front of the Stonewall is mostly brick except for the windows, which are boarded within by plywood. Inside we hear the shattering of windows, followed by what we imagine to be bricks pounding on the door, voices yelling. The floor shudders at each blow. “Aren’t you guys scared?” I say.

“No.” But they look at least uneasy.

The door crashes open, beer cans and bottles hurl in. Pine and his troop rush to shut it. At that point the only uniformed cop among them gets hit with something under his eye. He hollers, and his hand comes away scarlet. It looks a lot more serious than it really is. They are all suddenly furious. Three run out in front to see if they can scare the mob from the door. A hail of coins. A beer can glances off Deputy Inspector Smyth’s head.

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Pine, a man of about 40 and smallish build, gathers himself, leaps out into the melee, and grabs someone around the waist, pulling him downward and back into the doorway. They fall. Pine regains hold and drags the elected protester inside by the hair. The door slams again. Angry cops converge on the guy, releasing their anger on this sample from the mob. Pine is saying, “I saw him throwing somethin,” and the guy unfortunately is giving some sass, snidely admits to throwing “only a few coins.” The cop who was cut is incensed, yells something like, “So you’re the one who hit me!” And while the other cops help, he slaps the prisoner five or six times very hard and finishes with a punch to the mouth. They handcuff the guy as he almost passes out. “All right,” Pine announces, “we book him for assault.” The door is smashed open again. More objects are thrown in. The detectives locate a fire hose, the idea being to ward off the madding crowd until reinforcements arrive. They can’t see where to aim it, wedging the hose in a crack in the door. It sends out a weak stream. We all start to slip on water and Pine says to stop.

By now the mind’s eye has forgotten the character of the mob; the sound filtering in doesn’t suggest dancing faggots any more. It sounds like a powerful rage bent on vendetta. That way why Pine’s singling out the guy I knew later to be Dan Van Ronk was important. The little force of detectives was beginning to feel fear, and Pine’s action clinched their morale again.

A door over to the side almost gives. One cop shouts, “Get away from there or I’ll shoot!” It stops shaking. The front door is completely open. One of the big plywood windows gives, and it seems inevitable that the mob will pour in. A kind of tribal adrenaline rush bolsters all of us; they all take out and check pistols. I see both policewomen busy doing the same, and the danger becomes even more real. I find a big wrench behind the bar, jam it into my belt like a scimitar. Hindsight: my fear on the verge of being trampled by a mob fills the same dimension as my fear on the verge of being clubbed by the TPF.

Pine places a few men on each side of the corridor leading away from the entrance. They aim unwavering at the door. One detective arms himself in addition with a sawed-off baseball bat he has found. I hear, “We’ll shoot the first motherfucker that comes through the door.”

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Pine glances over toward me. “Are you all right, Howard?” I can’t believe what I’m saying: “I’d feel a lot better with a gun.”

I can only see the arm at the window. It squirts a liquid into the room, and a flaring match follows. Pine is not more than 10 feet away. He aims his gun at the figures.

He doesn’t fire. The sound of sirens coincides with the whoosh of flames where the lighter fluid was thrown. Later, Pine tells me he didn’t shoot because he had heard the sirens in time and felt no need to kill someone if help was arriving. That was close.

While the squads of uniforms disperse the mob out front, inside we are checking to see if each of us all right. For a few minutes we get the post-tension giggles, but as they subside I start scribbling notes to catch up, and the people around me change back to cops. They begin examining the place.

It had lasted 45 minutes. Just before and after the siege I picked up some more detached information. According to the police, they are not picking on homosexuals. On these raids they almost never arrest customers, only people working there. As of June 1, the State Liquor Authority said that all unlicensed places were eligible to apply for licenses. The police are scrutinizing all unlicensed places, and most of the bars that are in that category happen to cater to homosexuals. The Stonewall is an unlicensed private club. The raid was made with a warrant, after undercover agents inside observed illegal sale of alcohol. To make certain the raid plans did not leak, it was made without notifying the Sixth Precinct until after the detectives (all from the First Division) were inside the premises. Once the bust had actually started, one of Pine’s men called the Sixth for assistance on a pay phone.

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It was explained to me that generally men dressed as men, even if wearing extensive makeup, are always released; men dressed as women are sometimes arrested; and “men” fully dressed as women, but who upon inspection by a policewoman prove to have undergone the sex-change operations, are always let go. At the Stonewall, out of the five queens checked, three were men and two were changes, even though all said they were girls. Pine released them all anyway.

As for the rough-talking owners and/or managers of the Stonewall, their riff ran something like this: we are just honest businessmen who are being harassed by the police because we cater to homosexuals, and because our names are Italian so they think we are part of something bigger. We haven’t done anything wrong and have never been convicted in no court. We have rights, and the courts should decide and not let the police do things like what happened here. When we got back in the place, all the mirrors, jukeboxes, phones, toilets, and cigarette machines were smashed. Even the sinks were stuffed and running over. And we say the police did it. The courts will say that we are innocent.

Who isn’t, I thought, as I dropped my scimitar and departed.