Saturday, October 9th, I attended the screening of “LENNONYC” in Central Park, a celebration for, what would have been, John Lennon’s 70th birthday. He is gone almost 30 years now.
On my way to the park, I wondered about the movie’s turnout. I hoped it would be strong. I hoped Lennon mattered to people, now, in 2010, especially in New York City, his home away from home.
I emerged from the subway on 68th & Lex and my heart sank. A few stragglers roamed the streets and no one was in a rush. It was nearing 6:30 pm and the movie began at 7 pm. I had expected a mob.
“LENNONYC” was playing at Rumsey Playfield (aka Summerstage). I headed for the 69th & Fifth entrance. Within one block, people were behind me. They were talking about Lennon. Then, more and more people filled both sides of the streets. I was stricken by their age, young, teens and twenties. They weren’t even born when Lennon was alive. Yet, they still came.
I entered the Park and saw the line. It brought joy and sadness. Joy, because I had found my mob. Yes! Lennon still mattered. Sadness, because I knew I’d never get in to see “LENNONYC.”
Outside of Rumsey’s fence, people were gathering. I joined them and saw John Lennon’s face, beaming from a huge, white TV screen. Sturdy trees tried to separate Lennon and me, but I maneuvered until only one narrow tree stood between us.
John loomed bright over our growing “outside of the fence” group. The anxiety was maddening. I just couldn’t wait to hear his one-of-a-kind voice. Guys roamed around with aid for my anxiety, vodka and beer, and it was going fast. Relaxing, heavy, sweet fumes filled the air, nostalgic of John.
Finally, 7 pm arrived. “John! John! John!” But it wasn’t John. Yoko appeared on the screen saying, “Blah… blah…blah.” Then, several guys, including Lou Reed, echoed her. Everyone, and his Grandpa, tried to take credit for the movie.
“We want John!”
Suddenly, John spoke and the crowd cheered. His wit made us laugh aloud, especially his cracks about NYC. His prolific statements silenced all of Central Park, at times, as did Yoko’s question, “Who would want to kill an artist?” At other times, John made people yell, “Yeah!” Lennon may be gone 30 years, but the power of his presence is indestructible, even by death.
About halfway through the movie, things went awry. Too many has-beens, who no one came to see, tooted their boring horns. We sat in the dirt, chilled, on a partying Saturday night to see John.
He returned to the screen and I connected with him until tears filled my eyes. “LENNONYC” was over. John was gone. I didn’t want him to be gone. I don’t want him to be gone.
You can make your own connection with Lennon, if you’d like. “LENNONYC” is airing on PBS Monday, November 22nd at 9 pm. Check here for your local listings.