Monday, February 26, 2018

John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Tony Palmer, Roland Joffé and Me - Another True Story

DATELINE: Dec. 15, 2017

It is 4:11 am. I am locked in a hotel room (by my own volition) in Sochi Russia. I am extremely hungover. Need. Much. Coffee. Drank too many vodka shots with the Russians last night as I was celebrating an extremely successful day for our film (and the drinks were free!)

Yesterday, Ghostroads - A Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story screened at the 2017 Sochi International Film Festival. It went great. VERY well received by the audience. Some of them loved the movie, it seems. I gather a few hated it. 


With Roland Joffé watching Ghostroads at Sochi International Film Festival. 
Sochi, Russia, Dec. 14, 2017

There were two extremely famous and legendary film directors in the audience, Roland Joffé and Tony Palmer. Both have won many awards and also Oscars too! They said they enjoyed the movie.

Roland Joffé is world renowned. He is known for the Oscar-winning movies The Killing Fields and The Mission. He also has at least 15 of the world's most prestigious awards including wins at Cannes, BAFTA and the Golden Globes.

He also reminds me of my dad. Nice guy. 

Tony Palmer - who is also world-renowned and has an extensive rock n roll background (understatement of the Year!) - said he loved the film and gave me a quote: "That was an excellent and really fun movie." 

I couldn't get a quote from Roland Joffee as he is the head of the Judging Committee for features and, as since Ghostroads is nominated, He isn't really supposed to even talk to me I guess (though we have spoken very briefly now 3 times)... He gave Ghostroads a "Thumbs up."

After the film screened, Tony Palmer actually asked me to go to lunch with him! We met in the hotel lobby and we had a great chat.

With Tony Palmer at Radisson hotel in Sochi Russia. Dec 14, 2017. Tony Palmer has made over 100 films, ranging from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Maria Callas, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, and many more.

Tony Palmer, besides being a legendary director who has made some of the greatest films about rock music in history, he has also won many awards (40 international prizes for his work including 12 Gold Medals from the New York Film Festival as well as numerous BAFTAs and Emmy Awards. He has also won the Prix Italia - twice!

Tony Palmer made the historic Beatles film, "All My Loving" in 1968. He was also one of John Lennon's best friends. 

After lunch, Tony sat with me at the hotel lobby and began to reminisce about John Lennon and the Beatles back in the late sixties. 

I mentioned to Tony that I have met Yoko Ono once several years ago and found her to be a charming lady. To that, Tony's eyes grew wide.

L->R: Mike Rogers, Yoko Ono, Sasha and George Williams (the most famous DJ in Japan!)

Tony leaned over to me and started to tell me stories about John Lennon. He began to reminisce about how, when he was an editor at the world famous UK newspaper The Observer, he and John Lennon became best friends. 

Tony said, "Let me tell you about something that I don't tell very many people." I was all ears.

He began by telling me about the time when John Lennon admitted to him that he was having an affair with Yoko Ono and John wanted Tony to interview Yoko for the Observer newspaper in the UK in order to help repair Yoko Ono's reputation in England.

Tony said, "One day, John Lennon called me on the phone. John Lennon was an extremely intelligent man. But that day he didn't seem his usual self. John said to me, 'Tony, I need to talk to you about something important.'" 

So later they met and it was then that John Lennon admitted, for the very first time to anyone, that he and Yoko Ono were having an affair.

It seems that Yoko had shown up at a Beatles recording and was allowed to sit in the studio. This was unprecendented and didn't sit well with the other Beatles at all. In the past, even when George Harrison's own mother came to the studio, she wasn't allowed inside and had to sit outside the studio waiting. But Yoko was different. She sat in the control room during the entire recording session.

Paul, George, and Ringo didn't like that at all because they felt that Yoko was interference and would, one day, lead to the breaking up of the Beatles. 

When the world began to suspect that something was going on between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Yoko began getting attacked from all sides; by the other three Beatles themselves and the press who considered Yoko's art to be trash.

Tony said to me, "The press hated Yoko because they believed her artwork was nonsense. They thought that putting a nail in the ceiling wasn't art but merely an exercise in absurdity. But, this was 1968 and all sorts of artists were doing art that seemed absurd. The UK press bashed Yoko Ono mercilessly."

John wanted Tony, as editor of the Observer, to interview Yoko as an artist and explain to the world who she really was and what she was all about. Tony agreed but told John, "I will interview her and write the article but I cannot guarantee the Observer will print it."

John Lennon asked Tony to do what he could.

Tony said that when he met Yoko, he found her to be a very intelligent and articulate artist. He said he was greatly impressed by her. He wrote the article and it did run in the Observer newspaper. John Lennon was ecstatic.

This was, but just one of the many great stories Tony told me about John and Yoko.

Later, Tony said that when John died, Yoko asked him to pen the obituary for John and he would later receive a handwritten letter from Yoko Ono thanking him for writing such a wonderful obituary. 

Tony said it was obvious that the letter from Yoko was stained with tears.

Right then, Tony's handlers came and he had to run off. My brief fifteen minutes with someone who knew and loved John Lennon and Yoko Ono ended there.

Later that night, I saw Tony again and he thanked me. Once again complimented me for Ghostroads, and handed me his business card and asked me to write to him. I would see Tony a few more times.

He was a kind and soft-spoken gentleman and everyone would find his stories and story-telling enthralling. I sure did.

I met a legend and he was a nice guy too!

Then, after we met that night, we shook hands and parted.

I was awestruck to be so close to a living legend like Tony Palmer... A man who was the best friend of John Lennon, a man who changed the world....

Thank you, Tony, for bringing us his story as well as the story of many others who touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people all over the world. You are an amazing man with an amazing life and a truly incredible wealth of stories to tell. 

Thanks, Tony Palmer and Roland Joffé for honoring us with your presence at the Ghostroads premiere in Russia.


Ghostroads - A Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story trailer:

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