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. 

Good.


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:




Sunday, February 25, 2018

Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me - Another True Story


It's another true episode of shit that happened way back in my previous life. This is wild stuff and unbelievable craziness... But it is all true.... 

It's a story about the time Belinda Carlisle (the lead singer of the Go-Go's) stood right in front of me half naked and exposed her bare womanhood... 

It's a true story about how I first met the Ramones and became good friends with Joey, and got high with Dee Dee Ramone. 

It's a story about how my band got kicked off the Rodney on the Roq radio show! Yet a year or so later, I would become Rodney's assistant.

And it's all true.


Rodney and the Ramones

OK. This is a long convoluted story... So, I'll try to make it short....I was in a punk band named the Rotters in 1978. We had a hit song called "Sit On My Face, Stevie Nicks." (or "Nix.") I was the lead singer. 

Anyway, at that time I was a university student and fell in love with Punk Music from watching a TV show ranting on the evils of a disgusting music in England called punk rock.

So my friends and I (who watched the same show) decided to make a punk band. Since we were university students, studying cinema, it was a simple thing to get into the recording studio at the university and record for free. We did. The students hated us, but the instructor, Richard Simpson, liked us so much he said he'd make us a master for free so we took him up on the offer and the master was made. 

Fast forward a few days. The Dickies were playing at the Roxy. The Go-Gos had their debut show that night as the opening act for the Dickies. We figured Rodney would be there so we took a few singles with us and went to the show. Rodney had already heard a cassette tape version of the song and had told me, "When you make a 7-inch, bring it to me and I will play it." (I cannot recall how I had gotten that cassette into his hands earlier).

The Go-Go's played first (there might have been another band - I can't remember.) Even though the Go-Go's were sloppy as hell (look whose talking!) I liked them. When the Dickies played, their lead vocalist, Stan Lee, pulled out a roll of dollar bills (it was a roll of cut up newspaper in the size of dollar bills with one dollar wrapped around the outside so it looked like $100 dollars). Stan screamed out to the audience, "I have some money here to give to any girl who will come up here on stage and show me what sex really is!"

Immediately Belinda Carlisle jumped up on stage, screamed like a banshee, and pulled off her shirt exposing her breasts for the audience and entire world to see.... She wasn't standing more than 4 feet right (about 2 meters) in front of me!

It was a, er, "exciting" moment for me. 

I fell in love with Belinda Carlisle right there on the spot. I really knew I could really respect her and her questionable moral values. Really! Though, I considered that, when she became my fiancee, I was wondering how I would explain to my parents how I first met Belinda? 

But I digress....


Later on, Belinda would become a goddess. I had screamed to her "I love you!" when her top was off... But she never called me on the phone after that... No problem..... Her loss!


Anyway, later, Rodney was sitting at a table in the back with Belinda, so we found him and re-introduced ourselves and gave him our record. He seemed genuinely interested and kind and said he would play it.... But, you know how that is.... You can't be sure it will be played until you hear it with your own ears....

You can imagine our shock, surprise and happiness when, on the very the next Rodney on the Roq show, we heard our song, "Sit on my Face, Stevie Nicks" on air. Rodney would later tell me that "Sit on my Face" was the "most requested song in the history of the Rodney on the Roq show."

So, after that, we decided that we'd go to KROQ uninvited and just show up and try to get on Rodney's show. Of course we brought more 7-inch records with us.

We drove down to KROQ (in the Pasadena days) on the night of Rodney's show. We had no idea how to get in, but I knew that the front door of KROQ would be locked so we drove around to the parking lot on the back of the building.

I didn't know exactly what I was looking for as we drove around the parking lot. I was looking for a sign or something as to the rear entrance of KROQ when I looked up and on the second or third floor of this building were four guys standing at the top of the stairs. They were wearing black leather jackets and looked like punks. I shouted at my friend who was driving the car, "Stop! This is it!" As the car stopped, I grabbed some records and jumped out of the car and ran full speed up the stairs to where those four guys were standing.

As soon as I got to the top, those guys looked at me like, "Who are you?" and didn't say anything. I didn't say anything either as the door opened and a heavyset guy allowed those four in. He looked at me with a stink-eye, but since I was wearing a leather bomber's jacket and had a hand a handful of 7-inch records he shrugged his shoulders and waved me through the door.

I would soon realize  - and this will blow your mind - that those other four guys were the Ramones! No kidding. What luck, What incredible timing!

Thank you, god!

When I walked into the studio Rodney looked at me and said, "Who are you?"

I replied that I was the lead singer of the Rotters and he soon remembered me. He welcomed me into the studio. I then asked if my band could come in too and he said, "OK!" So I called the other guys and we were interviewed on air at the same time as the Ramones. During the Ramones interview, Rodney asked us, live on the air, "You guys like the Ramones, don't you?" 

The guitarist and writer of "Stevie Nicks," Phester Swollen, and I said in unison, "Uh… er… we like the Sex Pistols" (I do like the Ramones, but, at that time, The Pistols were my favorite band.) 

Anyway, I guess that was a faux paus and the guy who let us in told us we had to leave and kicked us out. But the damage was done. Sit on my Face became a big hit and that would be the first time I met Joey Ramone, who would become a very good friend years later - when the Ramones came to Japan and met me again and found out that I was playing in Japan the same kind of music that Rodney was playing in L.A.

Things are hazy after those early days... Later, after my band fell apart, I'd go work as Rodney's assistant. Which was tons of fun. 

Like I said, years later, Joey and I would become good friends. Maybe because I was one of the very few who supported the Ramones on Japanese radio. There is one thing about Joey Ramone that I think only his good friends must know: Joey was a really polite guy and I think he must have had good parents. Why? Because every year Joey would send me a Christmas card. It struck me as odd that this rock n roller god would be sending Christmas cards to people... But Joey always did. Think about that; only people with proper upbringing and manners do the little things like send friends Christmas cards. I was so surprised to get those. How many people do that?

There was another time that the Ramones came to Japan (It must have been 25 years ago or so) and they asked me to come to the show and bring young girls, so I did. I brought my famous TV announcer friend, George William's younger sisters. They were hot! I think they were 18 or so at the time. After the show, as I was talking to Joey, I overheard, Johnny angrily scream at the top of his lungs, "Stop pulling on my neck!" Then I heard George's pissed off little sister shout back, "Stop grabbing my tits!" 

I looked at Joey and nervously said, "Gee, Joey. I guess it's time to go."

That was the last time I ever saw Joey Ramone.

Oh, and Dee Dee Ramone? Oh, Dee Dee loved me! You see back in those days, I was living in Ventura county and we had MUCH better weed - at much lower prices - than the dirt in L.A. people were smoking... So every time Dee Dee and the Ramones came to KROQ, Dee Dee didn't want to go on the air, he wanted to hang out in the back room with me and the, er, "peace pipe" and "expand our horizons." I used to worry that he should be talking on the radio and not in the backroom getting stoned with me (I was always stoned anyway)... But it seemed like no one cared....

Oh, let me make it clear here too; I have never seen Rodney drink alcohol or get high... He was a tea-totaler. That kind of surprised me that he was so straight... But he is.

Dee Dee and I were stoners. It was the late 70s, early 80s, OK? That's what people did back in those days. So off my back!

So, that's it. My claim to fame was getting high with Dee Dee Ramone. Also the first time I ever spoke to Belinda Carlisle was when she was half-naked... And Joey Ramone used to send me Christmas Cards...

Rodney? Well, Rodney was - and is - Rodney...

Rodney wouldn't hurt a fly. 

Rodney must have been standing in the middle of all that crazy rock n roll and whirlwind of madness and wondering, 

"Wow! Look at this beautiful house and this beautiful wife! (He doesn't have a wife).... Well, how did I get here?"

I wonder, today, how I ever got there.

----------------

Go-Go's - Cool Jerk '90 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9V7tAlpzoY


The Rotters are a long (and quite hilarious story. Read it here: The Rotters Biography - https://www.last.fm/music/The+Rotters/+wiki) My name was "Nigel Nitro."

If you liked the above post, you might get a chuckle from:

My close "working relationship" with Charles Bukowski. This article was quite popular, thank you. Looking back, though, I kind of screwed that one up because I should have added the name of U2's Bono to that article's title; "Charles Bukowski, Bono and Me."  

Also, a while back, I wrote about the time I met "God" in person and even sort of had lunch with him at a restaurant in Los Angeles!...  And who could forget the time I met former president H.W. Bush and the hijinks surrounding Daddy Bush, Diana Ross and me


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