Kiana had been in the wilderness alone. It was against protocol, and exactly what she needed. That’s what she told herself anyway. Lions came to nuzzle her belly, rumbling softly, perhaps due to that acute animal instinct for knowing when something was wrong. Usually they scattered when the Old man came around.
The first time was on the first day of the month, on the first hour past noon. Of course it was. He popped around a tree on those sand scattered Kalahari plains and waved. Kiana started, then bent over the hand-held UV monitor in both her mitts and muttered, “It’s not real.”
On the second day, at the appointed hour, he climbed into the sun-screened Jeep with her with a cheery “Hello!” Her grip tightened knuckle white on the steering wheel. “You’re not real,” she repeated, almost as a mantra. Her bright green eyes shunted her off onto a vision, flashing to the live-feed six weeks past, to the same man, now more emaciated than he’d been at their last contact, seemingly plied with ever-more tubes in every vein. She blinked, jerking to the side, but the man was gone, at least for now.
Twice more she saw him, at a distance paralleling her as she did her job, collecting genetic samples from the indigenous wildlife. It wasn’t normally dangerous work, but it was always better to work in teams. Especially on the Kalahari with its hundred-degree-plus temperatures, sparse grasses, pale sand pans and gnarled camel thorn trees clawing infrequently at the sky. On the sixth day, it almost cost her.
Kiana had sampled some weaver birds but hadn’t been paying enough attention to her surroundings. Which was how the cheetah had stumbled into her. They literally tripped over one another. Luckily Kiana rolled one way and the spotted cheetah the other. Her heart hammered at her ribs with startling ferocity. That was nothing compared to the snarl issuing from the big cat.
Its eyes were cloudy. It must have an older cat who stumbled carelessly into the noonday sun and been blinded. With all the other adverse effects of climate change it couldn’t have been helped. This was not helping her at all, though. Her limbs were still trying not to move. She didn’t seem to have much control over her shrill breathing, something the cheetah’s ears tuned in on with terrible accuracy.
That’s when the Old man stepped around her, waving both long arms and yelling, startling the cat enough that she could get off a shot with her tranq pistol. It took a couple of shots to flatten the agitated beast, but it was done.
The pistol thunked to the brittle yellow grass as the Old Man swung back to her with that familiar grin. “That’s why you shouldn’t be out here by yourself,” he said. “Baby? What’s wrong?”
“…please stop,” she whispered, her overflowing eyes burning. “…god, please stop…you can’t be here…”
“I don’t see why not. The cheetah seemed to agree with me.”
“B-but, Poppa, you’re gone. You’re…y-y-you’re…”
It all came spilling out, all the tears dammed for the past six weeks, all the suppressed emotions, stealing her breath, choking her. The Old Man returned from the truck with a paper bag for her to breath into. He held onto her with soothing words as she hunched over herself, hyperventilating for how long, an hour? All she was able to choke out in all that time was, “forgive me.”
“What for, baby?” he asked.
“I-I wasn’t there, Poppa. I-I didn’t come for the end.”
“The cancer was pretty far along this time. There wasn’t a lot anyone could do.”
As he’d done when she was younger and brought home every stray dog in the neighborhood, teary-eyed, he now dabbed her cheeks with a kerchief that was the same safari-brown as his sleeveless shirt and shorts. “It’s okay, Baby. Say what’s really bothering you.”
She could look at him now, into the smiling eyes that had raised her, the face now smoothed of all aches. “Is heaven real?” she asked.
“It’s better than heaven,” he shrugged. “Go on. You can do it.”
“What, the little girl who frolicked with lions? That’s not who I remember.”
“That’s just it. I didn’t want to remember you like that, all wasted away. I wanted you to be strong in my memory. I wanted to remember all the fishing trips with you and Momma. I wanted to remember that big hug you gave me when I came home from my mission.”
“You can still have that. Nothing wrong with that.”
“But I-I’m not ready.”
“I wasn’t. Nobody’s ever ready. That’s okay. I have faith in you, baby.”
“Does Momma hate me, for not coming home?”
He blew a raspberry out the side of his mouth. “Never. ‘Worried’ is more like it. You should give her a call.” Together they stood. “I’ve been allowed this one visit. I’ve probably overstayed it already. Why don’t I help you load that cat in the cage before I get back?”
This was done in no time at all. As she slammed the metal cage shut in the back of the Jeep, he tipped her chin up, chucking her on it. “I’m proud of you, baby.”
She ducked her head with a smile. A stiff breeze whipped through her bones and he was gone. In the depression in the grass where he’d stood, there remained a small red book of Psalms, the one he’d always carried with him for forty years. The one Momma swore she’d buried with him.
The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon was a mainstay of our youth. You’d know every fall exactly when Labor Day came around because that was always the day Jerry Lewis held his annual fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Coincidentally this was also held the day before school started up again in the fall. For 24 hours that telethon dominated our local broadcast, featuring musical acts, celebrities and others all called together for the cause.
Four days after his monumental One on One concert in Madison Square Garden, and a year after George Harrison’s historic Concert for Bangladesh, coincidentally also at the Garden. The couple’s association with Yuppie radicals like Abbie Hoffman & Jerry Rubin brought the FBI to focus an investigation on them and their suspected plans to disrupt the National Republican Convention scheduled for August 21-23, 1972, in Miami Beach FL, the same city where the Democratic Convention was held that year..
Although Hoffman & Rubin were in love with the idea, John & Yoko had no part in any such plans, and the convention went on despite anti-Vietnam War protests on August 22. John & Yoko would face deportation in 1972, based on a past marijuana charge in the UK. While Yoko was granted permanent resident status in 1973. John was ordered to get out. Such was the backdrop to this seminal performance.
The 1972 Muscular Dystrophy Telethon was broadcast from New York City’s Americana Hotel on 7th Avenue. Jerry Lewis began his intro: “Ladies & gentlemen, presenting, and I’m proud to present, two of the most unusual people in all the world, and I don’t mean just in the world of entertainment. They fit no patterns, meet no standards except the standard of excellence. Ladies & gentlemen, John Lennon & Yoko!”
They were joined for the last time by their unofficial backing band, Elephant’s Memory. John sported a faint mustache & beard as he segued into another heartfelt performance of “Imagine”. John couldn’t do a bad version, and here, on keyboard instead of piano it has more of an ethereal tone. He was joined by the saxman on the first bridge, which always brings a bit of soul to any song.
And no, I won’t be excluding Yoko from this. Introducing the second number, she said, “John & I love this country very much and we’re very happy that we’re still here.” This led to “Now or Never” a peace song from her upcoming LP Approximately Infinite Universe. Apparently she was trying it out on a live audience before committing the song to vinyl, just as they’d done with ‘Cold Turkey” in 1969. There was no screaming this time, instead taking a turn at a folksy style, again highlighted by a saxophone backing.
Next, John praised Jerry as “a great comedian–I wish he never grew up!” He closed with a reggae version of “Give Peace a Chance”, just as they had at the evening show for the One on One concerts. “This is how they do it in Jamaica!” John called, inviting the audience to sing along. This was at a time when most Americans hadn’t had much exposure to reggae. Bob Marley & the Wailers breakthrough in America, Catch a Fire, would not be released until 1973. Johnny Nash’s hit “I Can See Clearly Now” wouldn’t begin to chart until October 1972, the month following this performance.
This would be the last time he performed “Give Peace a Chance”. The sax certainly livened things up, but it didn’t quite hold up to the standard version offered up three years in Toronto. To their credit, the audience seemed charged up throughout the show. While Yoko encouraged viewers to give, John shouted “no more war!” Jerry Lewis joined in with a trumpet to dance with John & Yoko onstage. Even John joins in with the shouts for “money money money!”
Jerry led the audience in a call for an encore: “John, Yoko, John, Yoko!” But as has often been said of Elvis, they had already left the building. Once he realized they weren’t coming back, Jerry covered himself admirably. “I would suspect that John Lennon is probably one of the wisest showmen I’ve ever met,” he said. “He knows what he’s doing. He did two things tonight. He, one, came here to help, the primary purpose of his visit. And two, he meant to say something. I think he did both these things. He has split. Let’s thank him very much.” This was met with the appropriate applause.
Sidebar: Hot Chocolate Covers ‘Give Peace a Chance’
Years before they dropped hits like “You Sexy Thing” and “Every 1′ a Winner”, the Caribbean-British band Hot Chocolate recorded their first single, a reggae version of ‘Give Peace a Chance” where they changed some of the lyrics. One problem, though: then-band leader Errol Brown was told he needed permission.
Brown probably never expected John Lennon to approve, but when Apple Records contacted him, John not only approved but he agreed to release their version on Apple. Recording as the Hot Chocolate Band, their only single on the Apple label was released in October 1969.
The Apple connection fell apart with the Beatles’ breakup, but this interpretation might be where John got the idea to perform reggae versions of “Give Peace a Chance” at both the One on One concerts and the Jerry Lewis telethon.
Two months later in November 1972, Richard Nixon won re-election by a landslide. In April 1973 John appealed his deportation order and with Yoko, declared a new conceptual country, Nutopia with the slogan, “No land, no boundaries, no passports, only people…No laws other than cosmic.” His Lost Weekend was not far off.
In May of 1972 John & Yoko moved from their Bank Street apartment to their lifelong residence at the Dakota. John’s appearance on the Jerry Lewis Telethon would be his last public performance for the next two years, his last with Elephant’s Memory and in fact his last live appearance with Yoko. The Lennon’s Peace campaign had effectively been stymied by the Nixon Administration’s paranoid efforts to get John deported. The legal fight would consume the next couple of years of John & Yoko’s lives.
John Lennon battled the deportation proceedings until October 8, 1975, when the deportation attempt was barred. In what would become the foundation for DACA, a Court of Appeals stated: “the courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds.”3 Leon Wildes’ strategy had worked, he successfully demonstrated that just because the government could deport someone did not mean there was an obligation to deport the individual. In 1976, Lennon became a permanent resident.
Jerry Lewis hosted his first MDA telethon on September 4, 1966. He would continue to serve in that capacity from 1968 to 2010, raising 2.45 billion dollars for the MDA. The telethons continued, with other hosts, until 2012. Jerry passed away on August 20, 2017, aged 91 years.
Availability: Officially John Lennon’s performance on the Jerry Lewis Telethon has never been up for release, but that’s never stopped bootleggers. One source is a 1996 item, John Lennon-Telecasts (JL-517-CD), label unknown. This collects his performances on David Frost, Dick Cavett & Mike Douglas in 1972, including the Jerry Lewis program.
The concert can be found on several YouTube channels. We also have more options on DVD, again via bootleg. As far as listing every relevant bootleg, this is in no way to be considered inclusive. The Complete Live Lennon Tapes (misterclaudel 4637577, c. 2006) may be true to its word. Along with Jerry Lewis, it contains performances from the Rock & Roll Circus, the Fillmore East with Frank Zappa, the John Sinclair benefit, David Frost, the Attica State benefit (without Yoko), Mike Douglas, Dick Cavett, Madison Square Garden with Elton John, the Old Grey Whistle, A Salute to Sir Lew Grade, as well as seven tracks from the evening One on One concert.
From HMC’s TMOQ Gazette series comes John Lennon-Holy Grails, Upgrades & Reconstructions Vol. 1 (TMOQ Gazette HMC 042), which among other items, includes news footage from the Bryant Park Peace rally, as well as two versions of the Labor Day Telethon, in color and B&W.
Among the curiosities on The John Lennon Anthology, on CD 2: New York City. While Track 20 is labelled “Jerry Lewis Telethon”, all it offers is Jerry Lewis’ call for an encore & his gracious speech once he realizes they were gone.
You hear that a lot as a metaphor to explain away hard times, to buck up and press on, pull yourself up by your bootlaces, as another cliche goes, I must tacitly disagree.
We are NOT all in the same boat. We are all in our own leaking boats, trying desperately to plug the holes with snips off our bootlaces; except after the last 30 to 40 years, our bootlaces have been snipped away to nothing.
A lot of us, too many of us, don’t have ‘boats’ at all. They’re just clinging to a garbage bag that holds all they have in the world. We don’t see them for the most part, try to ignore their existence, and when that becomes too hard, we use our paddles to shove them as far out of our sight as possible.
Some of us are throwing rocks at people in other boats ‘cos they cain’t stand t’ look at their faces: “Mabel, get mah shotgun, that there colored boat is gettin’ too close to us!”
Let’s not forget the yachts blissfully plowing through us, not a care in the world, not even if a passing boat happens to get pulverized by their rudders.
That’s my metaphor, which I think is closer to the truth,
There are a couple of eyewitness versions to this story, a little-known incident that took place in Japan during John Lennon’s years as a homebody. Clearly neither he nor Yoko were entirely housebound in those five years. They were out and about, just not making records at that point. I’ll try to present the version I like best. In all the nine years since he first conceived this song in Rishikesh, India, John had never played it live. And the one time he did, it was to an unwitting audience.
After winning his appeal to stay in the United States, John & Yoko visited Japan at least three times before his passing, beginning with a 1977 trip that lasted from May to October of that year. Yoko’s parents were upper class people who had a summer home in Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture. During a stay at Tokyo’s Okura Hotel in 1977, while Yoko was visiting her family, John and his friend Elliot Mintz were lounging around in the presidential suite when an elderly couple evidently took the elevator to the wrong floor.
This couple has never been identified as anything other than an ‘elderly couple’. I’d love to know who they were, although at this point, only their relatives would know for sure. They wandered in and sat down, apparently thinking they were in a lounge bar. John found this entertaining and as Mintz related, he began to play “Jealous Guy” on his acoustic guitar.
The couple sat and listened for a few minutes before walking back to the elevator and going, which left John and Mintz in fits of laughter. “It was the only time I think he ever performed for a party of two,” Mintz wrote. “They did not leave a tip.”
–Frost on Saturday, Aug. 24, 1968, repeated on The Best of Frost, May 18, 1969
–The David Frost Show, June 10, 1969/ July 10, 1969 & Dec. 16, 1971/ Jan. 13, 1972
As a talk show host David Frost was not a flamboyant fellow, but he was intuitive and could tease your dirty secrets out without making you uncomfortable. That’s probably what made his interviews with Richard Nixon so effective. While his name is intimately associated with the Beatles, as a band they put in an appearance on only one occasion. That would be for the world premiere of the extraordinary promotional clip for “Hey Jude” on Frost on Sunday on September 8, 1968. In order to maintain the illusion of a live appearance, Frost taped some clips at Twickenham Film Studios where he seemingly introduces the band.
By this time Paul McCartney had already made three appearances on one iteration or more of the Frost Show, the first as far back as April 1964, while they were neck deep in the filming of their first film, A Hard Day’s Night. Ringo showed up twice in 1969 & 1970; George Harrison appeared once in 1971 alongside Ravi Shankar, while he & John had expounded on Transcendental Meditation on two episodes back in 1967.
GEORGE: Your actions – whatever they are – are your actions. It’s all about your attitude toward other people. If you treat them good, they’ll do the same; if you hit them in the face, they’ll probably do the same thing. And that’s not much to do with religion. Action and reaction, that’s the thing Christ was saying. Whatever you do, you get it back.
JOHN: It’s the same in the whole universe, in all religions. It’s just opening your mind to see that. Buddha was groovy, you know. And Jesus was all right. It’s exactly the same thing.
John & Yoko made their first appearance as a couple one month after the premiere of “Hey Jude”, on the fourth edition of the latest iteration, Frost on Saturday on August 24, 1968, recorded live from Wembley Studios on London Weekend Television. while he was still a Beatle. The other guests included singer Blossom Dearie and satirist Stan Freberg. This interview took place two days after Ringo had left the group, during the sessions for The White Album; in fact it was also the day after the group had carried on and recorded all of “Back in the USSR”, without Ringo.
On this occasion the couple arrived in black clothes with small white badges on their lapels. They discussed their art project “You Are Here’, basically an unfinished art piece that invited people to participate.
Yoko Ono: “Usually people think in vicarious terms, they think ‘Somebody’s there,’ ‘John Lennon’s there,’ or somebody. But it’s not that. YOU are the one who’s here, and so in art, usually art gives something that’s an object and says ‘This is art,’ you know, but instead of that, art exists in people. It’s people’s art, and so we don’t believe in just making something and completing it and giving it to people, we like people to participate. All the pieces are unfinished and they have to be finished by people.”
Further on John elaborated, “The thing is, there’s no such thing as sculpture or art or anything, it’s just a bit of – it’s just words, you know, and actually saying everything is art. We’re all art, art is just a tag, like a journalist’s tag, but artists believe it. But sculpture is anything you care to name. This is sculpture: us sitting here, this is a happening, we are here, this is art, but yeah, if you gave that to a child, he wouldn’t have any preconceived ideas, so you wouldn’t have to say ‘This is sculpture’ or ‘This is a broken cup’, you’d say ‘There’s that – there’s glue, what do you do? You stick it together’.”
Other examples were Hammer a Nail In. Frost didn’t always get it when they talked about ‘vibrations’ or art in general, which was probably where most proper people were at in 1968. As someone with an odd imagination I found John’s comments on art insightful, and his sense of humor was as joyful to experience as ever. He was intuitive enough to connect his piece to the first time John met Yoko at the Indica Gallery in 1966, this may be the first time John told the story of how he met Yoko to an audience and how they connected over art.
Frost: I know this is a terrible condemnation of you, but I just felt like a man hammering in a nail.
Lennon: Winner! I felt like one hammering it in on TV.
Frost: Well in fact, because this is interesting, the thing with the nails for instance, it was banging the nail in – that the two of you found that you agreed on art and so on.
They also had a long discussion of their film “Smile”, wherein John just stares into the camera. When three minutes get stretched into one hour, one can see how much the facial expression changes.
Ono: Well, we’re not trying to explain, John. We’re just trying to communicate. And communication itself is art and art is communication. And so that, erm, people are getting so intelligent that you don’t have to explain too much, all you have to do is just touch each other, just shake hands, and so this is a way of touching each other.
Interestingly, as the credits roll “Hey Jude” is playing. John joins into the coda and encourages the audience to join in as the episode ends. The interview was so intriguing it was repeated on a highlights series, The Best of Frost, which was transmitted in some regions by LWT on late night Sunday, May 18, 1969.
By this time Frost had become a host of some repute. In 1969 he launched a weekly TV series in the United States, The David Frost Show, produced for the Westinghouse group for syndication. This involved Frost flying back and forth across the Atlantic every week holding down this series as well as his LWT series in England. On June 14 John & Yoko filmed a pre-taped sequence for the July 10, 1969 segment at Stonebridge Park Studios, where the previous December they’d participated in the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus. Other guests included actors John Cassavetes, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara & Julie London.
Lennon: What’s Bagism? It’s like a tag for what we all do, we’re all in a bag, you know, and we realized that we came from two bags – I was in this pop bag going round and round in my little clique and she was in her little avant-garde clique going round and round and you’re in your little tele clique and they’re in their…you know? And we all sort of come out and look at each other every now and then, but we don’t communicate. We all intellectualize about how there is no barrier between art, music, poetry… but we’re still all – ‘I’m a rock and roller’, ‘He’s a poet’. So we just came up with the word so you would ask us what bagism is – And we’d say we’re all in a bag, baby!
John’s first act was to throw acorns into the audience, calling them “acorns for peace”. John came in full Gandalf mustache & beard, and a blindingly white suit; Yoko was still in black. They came to discuss their peace campaign and bagism. John also held up a copy of Unfinished Music 2: Life With the Lions, playing snippets from ‘Cambridge 1968″ & “No Bed for Beatle John”. Yoko gave Frost a ‘box of smiles’; when he opened it he found a mirror inside that reflected back his own smile. Two Virgins was also discussed; Frost joked that the price tag had been placed in a ‘strategic place’.
Lennon: We’re trying to sell peace, like a product, you know, and sell it like people sell soap or soft drinks, you know, the only way to get people aware that peace is possible and – It isn’t just inevitable to have violence, not just war, all forms of violence. People just accept it and think ‘Oh, they did it’, or ‘Harold Wilson did it’ or ‘Nixon did it’, they’re always scapegoating people. It isn’t Nixon’s fault, we’re all responsible for everything that goes on, you know, we’re all responsible for Biafra and Hitler and everything. So we’re just saying ‘SELL PEACE’. Anybody interested in peace – just stick it in the window, it’s simple but it lets somebody else know that you want peace too, because you feel alone if you’re the only one thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there was peace and nobody was getting killed’. So advertise yourself that you’re for peace if you believe in it.
John’s fifth & final appearance on a David Frost program was taped December 16, 1971 for later syndication, about a week after the Ann Arbor benefit for John Sinclair, & a day before his appearance at eh Apollo Theater. John is still in his black leather jacket. After Frost introduced John & Yoko he said we are in for a musical treat. They were joined onstage by David Peel & the Lower East Side for a rendering of Peel’s “The Ballad of New York City”, a simply folksy tune with John on a tea chest bass.
David Peel had served two years in the U.S. Army, around 1960. He was stationed in Alaska, which is kind of funny, because that was where my Dad served as a radio operator in the late 1950’s. John Lennon befriended Peel in 1971 when his band was performing in New York’s Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Peel had joined John & Yoko at the Ann Arbor benefit on December 10, 1971, and less than a week later, joined the pair again on this segment of The David Frost Show.
Both songs that Peel performed on this show would appear four months later on his third album, The Pope Smokes Dope (released April 17, 1972 on Apple Records). John produced the album as well as provided background vocals with Yoko Ono. The album managed to offend almost everybody, subsequently being banned in most of the world expect the United States, Canada & Japan.
This would be John’s first live appearance on U.S. TV as a solo artist. Joined by Yoko, Jerry Rubin & David Peel & company, he would perform “Attica State”, a bit of “Luck of the Irish” “Sisters, O Sisters” & “John Sinclair”, closing with Peel’s “The Hippie From New York City”.
Once more these were all acoustic performances. John & Yoko harmonized on “Attica State”. Yoko, in a green pullover sweater & blue jean, was multi-tasking, tapping a bongo while holding a lyrics sheet, which John refers back to. It was a problem he’d had in the Beatles too; he always had a hard time remembering the words to the songs he wrote himself. While he & the Lower East Side performed on the edge of the stage, a man in a red felt cowboy hat in the back was tossing paper airplanes over their heads.
After the song Frost invited members of the audience into a discussion about a fairer penal system. At one point a middle-aged couple questioned whether the Lennons were glorifying the prisoners in their song.
Yoko performed ‘Sisters, O Sisters”, then joined Frost for a multi-pointed discussion, including her struggle against discrimination of women, a realization that the public always listens to famous people, and the belief that communication is the key to peace. The pair then invited Chief Lion of the Onondaga tribe onstage for a discussion about plans for the New York State Department of Transportation to expand a highway through tribal land. A short film clip was shown with John & Yoko joining in the Onondaga protest.
Six days after their appearance at the Ann Arbor benefit, John & Yoko & the Lower East side performed “John Sinclair” in a more intimate setting. Yoko’s bongo was more perceptible, and John threw in a few variations to the tune: “Bring him home to his wife and kids/ We did!/ They gave him ten for two/ What else can the whole world do?/ Got to got to got to got…set him free/ Free!”
After the song, John talks about their part in the protest to free John Sinclair and their fight for peace. Finally, everyone stands as David Peel & the Lower East Side perform “The Hippie From New York City”, with John & Yoko standing in back. Again it is an acoustic version of a song about ‘a cockroach & Mayor Lindsey’ with bongos & flute.
Show would be broadcast a month later on January 13, 1972, on ABC-TV.
David Peel died in a veteran’s hospital, April 6, 2017.
David Frost passed away on Saturday, August 31, 2013, at the ripe age of 74.
Available on: Seven surviving segments, including John & Yoko’s appearance from 1968, are included on a two-disc DVD set, Frost on Saturday (1968), released by Network, October 4, 2010. Sadly, this seems to only be available in Region 2, i.e., Europe, Japan & the Middle East. There may not be any official release of the Lennon’s other appearances on DVD.
Unofficially, there is at least one bootleg I’m aware of, now. John Lennon Live & Sessions 1971-1972, a two-CD program featuring rehearsals as well as the Tea for Two Rally, The Attica State benefit at the Apollo & all the songs from his last David Frost segment, taped on December 16, 1971, plus 0music from TV appearances on Aquarius & the Mike Douglas Show.
On a different bootleg, THE BEATLES: MOVIES AND MEDITATION 1967 VOL. 4, a 90 Mn. DVD. Among random MagicalMysteryTour home movies & HowIWontheWar premiere clips, there is also John & George’s two appearances on The Frost Programme on September 29 & October 4, 1967, although only the second program is presented complete.