SECTION SEVEN

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COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz)

RETROPOP SCENE:
LEGS! LEGS! LEGS!


JOHN AND YOKO

Someone told me that the moon was full a couple of days ago.

Another friend was mentioning to me that there seemed to be a strangeness in the way people were walking down the street.

I myself had been muttering about the zigzag brand of drivers liberated by the taxi strike.  And there was an idiot cop In front of the Port Authority bus terminal on Eighth Avenue. I pull up at the entrance to unload a lady with more luggage than she can carry and while I'm in the middle of putting her bags on the curb this cop tells me I can't stop my car there.

What was I supposed to do, throw her out while driving by at a slow speed and then circle the block to toss out her luggage a piece at a time?

It was at that point I decided I had to go up and visit John and Yoko filming their new movie on a seventh-floor sound stage on West 61st Street.  I hadn't seen John in more than a year and certainly not since he spent several months in Los Angeles studying with a famous psychotherapist.

Friends have been asking me do I dig John crazy like he was or crazy like he is and I've been telling them that I dig John ant way he wants to be. The first thing that happened after John and I greeted each other is that John asks me to take my pants down.

By way of explanation, I must tell you that the name of the movie John and Yoko are filming is Up Your Legs forever, another of John and Yoko's peace ventures. Technically, of course. John and Yoko aren't filming it at all because the government has refused them work permits.

And so they sit as mere observers behind a screened enclosure on the sound stage while a parade of volunteers line up to stand on a podium one at a time while the movie camera pans up the bare legs from each of the volunteer's toes to the volunteer's hips. Then John snaps a still photo of the volunteer and that's it. Next!

Of necessity, the volunteer signs a release permitting his name to be used for publicity and advertising in connection with the exploitation of the film.  In addition, the volunteer also gets a one-dollar bill for services rendered.

I arrive with leather-hatted U. Utah Phillips, a noted folksinger, anarchist, activist and storyteller. I'm acting as his business manager at the time. Utah thinks one dollar is good pay for not even a minute's work and he quickly signs a release. The only problem is that he doesn't wear anything beneath his buckskin trousers.

"I'm going to frame this dollar bill," he announces, adding:

"My mother always told me, "You better wear underpants in case you run into an accident like this."?

With that, he walks into the enclosure, gets up before the camera and displays his frontal to John, to Yoko and to anyone willing to watch this film.

It turns out that not only Utah does not wear underpants but many other of the male volunteers also do not wear underpants. And there also are many women who don't wear panties. And some who do wear panties smilingly slip them off so as not to let modesty get in the way of peace. There are also a few volunteers, both men and women who slip everything off to give peace a chance.

However, John makes it clear that nudity is not required.  He points out that the camera's lens never peers above the volunteer's hips. As for the Instamatic camera John's using, it's compiling a very revealing photo album.

There's even one frizzled haired freak that stands balls naked before the camera grinning as he holds his dollar bill like a fig leaf between his legs. As for me, I?m enjoying the female strip tease.

Recruited by a telephone brigade that had enlisted other friends in the drive to gather up


'A little lunacy
is good
for everybody!'


volunteers willing 'to donate their legs to peace," the first contingent to arrive at the sound stage was mostly from the filmmaking underground that Yoko used to hang out with. That was when she was practicing her brand of art in New York.

Among the first to volunteer are Piero Heliczer, Ira Cohen and Vali Myers, who identifies himself as a French witch. Artist Larry Rivers is among the volunteers and so is filmmaker Donn Pennebaker.

'they're my own cameras!" declares Donn. "Why not??

Another volunteer is New York's "original hippie," press agent Jim Moran, who arrives by chauffer-driven limo.

Other volunteer's include the ubiquitous Pete Bennett, famed record promotion man for Allen Klein, who manages the Beatles. Also among the volunteers is Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who takes his pants off to reveal gold jockey shorts.

By Wednesday night, John and, Yoko had more than a hundred pairs of legs lined up, With Village Voice columnist Howard Smith on the phone to get more volunteers, calling Max's Kansas City, Nobody's, Dr. Generosity's and all the other hangouts.

Word got around at warp speed. By last night, actor George Segal, artist Peter Max and millionaire Walter Gutman, had taken their pants off. I was No. 284. Along with Howard Smith, writer Tom Wolfe, Beatles Manager Allen Klein, we had steadfastly demanded to be excused on the grounds that we are impartial observers rather than willing participants.

Ah, John I'll always remember the first words out of your mouth at the first press conference the day the Beatles first came to America:

"A little lunacy is good for everybody!"

At the sound stage, Tom Wolfe is wearing a vanilla colored suit. John offers to let him roll up his trousers and keep wearing his white shoes if he would pose. Howard Smith and I say we would do it if Allen Klein does it but Klein keeps wandering off into a corner. Meanwhile a Time magazine photographer is caught using a Minox to snap pictures over the walls of the enclosure.

By last night, John has twisted Allen Klein's arm, a contest of psychic power I would have enjoyed witnessing. Instead, I am there to catch Howard Smith's imposing act.

Finally, it's my turn.

Just in case of an accident, I come prepared.

"Haven't you seen enough of these, John?? I ask.

"No," he says, "but I'm getting? cured."

The camera whirs. John's flashbulb explodes. It's over in an instant.

"What are you going to do next?? I ask.

There's a pause.  

"I dunno," he says, "There must be something else."  ##

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