Yoko Ono talks out memory of Dakota Building

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Ono talks candidly about why she still lives in fear of Mark David Chapman, the truth about Lennon’s bisexuality, and the ‘pain’ she shares with Paul McCartney.

Outside of the Dakota, one of the most famous apartment buildings in the world, tourists stand in the warm Manhattan sunshine and gaze up.(excerpt from thedailybeast.com)

Strawberry Fields is nearby—a little, hippy-vibed Central Park memorial, overseen in its creation in 1985 by Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s widow. The musician was shot dead, aged 40, outside the Dakota in December 1980 by Mark David Chapman, and Ono still lives here in the same apartment they shared.

Like the building she occupies, Ono has a perpetual air of mystery: To many, she will always be the villainous interloper—the woman “who broke up the Beatles.”

 

Once past the Dakota’s discreet, firm security, the visitor feels as if they are in a mysterious, stone-cushioned cocoon. Ono’s upper-floor apartment is warrenous, a collection of model cats with illuminated eyes standing sentry inside the front door.

When Ono appears, dressed in a black shirt and slacks, sunglasses perched on the end of her nose, she states firmly in her broken Japanese-English, “Hello, so we’ll go to the kitchen.”

She is smiling warmly, but it is a command: The tone reminds me how Ono had ended a performance at MoMA the weekend before with a smile and firm “And that is it.” We were dismissed. You sense Ono rigorously sets her own boundaries. She speaks measuredly. She is not effusive, dramatic, or grandstanding.

We walk past a huge table of hats and sunglasses, her two most famous accessories (and laid out for convenience’s sake, with all the touring she does), into a large, homely kitchen: Notable are pictures of Lennon, and Ono and Lennon.

She remembers buying her first pair of sunglasses, with Lennon, one day at Saks Fifth Avenue, taking a break from the recording studio. They provide a barrier between Ono and the world. “The word privacy comes to me,” said Ono, “like the arm’s-length relationship I can have with people.”

Does Ono still like living in the Dakota? Lennon was shot outside—some might say it’s the last place she would want to live.

They were living in the St. Regis hotel in Beverly Hills at the time, and “hotel living was so unattractive.”

The actor Jack Palance suggested they try the Dakota, and so another day, while sunbathing beside the St. Regis pool (as you do), Ono said to Lennon, “We should do this.”

Ono instructed one of their assistants to go to the Dakota to see if an apartment was free, and one was set to be listed the very next day—this very apartment we’re sitting in.

After Lennon was killed, did Ono ever think about moving?

“Never. We shared this every day. Every day we shared each room. I wouldn’t do that.”

So it isn’t a tragic place?

“The good memory supersedes the bad memory. The bad memory was just one that was terrible. But other than that, I felt we were still together. I would feel very strange if I had to leave this apartment. There are so many things that he touched here that he loved. Those things mean a lot.”

She launches into a tale of how she and Lennon ended up living here.

What drugs did she and Lennon themselves use? “I hate marijuana. I never wanted to—but in a social situation with people passing it round you just have to pretend.”

She stopped taking drugs in “maybe 1981 or ’82. After John’s passing, the doctors said, ‘We’ll give you morphine, every day if you want to.’ When you are in extreme sadness, you don’t know what they will do—jump out from the side of a building or something.”

Is she talking about another assassin?

“What happened was that I suddenly realized I had extra responsibility on many levels, so I couldn’t be taking anything. The first night they gave me morphine, but from then on I didn’t take anything. I couldn’t do it. I had to be super-clear to take on the business situation, the political situation, everything. And then I think I took some drugs, sort of like designer drugs or something.”

And now, no drugs? “No.

McCartney told Esquire: “Yoko would appear in the press, and I’d read it, and it said ‘Paul did nothing! All he did was book the studio…’ Like, ‘Fuck you, darling! Hang on! All I did was book the fucking studio?’ Well, OK, now people know that’s not true. But that was just part of it. There was a lot of revisionism: John did this, John did that. I mean, if you just pull out all his great stuff and then stack it up against my not-so-great stuff, it’s an easy case to make.”

Ono was surprised to read that, particularly as she and McCartney had just been together at a dinner, seated at the same table, “talking about good things.”

Does she feel close to McCartney?

“I think it’s a very strange situation. We were kind of like stuck with a situation for 30 or 40 years, so we understand each other—let’s put it that way. What he said in Esquire, I think he’s really right.”

“I mean, he must have suffered a lot, just like I suffered more or less the same thing in a way. So I understand. I’m sympathetic to him for having all sorts of pain. Most people think that Paul or me should not have any pain at all because we are so privileged. But it’s not true. The degree of pain is always there.”

 

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