Wednesday, August 5, 2009

John Lennon: The New York City Years

By far one of the most interesting things I've done this summer was seeing John Lennon: The New York City Years. It's an exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in SoHo - created entirely by Yoko Ono.

It's a quaint little museum on Mercer's cobblestone streets. You could easily walk right on by if not for the giant John Lennon photo in his now famous "New York City" sleeveless tee giving away the location.

The experience starts off with a movie montage of past musical legends on giant projector screens as you sit in the middle of a white-walled room. It gets you so pumped on all the talent & memorable music that has been produced over the years...but is also slightly depressing when 50 Cent & Amy Winehouse are showcased as the "idols" of our generation. It made me wish I'd grown up with the vinyl records and 8-tracks of my parents generation.

Afterwards you are given a headset to walk through the maze of Beatles & other iconic musical paraphernalia. At each display a song by the group (or person) plays through the headphones. It's like having your own personal ipod as you walk past Bruce Springsteen's old car (complete with license & registration) or Ringo's drumset. The Beatles used to personally respond to EVERY SINGLE fan letter they received! I loved seeing their squiggly writing & cheery responses.

As you near the end, you walk into a giant room filled entirely with the most extensive John Lennon collection you could ever imagine. The walls are all white and a few have projectors set up with home videos of John & Yoko, their private art movies (which are hilarious!) that make you realize how utterly & completely in love they were. I must admit, I wasn't the biggest Yoko fan before this exhibit. I half blamed her for the crumbling of the Beatles, but I have a newfound respect. She's a remarkable lady.

"Before Yoko and I met, we were two halves. Together we are whole."
- John Lennon

Among the artifacts are handwritten, never-before-seen lyrics & poems, the bloodstained brown bag of clothes he was wearing when he died that were returned to Yoko by the police.

(There's a quote from Yoko below saying: "John was the 'King of the world.' John, who had everything any man could ever want, came back to me in a brown paper bag in the end. I want the world to know that.")

There are also amazing personal photographs & sketches made by John himself.

The absolute coolest thing about the entire exhibit has to be this one white wall, all by its lonesome...with an ivory, old-fashioned, dial telephone in the middle. (My Grandma has the same one in her kitchen!)
Some people just walked right by entirely. But if you go up really close, there's a teeny tiny plaque that says: "If the phone rings, answer it. It's Yoko Ono. Yes...the real Yoko Ono."

And sure enough - THE PHONE RANG! I later talked to the security guard on duty about it & he said she calls whenever she's in town, if she gets the chance. She still lives in the same apt her & John shared. We were lucky enough to be there at a time when she called! Lots of people go in & out of the exhibit without ever hearing the phone ring. The Guard said a little boy answered a few weeks before & thought it was a credit card company....SO HE HUNG UP! hahaha. He hung up on Yoko Ono. Priceless.
At first no one really understood what was going on & then a frenzy broke out around the little white wall. I personally thought it was one of those voice animated things like "Listen to Yoko speak to you"...but then after talking to the crowd, everyone confirmed - it's actually her, calling from her house! Eventually the crowd died down & the phone got passed around to us. Yoko just asked what we thought of the exhibit and was glad we liked it. It is her hope to deliver a simple message of peace to whomever answers (as I read afterwards). There were a lot of people wanting to speak with her so no one gets very much time. People would try to hog & have full out conversations but the guard would just step in and pass it to another person. She sounds the exact same as all the home videos & interviews you see around the exhibit. I even stood around for a good 20 minutes listening to everyone elses conversations...just speechless. I will never forget it. Lauren (my weekend/John Lennon companion) & I couldn't stop bringing it up the rest of the day!


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