By Donovan Day
A soon-to-be released book by John Lennon’s immigration lawyer back in the mid-70s contains a small pleasure chest of John anecdotes by a first-hand observer. Lawyer Leon Wildes was John and Yoko’s lawyer as they fought deportation charges. Wildes’ new book “John Lennon vs. the USA” details the legal battles Wildes fought but Beatles’ fans will be most interested in the small stories Wildes recounts that reveal once again John’s frisky and playful personality.
Perhaps the oddest fact in the book is that Wildes swears he had never heard of John Lennon or Yoko Ono before taking on the case. Hard to believe but Wildes says it’s true.
As the book chugs along, little things pop out. One especially sad and telling detail comes after Wildes decides to show the government that John is a special artist who has skills like no other. He asks John who might vouch for his skills as a composer and John reels off the names: Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, and Phil Spector. Notice who’s not on the list? Paul McCartney, the man who wrote many a great song side-by-side with John. Why not? Because the year is 1972 and John’s feud with Paul was still going full bore.
At another point, Wildes, John and Yoko and others are sitting around manager Allen Klein’s sumptuous office on a high floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. As the group goes over strategy, a scaffold with two window washers comes into view and the uninterested pair begin to wash the windows.
“Suddenly, John rose from his chair, raised both hands about his head, and shouted at the window washers, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Mitchell, I didn’t mean a word of it. You’re a wonderful attorney general.'”
At the time of course, John & Yoko felt the strings against them were being pulled by U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell and John especially felt he was always under surveillance.
Another time, after John is introduced to the lawyer who will prosecute him, a playful John does what a playful John does.
“Lennon jumped to his feet, whipped out a handkerchief from his pocket, bent down, and started polishing Schiano’s shoes! He looked up with a grin and asked, ‘Is there anything else I could do for you, Mr. Schiano?'”
Throughout the pages of this book, there are many stories that portray John and Yoko close up and their sometimes nutty behavior rises to the surface. After Wildes wins a two year battle that allows both John and Yoko to live in the USA permanently, John tells Wildes frankly why they retained him while going through countless other lawyers.
“‘Leon,’ John stated seriously, ‘you are the only lawyer I understand, and my wife loves you. But you know why we stayed with you all these years when these fancy Washington lawyers to handle the case? It’s because Yoko’s tarot card readers all said–‘stick with Leon, he is going to win the case for you.'”
In this case, the tarot card reader was 100% correct. One wonders what other decisions Yoko has made throughout the years in the same manner.
The book will be published tomorrow (August 1, 2016) by Ankerwycke Books, a publication arm of the American Bar Association.