The sign in front of the Dakota reads, “AUTHORIZED PERSONS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT.” I study it, read it over, walk a few paces down the block, double back and scrutinize it again.
Had the rule been enforced in 1980, Mark David Chapman would never have had the opportunity to lurk in the shadows of the archway leading to the entrance of the historic building, and fire five hollow point bullets at the back of his onetime idol, John Lennon.
Chapman, I’m convinced, was mentally ill. For whatever reason, he blamed his various shortcomings on Lennon, and had made at least one prior trip to New York to slay the former Beatle. He was also a proponent of Herostratic fame – named for Herostratus, the arsonist who torched the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in 356 BC – or infamy at any cost.
Sadly, with this one act of violence, he succeeded. As a result, when I was doing interviews related to the hardcover release of my book, December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died two years ago, a number of radio stations asked that I refrain from mentioning the killer’s name; he was already infamous enough, and listeners preferred to hear about John.
Obviously, if it weren’t for Chapman, there never would have been a sign restricting the movements of the curious in front of the Dakota. On a chilly October afternoon, as regular New Yorkers patiently wait for the M-72 bus a few feet away, a dozen or so tourists line up to photograph the wrought iron gate leading to the building’s reception area – the spot where Lennon collapsed following the attack.
The doorman and I make eye contact, and joke about the fact that, in this modern age, his face appears in hundreds, if not thousands, of social media photos. The most common question he hears: “Where did it happen?”
For more please visit Joe Johnson’s beatles brunch.
December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman – the paunchy, mentally ill Beatles fan – calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety.
New York Times-best-selling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to, and we follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day. Once the fatal shots are fired, the pace only becomes more breathless.
The epilogue examines the aftermath of the killing – the moment when 100,000 New Yorkers stood in silence in Central Park; the posthumous reunion of the Beatles in the studio, with George, Paul, and Ringo accompanying recordings of their old friend – and the undying legacy that persists to this day.