Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Some time after ten o'clock, on the night of December 8, 1980, my phone rang:  it was my old friend Karen Berger calling to tell me that John Lennon had been shot. "Is he okay?" I asked.  "He's dead," she replied—and it was clear from her tone that she knew it was true, but couldn't digest that awful reality.

I got off the phone, switched on the television—and the global mourning ritual soon began.  At first I was taken aback by the public displays of grief.  Strange as it sounds, my connection to John Lennon—to his extraordinary life and music—ran so deep that his death felt profoundly personal.  It was as if I'd lost one of my dearest friends.  I couldn't quite wrap my head around the fact that millions of people around the world had lost one of their dearest friends, as well.

"He's dead."  Those words still resonate in my mind and heart.  Thirty-five years ago?  It feels like thirty-five minutes.


  1. JM, to this day, that moment & all that followed still seems unreal, a terrible dream from which we'll all suddenly awaken.

    Yet I can also envision John observing all this from an amused distance, scoffing at his beatification after death, wanting very much to be remembered simply as a human being, flaws & all, gifts & all.

    Which is how I prefer to remember him. If all he gave us was the music, that would be more than enough. But he also offered his naked humanity, his questioning, his doubts, his joys -- really, how much more can you ask of anyone?

    If I could meet him, I'd probably just say, "Thank you for the songs, and thank you for making me think." A damn fine legacy.

    1. Beautifully, and truthfully, said, Tim. I couldn't agree more.

      By the way: If you haven't seen the documentary embedded above, check it out. It's terrific.

    2. JM, I have a much happier Lennon-related memory of December ... 1967, I was just about to turn 14, we were living with my Italian grandparents while house-hunting, my younger brothers & I shared a small finished attic that was like every boy's ideal secret hideout. I got "Magical Mystery Tour" for my birthday, my 9th grade homeroom teacher lent me his copy of "The Fellowship of the Ring" (the Ace paperback, no less) & introduced me to Tolkien, I spent much of the Christmas season up by the small front dormer window, watching the snow come down, reading the tale of the Ring for the first time, with the Beatles as my continuous soundtrack, and the house filled with the wonderful smells of a huge Italian holiday dinner.

      To this day I take out "Magical Mystery Tour" & listen to it all the way through as Christmas approaches. And I usually dip into "The Fellowship of the Ring" as well. My grandparents are long gone, but I make a lot of those Italian dishes myself now, for my beloved wife & friends.

    3. As a half-Italian Beatles fanatic who devoured LORD OF THE RINGS when he was fifteen, that story totally hits home, Tim. The image of you reading, while the snow falls and the Beatles sing is perfection.

      For some reason, this reminds me of when I was, I think, thirteen—hanging out with a couple of friends—and we listened to the "Strawberry Fields" single over and over and over, all night long till we'd convinced ourselves that the song had made us all high (none of us had ever done drugs). And, given that there had never been a song like that before, maybe it had!

    4. I forgot to mention that the food may have been the best part of your story! : )

  2. And with a sad phone call, Vertigo Comics was born.

    However, Monday was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, where far more people died in an act that would lead to more death all in the name of stopping the forces on Imperialism and Fascism.

    It also was the beginning of America and the world as a whole becoming what they are.

    I just couldn't help but notice that tragedy going without reflection, especially since one of your earliest writing successes and the medium as a whole that you choose to work in gained increased popularity and where cemented as part of the American cultural landscape all because of that one event.

    Typical Hippie, reflecting on a dad rock star instead of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for your and the whole world's freedom. Everything from the popularity of superheroes to the civil rights movement to increased security of the world (I know it doesn't always seem that way, but the world is far safer than it was in 1938) can be traced to that which is probably the most significant event of the the 20th Century and America's history, if not the world. Do you care though? No. you only care about a guy who sang some songs. Wish I could say that I was surprised.

    That was in jest buy the way. Well, sort of. I do think it is important to remember Pearl Harbor and what followed as those who fought and fell.

    Interesting side note, Lauren Becall also lived in the Dakota when she died.

    By the way, if Lennon was such a true believer in what he preached shouldn't he have not had enough money to live in the Dakota? Where was all that hippie helping your fellow man-know when should be above anyone else jive when it was time to consult a Realtor?

    Joke again.

    Damn internet, ruins the joke by having to make sure no one feels a need to defend themselves, back in my day we had face to face interactions you could just tell by voice inflections.


  3. I think Lauren Bacall lived in the Dakota for many years. If I'm not mistaken, she lived there when Lennon was killed.

    "Voice inflections"? "Face to face"? Those were the days, my friend.

    1. that is the nice thing about comics shops, the barber shop vibe that allows people to discuss comics and other things face to face. Many interesting conversations about funny books and those other things I mentioned when you do that face to face stuff. Eat it, message boards. I think that is a part of why digital comics haven't caught on the way marvel and DC hope, people don't want to give that up, and as loyal as they are to comics, series, Marvel and DC they are also loyal to their shops. The people that kept marvel and DC's lights on when when it seemed that wasn't such a given in the late 90s and early 2000s.

      Becall id live at the Dakota longer, she was also one of of the sexiest women of Hollywood's golden age, and of course a member of the tribe.

      Hopefully you will now reflect on Pearl Harbor... go on, I'll allow it.


    2. When I think of Pearl Harbor, here's what comes to me: During WW II both the Japanese and the Germans were our mortal enemies. And then, in the wink of an eye (especially when it's the eye of history) they became our allies. So, despite the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, I find hope in the fact that the enemies of today could very quickly become our allies.

      And, yes, young Lauren Bacall was an amazingly beautiful and sexy woman. And an excellent actress, too. I guess Bogie knew what he was doing.

    3. As I pointed out above, despite what 24 news commentators say, the world has become a progressively safer since WWII. Does that mean there aren't acts of violence and evil people? No, of course not and it certainly doesn't mean that those who suffer because of those acts don't have a right to be angry and hurt. It simply means that in the big picture things are better then they war. This has a lot to do with fighting the war, (which was more a war of ideas than nations)however it also has much to do with how we treated the nations after the war, a humane concept that was spearheaded and conceived by Americans who entered the war because of Pearl Harbor. For that matter the ushering in of atomic weapons and the concept of M.A.D. is quite possibly what prevented World War III from occurring with the Soviets. A war so big and horrifying made an entire generation work towards peace.

      I have to say though, I though that the idea of comic shop communities are what you would hae run with.


    4. Communities are good, too.

      And, yes, I agree that having a place to gather, face to face, with other like-minded people is a valuable thing, on so many levels. Me? Growing up I wasn't surrounded by comic book fans, there really weren't comic book shops as we know them today. My big fix was the letters pages: that's where I found my comics community. But, for the most part, reading comics was a deeply personal thing for me and I didn't really become part of a larger community of like-minded crazies till I got into the business.

    5. When I was a kid, I was absolutely the only one who read comics. Which is weird, because that is the American image right? Kids under the covers with a flashlight reading funny books?

      In Middle School I met a guy who also read comics, so I had that. However, given the lack of money in those ages, it was often telling about other comics one had read and not the other.

      Around that time is when I started going to comic shops instead of pharmacies. Once I was 16 and could drive I started going weekly. The comic reading between my pal and I got more connected as we could go weekly, and we had more money. Still a gap though, actually there is still often a gap to this day. A lot of overlap too.

      It wasn't until I was around 18 and graduated from High School that it really started community aspect.

      So I sort of see where you are coming from though not entirely. Back in those days, when I was the only one I knew reading those comics it seemed more (and I know this is an odd choice of words) intimate. Its still there, but some of the sheen wore off as I started seeing more people reading the same issues I was. Ebb and flow man, ebb and flow.


    6. When I was a kid there were no comic book stores, you just bought you comics at the local candy store (as they were called in Brooklyn).
      All of my friends read them but, as I got older, most, if not all, of them dropped away and it became my singular passion. Something very private and personal.

      Closest thing to a comic book shop was a used bookstore some miles away that sold back issues. You'd walk in and get to go through a box filled with ancient (meaning, they were three or four years old) issues of FANTASTIC FOUR or SPIDER-MAN. It was magical.