In the shadows beyond a light thrown from the entrance of The Dakota, a Manhattan hotel, the killer waits in darkness, not only of the cold night. Grasped in his hand is a loaded 38 caliber revolver. Grasped in his delusional mind are big people “who are good,” and “little people, who are evil.”
On the night of Dec. 8, 1980, the evil little people won out.
A limousine tools up to the hotel. The rock star emerges, followed by his wife and some key members of his team.
The killer steps out of shadows, raises his gun and fires five times. Four bullets hit the rock star. He falls to the pavement, bleeding profusely from his mouth.
The doorman runs out and kicks the gun out of Mark David Chapman’s unresisting hand. Then he kicks Chapman.
Squad cars rush to the hotel. The police realize there’s no time to call for an ambulance. They put the rock star in one police car, his wife in another, and race to Roosevelt Hospital. The killer makes no attempt to escape, but quietly reads his favorite book: “The Catcher in the Rye.”
A police officer runs into Roosevelt Hospital with the rock star thrown over his shoulder and lays him down on a table in the trauma room.
For twenty minutes Dr. Stephan Lynn and others work frantically on the 40-year-old man. There are no vital signs. Massive amounts of blood are given but they just leak out. In a last desperate effort, they crack his chest and massage his heart.
“The damage was so great,” said Lynn in a current interview, “he could not have survived even with today’s medical advances.”
Lynn finally looks up from the man on the table and says, “You’d better tell Yoko Ono that her husband is dead.
Ono sits in a small room off the ER. She still clings to the hope that her husband can be saved. A doctor approaches her. “I have very bad news for you,” he says, “your husband died.”
John Lennon is dead.
Ono throws herself on the floor.
“She was beating her head against the wall,” the doctor later recalls. “I put my hand between her head and the wall.”
Word spreads across the world of rock like wildfire.
John Lennon is dead.
His fans gather in front of The Dakota and keep a vigil, singing their rock star’s songs through the night. Inside the apartment, Yoko Ono lies in bed, barely able to function.
John had been optimistic on the last day of his life. He felt he had reached a turning point. He and Yoko Ono worked hard at the studio that day, where Ono recorded her prophetic song, “Walking On Thin Ice.”
“Oh my God,” Chapman says from jail, “this is a nightmare!” But he also comments, “I wanted to kill him.”
Chapman had been a security guard in Hawaii, where he lived with his wife, Gloria.
“He was an abusive husband,” Gloria admitted but she is still married to him.
Chapman’s delusions began in his early violent childhood, said a friend who watched him destroy toy soldiers in his anger. When he got older, his obsessive thoughts first turned to adoration of the Beatles. Lennon was his favorite. After heavy acid use, Chapman told a friend: “I think I am John Lennon.”
In jail, after the shooting, the tormented killer told police, “A war is raging in my head.”
Lennon was approachable, those who knew him agreed, and he often paused to sign albums his adoring fans held out to him. Lennon signed his last album, “Double Fantasy,” for Chapman, not long before the demented killer shot him.
Ironically, Lennon had contemplated his own death while Chapman planned it.
“Tomorrow might never be here,” John once commented.
When Chapman turned to religion and Lennon said that he thought the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ, Chapman became enraged. His admiration turned to hatred and was deepened by a line in Lennon’s classic “Imagine” where the rock singer asks us to “Imagine there’s no religion.”
Lennon was undisputedly a controversial figure, and not always the saint he’s made out to be. When he was teased about his great wealth and the line in “Imagine” that asks us to “Imagine no possessions,” John joked, “It was only a bloody song.”
There were drugs and drinking. Times when he felt lost. Times it seemed he wanted to die. When John and Yoko broke up, John found that he was literally lost without her. When they reunited, Ono, after three miscarriages, gave birth to Sean Lennon. Delighted, John became a devoted father, something he’d not been with his first child, Julian, by his first wife whom John divorced to marry Ono. But now he sobered up. He became more mature.
“He was so in love,” said a colleague. Lennon was starting over. He said that now his songs were directed at the generation that had grown up with him.
“Life begins at forty,” John said. “I was a house husband,” he explained of the five reclusive years he spent caring for Sean.
Had he lived, “He would be doing great things,” said a friend. When Sean went to school, John was ready for a new beginning.
Because of a killer, John Lennon was never given that chance. He was one of the best that rock had to offer. His legacy still inspires fans the world over.
Chapman sits in Attica Prison outside Buffalo, N.Y. He says he considered killing Johnny Carson, or George C. Scott, or Elizabeth Taylor, but John Lennon was so accessible. “I called upon the chief demons to give me the strength to do this.”
Chapman claims that he’s found God again and has gotten rid of his demons. He’s been up for parole six times. He was denied six times.
Yoko Ono still lives at The Dakota.
John Lennon may have come out of Liverpool, but he belongs to the world.
Source of research: CNN’s “Losing Lennon.”