Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

But maybe there was a way out: marijuana, the ultimate and least offensive sixties panacea to everything. You want to put on earphones and tune into a coded message on The White Album, or something obscure on a Richie Havens record? Smoke a joint. On the other hand, if you want to tune out your sister's wedding and feel like you're a million miles away, even while you're asking a relative to pass the butter, well, that very same joint will likely get you there. And that's precisely what was needed here.

The bride's brother had been tipped off during the ceremony that another wedding guest was holding some good shit. The brother thought, if he could talk his sister into giving him the key to the bridal suite, he and this other guest could go upstairs, get high, and then return to the festivities and hide in plain sight in a decidedly more tolerant state. No one would even know they had been gone.

Of course, it never occurred to either man that John and Yoko were even at the St. Regis, much less readying themselves to go out. At that moment, the only mission facing the two wedding guests was to get into the bridal suite, smoke their pot, and alter their consciousnesses to the point where perhaps even the dance floor might not seem to be such a terrible idea.

But an extraordinary thing happened as the bride's brother put the key in the door to his sister's room: The door to the suite directly across the hall opened and John and Yoko stepped out. The boys would later bemoan the fact that they never had a chance to say hello, much less invite the Lennons inside for a couple of tokes, a perfectly reasonable thought that came up only in retrospect. As soon as John saw these two strangers, he yanked Yoko back inside and slammed his door shut. It was obvious, even to these two disgruntled, pot-smoking wedding guests, that Lennon appeared threatened by the close proximity of other New Yorkers.

There is an old saying from the sixties that goes something like this: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not trying to get you." Lennon had nothing to fear from the two men who were trying to enter another suite across the hall. As the two men remembered it, they had their backs to the couple when Lennon opened the door. Certainly no remotely threatening gestures were made. And yet Lennon's first inclination was to retreat and close the door as quickly as possible. Was he paranoid, or simply startled? Did he sense danger in New York in 1971, or was he just being careful? Whatever the case, it was clear that he had not yet made peace with his new surroundings.

Then again, maybe it was just the coldness and formality of extended hotel life that was getting to him. During the more chaotic years, when he was a Beatle, a hotel had performed essentially the same function as a prostitute. In, out, and on to the next town. As opulent as the St. Regis was, two months there was proving to be more than enough. The Lennons needed something a little homier, and on November 1 they left the St. Regis for a Greenwich Village apartment on Bank Street that was both smaller and homier than their hotel suite. The basement apartment had only two rooms, a kitchenette, and a spiral staircase up to a skylight. But the simplicity of it, along with its tranquil setting in a classic downtown neighborhood, proved more in keeping with Lennon's desire to blend into New York.

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