Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

Photographer Bob Gruen was living in the Village then, in an apartment not far from Lennon's small pad. "I heard about it as soon as they moved into the neighborhood," recalled Gruen. "There was this buzz, like 'Hey, guess who just moved in.' But this being New York, nobody bothered them."

On November 6, just five days after their downtown move, the Lennons ventured uptown, to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, and gave a surprise performance to benefit the casualties of the recent Attica prison riots. "I went to the Apollo that night," said Gruen, "because Aretha Franklin was supposed to be there and I was going to photograph her. As I walked into the theater, I heard the announcer onstage say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.' It was incredibly exciting. I couldn't believe I was actually going to see John Lennon. They did a couple of funky songs. Backstage afterward, they were standing around waiting for their car, and people were taking pictures of them. So I took a couple of pictures of them standing there. At one point, John said, 'You know, people are always taking pictures of us and we never get to see these pictures. What happens to all the pictures?' "I said, 'Well, I live around the corner from you. I'll show you my pictures.'

"And he said, 'You live around the corner? Slip them under the door.'

"I said I would, and I made up a couple of prints," said Gruen. "A few days later, I went by their apartment and didn't quite slip them under the door. I rang the bell instead, and Jerry Rubin answered the door. I said, 'I have something for John and Yoko.'

"And Jerry Rubin said, 'Are they expecting you?' When I said no, he said he would take the pictures and give them to them."

Gruen heard nothing from the Lennons until their names came up a few months later when he was asked to shoot pictures of the couple for a story that a writer friend was doing on the hard-driving rock group Elephant's Memory. Jerry Rubin had introduced Lennon to the group, and he was planning to record a few tracks with them for their album.

"The writer asked me if I would like to take pictures of John and Yoko while he interviewed them," said Gruen. "I said I would definitely do it, and that's how I actually ended up meeting them. "I didn't say anything immediately about me being the guy who was supposed to slip those other pictures under the door because I like to stay rather quiet when I'm taking pictures," said Gruen. "So I just took pictures while they were talking. And because the story was about Elephant's Memory, I wanted to take a picture of John and Yoko together with the band. They said they were going to the Record Plant that night to record with the band. So I asked if I could come along. They said they'd be working, but if I wanted to wait around until the end of the night, I could take a picture of them with the band. And that's what I did. After I took the pictures at the Record Plant later that night, I went home, printed the pictures, and sent them to the magazine that was going to publish the story.

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