Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

"I figured that my job was done, and no one else would need my pictures," said Gruen. "But then, I ran into one of the members of Elephant's Memory, and he said they'd been trying to contact me because I had the only pictures of them together with John and Yoko in the studio, and they wanted to see them. He brought me over to [the Lennons'] Bank Street apartment and that was the first time we really got to talk. I spent the afternoon there, talking and showing them my other pictures. And we just formed a relationship. At the end of that meeting, Yoko told me to start coming to the studio so I could take pictures of them. She said she wanted me to be involved with them. And so that's what I did."

The Lennons obviously liked Gruen's work but, more important, he had earned their trust. He said he would drop off the pictures from the Apollo, and he did. He never chased after the Lennons in an attempt to get more work, and he never tried to contact them after the Elephant's Memory shoot. He had proved himself without really trying. He was in.

Elliot Mintz's relationship with John and Yoko began in a similar fashion. A veteran West Coast public relations executive, Mintz had a side job in the early seventies hosting a nighttime radio show on KLOS-FM, the ABC affiliate station in Los Angeles. In 1971, he interviewed Yoko by phone, and then sent her the tape. "John apparently heard it and liked it," recalled Mintz. "Yoko then suggested that he, too, should do a phone interview with me, and he did it. A few days later, he called me to say that he was pleased with the way the interview went. He just liked the texture of it. Thus we began a telephonic friendship, John, Yoko, and myself, and we'd all speak virtually every day or every night for months. I'm an insomniac. I don't sleep. I'm up until 4 A.M., Pacific Time. That was their wake-up time in New York. So we would talk all the time."

By the spring of 1972, one of the subjects that monopolized these late-night talks was Lennon's desire to see America. And in this regard, he was really on even footing with his wife. Yoko might have thought of herself as a New Yorker by virtue of her fifteen years there, but when it came to the rest of the country, she was as much of a tourist as her husband.

"John had seen the United States only from an airplane, as a Beatle," said Mintz. "And Yoko had never seen the United States, outside of New York. So they got into this old white Nash Rambler, with a driver, and they drove from New York to Los Angeles, stopping off along the way to sleep, to go to all-night diners and twenty-four-hour coffee shops. Imagine yourself in 1972 sitting in an all-night coffee shop in Nevada and John and Yoko walk in. Well, as they got closer to Los Angeles, they took a wrong turn on the freeway and wound up in a field near Santa Barbara. And they called me and said they would like to meet me. Of course, I knew what they looked like. But they had never seen me. I drove up to Santa Barbara, found the white Rambler, got into the car, and we hugged. That's how we met."

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