Excerpt: 'The Last Days of Dead Celebrities'

Mintz's long phone calls with the Lennons continued unabated after the couple returned to New York. He talked them through their move from Bank Street to the Dakota, the landmark apartment complex on the corner of West Seventy-second Street and Central Park West. And he came to New York often to be with them for most special occasions, including the birth of their son, Sean, in 1975, and most of the traditional holidays. In the process, Mintz, like Gruen, proved to be someone the Lennons could trust.

"From the time that I met them to the time that he ran out of time, I spent most of my Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year's Eves with them," said Mintz. "I live alone in Los Angeles. I've never been married and I have no children. They were my extended family. But I want to make one thing clear: I never worked for John. There's probably been a misconception about that over the years. But no dollars ever traded hands."

The Lennons used some of the money they never gave Mintz to eventually purchase five apartments in the Dakota, two for actual living and three smaller spaces for employees and storage. The highlights of their eight years together at the Dakota have been well-documented: In the fall of 1973, John and Yoko separated. He went to Los Angeles with their secretary, May Pang, while Yoko remained in New York by herself. John said at the time that Yoko kicked him out. She said the separation was inevitable, and added that it might actually do him some good.

Fifteen months later, in January 1975, John returned to New York, reunited with Yoko, and got her pregnant, in that order. The couple's only child together, Sean Taro Ono Lennon, was born at New York Hospital on October 9, the very same day that his father turned thirty-five. By the time Sean was one, John Lennon was experiencing a new kind of freedom. For the first time since becoming a Beatle, he had no recording contract, having been dropped by his label, EMI-Capitol. Also during that year, he was finally awarded a green card and the promise of possible U.S. citizenship. And, most important, he had this one-year-old baby whom he desperately wanted to be with night and day.

With no professional commitments hanging over his head, and money issues nonexistent, Lennon retired from show business, beginning what Mintz described as "John's cocooning period."

"Between '75 and '80, he was with Sean every day," said Mintz. "And all those stories you've read about Yoko taking care of business downstairs and John being the house husband, in spite of anything anyone's ever said to the contrary, those stories were all true." Many writers over the years have attempted to debunk the image of Lennon at home doing the chores, most notably Albert Goldman in his book The Lives of John Lennon. Goldman always asserted that Lennon made up this "big lie" about his housebound lifestyle to reinforce the validity of his wife's business skills in hopes that the public would take her more seriously.

For his part, Lennon remained totally consistent about the quieter life he was leading after Sean's birth. "I've been baking bread and looking after the baby" was how Lennon began his now-historic 1980 Playboy interview with writer David Sheff. Stunned by Lennon's characterization of himself during the preceding few years, Sheff asked whether it was possible that Yoko had been controlling him. The question was enough to send Lennon into a rage.

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