Saturday, February 26, 2011

Amelia was there; or Central Park on December 14, 1980

I went to the park to join the other two hundred thousand mourners. I'd spent the days since the murder hiding out in my apartment with my husband, David. Hearing the news was surreal, relayed via Monday Night Football. I'd grown up right near the Dakota and was going to graduate school at Columbia at the time. I still lived on the Upper West Side. Within days the ubiquitous street vendors started playing all of Lennon's songs, it was macabre and unnerving. Gloves, scarves and books were sold as he sang 'so you say it is Christmas.'

I lived through both Kennedy assassinations, through Martin Luther King, Jr's death in Memphis and the riots that followed. I remembered Malcolm X being shot at the Audubon Ballroom. All those murders effected me, but when John was murdered I was devastated. I suppose that this was what it took for me to lose my innocence.

Amelia is there too. She walks into the park with someone very dear to her, very close to her. He's stricken, while she is there to comfort him and observe, uniquely situated to understand the uncommon feelings on display. Sometimes a famous person touches you in a way that makes you think you know them, that's how it was for many of us with John. And that's how I feel about Amelia. . .


  1. I've been watching some old and not-so-old interviews (on YouTube) with Annie Lennox, who has quite a few thoughtful and insightful things to say about how she experiences her great fame as a singer/songwriter/musician. She's pretty ambivalent about it and always has been. Having strangers come up and tell you how much your music has meant to them, she says, is touching and flattering, but also weird and unsettling. People think they know you, but of course they don't, and they project all sorts of things onto you. She says, a bit defiantly or self-protectively, that she's not defined by others' projections; she can be strong, but also fragile -- she's not just one thing or the other.
    I've never been famous, but I would imagine that it must feel a bit like knowing that you're surrounded by potential predators who can see you, but you can't see them. I wonder if John Lennon ever thought along these lines.

  2. I think he must have, he was so firm about being just a dad. A friend of mine taught his son at pre-school and he would come and pick him up. As New Yorkers we all were raised to pretend that no one was really famous, you were supposed to walk on by, staring was not allowed. It was part of being a New Yorker and acting cool and I have a feeling it makes it possible to live in the city when you have a great deal of notoriety.