The Day John Lennon Died

John Lennon signing an autograph for his killer Mark David Chapman outside his apartment hours before his death. Picture: Paul Goresh.Source:News Corp Australia

“Sometimes you wonder, I mean really wonder. I know we make our own reality, and we always have a choice, but how much is preordained? Is there always a fork in the road, and are there two preordained paths that are equally preordained? There could be hundreds of paths where one could go this way or that way — there’s a choice, and it’s very strange sometimes.” ~John Lennon: The Last Interview, RollingStone

Late that morning, I was sitting on a bench in the Ruth Taylor Fine Arts Building between classes and I was so tired I could hardly breathe. My classmate and close friend, Sue Taylor — a very tall goddess of a gal with a long blonde braid — walked across the empty lobby and sat down next to me. She whispered.

“Someone shot John Lennon in New York City. He’s dead.”

I was not the only New Yorker who stopped repeatedly to stand across the street from the Dakota to weep. It must have been very hard for his widow and their son to deal with such truly personal pain, along with the darkness of all the people who must have approached them wanting to be “taken care of” over the loss of a man they didn’t actually know. That’s the blessing and the curse of New York City.

But The Catcher in the Rye is a brilliantly constructed work of literature and J.D. Salinger was enigmatic. It was easy to, at least, begin to grasp how that particular brand of unstable mind could attach all manner of hyper-analytical and unintended “meaning” and “secret messages” to Holden Caulfield’s profoundly broken adolescent logic. What I did identify deeply with was the character’s sense of profound loneliness and abandonment, owing in large part to absentee parents who simply couldn’t be bothered with the boy’s spastic terror and psychic disenfranchisement. That desperation exist in all parts of the country, it’s just dressed differently: in rural East Texas it speaks with a “twang.”

And it should be noted that when John Hinckley — also a Texan — attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, he referenced John Lennon’s death.

My life is screwed up. The world is even more screwed up. I don’t know why people want to live. John Lennon is dead. I still think about Jodie all the time. That’s all I think about really, that and John Lennon’s death.”

His “love” for actress Jodie Foster was his “reason” for taking such extreme measures to get her attention. The Catcher in the Rye was lying on the bed when police raided his hotel room.

And in 1989 when Robert John Bardo knocked on sit-com actress Rebecca Schaeffer’s door in Los Angeles to shoot her in the face, he was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. He’d gotten her address from the DMV. She was twenty-two years old. It was that easy.

“My wish is for all of you to someday read The Catcher In The Rye. All of my efforts will now be devoted toward this goal, for this extraordinary book holds many answers. My true hope is that in wanting to find these answers you will read The Catcher In The Rye. Thank you.” ~Mark David Chapman

Can’t really hold J.D. Salinger responsible for being an extraordinary writer, anymore than Jodie Foster can be blamed for being a compelling actress. This bizarre fixation on Holden Caulfield that triggered the murderous impulse in some guy’s mind must have been horrifying. It made no sense, there was nothing based in reality that they could respond to to mitigate the threat. They must have been scared to death after John Lennon died.

Lennon’s glasses were left bloodstained after his murder. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

I’ve seen a lot of sad, sick men do horrible things, and there’s really not much to do but forgive, if only to free one’s own mind and save one’s own soul. I have to say, though, sitting here ruminating on the first time I heard the news, it still feels like a dream that might not be true if I can get some sleep and pretend I never heard Sue say the words.

About the Author:

Gayle Leslie is a writer, political consultant, published author, actor, and policy wonk publishing extensively on Medium and other platforms. She is a native Texan, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. She wrote her serialized memoir, Dwelling in the Vast Divine Vol. 1 & Vol 2. You can follow on Twitter at @gayleleslie7

“I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye.”

Author of “Dwelling in the Vast Divine.1 & .2" Political consultant, policy wonk.

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