Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On the Line With Ono

Posted by on Wed, Nov 21, 2007 at 7:06 AM

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This weekend, So This Is Xmas, an exhibit of John Lennon’s artwork, goes on display at the Hotel InterContinental. The paintings were handpicked – and some of them hand-colored – by Yoko Ono, who I got to talk to for this Night & Day blurb about the art show.

I would have posted the interview as an MP3, but I’m afraid that Ono’s people might put a hit out on me. Just before she patched me through to Ono in Brazil, I asked Ono’s assistant – a snippy woman who reserved the right to revoke my interviewing privileges at any time – if I could stream the interview at Pitch.com. She freaked out and scolded me for not asking about that in my original interview request. (OK, I should have.) Then she kept yammering nervously as if she were afraid I might just post the audio file anyway. You never can trust those rascally reporters.

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But, even if no one else seems to, I respect Ono. At least enough not to take advantage of the situation (and my borrowed digital recorder). That’s also why I agreed to stick to questions concerning the art exhibit – a command that halved my list of things to talk about 30 seconds before the interview began.

Actually, I’m certain that posting the conversation would have been more embarrassing to me than Ono, anyway. She was friendly and full of pat answers yet still somehow genuine. I was an umm-ing machine, scrambling to think of something original to ask and quite overcome by the fact that I was talking to Yoko fucking Ono. I mean, I’ve interviewed some well-known peeps, but Rob Zombie doesn’t hold a candle to the most reviled rock widow of all time.

During the interview, I kept thinking about the widow of another late genius, Hunter S. Thompson. Anita Thompson recently wrote a book in which she claims to be devoting the rest of her life to preserving the memory of her husband. If you believe Ono, that’s what she’s been doing for Lennon since his death in 1980. “Well, you know, you go gung ho, really,” she told me. “Once, you know, when something like that occurs, anything incredibly terrible happens in your life, you either kill yourself — jump off the roof or something — or just go on doing it.”

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Here’s how Ono answered some of my other questions:

Which of the works in the traveling exhibition are your favorites?

It’s all my favorite in a way because I handpicked them, you know. And I don’t pick them unless they are really great.

Did you feel especially close to John again as you added color to his sketches?

Not really. Because, you know, since his passing, maybe initially, I felt sort of very empty in our bedroom.... The physical presence was what I missed a lot. But since then, I’ve been doing so much of John’s work and presenting it to the world — it’s really very gratifying. I feel I am with him still. It’s that feeling, you know. I always feel like we’re together.

Do you ever imagine what kind of work that John might be creating if he were still alive today?

He was a very innovative person, and he really liked to jump onto something new. And so I just know that the computer thing, the Internet, all that would have really excited him. [long pause] Computer-artwork kind of thing, he could have done that, too, but also he would have used the computer for all sorts of different expressions of art, I think.

How have you kept John’s legacy from overshadowing your own accomplishments?

I might be a really cocky person. In a way I’m very confident about my work, I suppose. So I don’t think that anything could overshadow my work. And also as a partner I felt like I should go first with John’s work. If my work overshadowed his, I would have been very upset. I would have felt guilty.

-- Crystal K. Wiebe

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