Discovered: Conversation with John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Timothy Leary at Montreal Bed-In (1969)

On May 26, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko One began their second "Bed-In," a form of anti-Vietnam War protest that combined the media impact of a press conference with the comfort of hotel sheets. Their first Bed-In, which happened in various rooms of the Amsterdam Hilton in late March of that year, saw them grant interview after interview about peace all day long without moving from the bed in which they had ensconced themselves. They'd scheduled its follow up in New York City, but Lennon found he couldn't enter the United States due to a previous conviction for marijuana possession. They relocated it to the Bahamas, where the heat soon prompted them to move again to the entirely cooler Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. There they recorded the song "Give Peace a Chance," aided by such visitors as Tommy Smothers, Dick Gregory, Murray the K, and psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary.

But Leary didn't just come to provide a backing vocal. With his wife Rosemary, he recorded a conversation with Lennon and Ono about... well, about a variety of subjects, but they'd all fall under the broad heading of Leary's one great pursuit, "consciousness." Only recently did Leary archivist Michael Horowitz discover the transcript of this session in "an unmarked envelope in a box of miscellaneous papers," and this week the Timothy Leary Archives made it available to the public for the first time ever. The conversation begins with the finer points of teepee life, moves on to the effects of place on one's state of mind, touches on both couples' having found themselves on the wrong side of drug law enforcement, and ends with Lennon and Leary comparing notes on how they use the media to convey their message:

TIMOTHY: John, about the use of the mass media . . . the kids must be taught how to use the media. People used to say to me–I would give a rap and someone would get up and say, “Well, what’s this about a religion? Did the Buddha use drugs? Did the Buddha go on television? I’d say, “Ahh—he would’ve. He would’ve….”

JOHN: I was on a TV show with David Frost and Yehudi Menuhin, some cultural violinist y’know, they were really attacking me. They had a whole audience and everything. It was after we got back from Amsterdam…and Yehudi Menuhin came out, he’s always doing these Hindu numbers. All that pious bit, and his school for violinists, and all that. And Yehudi Menuhi said, “Well, don’t you think it’s necessary to kill some people some times?” That’s what he said on TV, that’s the first thing he’s ever said. And I said, “Did Christ say that? Are you a Christian?” “Yeah,” I said, and did “Christ say anything about killing people?” And he said, “Did Christ say anything about television? Or guitars?”

To learn more about Lennon and Ono's Bed-Ins, you can visit the 70-minute documentary Bed Peace (below), previously featured on Open Culture and still freely viewable on YouTube:

Related content:

Timothy Leary’s Wild Ride and the Folsom Prison Interview

Beyond Timothy Leary: 2002 Film Revisits History of LSD

Bed Peace Starring John Lennon & Yoko Ono (Free for Limited Time)

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Jean-Luc Godard Takes Cannes’ Rejection of Breathless in Stride in 1960 Interview

It will surprise no one familiar with Jean-Luc Godard and his masterpiece Breathless (À bout de souffle) that the film and its director were invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, months after the movie's release. Maybe more surprising is that Breathless wasn't actually screened at the festival at all, but at a theater nearby on the Rue d’Antibes, and it did not win any awards. (The Palme d’Or that year went to Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In the interview above, Godard—looking both poised and a little annoyed—fields questions from a slightly obnoxious reporter about the exclusion of Breathless and his reputation as a troublemaker.

Despite the Cannes slight, there was no lack of accolades for the film and its director that year. Breathless won the 1960 Prix Jean Vigo, and Godard was named Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival. Developed from a true-crime sketch by Godard's fellow New Wave director François Truffaut, Breathless revolutionized French film in the 60s, giving rise to French New Wave cinema. And it sparked similar “new waves” internationally, directly inspiring the gritty 70s films by American upstarts Brian de Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Dennis Hopper. The film’s lead, Jean-Paul Belmondo, would go on to mega-stardom in French cinema, and he received Cannes’ highest honor for his performance in Breathless more than 50 years after the film’s release. Sadly, Breathless’s female lead Jean Seberg committed suicide in 1979. In a short interview below, also from 1960, she discusses her roles in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan and Godard’s Breathless.

The mercurial Godard—who, now in his eighties, provocatively declares that “film is over”—was initially inspired by radical Marxist politics, and he considered his work an avant-garde reaction against the moribund "Tradition of Quality" in French filmmaking. Breathless was made on a low budget and shot entirely with an Éclair Cameflex hand-held camera to approximate a documentary style—commonplace today in film and television, but in 1960, it made a unique aesthetic statement.

The Criterion Collection edition of Breathless is available for free on hulu.

Bruce Springsteen Singin’ in the Rain in Italy, and How He Creates Powerful Imaginary Worlds

David Brooks, the sage New York Times op-ed writer, begins yesterday's thought piece, The Power of the Particular, with these lines:

They say you’ve never really seen a Bruce Springsteen concert until you’ve seen one in Europe, so some friends and I threw financial sanity to the winds and went to follow him around Spain and France. In Madrid, for example, we were rewarded with a show that lasted 3 hours and 48 minutes, possibly the longest Springsteen concert on record and one of the best. But what really fascinated me were the crowds....

Here were audiences in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula singing word for word about Highway 9 or Greasy Lake or some other exotic locale on the Jersey Shore. They held up signs requesting songs from the deepest and most distinctly American recesses of Springsteen’s repertoire.

The oddest moment came midconcert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, “I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!” Did it occur to them at that moment that, in fact, they were not born in the U.S.A.?

Brooks goes on to explain this phenomenon by introducing the psychological concept of “paracosms,” which describes the creation of powerful fantasy worlds. And he suggests that only the most distinctive artists, the ones who come from a truly particular place, can create this special connection with fans.  Springsteen does just that. But part of his appeal is sometimes his transcendence -- his ability to transcend his own music and embrace the universal spirit of rock 'n roll. Case in point: The Boss singing The Beatles classic "Twist and Shout" in Florence earlier this month. It's raining, raining hard, but did anyone notice?

Thanks to Wired writer Steve Silberman for flagging that clip for us....

Alfred Hitchcock Presents a Chilling Tale by Roald Dahl (1960)

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” From 1955 to 1962, Alfred Hitchcock greeted viewers to his weekly series Alfred Hitchcock Presents with some version of this phrase, in his unmistakable English drawl. After the iconic introductory sequence featuring Hitchcock stepping into a caricature—drawn by himself—of his jowly profile, the veteran director introduced the audience to the week’s episode with a droll monologue written by longtime TV writer James B. Allardice, in which Hitchcock would poke fun at himself, the viewers, and the show’s sponsors. In addition to Allardice, Hitchcock’s series relied on the talents of several well-known writers, including literary names like John Cheever, Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), and, most famously, the much-loved Roald Dahl.

Primarily known for his whimsical, and often quite dark, children’s books (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox), Dahl was also a novelist, screenwriter, and a writer of macabre short stories for adults (he won three Edgars, or mystery writer awards). In 1958, Alfred Hitchcock Presents adapted Dahl’s story “Lamb to the Slaughter.” And, two years later in 1960, Dahl’s story “Man from the South” provided the basis for AHP’s most popular episode (above). The episode stars Steven McQueen as a young man talked into a grisly wager by a mysterious figure named Carlos, played by Peter Lorre. “Man from the South” was adapted several more times in the following years: in 1979 by Dahl himself in a television series called Tales of the Unexpectedagain in the 1985 revival of AHP (starring John Huston as Carlos), and in 1995 as the basis for Quentin Tarantino’s segment in the film Four Rooms. Without a doubt, however, this original adaptation of Dahl’s story remains the most memorable and haunting.

J. David Jones is currently a doctoral student in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

Dick Cavett’s Epic Woodstock Festival Show (August, 1969)

Even if you never tuned in back then, you need only watch a few famous clips of Dick Cavett in action to understand why he earned the reputation of running the first major American talk show that qualified as "cool," "smart," or "hip." His operation showcased some of the most important elements of late-sixties and seventies America, those that the other talk shows tended to ignore, misrepresent, or simply misunderstand. Cavett himself embodied a sensibility, neither strictly frivolous nor strictly high-toned, that allowed him the widest possible cultural range. "The idea that one man could be both playful and serious was never deemed to be quite natural on American television, and Cavett was regarded as something of a freak even at the time," wrote critic and Cavett guest Clive James. "Eventually he paid the penalty for being sui generis in a medium that likes its categories to be clearly marked." For an idea of what that position enabled, just watch Cavett's musical guests: he had Frank Zappa, he had John Lennon, he had Janis Joplin for her final interview.

And then we have the "Woodstock episode." Aired on August 16, 1969, the day after the festival, but taped mere hours after the last notes rang out in Bethel, it brought Cavett together with Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Joni Mitchell. (Jimi Hendrix, though scheduled to show up, played long at the festival and wound up too "zonked" to appear on television.) Specifically, it brought them together on a strikingly elaborate, aggressively colorful one-off set that seated host and guests on a circle of what look like Naugahyde marshmallows. Whatever the aesthetic transgressions of this broadcast's design, they lead to more than one memorable moment in talk-show history, as when Cavett tears off in frustration the tacky scarf his staff insisted he tie on for the occasion. Pull up the Woodstock episode on YouTube for the performances — Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" featuring Crosby, to name two — but stay for the conversation, especially the part when Cavett responds to Grace Slick calling him "Jim" one time too many: "You've got to learn my name, Miss Joplin!"

Related content:

George Harrison in the Spotlight: The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the Dick Cavett Show

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Johnny Depp Recites ‘Chorus 113’ from Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues

In 1995 Johnny Depp made a cameo appearance on an improbable TV mini-series called The United States of Poetry. The series was broadcast on PBS and featured highly stylized vignettes spotlighting a range of poets--Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott, Czeslaw Milosz and Allen Ginsberg to name but a few--along with some famous names better known for their work in other fields--Lou Reed,  Leonard Cohen, Jimmy Carter--in six fast-moving episodes, each tied to a theme. Depp appeared in "Show Five: The Word" to read from a poem by one of his own idols, Jack Kerouac.

In the scene above, Depp reads a selection from Kerouac's 1959 book of improvisational verse, Mexico City Blues: 242 Choruses. "I want to be considered a jazz poet," Kerouac writes in the introduction to the book, "blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday. I take 242 choruses; my ideas vary and sometimes roll from chorus to chorus or from halfway through a chorus to halfway into the next." Here's the chorus Depp reads from:

Chorus 113

Got up and dressed up
         and went out & got laid
Then died and got buried
         in a coffin in the grave,
         Yet everything is perfect,
Because it is empty,
Because it is perfect
         with emptiness,
Because it's not even happening.

Is Ignorant of its own emptiness--
Doesn't like to be reminded of fits--

You start with the Teaching
         Inscrutable of the Diamond
And end with it, your goal
         is your startingplace,
No race has run, no walk
         of prophetic toenails
Across Arabies of hot
         meaning--you just
         numbly don't get there

For more on Johnny Depp's literary interests and Jack Kerouac's literary greatness you can explore the Open Culture archives, beginning with:

Johnny Depp Reads Letters from Hunter S. Thompson

Jack Kerouac reads from On the Road (1959)

Celebrate Jack kerouac's 90th Birthday with Kerouac, the Movie

Nora Ephron’s Lists: “What I Will Miss” and “What I Won’t Miss”

By now, you've almost certainly heard that Nora Ephron, the screenwriter best known for “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally,” died yesterday in Manhattan. She was 71. Her bout with leukemia apparently wasn't widely known, but discerning readers of her 2010 book, I Remember Nothing, could have sensed something was wrong. The book closes with two lists, each revealing on a couple of levels.

What I Will Miss

My kids · Nick · Spring · Fall · Waffles · The concept of waffles · Bacon · A walk in the park · The idea of a walk in the park · The park · Shakespeare in the Park · The bed · Reading in bed · Fireworks · Laughs · The view out the window · Twinkle lights · Butter · Dinner at home just the two of us · Dinner with friends · Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives · Paris · Next year in Istanbul · Pride and Prejudice · The Christmas tree · Thanksgiving dinner · One for the table · The dogwood · Taking a bath · Coming over the bridge to Manhattan · Pie

What I Won’t Miss

Dry skin · Bad dinners like the one we went to last night · E-mail · Technology in general · My closet · Washing my hair · Bras · Funerals · Illness everywhere · Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism · Polls · Fox · The collapse of the dollar · Joe Lieberman · Clarence Thomas · Bar mitzvahs · Mammograms · Dead flowers · The sound of the vacuum cleaner · Bills · E-mail. I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it. · Small print · Panels on Women in Film · Taking off makeup every night

via Showbiz411

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