NEW YORK STORIES: How this hastily shot image of John Lennon became an enduring symbol of freedom
Who knows what Strom Thurmond had against the Beatles, but the senator from South Carolina certainly knew how to make John Lennon’s life miserable. On Feb. 4, 1972, the 69-year-old, anti–Civil Rights agitator wrote a few lines to Attorney General John Mitchell and President Richard Nixon’s aide, William Timmons, which would end up threatening Lennon with deportation and entangling him in legal limbo for almost four years.
“This appears to me to be an important matter, and I think it would be well for it to be considered at the highest level,” Thurmond wrote. “As I can see, many headaches might be avoided if appropriate action can be taken in time.”
Thurmond attached a one-page Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report explaining that Lennon appeared to be a threat to Republican interests, particularly their desire to re-nominate Nixon at the San Diego convention that coming summer. Citing a New York Times article and an unidentified informant, the report explained that Lennon was friendly with various left-leaning political activists, including Yippie leader Jerry Rubin. The leftists had gathered in New York and discussed the possibility of Lennon appearing at concerts on college campuses to promote voter registration, marijuana legalization and bus trips to the Republican convention for throngs of willing protesters.
In reality, while Lennon, then 31, spoke his mind about many political issues, he always felt that, as a British citizen, he shouldn’t endorse or attack individual U.S. candidates, says his friend, photographer Bob Gruen. Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono strove never to be negative. “They weren’t anti-war. They were pro-peace,” Gruen says. “They weren’t against a politician, they were for voting.”
NEW YORK STORIES: “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” cover immortalizes a budding Greenwich Village love story
If you walk along Jones Street in Greenwich Village, facing W. Fourth Street with Bleecker Street at your back, you’ll find yourself in the exact spot where Bob Dylan was captured on the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” in 1963. To experience it like Dylan did, you should go in the fading light of a February afternoon, dirty slush on the streets and a VW van parked against the curb. You should wear a suede jacket, too thin for the cold, and have your first real love braced against your arm. Around the corner, your $60-a-month apartment should await you, where you sometimes write songs — some to this first love on your arm — songs that would make you legendary the world over.
The photograph from “Freewheelin’ ” captures Suze Rotolo and Bob Dylan at a time when they lived on the cheap, wearing thrift-store or handmade clothes, mining second-hand book and record stores, slipping into neighborhood theaters and clubs easily accessed by friends with power over guest lists. Just around the corner on Sixth Avenue and Bleecker Street, Zito’s bakery gave out free hot bread to night owls. Grit mixed with glamour. A little farther on and to the east, a butcher on Bleecker and Thompson offered chickens for slaughter, then boiled them free of feathers. Four blocks north, the House of Detention prisoners yelled and catcalled from their exercise roof.
At three in the morning on Wednesday, June 21, 1871, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi made his way up to the deck of the Pereire, hoping to catch his first glimpse of America. The weather had favored the sculptor’s voyage from France, and this night proved no exception. A gentle mist covered the ocean as he tried in vain to spot the beam of a lighthouse glowing from the new world.
After eleven days at sea, Bartholdi had grown weary of what he called in a letter to his mother his “long sojourn in the world of fish.” The boat had been eerily empty, only forty passengers on a ship meant to carry three hundred. He passed his days playing chess and watching the heaving log that measured the ship’s speed. “I practice my English on several Americans who are on board. I learn phrases and walk the deck alone mumbling them, as a parish priest recites his breviary.”
These onboard incantations were meant to prepare Bartholdi for the greatest challenge of his career. The thirty-six-year-old artist intended to convince a nation he had never visited before to build a colossus.