This is part 2 of our exclusive 3-part interview with Dan Richter, assistant to John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono from 1969-1973. Dan Richter has written his memoirs in his book, “The Dream Is Over: London in the 60s, heroin, and John & Yoko” (Quartet, 2011.) (Amazon UK, Amazon US, Quartet Books.)
Read our Introduction: Life with the Lennons: Exclusive interview with personal assistant Dan Richter, author of ‘The Dream is Over’
Life with the Lennons (Pt 1): John & Yoko’s love affair, heroin and the Beatles
Part 2: Dan relived some dramatic events in John and Yoko’s lives during 1971, beginning with the “kidnapping” debacle with Kyoko in Spain in April, which exasperated a major custody battle with Yoko’s ex husband Tony Cox. It’s hard to “imagine”, so to speak, that the legendary Imagine sessions for the album, which appeared so peaceful in the Imagine video, took place at Tittenhurst Park just a month later. Soon after, the Lennons would be in New York—also quite a feat—and a knock-down-drag-out fight between John and Yoko over George Harrison’s Bangladesh concert almost broke them up.
After the divorce from Tony was final in February of 1969, Yoko was eventually awarded full custody of Kyoko after an intense legal battle. But in violation of the court order, Tony disappeared with Kyoko, and John and Yoko discovered he had taken her to Majorca, Spain, where he was in hiding. So in April of ’71 John and Yoko went there to find her.
LE: Explain the kidnapping situation with Kyoko in Palma.
DR: We picked up Kyoko in the town of Manacor, Majorca where she was being hidden by her father Tony Cox. Tony called the Spanish police and John and Yoko were detained. I had gone to the jail in Palma (the Capitol of Majorca) and worked with the attorneys to get John and Yoko out. I then spoke at the press conference (the next day) and got them out of the country. After that situation, John said “You have to start working for us, you’re doing amazing things!” So I finally gave in and said ok; I was more like a manager then.
He (Tony) ran off with Kyoko you know—and no one saw her for years. Tony had said the only person he would allow to see Kyoko was ME. And I flew to Houston to get her, and I ended up in a courtroom! They were trying to get ME arrested! He escaped and disappeared; and never surfaced again–till he ran off with another woman. And then Kyoko called Yoko (1994) and said “Mom, hi!” And she was married and had two little children by then.
(note: In 1971 after the Majorca incident, Tony, Kyoko, and his new wife went to Houston, Texas and joined an evangelical cult-like religious sect. This is when Dan was lured there to pick up Kyoko, only to nearly be arrested. Later Tony disappeared with Kyoko, leaving no trace. John and Yoko never knew where she went. Only years later did it become known that they had gone to California where she attended a school in North Hollywood under a different name. It caused extreme heartache for Yoko.)
LE: What was the true reason they moved to New York? John said he loved New York but I read that it was really because they were trying to find Kyoko, because Tony had taken her to the U.S.
DR: They moved to the states because they were afraid they couldn’t go in and out. They didn’t want to give John visas, and he was getting in on an emergency visa. Tony was in hiding, with Kyoko in the states, knowing it was difficult for (John and Yoko) to come into the country. So they decided to just stay in New York, and just let Ascot go.
What happened was that I had gotten John into St. Thomas (in the Virgin Islands) without a visa. And Tony had flown the coop. We had a custody hearing and he didn’t show up. They wouldn’t give John a visa. I flew him into Antigua, I chartered a small plane and the three of us flew into St. Thomas with no visa.
I called the radio station there and told them John Lennon was about to land, and there was quite a crowd there. And (attorney) Harold Seider was there too. We got a 24-hour emergency visa for John, because they didn’t want the publicity of throwing John Lennon out under these conditions (with the crowds there). So then he decided he better just not leave…so we flew up to NY after the hearing. And we were staying at Park Lane. And that’s where John and Yoko got in a huge fight because she wanted to go on stage for the Bangladesh concert, and he refused to do it!
LE: What exactly happened with the Bangladesh argument? I’ve heard so much about it, especially from May, but she came in after it was over and everything was strewn around. Did you see it happen?
DR: See it?! I was THERE! I was IN the fight! I was fighting too! (laughs) We were in New York, I had gotten John into the country with an emergency visa. George had asked the other Beatles to perform in the show. (The Concert for Bangladesh was held at Madison Square Garden August 1, 1971.
Watch this You Tube video of the performance.
Ringo was going to do Bangladesh, and John and Yoko and I were over at Allen’s office, and John said “I am NOT going to do this.”
Paul was in Europe, but for all John knew, Paul would sneak over on a plane and come on stage, and then it would be a Beatles reunion. And he wanted to make sure there was no possibility that could happen. And Yoko WANTED to go on stage. She didn’t think Paul was going to come over, but from her point of view, she just wanted to be on stage singing with the Beatles! From her perspective, that’s a good career move, you know? (laughs)
John said, “I’m not going on,” and Yoko said, “I’ll go alone then.” And at that point Allen and I said, “You guys have a big problem then because George and Ringo are going to be really uncomfortable then, if you’re on stage and John isn’t there.” (laughs) We went back over to Park Lane, and I got a phone call about 5 in the morning from John saying, “You better get over here.”
And the room was a mess…John had been breaking furniture. He said “You get me out of here, I’m leaving.” And there was a massive storm taking place. I said, “John, number one, no one’s going anywhere until I make sure Yoko’s ok. So I called May and May came over—once I knew May was there to stay with her, I got John out of there in a cab. I said, “You can’t leave, you can’t break up the brand. You’re John and Yoko! If they find out you’re in a fight, and you’ve left for Paris and she’s in NY, that’s not good.” And he said, “I don’t give a f..k, I’m going.” So I put him on a plane to Paris. So I went back in and we went back over to Allen’s, and she still wanted to go on stage! And we said, this can’t be, Yoko, they don’t want you on stage! And you’ve gotta get back with John, and hope the world doesn’t find out you’re in a fight and split up.
So Allen and I prevailed, and Yoko and I flew back to London, and when we got there, there were some flowers from John, and then he arrived.
LE: I remember reading in May’s book that she found John’s crumpled glasses in the waste basket (laughs) and the question has always been, did John break them, or did Yoko?
DR: Hey—(laughs) you know, yeah, they really had a knock-down-drag out fight. I don’t know who broke what. But the room was a mess. And again I was concerned for Yoko, because the thing about John is, he wasn’t a good drinker. He was a bad drunk. He almost killed someone (Bob Wooler) at Paul’s 21st birthday party. Even though he was a gangly, awkward guy, he was a tough fighter. He would fight to the end. So we were always drinking cokes, and smoking dope, rather than drinking. So I was just concerned, and I didn’t know how bad it had gotten. I just wanted to make sure everyone was in one piece.
Life with the Lennons (Pt 3): Nixon deportation threats, tensions, and goodbyes
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