How not to write a biography

(This is in part taken from the 2,000+ word review I wrote for Albert Goldman’s sleazy The Lives of John Lennon for my old Angelfire site in about 2003 or 2004.)

2 stars

This lengthy piece of tripe gets that many stars only because, as horrible and inaccurate it is, it made for very engrossing and quick reading, and was interesting, lively, peppered with dialogues and scene descriptions, and wasn’t some dull lifeless biography. It also includes things other of John’s biographers haven’t gone much into depth on, like Yoko’s early life, her custody battle for her daughter Kyoko, and her art shows. That said…

I adored this book at 14. I positively wolfed it down. Every negative story or anecdote only made me respect him even more, knowing he’d had so many problems yet overcome them. Knowing, or at least thinking, he’d done these things only served to increase his hero status for me; he was just an ordinary human being with plenty of faults, not some sort of demigod. And believe them I did, until…

In 2001, I was looking at an old edition of People. A lot of people were saying a lot of it wasn’t true. I was stunned, and kind of disappointed that all these stories I’d believed in and treasured for years were nothing more than utter horse shit.

I was too dumb at 14 to understand why it was so terrible. For example, a lot of the scenes involve John sitting and contemplating by himself. How the hell was Goldman able to know what went on in his head when he was alone?! There’s also no reason for Goldman to know what was going on in a quiet family scene if he wasn’t even there and John never wrote about it in his diary or shared with an interviewer!

John was not bisexual. The scenes of him and Brian Epstein in bed together in Spain are horse shit. Goldman wasn’t there either! John was always very frank in interviews, and I believe when he said that indeed it was a very intense friendship, Brian really did have a crush on him, but it was never consummated. Given how honest he always was, why would he lie about something as important as that?

Everyone also knows John was an extremely devoted, loving daddy to Sean, just pouring out the love he’d been unable to fully give to Julian as a boy, the love his own daddy denied him his whole life. I find it sickening I even would’ve believed for even one nanosecond the horse shit Goldman spewed about how John was beating Sean. He also claims John threw the family cat down the hallway when John adored the cat.

John never did as many drugs as Goldman claims. Of course he did do a lot of drugs back in the Sixties (who the hell didn’t?), but he goes on to say that he was still doing drugs, heroin and cocaine in particular, well into the Seventies, and that he and Yoko had to undergo some very expensive withdrawal surgery for their drug problems. Unsubstantiated. John said he didn’t like heroin that much and was scared of it after too many bad experiences!

I’m also wondering if all the stories about The Lost Weekend are true. A lot of wild, scary stuff did go down then, but given all his other lies, I’m wondering if they’re not just exaggerations. Goldman also puts words in John’s mouth, like saying anti-Semitic things about Elliot Mintz, who was one of his best friends in America.

I’ve since found out that John said he had a very nice childhood, was always fed, well-dressed, and taken care of by his aunt and uncle. Sure it was naturally traumatising to lose his mother twice, once at age four when she dumped him with her sister, and again at 17 when he was just reestablishing a relationship with her, in addition to his lowlife deadbeat dad who ran out on them when he was just a boy, but it’s not like his aunt was beating him and constantly verbally abusing him like Goldman makes it out. He had a very comfortable childhood overall.

Goldman can’t keep the facts straight. One such example is when he “describes Yoko as a careful Oriental cook, then in another section says she couldn’t even cook rice without burning it.” Many of his sources are people who either didn’t like John or were dismissed from his inner circle for bad behaviour, like May Pang and Fred Seaman. Time has also since shown that Goldman did not, as he pathetically claimed, conduct all those thousand-plus interviews for this teeming shitfest.

Was Goldman there to know John followed Yoko around like a hawk when she was pregnant with Sean, even following her into the bathroom?! I also highly doubt he beat her because he wanted a daughter and was pissed Yoko was getting a bit too old to get pregnant again without massive efforts.

Everyone who was close to John has said this book is a pure pack of lies. I was too innocent to realise Goldman was trying to make John and Yoko seem like the two wicked witches of the West. He even insinuated that John was anorexic, and ended the first chapter with him in the bathroom trying to throw up from both drugs and bulimia. It really kills me how so many times Goldman tells us what John’s private thoughts were, esp. when he was all alone or never audibly expressed those thoughts to his audience.

At least he’s not Geoffrey Guiliano.

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One comment on “How not to write a biography

  1. An inaccurate biography isn’t worth reading. John had an interesting enough life – why make up stuff?

    Like

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