• A documentary that takes me back 49 years
• When protest was patriotic . . even then
• Sounds like an ESPN 30 for 30: US vs. John Lennon
During the height of the Covid 19 lockdown, when every night brought a new adventure in streaming entertainment, I came across a documentary released in 2006, US vs. John Lennon.
When it was released in 2006, it got good enough notices for me to want to see it, but during its presumably limited engagement in theaters, I missed it. (What I’d give to be able to return to movie theaters, post-coronavirus!)
I watched it on Amazon Prime and found it compelling and resonant. In some grainy black & white footage of an anti-Vietnam War protest a marcher is seen holding a handmade sign reading “Protest is Patriotic,” a sentiment I saw expressed on a sign in at least one of the 2020 civil rights marches on behalf of Black Lives Matter.
The film spans the time from John and Yoko’s bed-ins for peace through their radicalization by the Youth International Party, the Yippies of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. And it details how the Nixon administration targeted Lennon using his immigration status.
Smack in the middle of the doc came footage of the 1971 John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
John and Yoko agreed to participate in the event that protested the jailing of the Michigan activist, Sinclair, who’d been sent to jail for ten years for giving an undercover cop two joints. Black Panther Bobby Seale, Allen Ginsburg and Jerry Rubin were among the speakers. Lennon wrote a song, Ten for Two, and performed it that night.
I was at a tiny radio station in Toledo at the time and got a press pass to cover the event. My pass gave me access to the photo pit at the front of the stage. I’d brought a camera, but was a radio reporter; that didn’t seem to matter. I maneuvered to a spot with just one row of heads in front of me and that let me take a pretty good shot of John and Yoko.
So when I saw the wide shot of the rally in US vs. John Lennon, I could see the area in which I was placed at stage left and roughly calculate the angle I was shooting from. I tried to spot me. No such luck:
I know I must be in there somewhere. Or maybe I had gone to the loo at that point (the concert lasted until 3AM!) But it’s just too blurry. And so was I, most likely.
Why this exercise in nostalgic forensics? This blog’s about me, that’s why.
I am going to see if I can track down the film made entirely about this concert, Ten for Two: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally (1972). After I watch that, you can bet I’ll report back here whether I can be spotted in that one or not. It’s all about me, remember.