This is a selective list of the major sources. I usually just name and link to the sources as they arise, and will continue to do so for those not appearing here. But in this case, I thought it best to discuss the nature of these sources, since they are all problematic for one reason or another—one extremely so. In fact that source is so problematic, that I won’t mention it until later on in the series, where I can put all of its weaknesses into a proper context before explaining what I am looking at within it.
Bresler, a highly respected attorney and legal journalist before the publication of this book, barred no holds when examining the possibility that Lennon’s death could have resulted from the machinations of US and/or UK Intelligence. While some have blasted this work as “conspiracy theory,” Bresler does well to establish a prima facie case for this scenario. Although he could never prove the hypothesis beyond that, Bresler established motive means and opportunity. What he fails to do is provide a solid link at the most critical points. There are also extremely faulty assumptions here that hamper what the author attempts to show.
Brussell, Mae, producer and host. 1980. “John Lennon.” Episodes 471-473, World Watchers. Originally aired December 14, 21 & 28, KLRB (Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA).
Mae’s early look into the affairs of Mark Chapman contain a few minor gaffes, mostly because she was reporting the coverage of the murder in situ, before other researchers could clarify some of the points (e.g., she said that prosecutors erroneously presented evidence that belonged to another man also named Mark David Chapman when the man's name was actually William Alan Chapman).
Otherwise, she raised pertinent questions in 1980 that still haunt this case today. Among other things, she paid close attention to Mark Chapman’s movements prior to the murder. As an informant of Fenton Bresler, Mae’s original research finds good representation in his 1988 book (see above), although Bresler did an excellent job of confirming, contextualizing, and following up on her original tips.
As the last Beatle to work with and see Lennon alive, Starr, and his wife Barbara Bach, have been linked to specific conspiracy tangents. Clayson offers a much more mundane and compelling explanation of these events and their contexts.
A brilliant scholarly look into the semiotics of Lennon’s murder, written by an associate professor of communications (University of Utah). Builds a careful argument based on media studies which will provide an important framework to this series.
Gaines, Jim. 1987. “The Man Who Shot Lennon.” People Weekly 27(Feb 23):58-60+. _______.1981. “Descent into Madness.” People 15(Jun 22):69-71.
Fenton Bressler referred extensively to these two articles, for they really depict Mark Chapman as a dangerous, loner, psychotic madman.
This book contains important and accurate information concerning issues of time and motion. Some have criticized Jones for (1) painting a too flattering portrait of Chapman, and (2) for feeding Chapman’s narcissism by making him the star of a famous book. I would add that some of his armchair psycho-social analyses aren’t very good. Nevertheless, he deserves credit and consideration for the parts of the book that are valid.
Dr. Wiener, a history professor (University of California at Irvine), has spent decades gathering, organizing and seeking declassified files on John Lennon. Through him, we have come to know that the interest in Lennon by US and UK Intelligence was not perfunctory or imaginary, but instead extensive and all too real.
Two curious notes: (1) as a researcher, Yoko Ono endorsed his efforts; (2) he also referred Fenton Bresler to Mae Brussell.
Spiro, Officer Steve—NYPD patrolman; partner of Officer Peter Cullen.
Stone, Dr. Marvin (?)*—One of two court-appointed psychiatrists to examine Mark Chapman. Colleague of Dr. Naomi Goldstein.
Sullivan, Allen—New York County Deputy Prosecutor. Informant to Fenton Bresler.
Thurmond, Senator Strom—US Senator (R-NC); ardent enemy of John Lennon.
Welsh, Franklin—Eyewitness to Lennon murder.
Wolf, Janice—Investigative reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser.
_____________ *When double-checking Dr. Stone's background, I couldn’t find any further reference to him, although references to his colleague, Dr. Goldstein, are abundant. I’m thinking that this person might actually be Dr. Michael Stone, who matches the description given by Bresler of a forensic psychiatry professor teaching at Columbia University. Moreover, Columbia’s website only references Dr. Michael Stone, with no mention of a Dr. Marvin Stone. If either of these men can clarify this point, I would be most appreciative.
Abe, George—Father-in-law and benefactor of Mark Chapman. Father of Gloria Abe Chapman.
Alderberg, Herbert—Mark Chapman’s first attorney.
Blankenship, Harold—Friend of Mark Chapman. Father of Jessica Blankenship, husband of June Blankenship. Acquaintance of Dana Reeves Informant to Fenton Bresler.
Blankenship, Jessica—Former beau and classmate of Mark Chapman. Daughter of June and Harold Blankenship. Acquaintance of Dana Reeves. Informant to Fenton Bresler.
Blankenship, June—Friend of Mark Chapman. Mother of Jessica Blankenship, wife of Harold Blankenship. Acquaintance of Dana Reeves. Informant to Fenton Bresler.
Carlson, Patricia—Hawaii-based art dealer.
Chapman, David—Father of Mark Chapman, ex-husband of Diane Chapman. Father-in-law of Gloria Abe Chapman.
Chapman, Diane (aka Kathryn Chapman)—Mother of Mark Chapman, mother-in-law of Gloria Abe Chapman.
Chapman, Gloria Abe—Travel agent. Wife of Mark Chapman, daughter of George Abe.
Chapman, Mark—Security guard, general laborer, amateur musician, YMCA counselor, art collector. Husband of Gloria Abe Chapman, son of Diane Chapman, grandson of Grandma, son-in-law of George Abe. A devotee of writer J.D. Salinger, he identified strongly with the author’s fictional character, Holden Caufield. Former beau of Jessica Blankenship. Friend of June and Harold Blankenship, Dana Reeves, and Rev. Charles McGowan. Friend and underling of David Moore. Acquaintance of Paul Goresh, Jerryl Moll, Dr. Lee Salk and Jude Stein. Client of “Anne Jones,” Herbert Alderberg and Jonathan Marks.
Chapman, Susan—Daughter of David and Diane Chapman, sister of Mark Chapman, and sister-in-law of Gloria Abe Chapman.
Caulfield, Holden—Fictional character created by J.D. Salinger. Protagonist of Catcher in the Rye.
Goresh, Paul—Store detective and photographer. Acquaintance of Mark Chapman.
Grandma—Specifically, Chapman’s grandmother. Despite his eight years of case investigation, Fenton Bresler could not so much as identify her, much less locate her. Considering her importance to this story, the inability to identify her seems interesting.
Hendrix, Rev. Newton—Childhood friend of Mark Chapman.
Jones, Anne—Pseudonym of Mark Chapman’s psychiatric social worker at Waikiki Counseling Clinic. Informant to Jim Gaines and Fenton Bresler. Despite the fact that her real name was published in contemporary media sources, it is (astonishingly) not that visible on the Internet in connection with this story, as far as I can tell. Because of the hardship that previous publicity caused this individual, I will continue to use the alias provided by Bresler.
Marks, Jonathan—Mark Chapman’s second attorney.
McGowan, Rev. Charles—Minister. Pastor and friend of Mark Chapman.
Moll, Jerryl (Jerri)—Fan of John Lennon. Friend of Jude Stein; acquaintance of Mark Chapman and Paul Goresh.
Moore, David—YMCA executive. Mark Chapman’s supervisor and friend.
Reeves, Dana (aka Gene Scott)—Deputy Sheriff, DeKalb County, GA. Friend, mentor and benefactor of Mark Chapman. Acquaintance of Jessica, June and Harold Blankenship. Informant to Fenton Bresler.
Rundgren, Todd—Musician, formerly of The Nazz. Long-time idol of Mark Chapman. Adversary of John Lennon.
Salinger, J.D.—Writer, author of Catcher in the Rye. Creator of the fictional character Holden Caufield.
Salk, Dr. Lee—Psychologist, researcher and author. Interviewed Chapman in prison.
Stein, Jude—Fan of John Lennon. Friend of Jerri Moll; acquaintance of Mark Chapman and Paul Goresh.
Bach, Barbara—Actress, wife of Richard Starkey. Acquaintance of Yoko Ono.
Cosell, Howard—Attorney and sportscaster. Acquaintance of John Lennon.
Cox, Kyoko—Daughter of Yoko Ono, stepdaughter of John Lennon. Half-sister of Sean Lennon.
Fawcett, Anthony--John Lennon's former personal assistant, and old friend.
Geffen, David—Artist manager and record industry executive; founder of the Elektra and Geffen labels. Friend and business associate of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Hair, Marnie—Neighbor of Yoko Ono and of John and Sean Lennon. Informant to Albert Goldman.
Harrison, George—Musician, formerly of the Beatles. Friend and bandmate of John Lennon. Acquaintance of Yoko Ono.
Krassner, Paul—Journalist and humorist. Friend of Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Mae Brussell.
Lennon, John Ono—Musician, formerly of the Beatles. Husband and bandmate of Yoko Ono, father of Sean Lennon, stepfather of Kyoko Cox. Bandmate and friend of J. Paul McCartney, Richard Starkey and George Harrison. Friend of Linda Eastman McCartney, and Elliot Mintz. Lover of May Pang. Acquaintance of Howard Cossell, and Ronald Reagan. Worked with, and a friend of David Geffen. Acquaintance and benefactor of Mae Brussell. A friend and benefactor of Paul Krassner. Ally of John Sinclair. Adversary of Todd Rungrenn.
Lennon, Sean—Musician; son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Half-brother of Kyoko Cox.
McCartney, Sir J. Paul—Musician, formerly of the Beatles. Friend and former professional partner of John Lennon. Has maintained a rather contentious relationship with Yoko Ono. Husband of Linda Eastman McCartney.
McCartney, Linda Eastman—Photographer & musician, formerly of Wings. Wife of Paul McCartney. Friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Mintz, Elliot—Close friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Ono, Yoko—Musician and artist. Wife and bandmate of John Lennon. Mother of Sean Lennon and Kyoko Cox. Friend of Paul Krassner, David Geffen, Richard Starkey and Elliot Mintz. Friend and employer of May Pang. Acquaintance of J. Paul McCartney, Linda Eastman McCartney, George Harrison, and Mae Brussell.
Pang, May—Friend and employee of Yoko Ono. Mistress of John Lennon.
Perdomo, Jose—Cuban-born security guard stationed outside the Dakota. Eyewitness to the shooting.
Reagan, Ronald Wilson—US President; acquaintance of John Lennon.
Seaman, Fred—John Lennon’s personal assistant.
Sinclair, John—Political activist and prisoner. Ally of John Lennon.
Starkey, Richard (aka Ringo Starr)—Musician, formerly of the Beatles. Friend and bandmate of John Lennon. Friend of Yoko Ono. Husband of Barbara Bach.
Despite my scholarship, I still needed money during my first semester of college. So, I took a job as a campus switchboard operator. Generally, I worked really boring shifts (Sunday mornings, Monday nights), where I might get maybe five to ten calls per hour on a busy day.
A shame, too. With two banks of twenty connections each, I was loaded for bear--especially on a tiny campus with a live-in population of about 800.
One Monday night, I had settled in with a good book, anticipating yet one more shift of tedium. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I got, until suddenly, almost all eight hundred spaces lit up at once. I first thought that something had gone wrong with the console. Worse, I feared getting the blame for it. But when randomly plugging a connection into one of the calls, a terse, feminine voice from one dorm asked me to plug her into the room of another. I then fielded a call from an outside line. Another voice, another request. Time and again, I plugged in to find that someone urgently wanted to talk to someone else. Within a couple of minutes, I’d used up all forty connections, and still hadn’t made an appreciable dent in accommodating the traffic. I took my own, dedicated operator’s line. Starting from the top left, and working my way down, I plugged in, and explained that I had maxed out my lines. I asked the party to call again in a few minutes, and pulled the plug out again without waiting for a response, all the while patching in fresh calls as old ones terminated.
It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing was wrong with that console. Something really big had happened. Alone at the front desk, I couldn’t even guess. Half an hour, forty-five minutes later, things had quieted down some, although I still frantically pulled and plugged.
One of the dorm head residents dropped by the office to complete some paperwork and turn it in. I didn’t have time to talk to him at first, but eventually I got a short breather.
“What’s happened?” I asked.
The HR, looking down on his paperwork, calmly, emotionlessly said, “John Lennon’s been shot.”
“John Lennon? Are you sure?”
He placed his report in the inbox muttering, “Howard Cosell just said so on Monday Night Football.”
“Is he dead?”
For the first time, the HR glared at me, his face red, his voice struggling against rage. “Of course, he’s dead,” he spat back, his contempt at the question raw and sore. “He got shot didn’t he?”
At the time, I couldn’t understand his anger. After all, I didn’t kill John Lennon. And people survive shootings, just as rumors of celebrity deaths often turn out false. I couldn’t fathom the level of his grief, either. To me, it’s sad when anyone dies, so I could understand some distress. But it seemed wrong for someone to mourn so profoundly over somebody he never met—unless the decedent had a tangible, identifiable impact on the mourner’s life (e.g., a political or social leader).
Of course, that might have been the point. What seemed to me a sad situation constituted “such a loss” (his words) for the ex-Beatle. The HR took the shooting personally. Lennon must have had some impact on his life, as if he were a political leader or figure. In fact, shortly after Lennon’s death, people referred to it as an ‘assassination,' which I found equally curious. I couldn’t figure out what political ramifications his death might have had.
I also wondered why someone would lionize John Lennon in the first place. Okay, he’s famous. His death meant the effective death of the Beatles—who, for ardent fans, seemed always on the verge of a reunion. But from what I knew of him, the man was something of a flake. In his famous 1984 interview with Rolling Stone, Little Richard spoke about the naked hatred Lennon had for him personally because of his homosexuality and race—a hatred not shared by bandmates George Harrison, Paul McCartney or Pete Best. Then, of course, there was Albert Goldman’s massive 1988 biography, The Lives of John Lennon, which I read in grad school. It depicted Lennon as a psychotically violent and narcissistic hypocrite—and that seemed reasonable to me.
My understanding of Lennon changed after a few years in New York, largely in part due to the number of friends and acquaintances who had personal contact with him on the streets of Manhattan. The image they painted of him stood in stark contrast to Goldman’s portrait. Granted, people often speak favorably of the dead, especially people they’ve met. Nevertheless, I could begin to fathom the high public esteem for the man. My informants characterized him, in a sense, as the anti-celebrity, a famous person who didn’t act as though he were anyone special.
In time, although I can’t say that I ever became a fan, I would develop a deeper appreciation of the man and his accomplishments. After all, people do grow and change for the better. And after becoming involved with cultural studies, and doing more research, I began to see the political implications of Lennon’s life, and death. Thus, the term ‘assassination’ seemed possibly accurate.
During the course of developing this X. Dell alter ego that I have taken on, I also began to question the conventional wisdom surrounding the case. As the Twentieth Century drew to a close, I began to consider the possibility that John Lennon’s murder was the result of a conspiracy.