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On the Scene: Of War and Peace… and Music: Larry Kane offers revelations of John Lennon''s life as poet and protester

October 20, 2005 By:
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Larry Kane''s got a ticket to write. It''s been stamped, punched, approved and validated in the best way possible: The broadcaster''s first two books have been best-sellers - one about his love affair with Philly; the other as being the lone ranger on the road accompanying the Beatles on their first American tours in the ''60s.

Now, Lennon Revealed reveals the triptych of a trip Kane has taken since retiring from the local TV anchor scene (albeit not from broadcasting) some years back. He''s hit the road with Abbey Road again, traveling the country promoting his latest effort about how the beat goes on for Beatlemania - notably for John Lennon.

For boomers whose boom-boxes still echo refrains of "Eleanor Rigby" and "Sergeant Pepper''s Lonely Hearts Band," Kane has homed in on the heart of the Beatles, finding rhyme and reason - and occasional madness - in the one longhair often regarded as the Fab Four''s most fabulous poet.

Kane has eclipsed himself with this one. Coming on the heels and hell of the 25th anniversary of Lennon''s death - the day the music died for many who recall the dark chapter in the life of the Dakota in New York City that Dec. 8, 1980 - the legendary broadcaster''s eyewitness news accounts of the best boy band ever is no Band-Aid on their often tumultuous times and scabrous affairs. And his accounts of the composer whose marriage to Yoko Ono broke the yoke that kept the band together is strung through with surprises.

So how was Kane, who, as a young Jewish kid played the accordion, accorded such entree into the daily and delirious lives of the lads from Liverpool?

Against his will, as he tells it now.

"I was a serious news reporter and wanted to do serious news stories," Kane recalls of that day 41 years ago in Miami when he was asked to accompany John, Paul, George and Ringo as they rang up register tills in arenas and stadiums across the country.

"Frankly," he writes, "as a hard-news radio reporter, I would rather have covered a bank robbery than travel with a band - any band."

In a way, he was covering the Jesse James of the rejuvenated music set - or maybe they were the rockin'' Robin Hoods, a quartet of quadraphonic music-makers who stole from the hearts and gave hope to the young.

But the straight-laced reporter went straight to the heart of the matter, especially so in forging a friendship with Lennon, even if such a friendship occasionally meant friendly-fire: "I was always targeted as John''s special victim," he writes, "probably because my straight-laced style, as perceived by John, made me appear vulnerable to him. Or perhaps he liked me so much that he thought I would enjoy mashed potatoes and peas being massaged into my hair … "

Larry Kane, doing the Mashed Potato? The heart quickens.

But, quickly, such frat-boy frenzy would fade to reveal the mensch - and mixed-up genius - behind the music. "He was writing, painting, composing - such a creative genius," says Kane.

And, as with other brilliant creative types during the Age of Aquarius, the Beatles became a sign of their time - if on different planets. "[Paul] McCartney was a world-class commercial entertainer, really good, his work very upbeat," says Kane of the "cute" if solipsistic singer.

But it''s obvious that it was Lennon - "who lived off his insecurities and negative vibes" - who impressed Kane the most, including his engaging interview with the four featured on a DVD included with the book.

"John wasn''t the kind of guy who needed to be on stage," unlike McCartney.

But once he was there, he lit up like a bong. And yet, recounts Kane, if he learned anything about the hot rocker from the hardscrabble origins, it was "that John loved teaching others."

The young Jewish reporter from Miami learned a thing or two, too, hanging out with the hotshots. There was the time, recalls Kane, when he was seated in the front of the plane during the tour and overheard one of the four in the back saying something anti-Semitic. Surprised even at his own guts, the proudly Jewish Kane went back and - shaking, nervous - upbraided the four for such insensitivity and prejudice.

My sweet Lord! Hitting an air pocket of prejudice? Was Lennon the biased Beatle?

No, replies Kane, refusing to acknowledge who actually said the slander. "But John came up to me afterward and wanted to apologize on behalf [of the group], saying nothing was meant by it."

"Look," says Kane, far from condoning the contretemps, just explaining it, "they all grew up in a rough area, and were suddenly thrust into such a huge success. They really hadn''t matured as adults. As [one-time press officer for the band] Tony Barrow said, people are products of their environments."

Not that bashing Jews was a big-time thrill for the Beatles.

"After all," points out Kane, "their manager, Brian Epstein, was Jewish."

Religion didn''t cause any kind of rift after that between the boys and the broadcaster, but Kane and Lennon went to war over Vietnam. "We talked about the draft and politics," recalls Kane. "He thought [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was a dangerous man."

It was a minefield for the rocker and the reporter. And Lennon served up a verbal battle against Kane when the young broadcaster broadcast his own intent to serve his country. "I was lucky enough to get into the Reserves," recalls Kane.

The pacifist John was less than reserved about the revelation. How livid was Lennon?

He offered his own version of "I don''t know why you say good-bye when I say hello": "He offered me a job if I moved to England" and stayed out of the service, says Kane.

Doing … "Maybe working as a publicist for them, a writer."

Right. Lennon, limey, sure. But Kane, quintessentially and proudly American, was not about to go. But the war of words did show how the writer and the singer were not in concert on so many views.

Which Kane wants to make clear: "I didn''t approve of a lot of the way he conducted his life," says the writer of those wrong roads Lennon took manifesting why the mantra of "sex, drugs and rock ''n'' roll" was an organic orgy of urges for the composer.

And yet, despite revelations of Lennon as a man beset by a bad temper and inflamed passions - he once bloody-well kicked and beat the daylights out of one of the true loves of his life, original band member Stuart Sutcliffe - Kane concedes that, in putting together the final chapter of his book, devoted to reminiscences by others, "I couldn''t find anyone to say anything negative about him."

But bad buzz did beset Lennon, dogged as he was by the FBI as an undesirable, with J. Edgar Hoover desiring to keep him out of the country, and by those who saw him only as a guitar-strumming stumblebum of a troublemaker. "But he didn''t see himself as that way," says Kane. "Even in the song, ''Revolution,'' that song is about seeking peace."

A piece of all that is, of course, the way the boys looked - longhair musicians who had nothing to do with the classical sense of the word. And, oh, how the four got snippy when people made cutting remarks about their hair.

"They all hated to be called mop-tops," says Kane.

Top of the verbal assaults on Lennon? He was a flaming radical, a political bomb with a short fuse. But "he was hardly a left-wing extremist. In fact, he was someone who loved cops, and bought bullet-proof vests" as a gift for New York City''s finest.

One of the finest recollections in the book focuses on New York - the Shea Stadium concerts, a field of dreams for fans, held on the turf of baseball''s New York Mets. Some of the less-than-stellar memories are about those dearest to Lennon''s heart.

There are tales of the robust romances with inamorata May Pang ("She is not thrilled with this book," says Kane); first wife Cynthia Lennon (whose own memoir just came out); and, of course, Yoko Ono, the yoyo of good/evil whose yin-yang influence on Lennon infuriated fans.

Kane''s conversations with her for the book were instructive and intriguing, with Ono depicted far more benign than bedeviling. Response from rock''s royalty? Was that a scream - or just her singing? No, just sounds of silence.

"Yoko has not said a word to me" since the book came out.

But silence speaks volumes - of acceptance, even if May "said she felt a tinge of disappointment" in the book.

Writer''s cramps? "If both loved it, I''d be worried," kids Kane of trying to please two of the loves of Lennon''s life.

All ya need is love - and insight: "The book is a different way of looking at a person''s life," Kane says of the format he devised of "12 to 13 themes."

Did Beatles music thread its way through his own young life? "When I first heard ''I Want to Hold Your Hand,'' I thought it was a little bubble-gummy," says Kane. "But the more I heard it, the more I liked it."

What really rocked his world and stood out was "I Saw Her Standing There." Says Kane: "That did it for me."

A Penny Lane for this thoughts now on what Lennon would be like today, if he were alive at age, ironically, 65? A golden-oldie playing … golden-oldies?

"No, not at all. He loved technology," and would have been at the forefront of new sounds.

Kane says he could imagine Lennon diversifying. Imagine … If McCartney''s now into McClassics, what would Lennon do?

From Shea Stadium, home of the Mets, to the … Met: The Beatle of Seville?

Replies Kane: "I could see John composing opera."

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