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Yoko Ono:’still in a state of shock’

The artist tries to cope with the death of John Lennon in her own way

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono during Shanghai Peking Opera Opening at Alice Tully Hall in New York City, New York,1981

Ron Galella/Wireimage/Getty

On the eve of the second anniversary of John Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono released a solo album, ‘It’s Alright,’ and made herself available to the press. One night in early December, sitting shoeless in the “white room” of her Dakota apartment complex in New York City, with John’s old white Steinway piano in one corner and an ancient Egyptian funeral bier in another, Ono chain-smoked Nat Sherman cigarettes and talked about her life today.

One of your new songs is called “Loneliness.” How are you dealing with that condition these days?
Of course there’s a big empty space, and to tell you the truth, I still haven’t gotten over the initial shock. The other side of me seems to have been doing all sorts of things, but I’m still in a state of shock. But I wouldn’t say my life is any lonelier than anybody else’s. I feel the loneliness of many, many people now, so I’m trying to find a method of how we can not be lonely. In the Eighties, it’s not like the Sixties; there’s another way of doing things. This is not the age where flower children can get together, or whatever. Maybe taking the subway is a concern. So what can we do when it’s easier not to move out of your apartment? Well, we can dream it together. So that’s why I dream love— — there’s always a method. Dream power is very strong, and if you all dream together, that’s a very quick way of making something. In a way, we can make it all right together.

Will you spend the rest of your life alone, never have another relationship?
It’s very difficult. At this time, I’m not ready to have a one-to-one relationship in the sense of equal time, you know – being concerned about this person and this person’s career or this person’s neuroses, listening to the person’s childhood, what the mother is like and the father and the brother. I mean, I can’t connect like that with a person, because I’ve got so much to do. Also, I’m still in this apartment where John and I shared a happy life, and everything is as it was – John’s picture is over there, et cetera. It’s not that I’m being Miss Haversham – you know, in Dickens: “Let’s keep everything like the wedding night.” It’s not that. I don’t intend to live as a widow per se, but I don’t seek out that sort of communication at this point. I’m not ready for involvement, let’s put it that way.

What about Sam Havadtoy, your chief aide and frequent escort? Is he just an employee?
He is a friend, and he is also one of the assistants, taking care of quite a few major things in Lenono Music.

Recently, another of your employees allegedly misappropriated some tapes from the archives of John’s unreleased work….
I think it’s unforgivable. Maybe some things were already sold for money, but I still wish that everything will be brought back intact. I hope it isn’t lost forever. I think it’s my responsibility to make a very complete archive of John’s work; it was meant to be carefully sorted out and organized, so I can make sure it is presented right, in a way he would have wanted. It belongs to the world. I think that John must be extremely upset about it.

‘Milk and Honey,’ the sequel to the ‘Double Fantasy’ album, is reportedly going to be released in 1983. What will that be like?
It’s hard to say. I don’t know which way he would have gone with it. Knowing us, he might have gone pretty far. It’s just as with other things that John left – I feel a responsibility that it should come out and be shared by the world. But at the same time, it should be presented in the way that John would have wanted. So maybe the business people might feel rush-rush, you know, but I don’t think the true John Lennon fans will think it has to be rushed. John’s work is something you can hear now or in two years and it still stands, it will still have its meaning. You have to be a little bit patient with me about that.

Is this material that John had completely finished?
It is not completely finished, that much I can say.

Do you feel fifty years old?
Am I fifty now, is that me? Did I skip ten years somewhere? people say, what did you do to keep yourself young? I could tell you I lived pretty roughly. So what is it? I feel like five years old, because it seems like I don’t know anything. So much to learn.

Do you miss the freedom to move around, to travel?
Just recently I went to Paris; I thought I could walk around and of course I couldn’t, so I was stuck in a hotel room most of the time. That could have driven me crazy, but for the past ten years I’ve had very good training, so finally it seems like it’s not bothering me. I feel very comfortable just being in a room.


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