Photo: John Lennon signs autograph for Mark David Chapman just hours before the shooting.
STROLLED THE CITY WITHOUT A BODYGUARD
Monday, December 8, 1980 began early for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, writes Michael Kaplan in today’s New York Post.
They ate breakfast at their usual table in their favorite neighborhood restaurant, Café La Fortuna. It was a modest spot, known for Italian pastries. After John’s death, the table was placed in the window as a memento mori.
Morning meal completed, John Lennon slipped out for a haircut. Enjoying the city, he strolled without a bodyguard.
He returned home with his locks styled in the combed-back manner of a Teddy boy, throwing back to his 1950s youth in Liverpool.
Annie Leibovitz, Rolling Stone’s chief photographer, arrived for a cover shoot.
HEAVYSET MAN IN AN OVERCOAT
After Leibovitz left, John and Yoko met with radio host Dave Sholin and producer Laurie Kaye for a free-flowing interview in The Dakota apartment.
Some 90 minutes later, they all headed downstairs.
A small crowd waited outside, hoping to snag autographs. A heavyset young man in an overcoat stood among them, waving a copy of ‘Double Fantasy’ [John and Yoko’s album that had been released in October]. Accommodatingly, the singer wrote, ‘John Lennon, 1980.’
“Is that all?” John asked. “Do you want anything else?”
The man shook his head no. In the midst of this, a photo was snapped by Paul Goresh — an amateur lenser. The image [top photo] captured John Lennon inches away from his assassin Mark David Chapman.
JOHN DECIDES TO HEAD HOME
John Lennon and Yoko then headed off in a car to the Record Plant for a final listen of their new song. They signed off on the recording.
“John was happy that it was going to be Yoko’s single instead of his single,” recalled Sam Ginsberg, an engineer at the Record Plant. “We just finished mixing that song and they left. The one thing that stuck in my mind was John saying, ‘I’m hungry. Should we stop at Wolf’s for a hamburger?’”
But John decided to head home so they could check on their son Sean, Kaplan writes.
Their limousine pulled up to The Dakota’s front gate at around 10:50 p.m.
FOUR HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS
“The car could have gone deeper into the driveway, and they could have stepped out right where the door is,” author Keith Elliot Greenberg reported later. “But he chose to step onto the sidewalk, as he usually did. He liked the fans.”
Chapman was waiting, Kaplan continues. This time, he assumed a combat stance, aimed his .38 Special revolver and shot four hollow-point bullets into the singer’s torso.
Police raced to the scene. Chapman was handcuffed. Two officers carried the dying Lennon to the back of their patrol car. Siren wailing, they roared off to the old Roosevelt Hospital at Ninth Avenue and 59th Street. Yoko followed in a second police vehicle.
Laurie Kaye, who had interviewed John and Yoko earlier in The Dakota, heard a radio report of the shooting. “I raced to hospital,” she said. “I looked through the window and saw Yoko inside. She was crying. I knew, at that moment, that John was dead.”