GIULIANO IN CONVERSATION
The Long & Winding Road From
‘THE BEATLES / A CELEBRATION’ TO ‘LENNON IN AMERICA’
The World Beatles Forum – Volume Five, Number Two – Sept. / Oct. 2000
Conducted via telephone Thursday, July 27, 2000
The Joan River’s Show 1991
FROM THE INTERVIEW
“I have spent the better part of my life chronicling the life and times of The Beatles as very, very human beings, trying to set the record straight, as far as I can as an outsider, as to who these people were – and with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the myth. It’s much more magical this incredible, unparalleled, fantastic work emanated from four, very fallible human beings, than four demigods who touched down from planet Dingdong to save us from ourselves, time, and decay. It’s stupid. They’re just people. That the fans apparently don’t want to hear that makes me fear for their state of mind.”
“Yoko-or “Mommy”, as Lennon called her towards the end of his life, ran interference between John and the world. That however, soon turned into something far more sinister, which isolated John keeping him a virtual prisoner in the Dakota – a bird in a gilded cage. Just because he was a great musician, lyricist, clever social commentator and erstwhile pop philosopher, doesn’t mean John was either emotionally healthy or any kind of demigod. What makes Lennon so interesting is the realization (after twenty years gone from this world) was that he was so weak, so fragile, so made of glass, so very susceptible. Sadly, he found someone who took full advantage of his teetering emotional state, and thus, Yoko Ono Lennon continues to milk that fucking cash cow dry to this very day.”
“The problem doing damage control with me is I’ve got a big mouth, and I’m too dumb to be afraid.”
“How come there isn’t a John Lennon Hospital? If Ono wants to sell Beatle barbeque aprons and baby booties, she could at least give the money to the John Lennon Liver Cancer Hospital or something. Judge the tree by the fruit, and the fruit of Beatle worship is a lot of smarmy self-indulgence. A lot of these Beatle people are lost souls who don’t need to be. If they just try to take The Beatles’ and John Lennon’s work at the highest level, they could really do something great.”
“I’m a recovering Beatleholic. I encourage everybody to get on a 12-step program away from all addiction. My daughter once said to me, “Don’t think just because you don’t take drugs, you’re not an addict. You’re addicted to work. You’ve written thirty books in less than ten years. You’re just hiding in your work.”
“There are many people who love my work. I get that all the time, but I get the other side too! The reason I don’t talk much about people who like it is that they’re not as sick. They don’t need as much help. I feel sorry for people who are obsessed with The Beatles. Are you obsessed with The Beatles?”
“When the first copy of ‘The Beatles: A Celebration’ came in the post from the publisher I cried. Then when my second book, ‘John Lennon: My Brother’ came, I got a little teary-eyed. Now, I don’t even open the damn package. I just throw it in the corner and there they sit. After you’ve written like 20, 30 books, the bloom is off the rose. It’s not such a big deal. I’m tired of writing. I can’t keep fooling around with the Beatles forever!”
Geoffrey Giuliano – you either love him or hate him! Some Beatles fans love to hate him, citing he not only distorts the truth, but makes up stories that taint the image of The Beatles. His many supporters believe that he refreshingly tells the story as it really happened. In this controversial interview, we present Giuliano as he’s never been seen – warts and all.
Giuliano At His Lockport Riverside Mansion With Sheepdog, “Pupsy” 1999
Geoff Franklin (GF): Geoffrey you knew going in that Lennon In America would raise eyebrows. Has it created more or less controversy than you expected?
Geoffrey Giuliano (GG): The book didn’t get the media play I suspected it might or felt it should. I believe that’s a direct result of a whispering campaign to various obvious media venues by persons who have a vested, continuing business interest to see that the Lennon Estate continues to do business unimpeded by the likes of me. We didn’t get things I was sure we would get – venues like Entertainment Tonight; Inside Edition – these kinds of shows did not pick it up. I’ve done business with most of these shows over the years on various books and I know exactly the kind of thing they’re looking for. It is my suspicion, that rather than confront me too much, publicly, which then calls for rebuttal and maybe stirs the thing up, so one gets more publicity, it’s easier to give a call to your buddy who’s the executive producer . . . and keep whoever you want off by promising them something in the future.
GF: And this would be people in Yoko’s camp?
GG: Yes, people like Elliot Mintz. That’s what I think happened. I certainly can’t prove it did. But, it’s what I would do, if I was in their shoes – it’s easy to do. He’s a major PR person in Los Angeles. He’s got ongoing relationships with those people. It didn’t get the play I thought it was going to get. And the play it got wasn’t on a very high level. They just picked out less than a handful of sensational bits from the book and ran them into the ground without background or regard to their importance, position in the book, or indeed any further commentary from me. They took comments from Elliot Mintz, Harry Nilsson’s lawyer and Yoko’s white glove lawyer . . . and they put them down as gospel, as though they were somehow carved in stone. I wasn’t impressed with that. But, it’s par for the course for the media. The American media certainly isn’t very deep. They’re just looking for sound bites, so they just did a slash and burn on the book. The problem is that the book isn’t really what all that is about. Yes, there are those elements which are sensational. They have to do with sex, drugs, troubled marriages, emotional upsets and the inner landscapes of John’s mind. So, I understand how people would want to pick on those, but they’ve missed the point of the work. Now, we don’t expect the media to get the point of anything. I’m pretty cynical about them. They just squeezed out what play they could and moved on. But, I feel really badly . . . that these ardent, hardcore, year-after-year, decade-after-decade Beatles fans, are very closed minded people who have formed their world around them and refuse to allow anything as trivial as reality to intervene . . .
GF: . . . meaning that they don’t want the myths of their icons exploded . . .
GG: Yes, and I think that’s an extremely dangerous way to live, and so, by the way, did John Lennon. These people need to get a life!
GF: Okay, so the media missed the point. What about the readers?
GG: I got a lot of emails from people. Some of them got it, absolutely, which is, “Hey, you really have a lot of affection for John, and thank you for trying to go out on a limb the way you have, personally, to bust the many myths surrounding John.” I tried to give this man humanity . . . There was a review called, Lennon Dismembered. But, I feel it should be more Lennon Resurrected, because I was trying to give the humanity and a reality to him he deserves. I absolutely have the greatest respect for John Lennon. I cannot however, abide Yoko Ono. I think she’s just a very manipulative, cold, untalented, overambitious, money grubbing gold digger. I could go on and on with adjectives . . .
Geoffrey with the McCartneys, London 1983.
GF: Back in 1981, your relationship with Yoko was very different . . .
GG: It wasn’t really. I did a couple of interviews with her. I was up there, socially . . . one time . . .maybe two times for business.
GF: You had photos taken with Yoko and Sean.
GG: Those were photo ops. People shouldn’t read too much into that.
GF: So, you were never friends, then?
GG: We were never . . . no, no. I don’t think Yoko has the capacity to be a friend to anybody . . .
GF: Did you realize this from the first time you met her, or did it take some time to develop that opinion?
GG: Before I met her I understood she was a highly manipulative human being and I think it is very unfortunate John Lennon ever got involved with Ono. I really think it was his downfall. As someone said to me, “Hey, if it wasn’t for Yoko Ono, we wouldn’t have great music like Imagine.” And I said, “That’s true, but we might have had about thirty more years of Beatles music!”
GF: So, the book got the notice of Yoko and all the damage control that you surmise she was probably the leader in . . .
GG: The problem doing damage control with me is I’ve got a big mouth, and I’m too dumb to be afraid.
GF: Are you afraid of being sued by her?
GG: I would be delighted to be sued by Yoko. I’m sure it would do wonders for my career. They tried to do the same thing to me, the Beatles fans they did to John, trying to make me this one dimensional, cardboard cut-out . . . [that] I’m an evil, terrible person. On the Internet, somebody said I was worse than Mark David Chapman. All I can do is laugh, because this is not at all who I am. I have spent the better part of my life chronicling the life and times of The Beatles as very, very human beings, trying to set the record straight, as far as I can as an outsider, as to who these people were – and with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the myth. I think it’s much more magical that this incredible, unparalleled, fantastic work emanated from four, very fallible human beings, rather than four demigods who touched down from planet Dingdong to save us all from ourselves, time, and decay. It’s just stupid. They’re just people. And, the fans just apparently don’t want to hear that makes me fear for their state of mind.
GF: Was it a difficult decision to dissect him and reveal some of the things about John that obviously flies in the face about what we thought we knew about the man?
GG: You have to understand that this book has very little to do with me. Why do I say that? All of this bullshit about the diaries not being real, that is all a fuckin’ smoke screen, smear campaign – garbage. These are John Lennon’s diaries. There is zero question of that . . .
GF: . . . these are the unadulterated diaries . . .
GG: Absolutely, the full thing . . .
GF: . . . not the Fred Seaman ones?
GG: I have John Lennon’s diaries from 1975 through 1979. I do not now, and have never had nor have I ever seen the missing 1980 diary . . .
GF: . . . not the Robert Rosen versions?
GG: Absolutely not!
GF: So, can you tell us how you obtained these?
GG: Everybody knows the story. It’s like an urban myth. I got them from Harry Nilsson. I don’t think we should waste the interview with that, if you forgive me. I wrote the book from John Lennon’s genuine diaries. I wrote the book from a two-inch stack of photocopied letters in John’s writing and typed by John, augmented by his handwriting I got from his Liverpool family members and other business associates who gave me copies of letters John had sent to them. I also have what I think is far more shocking than any of the aforementioned. I have some audio tapes of John and Yoko talking about some very bizarre things concerning their sex lives and all that in minute detail that absolutely no one has ever heard. These have not been out. I don’t even know if Yoko has them. I was able to use only a very small part of these tapes in the book and I look forward to using them as part of the basis of my next book which is called Revolution: The Secret History Of The Beatles. Again, I’m fighting this high-priced tidal wave of spin that’s put out by The Beatles, Apple and now the fans – you know, they get behind it, to tell the truth about The Beatles. If anybody thinks The Beatles Anthology [book] is going to be kind of the final word on the reality of The Beatles and their contributions to the world and themselves as people, then they are obviously very susceptible to being hoodwinked, because that’s going to be nothing but a $67.00, multi-color . . . piece of fluff, put out to scratch the egos of three old men . . . I’m hoping, at least, there’ll be some good pictures, but if anybody think there’s going to be anything revelatory in The Beatles Anthology . . . there ain’t. Therefore, I’m writing my next book.
GF: And you have more revelatory stories?
GG: Oh, absolutely.
GF: More shocking stories?
GG: I don’t know if they’re shocking. Is [oral sex] shocking? Not in my world . . . Is drug taking shocking? Are people who are weak, tortured and tormented shocking? What kind of grade school world are people living in, here? The world I understand, that I live in, and I thought we all lived in has [oral sex], drug shooting, extra marital . . . whatever . . . embezzlement, fraud, and also the other side, good things, happy things, nice things, children, sunshine. But, we’re adults. I just can’t believe people are so easily shocked. So, when you say shocking, I don’t know. . . Listen, the money’s not that good with these books, believe me. And, there are other things I want to do. I’m 46. I want to make TV documentaries. I want to act. I want to be involved with spiritual endeavors. The last thing I would do is waste my time on something untrue. I’m the loose cannon, the lone wolf. I’m the guy who takes all the abuse from people. I’m everybody’s whipping boy for telling the truth. It’s not so hard on me. I just kind of feel sorry for people who are inspired to do that.
GF: Let’s talk about the British edition of Lennon In America. I understand it’s going to contain about thirty more pages. What information is missing from its North American counterpart?
GG: That’s right. I had to write this [book] very quickly, admittedly, to whip Robert Rosen’s ass, which I did profoundly. I got out a month or something before him and took all the sales. I do this for a living, folks. I write books so they’ll be informative, entertaining and be part of a body of work, but, also to make money, yeah sure. I don’t see anything wrong with it. The British edition goes into more detail about the content of phone calls between Julia Baird and John’s Liverpool family and John and some comments on the estate Will. And I worked in a few more snide comments about Yoko. Given the chance, I’ll never miss an opportunity, there!
GF: You have an axe to grind with her . . .
GG: I don’t like her . . . Anybody who falls for this idea that Yoko’s some kind of incredibly, highly sophisticated artist, wherein her current M.O. is to go to Brazil (where they’re just happy to have any celebrity) she goes to some art gallery. They paint it white. She puts two piles of stones . . . or whatever in the middle of the floor and says with a sign in front of them, “Where would you like to spend Eternity?” I don’t think that’s Art. I don’t think it’s particularly clever or intelligent. It’s been done to death, starting with Fluxes and Andy Warhol and this entire minimal, conceptual thing. Why doesn’t she open a Yoko Ono Cancer Hospital or a Yoko Ono John Lennon Feeds Dying Indian Kids Hospital? What a fucking waste of money on bullshit.
GF: In your opinion, with the intelligence, the creativity, and sensitivity of John Lennon, how did he fall under her spell?
GG: . . . Because he was an emotional cripple, frozen in time from the day of his mother’s death. He was shunted about as a kid. It affected his ability to ground himself in adult relationships. He was sexually retarded and objectified women. . . unable to relate on a meaningful level. Being a Beatle did nothing but encourage his isolation, which as a protective device, he had to enact – because he had the whole world at his door. Yoko- or Mommy, as Lennon called her towards the end of his life, ran interference between John and the world. That soon turned into something far more sinister, which isolated John keeping him a virtual prisoner in the Dakota, a bird in a gilded cage. Just because he was a great musician, lyricist, a clever social commentator and pop philosopher, doesn’t mean John was emotionally healthy or any kind of demigod. What makes Lennon so interesting is the realization (after twenty years gone from this world) was that he was so weak, so fragile, so made of glass, so very susceptible. Sadly, he found someone who took full advantage of his teetering emotional state, and thus, Yoko Ono Lennon continues to milk that fucking cash cow dry to this very day with her John Lennon baby clothes. If John could come back for five minutes, he’d probably kick two people’s asses: me first, and then Yoko Ono’s. Me for fucking stirring up all this shit, and Ono for putting out this goofy line of doodles, barbeque aprons, greeting cards, baby clothes, booties, sunglasses, sun visors, sweatshirts, t-shirts, thong underwear, and whatever the hell else she’s put out. Julian hates it. Anyone with any brains or taste hates it. She takes John’s doodles. Fair enough: they’re fairly interesting . . . you could do as well. I could do as well. But, we’re not John Lennon, so there you go. Then she gets some crayons out and colors onto a plate and gets some of her minions to run them off on lithograph and then the estate signs them and sells them for thousands of dollars. The defining thing I have to say about Yoko Ono is that she has the ambition of a diva with none of the talent. This must have been incredibly frustrating for this poor woman, because here she is living with a man the whole world adores and, nobody particularly likes her. Her art never caught on and people made fun of her. In the end, all she had was the money. She’s like Mrs. Haversham [from Great Expectations], sitting there in her wedding dress, after 40 or 50 years: “Hey, look. I was married to John Lennon and I got all the money.” Like Julian Lennon said, “She doesn’t have the Lennon DNA.” She doesn’t have that pioneer blood flowing through her veins. She got the money – now she sucks her thumb and wonders by the banks of her own lagoon.
GF: Let’s remove the word “shocking.” What was the most interesting thing or the biggest revelation, during your research, about John Lennon.
GG: . . . the extent of how dominated he was by Yoko. The only way for him to get any peace was to go into the bedroom and lock the door. Fifty per cent of this book was left on the cutting room floor by the lawyers. It’s a much more shocking story than I was able to tell for legal reasons.
GF: Will that be told in the subsequent book?
GG: I’m going to try. Nobody talks like this. This is so obvious. I’ve read some of your interviews. Let’s wait until Ono leaves this world then the tale can and will be told.
GF: Our readers will love this . . .
GG: No. They’ll love to hate me.
GF: I don’t think so. I’m a huge Lennon fan, a huge Beatles fan and I did not hate the work you put together and I can tell by the number of things that you’ve put together over the years that you are not a guy who hates John Lennon.
GG: He was very important to me as a child. When I was a kid, I really didn’t have a father and my mother was chronically depressed. She didn’t want to leave the house and she didn’t clean up. It was tough. I used to go in my bedroom and put headphones on . . . and this was like a big brother talking to me, talking to me through the music. I don’t mean it in any psychotic way – just listening to the lyrics. I was a young man and they would help me form opinions and ideals. I have a great debt to John Lennon. The last thing I would ever want to do is go to my grave knowing I had in any way demeaned or diminished such a great man.
GF: Let’s fill in some of the blanks for our readers. You were born in Rochester, New York, lived and worked in Canada for awhile. This is interesting.
GG: Yeah. In 1976, I graduated from drama school. The idea was to be an actor and the only job I could get, right out of school, (I had a couple of kids, and I had to immediately get some work) was playing Ronald McDonald in Canada. Sorry, first I was the Marvelous, Magical Burger King in New England. Then, I was Ronald McDonald in Canada. It’s just a coincidence. I was a vegetarian the whole time and now that gives me a really good platform to speak about animal rights, which I do frequently. I lived there [Canada] for five years. I was kind of lost. I was like these Beatles people who go too far – who are obsessive, compulsive. I have, in the far distant past, spent the rent money on Beatles memorabilia. It became a compulsion. My father was a gambler, so maybe I inherited some kind of gene. I was at a Beatles convention, just after I wrote The Beatles: A Celebration, and I saw a flyer on the floor which said, “Hey! Do you really need that Yellow Submarine lunch box? Is it really going to make your life perfect? Why don’t you people get a life?” At first, I was really pissed off. Then a light went on in my head and it’s never gone off. I got rid of all my memorabilia and decided since nobody was really telling The Beatles’ story in the intensely human way required I would do it myself. Now I tell you . . . Mark Lewisohn is a statistician. He’s a civil servant. He gives you information that’s very meticulous and well organized and chronicled and probably as perfect as we could get with the passage of time, but he doesn’t tell you anything about their cultural impact, the kind of people they were, what their private lives were, what inspired them to create, what their foibles were, what their good points were, what their relations with their families were. He just tells you that they used this guitar here and they did these vocals at ten o’clock. It’s okay, and I use his books to keep my stories straight, as research. But, he’s not a biographer. Mark Lewisohn is categorically not a biographer. He’s a statistician.
GF: But, he has come up with some incredible stuff for those books.
GG: Absolutely! I’ve got all the books and they’re referenced. They’re all well worn, because I use them to check dates and facts. I give them to my researchers. He’s also ingratiated himself to The Beatles, and so . . . it’s not like I’m jealous of Mark. If I was offered that job, I would not do it. So, it’s not a question of that . . . The biographical art, people don’t understand what it is. George Harrison’s theory is that you have to physically know and be intimate with the people about whom you write. I don’t buy that. What about all those books about Hitler and Churchill? We’re called historians and biographers. We do have a place. Yes, there is a place for sisters, mothers, friends and next door neighbors writing memoirs about the time they spent with celebrated people. No question about it. And there’s certainly room for autobiographies. But, there’s also room for biographies wherein the people don’t know the people at all, and yet, they conduct these incredibly exhaustive investigations into their backgrounds in a scouring way. That’s what I do. I wish people would understand that.
GF: Now, you’ve mentioned brothers and sisters. Louise Harrison, George’s sister, at the Ottawa Beatles convention back in 1996, stated that she did not really care for your book, Dark Horse: The Secret Life Of George Harrison. Apparently, she didn’t like your portrayal of George and she’s not listed in the first edition’s acknowledgements. Did you ever interview her for the book?
GG: No. Her relationship even with George isn’t that great, right now. This is a sad thing . . . Ruth McCartney has tried to make a life for herself. She’s a sweetheart. These people, Bob Wooler, even Bill Harry . . . by the way, I’ve written more Beatles books than anybody. I don’t know if you know that. I can’t say anything for the quality, but the quantity, I’ve written more. I counted Bill’s up, the other day, and I think he’s about three behind me. Okay, Louise Harrison doesn’t like my book, big deal. That’s a long, fucking line of people who don’t like Geoffrey Giuliano’s work. But, what’s bullshit is this whole thing that I’m this terrible person. That’s ridiculous. I don’t know if you’ve gone to any of my websites, not the commercial one, but I have a spiritual one. We give away a lot of the money my wife and I make. We’re just going to India in a couple of days. We’re taking food with us – food relief. We have orphans we pay everything for. We’re ethical vegetarians. We run a food bank. So I don’t accept I’m this horrible man.
GF: I think this is an important thing to continue discussing. Beatles fans may be aware of your strong spiritual and religious convictions, but . . .
GG: By the way, George and I practice the same religion. There’s no question about that and that’s everything to me . . . The Beatles were my first gurus. Guru means teacher. When I was a young kid and didn’t know anything about life I looked to The Beatles for inspiration, guidance and leadership through their music and through their larger than life personalities, particularly John and George. Then, when The Beatles went to India, I purchased a book on yoga philosophy. It absolutely changed my life. After that, I got a little bit into LSD. In those days, there were very powerful – clean, pure psychedelics and it also showed me things helpful to me. Now I absolutely have nothing to do with drugs, and am adamantly opposed to any type of drugs. But, at that time, in that place, they were helpful to me. But, I learned everything I learned after three or four trips and there was no need to continue to repeat the process. So, I dropped that. But, I didn’t drop yoga philosophy. I didn’t drop the . . . you call it Hare Krishna, here in America, but it’s really a 5,000-year old religion from West Bengal. George and I certainly share that in common. I might not look or talk like a devoutly religious person and neither would George, with his cigarette smoking, although I think he’s kicked that, now. Like he said in a press conference in 1984, he doesn’t do it in the road anymore. It’s something personal to him. It’s not important to me to compare myself with George Harrison. But, the religious and spiritual thing is absolutely, unequivocally the most important thing in my life. It’s more important than my family. It’s more important than my life. It’s everything I aspire to and if it was possible for me never to write another Beatles book, again, that would be fine.
GF: And you also augment these beliefs with your extensive, daily charity work?
GG: I do. I go to India two or three times a year and I spend maybe 200 dollars for some Indian clothes. I wear 5-dollar sandals. I don’t have a watch. I don’t have jewelry. I don’t read newspapers. I don’t watch TV. I am a strict vegetarian. I don’t drink, smoke, take drugs. I have a very limited sex life, only with my wife. I meditate in the morning. I don’t even live in a house. I live in an ashram with other people from around the world devoted to this path. We eat and live communally. I don’t have a bank account. I don’t have a credit card. I’m not, at all, the money grubbing guy people say. I was fairly ruthless in my first half of my life. And, at the end of the first half of my life, my mother, father, and brother died, in rather close succession. I realized I did not want to continue on the path of ruthlessness. The end justifies the means, but I should try to really open myself up and be as selfless as I can. I don’t spend any money on myself. All of my money goes for other people. We’re involved with raising a couple of kids whose parents are incarcerated in prison due to drug offences – one’s a crack baby. When you give, the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing, so I don’t really like to publicize what I do. We just built a school in America. We’re just building a school in India . . . let’s just put it this way, the money from my books goes to charity. I have a bedroom I stay in and the rest of it is public. People can come and visit our ashram.
GF: How long have you been doing that?
GG: Since 1994, formerly. If you came to this place, there’s a sign in the front, “The Spiritual Realization Institute, all welcome.” There’s a school on the property. There’s a guesthouse. There’s a really beautiful temple with stain-glass windows of Krishna. There are ten acres. We have an animal sanctuary where we take animals we saved from the slaughter house and other things . . . we have a couple of cows, peacocks, and other distressed animals we’ve saved. . . and we do a lot of work with children. I’ll tell you something: it’s absolutely a fact . . . this is not anyone’s opinion but rather a law of the Universe. When you get into a habit of giving, it’s much better than when you were money grubbing for yourself. You can say, “Well, this really doesn’t sound like the guy who wrote a book like Lennon In America.” But I don’t see any dichotomy. I can laugh at a lot of this crap, because it’s just so not me. It so misses the point I don’t even feel connected to it. At least if they said I was fat or something. . . there’s an element of truth there. But, they come up with this wild shit that’s so out in the ozone all I can do is scratch my head. There’s no dichotomy between my spiritual life and the books I write, because it’s in-your-face truth. My spiritual life is in-your-face truth and my work life and my writing life are in-your-face truth and if you don’t like it and if you can’t handle it [then] . . . it doesn’t really matter. It really doesn’t matter if they [readers] like me or don’t. All I’m going to do for the rest of my life is to try as anonymously as possible, using whatever energies that come to me, to assist other people to awaken spiritually and assist people who are having a difficult time.
GF: You speak of the outspokenness you show in your books versus the outspokenness showing in this interview. These are very different forms of speaking out. If people were to go on the perceptions of what they think they know about you from what they’ve read, do you think your outspokenness in that form has had a negative effect on book sales?
GG: I think bad publicity can keep people away from purchasing books. As a result of that mentality, although the book’s selling well . . . we’ve had very few returns after two and a half months, which is good. I think they put 40,000 on the street and they’ve only had a couple of hundred returned. And, I’m going to England to promote the British edition of the book, after I go to India and Nepal . . . then, I will go to London in September to promote the book. My speculation is that it does have a negative impact and that people who might have read the book and enjoyed it – got some insight out of it, didn’t get the opportunity because they were influenced by some other people’s ideas which may, or may not, be accurate.
GF: Yet, this interview may change people’s perception of who you are and they might go back and look at that book and give it another read.
GG: Two or three years ago, I would say that we can only hope. But now I don’t really care. One of the things that happens is that as you go deeper and deeper and deeper in to a spiritual path, you disconnect from a lot of the things that most other people feel are just so incredibly important. What’s important to me is a report that one of my orphans in India may have tuberculosis. What’s important to me is that there is a young lady who has overcome a terrible crack addiction – from a good family – who ended up as a prostitute and who has successfully been clean for several months, but now they’re trying to send to prison on some stupid technicality. And they’ve not seen that she’s worth saving. Rolling Stone used to have a motto, “Think globally and act locally.” I think people should philosophically and spiritually embrace the whole world. One thing I know, there’s always something good to do. You can always do good. “Gees, I’d like to do good, but there’s nothing around.” It doesn’t work like that. There’s always somebody who you can assist. And where did I get many of these ideas? From The Beatles, as a kid. There’s a Beatle politic all these so-called fans are missing, which is, “Quit dreaming about the past. Get off your ass. Go feed somebody. Go help somebody off drugs. Go to some old folks home and talk to these poor bastards who are looking death right between the eyes and quit sitting around moon-dogging over four, sixty-year old men and get a fucking life. Forget about yourself and your daydreams – don’t be afraid of life and get out there and make a contribution.” That, I’m sure, must be the Beatle dream, the Beatle politic at its highest level. They just need to get a life. God bless them. They need to get a life for themselves.
GF: Did you get the Beatle message in the first half of your life?
GG: The Beatle message is a timeless, eternal message that has been said in every successive generation by many people of all genders, gurus, teachers, artists, musicians, painters, ordinary people – butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. As George said, “We were just four loonies taking drugs and trying to be honest.” They were trying to be honest. They were trying to give us some truth. I thought about writing a book called The Gospel According To John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I still might do it – and show the spirituality of The Beatles. This is something that’s been completely overlooked, as everybody’s lost in this Entertainment Tonight cardboard, cut-out, celebrity bullshit everybody’s wasting their valuable life with. How come there isn’t a John Lennon hospital? I just can’t believe . . . if she wants to sell barbeque aprons and baby booties, she could at least give the money to the John Lennon Liver Cancer Hospital or something. It is so dumb and selfish. You’ve got to judge the tree by the fruit, and the fruit of this Beatles worship is a lot of self-indulgence. A lot of these Beatles people are lost souls who don’t need to be. If they just try to take The Beatles’ and John Lennon’s work at the highest level, they could really do something great.
GF: Do you think that some of your early things you wrote, in your first half of your life, feed that false idea that you’re clearly unhappy with now?
GG: Well, just the mere fact that I’ve written so many. It’s something like 28 books, and 86 spoken word projects. I would say I do share a certain measure of responsibility for trivializing The Beatles and by promoting this kind of hero worship I now absolutely condemn as a foolish waste of time.
GF: Analyzing your first book, The Beatles: A Celebration . . .
GG: I have a fear that the truth about that book is what somebody said about Julian Lennon once. They said it took him twenty years to write and record Valotte, in terms of life experiences and about six months to record his follow up. So, that Beatles: A Celebration was just all those years of me being a lonely boy in my room, having the headphones on, and seeking refuge in the White Album and Sgt. Pepper. I didn’t like the early stuff very much, at all. It’s tuneful. It’s cheery. But, I like the heavy stuff . . . They were friends to me. I’m like a recovering Beatleholic. I encourage everybody to get on that 12-step program, away from any addiction. My daughter said to me, because we had a lot of addiction in our family; “What? You don’t think that just because you don’t take drugs, you’re not an addict?” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “You’re addicted to work. You’ve written 30 books or something in less than 10 years. You’re just hiding in your work.” I take all these things to heart . . . I’m just taking off and going to Nepal. And don’t think I stay in some five-star hotel when I go to Nepal, either. First of all, I’m not a rich man. We just travel ordinary, and we will be staying in a $9 a night hotel, which is actually a pretty damn good hotel in Nepal. So, like Paul McCartney says, “Live a little. Get around.” So, that’s what I’m trying to do.
GF: What you’re trying to do and what you’re allowed to do, obviously, has been supplemented by all the various books that you’re put together. The Beatles: A Celebration must have opened the door for other opportunities.
GG: Publishers don’t like Beatles books, at this point. Publishers think the public is sick of Beatles. Beatles books don’t sell that well. When was the last time that you saw a Beatles book, any Beatles book on the best sellers list? Maybe Peter Brown did it. I’m a solid mid-list author. Actually, you’d be amazed. There are a lot of people who are pretty ardent fans of my work. We talked tonight about the many people who have a problem with my stuff. But, there are many – or more who love it, and think that, “Oh, yeah. That’s right. I agree. That’s the way it was. You’re right. Thank you.” I get that all the time . . . but, then I get the other side too! The reason I don’t talk so much about the people who get it is that, I figure, they’re not as sick. They don’t need as much help . . . I feel sorry for people who are obsessed with The Beatles. Are you obsessed with The Beatles?
GF: I am not. I have always been a fan and . . .
GG: Good, healthy fanship, there’s nothing wrong with it. But, there are guys who go to Star Trek conventions and dress up as Klingons. Clearly, there’s something wrong there.
GF: I’ll give you that. I did not go to Abbey Road dressed in a Beatles Pierre Cardin suit.
GG: But, we’ve seen those people, haven’t we? It’s a little scary.
GF: A lot of people refer to the Celebration book.
GG: Yes. It’s a long road from The Beatles: A Celebration to Lennon In America. [laughter]
GF: Big Time! Up until Celebration, Beatles books were generally bad quality, bad photos, bad book stock. But, Celebration oozes with quality.
GG: I’ll tell you another arm of my work I’m pretty proud is my interview books. I’ve done around seven or eight now and I’m working on another one. I think those are really good . . . I see on the Internet, people say, “Well, you know you can’t trust Giuliano,” and this and that. Believe me, all those interview books are from tapes. . . . if you put those eight books, The Lost Lennon Interviews, The Lost Beatles Interviews, Things We Said Today, Conversations With The Beatles, Glass Onion – there are several others –all together, it would be like a 1,000 or 1,500-page encyclopedia of everything The Beatles have ever said.
GF: With the quality of the Celebration book with its high quality paper, photos, the personal text that wasn’t always available from other authors, I think readers want to know how you accumulated all of that incredible memorabilia.
GG: I had always intended to be a movie star. That was my early goal in life. When that didn’t happen for various reasons, I just veered off into this Beatles addiction and became obsessive – compulsive. People say, “Well, you’re very critical of these Beatles fans.” Yeah, because I was the worst. I’m probably more aggressive than most people, who keep their addictions private. But, I go very public with everything I do. I got out there and made sure I went around seeing the relatives that everybody had forgotten and business associates. That’s the way I’ve put together my books. You can love me or hate me, but I never repeat photos. The photos are genuinely really good that people have not seen before. Most publishers just pick the same crappy images over and over. I’ve always fought with publishers to make sure I had the highest quality of everything . . . I was going to put John . . . I’ve got some autopsy photos. But, I stopped myself. Maybe we won’t use the autopsy photos of John Lennon. I have tried to use good photographs and images in my books, and I have a very large archive of photographs and images in my books. I have 10,000 photos of The Beatles I own the rights to, which I’ll probably end up selling to Apple when I go out of business here in a few years.
GF: Who was the first Beatles you met and interviewed?
GG: George Harrison in 1983. But, in 1988, whenever I wrote John Lennon My Brother, with Julia Baird, she got a last minute interview with Paul and there wasn’t time for me to fly over, because it was the next day. He just gave a short, “Okay, I’ll do it. Come tomorrow.” So, I authored something like eighty questions typed them up and faxed them to Julia Baird. So Baird went in there, and on tape asked all my questions. It was a long interview, and I have the tape of it. They constantly refer to the paper and the fact that the questions were written by me. So, that’s how I interviewed Paul McCartney. I interviewed Yoko Ono extensively and then right on down the line from Cynthia to Julian to everybody else. But, I’ve sat in a room with George Harrison and interviewed him. That was at a mutual friend’s house – Jon Lord from Deep Purple. Actually, that interview’s in The Lost Beatles Interviews. It’s not a great interview. I actually sat down and talked with him for about an hour.
GF: And how did that feel?
GG: . . . it would be a lot different now, he was sitting in front of me, and I was sitting on this ottoman. As I was making my point, I got excited and I was kind of tapping on his knee with my finger and that wasn’t cool. I was too familiar. I was nervous. I embarrassed myself. He picked up on it and split and it was a cause of some concern for me for some time . . . I would not treat them or accept them as people . . . He said something about, “In the Sixties, we all . . .” And I said, “Yeah, but when you guys did things, you really . . .” I didn’t act like I’m acting with you. I couldn’t be myself. That was the problem. That was the fucking fan crap that got in the middle of a golden opportunity to sit down and spend some time with George Harrison, the guy. But, I fucked it up by being a fan. So, that’s why I’m a little bit weary of all of this stuff.
GF: Now, you’ve written a few books on John, Paul, and George, but not about Ringo . . .
GG: . . . Nobody wants it. You’ve got to understand I’m not the publisher. You’ve got to convince other guys this is a great idea that will make lots of money and believe me, whether I care about the money or not, that’s all they care about. So, it’s an upward battle to get anything published. But, because I’ve done so much work, it’s easier for me than many other people. When I have an idea, I can actually get a meeting with pretty much anybody in publishing anywhere in the world, sit down and talk to them and they’ll listen to me and consider it and they usually say, “No.” I still would like to do a book about The Beatles’ experience with the Maharishi, which I’d probably call The Beatles Rishikesh Diary and their whole idea of the Indian experience. But, I’m going to write Revolution . . . You see, I’m a bit of a bad boy, too. I kind of like to rile people up. I’m a bit of a rabble rouser . . . I don’t mind messing with people. Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll mess with people. I’m a button pusher. I do enjoy pushing buttons with people and saying things that will rile them up. I don’t sit there and design the whole book to push people’s buttons. But, I might throw in a few inflammatory things just to piss people off, if I’m in that kind of a mood.
GF: Let’s see if this pushes a button. I know that you have been accused of inventing some of the dialogue in the new Lennon In America book. Can you comment on this?
GG: Yeah, sure. Oh, absolutely. That’s . . . from Jim Heaney from the Buffalo News. Let me tell you how that worked…
GF: May 28, 2000 Buffalo News interview.
GG: If you think Lennon In America is a crock, you better check this article out. It is totally bogus. That guy’s a slime-ball. He contravened every agreement we had. He quoted from the diary. He agreed he would not. I’ve already said whatever I want to say about Heaney. Look, I’ve got a tape, in my possession that talks about John having sex with his mother. I set up the scene in the book with two fucking sentences of dialogue. “Hi, how are you? Good morning. Come on in. Sit down.” Just completely analogous, generic, not meaningful setups to set the scene and give a little color to the book. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, whatsoever. And how does everybody know I did that? Because, I told everybody. Jim Heaney didn’t catch me with me pants down. I told him that. I played him the original tape. “Well, that’s not on the tape.” No, it’s not on the tape. He had to come in the house. He had to have sat down on the bed. He was riding his bike in those days . . . see, I’ve been to that house and I’ve spent hours there looking at it and studying it, plus there’s a little thing in there about lingerie on a clothes line. Julia Baird told me the house was like that. She lived there with her mother, Julia Stanley Lennon. There was a clothes line with a negligee on it and stuff. I took it from a few different sources and did I concoct those two sentences? Yes. Is it a big deal? Not in my mind. But, if you’re looking for a fucking scape-goat, if you’re looking to punch holes in the book, I suppose you could try to dig a little one there. The real allegation is that I don’t have the diaries, when I say the real one, not that it’s truthful, the meaningful allegation would be, if it were true, which it is not, is that I do not have the diaries; I do not have John Lennon’s personal correspondence, and I do not have hours of him talking about very personal things on tape. I do have all of those things. And, if I could find a legitimate media venue to air those things, I thought it was the Buffalo News, but I was wrong . . . I would be happy to show the world I have these things. These things are very safe, somewhere on this planet . . . and no matter what happens to me physically, at any time in the future, those things will exist and will be part of my possessions. I would hope that in the future, it would be very, very . . . I guess I probably won’t be around for people to say, “I’m sorry,” for the way they treated me – calling me a liar and stuff. I think there’ll be a time when these diaries will be made public.
GF: Let’s talk about some of the copies you have of some of Lennon’s audio diaries. You’ve got these? How are they laid out, Geoffrey?
GG: Yeah. Well, he says like, “Six of September, 1979. Here I am sitting alone in the bedroom . . .” And he just goes on and just talks into the tape.
GF: So, he runs through what he’s going to do?
GG: No. He just gives a date. “Six of September, 1979. Here I am blah, blah, blah. Hey, I did this today. I did that. You know, I was thinking about this. And I was wondering about that, blah, blah, blah.”
GF: Is there any of John’s music on these tapes?
GG: No. But, I do have other tapes he recorded at Kenwood in 1967, in which there is some very bizarre music. I don’t know if you ever heard about John in the Hunter Davies book, he talks about he had something like nine Grundig German tape-recorders that he hooked up together and made weird tapes just for fun with his buddies. I have about four hours of those, and nobody has those. Nobody. I don’t think even Yoko has those. So, I was thinking about putting them out, calling them The Kenwood Tapes. Actually, I have lots of stuff that no one’s ever heard. I have a Beatles album. I have a Beatles album nobody’s ever heard. Denny Laine gave me an acetate of London Town – a test pressing of London Town. And I was playing it and when I turned over the other side, there’s a completely, never-before-heard Beatles album from around 1965 period. Now, that’s not to say that there are songs we haven’t heard, but versions of songs that we’ve never heard. Very unusual.
GF: Stuff that has not been bootlegged?
GG: I’ve got tons of stuff that hasn’t been bootlegged . . .
GF: If you had to pick the top two or three . . .
GG: The Kenwood Tapes. Oh, they’re incredible. I wish everybody could hear them. The whole content of this eight hours I have of John and Yoko talking about their sex lives. Yoko . . . lived with a woman for six months. I do say that in the book. But, she goes into great detail. John’s asking her how big Tony Cox’s penis was. All this is crazy. These tapes are crazy. I have those.
GF: You’ve already expanded into audio books.
GG: If you listen to my audio books, there are some rare tapes in there. But, the the stuff I knew that no one else had, I have not put out. I can’t, probably, legally in some cases, and because it has great monetary value, in some cases, and if I did, there’s no way to control that, once you put it out. If you put a tape out, especially now with the Internet, MP3, you can’t control anything that you’ve got. So, I’m just sitting on a lot of stuff. I may put out The Kenwood Tapes in the next couple of years.
GF: Now, when you say you’re sitting on a lot of stuff, over the past 15 years or so, you’ve also written about some of the biggest Hollywood people – Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Rock Stars – like Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis . . .
GG: Those weren’t necessarily things I would have done of my own volition.
GF: And that includes the controversial political figures – Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky, Ronald Reagan?
GG: [laughing] I got a call from Random House and they offered me crazy money to do those. So, I did them. That was just for money.
GF: Sports icon Michael Jordan.
GG: I have no interest in sports whatsoever. But, sports figures like Mohammed Ali . . . well, Mohammed Ali is a great man. Everybody loves him. There’s a reason Mohammed Ali is so well loved around the world, and he is an amazing figure. I really enjoyed doing that. It’s funny, I enjoyed doing the two baseball ones. I’ve got two new baseball ones coming out with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. When I was a kid, I heard all this from my father and we were silly, watching the game and all that. I was a hippie. I didn’t pay attention to any of that shit. Now, that I’m an old man, too bad my father’s not around. He’d probably be proud that I did a Joe DiMaggio CD. A lot of this stuff, I do for money. The Beatles book is more of a love, a kind of a mission, to tell the truth about The Beatles. I respect Mark Lewisohn. I don’t want anybody to think that I don’,t or I belittle his work. I do not in any way. He also tells the truth about The Beatles, but it’s a different facet of the truth about The Beatles.
GF: But, if he’s the world’s premiere statistician on The Beatles you are the premiere biographer . . .
GG: There are only two people in the game. Me and Mark [laughing] . . .
GF: Why are publishers so attracted to your work?
GG: Because I’m a good, solid bet. I don’t win many races, but I always place. I guess I must make enough money for them that they’re interested in carrying on to the next, to see what he can do next.
GF: Is it the way you pitch the story?
GG: I’m a convincing fellow. I have a good ability to talk to these people and convince them that these are great projects and they’ll be terrific. Whether they are or not, I don’t know. I do my best. We work like dogs over here. This isn’t just some armchair thing. Sometimes it’s a very high stress level. If I didn’t have the religion, I would be a drug addict, for sure. We were just working when you called. I was writing captions for a vegetarian cook book that my wife’s just written called, Compassionate Cuisine. We’re just putting the finishing touches on it, by the same publisher, by the way. So, there are always many projects going on here. There is never a time when there aren’t several important projects . . . I’ve just been offered, well I guess I can tell you. I’ve just been offered my own national radio show by a very major player. I will be making a demo for that soon. It’s tentatively called, Real Rock Stories With Geoffrey Giuliano. It’s weekly, one hour a week, national and it will be heavy duty . . . kind of like Lennon In America on radio. It’ll be heavy, not so happy, sugary, behind the music – more hard-edged than that. That’s the plan. I’ve been offered a job and I’m doing a demo for it. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it. But, it’s definitely the direction I’d like to go. I tell people, when The Beatles: A Celebration came in the post, the first copy from the publisher, I cried. Then, when John Lennon: My Brother came, my second book, I got a little teary-eyed. Now, when they come, I don’t open the damn package. I just throw it in the corner and there they sit. After you’ve written like 20, 21, 22, 23 books, the bloom is off the rose. It’s not such a big deal. I’m tired of writing. I’m tired of writing these kinds of books. I’d like to write spiritual books . . . I’m 46, so I have to do them. I can’t keep fooling around with this Beatles thing.
GF: But, you have plans for more Beatles projects.
GG: I do. That’s one thing I’m sure, pisses everybody off, that I manage to come up with a new . . . there would be no need for me to write Revolution: The Secret History Of The Beatles, if The Beatles were going to do it themselves, do a good, proper job with the Anthology, but I just know they won’t. I know it’s written by Derek Taylor who I have great respect for and he was very charming and very funny. I knew him, personally. These are PR people. The Beatles didn’t write that book. They were interviewed by somebody on a tape, same way they did the Anthology
. . . now they’ve turned it into print. It’s not what it seems. I know it’s not going to be that good, from my point of view. What I consider good is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at every millisecond.
GF: And there are more truths to come.
GG: More truths to come, yes.
GF: Geoffrey fascinating.