This Week in Odd History, John Lennon, naked on the balcony of his East 52nd Street penthouse, spotted a flying saucer over New York City. He might have been expecting it. More than a year earlier, when his relationship with Yoko Ono broke down, he’d written the line, “Like a UFO you came to me, and blue away life’s misery.” (“Out of the Blue,” from Mind Games.)
According to May Pang (John’s former assistant, and the woman Yoko Ono had chosen to be his lover), she had just stepped out of the shower when she heard John yelling for her to come outside. She climbed out the kitchen window and found him on the deck, pointing at an object like a flattened cone. It was topped with an unblinking red light, and ringed with white lights that shifted every time it revolved.
With the UFO hovering silently less than 100 feet from their building, May ran inside to grab a camera. They snapped a roll of film before it moved away, skirting the United Nations building, then veering off over the East River toward Brooklyn.
When it was gone, John called his friend Bob Gruen, a well-known rock photographer, and told him he had a roll of film he needed developed. “I took the film home and put John’s film between two rolls of film I’d taken earlier that day and developed them,” Bob said later. “My two rolls of film came out perfectly, but John’s roll was blank.” He asked if John had called the newspaper, but John laughed at him. “I’m not going to call up the newspaper and say, ‘This is John Lennon and I saw a flying saucer last night.’” So Bob did it for him. At The Daily News, they said five other people had called them. The nearest police precinct had received two other calls. The New York Times, though, hung up on him.
John did call Yoko, over at The Dakota. She didn’t hang up on him, but she wasn’t happy to have been left out of the sighting. (Maybe instead of calling after the saucer to “take me with you,” as May says he did, John should have asked them to “take me to The Dakota”?)
John may not have wanted to call the papers, but he wasn’t silent about his extraterrestrial encounter. The cover of Walls and Bridges, his fifth solo album, includes a note that says, “On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o’clock I saw a U.F.O. – J.L.”
Photo of UFO in Brooklyn by williamaveryhudson, on Flickr.