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Mark David Chapman

09 Dec 2016Personal Essays

For all Lennon's efforts to set the record straight, though, most of the Beatles' fans preferred to keep their sexual stirrings in the realm of fantasy. This fantasizing about the private lives of pop icons, of course, has a long history. Its most prominent exponents have always been the gossip columnists and the Hollywood fanzines. For rock fans the biggest fanzine of all was and still is Rolling Stone, which comes in tabloid form like the National Enquirer and at its best is an articulate alternative to the regular press, while at its worst it is nothing but a gossip sheet and trend spotter.

It was in Rolling Stone that Lennon finally, as he put it in the language of these times, "let it all hang out." In his remarks about the Beatles one senses a strong self-destructive tendency—about which I'll say more later— which in its attempt at realism rings not unlike the criticisms of the Beatles that were issued throughout their reign as pop icons. A self proclaimed famous fan of John Lennon was Mark Chapman who later killed him.

John Lennon's killer, Mark Chapman, is widely assumed to have been a deranged fan with the catchall motive of 'wanting attention'. But was that the whole story?

Chapman executed the former Beatle and prominent antiwar activist with singular efficiency, adopting a military-style shooting stance and firing four bullets into his back. But then, instead of running away, he remained on the scene and began to read a novel, The Catcher in the Rye.

It is deeply puzzling that he made no attempt to escape. With a couple of bullets left, and $2,000 in cash, he could have got a long way away. Just as pertinently, where did he get that money? And where did an untrained civilian learn to shoot like that? When he killed John Lennon for his part, Chapman was now pleading with the police: 'Don't hurt me.

Don't let anyone hurt me.' (Anne Ng)

It was also strange of Chapman suddenly to plead guilty at his trial, after lawyers spent six months preparing his defence. He did so, he said, on orders from a 'voice' he heard in his cell.

One detective commented there was something vacant or ' programmed' about Chapman on the day of the killing, adding that Chapman 'did not want to talk to the Press from the start', which the detective said cast doubt on his supposed craving for attention.

CHAPMAN has since agreed to a single press interview, in which he said: 'He [Lennon] walked past me and then I heard in my head, "Do it, do it, do it", over and over again. I don't remember aiming.' Chapman also admitted that he felt 'no emotion, no anger' - which is odd if, as claimed, he was an overexcited madman fulfilling a lifedefining ambition. (Anne Ng)

One theory is that Chapman's madness was the result of being a brainwashed CIA assassin, who was put up to kill Lennon by Rightwing elements within the U.S government.

It is also argued that Chapman may have fallen into CIA clutches while working as a children's counselor in refugee camps in the war zones of Laos and Beirut, both of which were full of covert operatives.

The Christian charity for which Chapman worked has been accused of being a CIA front organization, and his sojourn in Beirut is known to have coincided with the presence of CIA assassination squads.

Then, in 1976, he suddenly appeared in Hawaii, a centre for CIA and Special Forces activity, where mental ill-health and hospitalization caused him to drift from job to job. Somewhere along the way, it's speculated that the CIA hypnotized and drugged him under the MK-ULTRA program and brainwashed him into killing Lennon. Certainly, it was as if there was a helping hand guiding him.

He got married to a Japanese Hawaiian girl, and he would sometimes sign himself 'John Lennon' at the place on the island where he worked as a security guard - he was said to be a very good shot.

He'd bought his gun in Honolulu, and then borrowed $5,000 to fly to New York to kill John, making sure he got extra, hollowed-out, lethal bullets along the way. Such bullets do the maximum damage on impact. At his hotel room, Chapman had left a picture of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz on the dressing table. Although certifiable, he was able to buy a gun with astonishing ease, and - most conveniently - there was no metal detector to prevent him from taking it from Hawaii to the mainland.

Somehow, this indolent lunatic also had the means in October 1980 to travel to Switzerland and Georgia, and from Hawaii to New York and back again, on what was perhaps an abortive assassination-run in which he managed to resist what he called the master inside myself.

That December, however, he succumbed and killed his target. The suggestion is that Lennon was targeted by Chapman's controllers because of his outspoken criticism of American military activities.

Bald and bloated, he doesn't seem much like one of the 20th century's most infamous killers. But this is how Mark Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, looks today as he bids to regain his freedom.

It is being bitterly opposed by both the former Beatle's widow and his sister. Yoko Ono has made an impassioned plea to keep Chapman behind bars, saying she and Lennon's two sons, Julian and Sean, will never feel safe if he is let out. Julia Baird, John's sister, says she fears for Chapman's safety from deranged fans if he is released.

She said: 'The law must take the consequences if they choose to release him because I have no doubt that somebody will try to kill him.' (Mark Sage)

Chapman, 49, gunned down Lennon outside his apartment overlooking New York's Central Park in 1980. Just an hour earlier, he had posed as a fan and collected Lennon's autograph. He was sentenced to a minimum 20-year jail term. He has already been turned down for parole, in 2002. Now the obsessive loner is bald and fat - but he still gives a wry smile to the camera.

It is a chilling reminder of the emotionless, almost defiant, grin following his arrest that appeared to show he had no regrets.

Ono wrote to the board, saying Chapman's release would 'bring back the nightmare, chaos and confusion. 'I and John's two sons would not feel safe for the rest of our lives.' (Mark Sage). She also warned that his release could encourage copycat killings of celebrities. Ono insists that Lennon would have happily spent his life in jail rather than have to die.

'He would have gladly changed his position with the subject (Chapman) and live the life of protection that the subject enjoys now.' (Mark Sage) Chapman has been largely kept in special cells to avoid other prisoners attacking him to avenge Lennon's death. Ono added in her letter: 'There are more people in the outside world who are strongly distressed about what he has done. 'They would feel that it is unfair that the subject is rewarded with a normal life while John lost his.

'Violence begets violence. 'I would like us to not create a situation which may bring further madness and tragedy to the world.' (Mark Sage)

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  • Anne Ng, John Lennon: Murder of an Icon published Oct 26, 2006.
  • Mark Sage, Lennon's killer Chapman denied parole because of his `extremeIndependent, The (London),  Oct 6, 2004
  • The Mirror Monday 8th December 1980: Lennon's Last Day; EXCLUSIVE. Publication Date: December 3, 2005. Page Number: 18.

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