Amsterdam remembers John and Yoko's bed-in
Published: 18 March 2009
By NRC Handelsblad / Radio Netherlands Worldwide
The Amsterdam Hilton is opening up to the public the bedroom where
John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in 1969 as part of the 40th
anniversary celebration of their famous "bed-in for peace".
In all fairness, the Lennon bedroom in the Amsterdam Hilton has
always been available to the public. At a price: a one-night stay
costs 1,750 euros. But on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the
"bed-in", the hotel has decided to relax its policy. Beatles fans can
visit the suite - though not to stay in - from March 21 to 29 when a
number of Lennon-related events will be taking place.
"During the opening, we have decided to waiver any income from the
suite," the hotel's director, Roberto Payer, told German press agency
DPA. "We believe we owe that to the memory of John and Yoko's peace action."
John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in the suite from March 24-31, 1969.
They vowed to stay in bed for a full week in a "bed-in for peace".
Now, the hotel is supporting a number of events associated with the
bed-in. An exhibition titled "From Holland with peace" will run from
March 21-29, and a special Lennon memorial day with live music is
planned for March 29. Another exhibition, "Imagine: the art of John
Lennon", is produced by Yoko Ono and will be the largest exhibition
ever held of John Lennon's art, according to the organisers.
Together with two colleagues, Dutch journalist Jan van Galen has
written a book, In bed with John and Yoko, on the event that has
become part of the world's collective memory.
"This story has never been written about properly," says Van Galen.
"An awful lot has been written about the Beatles, but in all the
thick volumes of books on John Lennon and the Beatles usually only
one page is dedicated to the bed-in. We thought it would be a good
idea to look up everybody who was involved. Why were they there, what
did they do, who did they speak to, what happened?"
In the song The Ballad of John and Yoko, which was recorded in April
1969, John Lennon sang about travelling from Paris to Amsterdam to
lie in bed for a week and protest for peace:
Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton
Talking in our beds for a week
The news people said, say what're you doing in bed?
I said we're only trying to get us some peace
(The Ballad of John and Yoko, Lennon-McCartney, April 1969)
At the time, Lennon and Ono had just gotten married in a private
ceremony in Gibraltar. They were on their honeymoon in a Paris when
they were approached by a Dutchman, Hans Boskamp, who worked for a
record company. Boskamp talked Lennon into coming to Amsterdam to
hold a peace protest.
Hans Boskamp: "He was incredibly preoccupied with the Vietnam war.
When he said to me: 'I want to do something, demonstrate against the
war,' I said: 'Then you should go to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, the
flower-power movement is in full swing'. 'That's a good idea,' he
said, 'you look for a good hotel and we will do the rest'."
John Lennon was at the height of his fame, and the bed-in attracted
massive attention from the international media. Judging by the photos
in Van Galen's book, it looks like most journalists were in
considerable awe of the famous couple. But according to the author
there were critical voices as well.
Van Galen: "Some people thought it was fantastic, even the
journalists. But others said: 'What does this mean for God's sake?
What is the point of lying in an expensive hotel when you are
extremely rich? Do you want everyone to do the same? Will that stop
the Vietnam War? No, it won't.'"
But the bed-in did have an enormous impact, says Van Galen. "At the
end of the 1960s, there were several anti-authoritarian movements,
lots of protests, students rebelled. It was a time of protest and of
course it was a Beatle who was lying there and the Beatles were
Ultimately, Lennon and Ono didn't achieve their goal of world peace.
But their message still resounds even with people who weren't born in 1969.
"Everbody seems to know about John and Yoko at the Hilton, including
people who are way too young to remember. I wasn't expecting that,"
says gallery owner and photographer Nico Koster. Forty years ago,
Koster photographed Lennon and Ono for the Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
Koster's daughter recently discovered a series of misplaced negatives
from the shoot; they are now part of an exhibition at Koster's art
gallery in Amsterdam.
Another photographer, Govert de Roos, was 15-years old when he
bluffed himself into room 902 of the Hilton in 1969. De Roos draws a
parallel between then and now.
"Back then we were also angry at capitalism. At profit maximisation.
At the divide between rich and poor. And we were also engaged in
senseless wars. Do you remember the 30th anniversary of the bed-in?
It went unnoticed because the zeitgeist was too far apart from
everything that Lennon stood for. Today, the message is just as
relevant again as it was in 1969. Why? Because of the mess we've
gotten ourselves into."
Room 902 has since become room 702, and the Hilton is marketing it as
"the John and Yoko Honeymoon Suite." Couples can also wed there in a
civil ceremony. The walls and windows are decorated with slogans the
pair used during the bed-in as well as black and white photos taken
by the press at the time. The suite's sound system is packed full of
Lennon's songs from Imagine to Give Peace a Chance.
However, the bed is not the original. The Hilton has replaced it with
a replica that "conforms to modern comfort demands".
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John and Yoko remembered
Bed-in festivities at the Amsterdam Hilton begin on March 19.
Apollolaan 138, 1077 BG Amsterdam.
A three-part photo exhibition, From Holland with peace , will run
from Match 21 to March 29. On March 29 there is a special Lennon
tribute by Dutch cover bands. More details at the Dutch Beatles fanclub .
Nico Koster's photos of the bed-in can be seen at Galerie Moderne ,
Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 44, 1017 DG Amsterdam.
Imagine: John & Yoko's pacifist anthem: a second bed-in was held at
The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, from May 26
to June 2, 1969. To commemorate the event, the Montreal Museum of
Fine Arts , in collaboration with Yoko Ono, has curated an exhibition
which will run from April 2 to June 21, 2009.
Giving peace a chance -- 40 years later
Wed, March 18, 2009
By JOE MATYAS
A bed-in to promote peace will be held in a Kingsmill's display
window Friday, 40 years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono did it in
Amsterdam and Montreal.
Two Londoners not yet born when the famous peace activists
honeymooned for a better world will reprise their bed-ins for one day .
Mark Facchin and his girlfriend, Jessica Wilkie, both 22 and
graduates of Oakridge secondary school, will occupy a bed in a window
of the downtown department store from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
"I'm a big John Lennon fan because of his ideals and political
activism as well as his music," Facchin said. "We think John and
Yoko's message of peace is something worth repeating today."
Facchin, who will portray Lennon during a stage concert at McManus
Theatre on March 27, said he feels as strongly about current
conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as his musical hero did about the
"I have nothing but admiration for the valiant efforts of Canadian
soldiers in Afghanistan but we have to give peace a chance there" by
changing the mission from combat, he said.
Beatle John Lennon and artist Yoko Ono were married on March 20, 1969
and spent the first week of their honeymoon talking to the world's
press about peace from a bed in an Amsterdam hotel.
Two months later, they repeated the event during a seven-day stay at
the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Canadian media had a field day
covering the event as an anti-war, counter-culture story.
"John Lennon was a great musician, a great songwriter and my
favourite Beatle," Facchin said. "I'm a child of the '80s but all my
favourite music is from the '60s and '70s."
Facchin said he got the idea for a Lennon tribute concert from
retrospectives performed by Yuri Pool, a London musician and Beatles fan.
Pool organized a concert across from London Central Library in
January that recreated a performance by the Beatles on the roof of
Apple Records in London, England, on Jan. 30, 1969.
Hundreds of people dressed for chilly weather looked up from the
street to see Pool and his band cover a Beatles repertoire on a
snow-swept roof, just as Beatle fans had watched and listened 40 years ago.
Facchin said he contacted Kingsmill's out of the blue and was
surprised to get a favourable response.
"We're always willing to do things that bring people and attention to
the downtown," said Jim Hands, Kingsmill's general manager and vice-president.
IF YOU GO
What: A bed-in for peace
Where: Kingsmill's display window, 130 Dundas St.
When: Friday, 9 a.m-5 p.m.
Who: Mark Facchin as John Lennon and Jessica Wilkie as Yoko Ono
What: Legend, a John Lennon tribute concert
Where: McManus Theatre
When: March 27, 8 p.m.
Who: Mark Facchin as Lennon; Paul Molnar, Ian Andrew, Alex
Golovchenko, the band; Leah Morise, Charmain Bailey, backup vocalists.
Tickets: $18, available at the Grand Theatre box office.
Joe Matyas is a Free Press reporter