Yoko Ono fixed a camera, pointing downward, to a weather balloon and released it. As the balloon begins its ascent, we see Ono and husband John Lennon sitting on a Central Park bench. Several minutes into the film, the balloon enters a bank of clouds, eradicating the image for several more minutes, when it emerges from the clouds, the view from above them is spectacular. This single-reel movie ends at the point when the camera ran out of film.
John Winston (later Ono) Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. In the mid-1950s he formed his first band, The Quarrymen (after Quarry Bank High School, which he attended) who, with the addition of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, later became The Beatles. After some years of performing in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany, « Beatlemania » erupted in England and Europe in 1963 after the release of their singles « Love Me Do » and « Please Please Me ». The next year the Beatles flew to America to appear on « Toast of the Town » (1948) (aka The Ed Sullivan Show), and Beatlemania spread worldwide. Queen Elizabeth II granted all four Beatles M.B.E. medals in 1965, for import revenues from their record sales; John returned his four years later, as part of an antiwar statement. John and the Beatles continued to tour and perform live until 1966, when protests over his calling the Beatles phenomenon « more popular than Jesus » and the frustrations of touring made the band decide to quit the road. They devoted themselves to studio work, recording and releasing albums such as « Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band », « Magical Mystery Tour » and the « White Album ». Instead of appearing live, the band began making their own « pop clips » (an early term for music videos), which were featured on television programs of the time. In the late 1960s John began performing and making albums with his second wife Yoko Ono, as the Beatles began to break up. Their first two albums, « Two Virgins » and « Life With The Lions », were experimental and flops by Beatles standards, while their « Wedding Album » was almost a vanity work, but their live album « Live Peace In Toronto » became a Top Ten hit, at the end of the 1960s. In the early 1970s John and Yoko continued to record together, making television appearances and performing at charity concerts. After the release of John’s biggest hit, « Imagine », they moved to the US, where John was nearly deported because of his political views (a late-’60s conviction for possession of hashish in the U.K. was the excuse given by the government), but after a four-year legal battle he won the right to stay. In the midst of this, John and Yoko separated for over a year; John lived in Los Angeles with personal assistant May Pang, while Yoko dated guitarist David Spinozza. When John made a guest appearance at Elton John’s Thanksgiving 1974 concert, Yoko was in the audience, and surprised John backstage. They reconciled in early 1975, and Yoko soon became pregnant. After the birth of their son Sean Lennon, John settled into the roles of « househusband » and full-time daddy, while Yoko became his business manager; both appeared happy in their new life together. After a five-year break from music and the public eye, they made a comeback with their album « Double Fantasy », but within weeks of their re-emergence, Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman, a onetime Beatles fan angry and jealous over John’s ongoing career.
Yoko Ono was born on February 18, 1933, in her ancestral estate in Tokyo. Her father, named Eisuke Ono, was the descendant of a 9th Century Emperor of Japan. Her mother, named Isoko Yasuda Ono, was the granddaughter of Zenijiro Yasuda, the founder of Yasuda Bank. Yoko was 2 years old when she was brought to California, and joined her father for the first time. She returned to Japan before WWII and survived the bombings of Tokyo in 1945. Yoko went to school with Emperor Hirohito’s two sons. Though boys and girls were separated, Yoko was visited by Emperor’s son Yoshi, and in turn she visited the boy’s school in defiance of the rules. In the early 50s she and her parents moved to New York. She went to Sarah Lawrence College, where she was particularly adept in music, with her perfect pitch and untamed creativity. She married a Julliard student, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and moved to Manhattan. Her admiration with Franz Kafka, Vincent van Gogh, and Arnold Schönberg gave root and was fertilized by the New York avant-garde scene. In 1960 Yoko and her friend La Monte Young staged the legendary loft events on Chambers Street. She also provided the loft for John Cage and his ground-braking classes of experimental music. She collaborated with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nam June Paik, George Maciunas and Fluxus. Yoko cut herself from her parents and was on her own, working as a waitress, an apartment manager, and a music teacher in New York’s public schools. In 1962, after separating from Toshi, she gave in to her parents and returned to Japan. There she suffered from a clinical depression, and was locked up in a mental hospital. Anthony Cox went to Japan and managed to release Yoko from captivity. She married Cox in Tokyo the same year, and their daughter, Kyoko, was born in 1963. Cox became her artistic assistant. But in 1964 they separated and Cox returned to New York. Yoko joined him the same year with Kyoko. She dreamed up the concept for ‘Bottoms’ (1966), completed only after 365 friends and volunteers provided their naked buttocks for close-ups. Her ad was « Intelligent-looking bottoms wanted for filming. Possessors of unintelligent-looking ones need not apply. » Yoko promoted ‘Bottoms’ (1966) by being tied to a bronze lion in London’s Trafalgar Square. She met John Lennon at her art show in London on November 9, 1966. At first they were impressed with each other’s intellect, everything else followed later. They married. John was lambasted by the British public. Yoko lost her daughter Kyoko ( ex-husband Cox kidnapped Kyoko in 1971 and hid her under the name Rosemary in the cult The Walk ) for 27 years. Finally in 1998 Yoko and Kyoko reunited. John and Yoko were together 24/7 for six years until their fifteen-month break in 1973-74. Back together again they sustained attacks from the media, politicians, and all kinds of harassers. John and Yoko created art, music, and had a son. They nourished each other’s artistic nature with enough humor to survive through almost everything. Almost…