By RORY LANCE
I was studying at the Stella Adler Conservatory in spring 1977 when I went out to get a bite to eat during a break. Her studio was in the City Center building on West 56th Street, around the corner from Carnegie Hall.
I was crossing 57th Street and Seventh Avenue when I noticed a small group on the corner. As I got closer, I realized the group was formed around none other than Yoko Ono. She was talking casually to a group of tourists that had spotted her. She was nice enough to chat with them and give them some time on a pleasant sunny day in New York City.
I had walked past the group when I noticed another figure. He was casually and patiently waiting to the side, munching on a pastry by himself, no one chatting with him. To my amazement, it was John Lennon. I couldn’t believe no one had approached him, so as I walked by I called out, “Hey, John!” And he responded with, “Hey, mate!” “I’m a big fan!” “Thanks for letting me know!” And I kept on walking.
So many things raced through my mind. For the two seconds we interacted, one of the most famous people in history had elevated me to his "mate," then even thanked me. It all happened so fast that I didn’t thank him for being one of the true musical geniuses of the twentieth century, one of the most resounding voices of political activism, the outspoken moral conscience of a generation. No, he thanked me for reaching out to give him a friendly “Hey.” Perhaps, in John Lennon’s mind, every friendly “Hey” was a first step to a more peaceful world and deserved a “Thanks.”
I also remember thinking that he must have felt safe enough in his adopted New York City to walk around without any entourage or bodyguard that I could notice. Tragically, that thought was destroyed just a few short years later.
Rory Lance is the stage and pen name of Player Rory Schwartz. He is an accomplished character actor on both the musical and dramatic stages and in numerous film and television projects. He has also spent much of his career teaching and introducing young people to the joys and challenges of the theatre. This is adapted from a piece Rory read at Beatles Night at The Players on October 4, 2018.