Singer and song writer John Lennon was killed on today’s date – December 8 in 1980. He was 40 years old at the time of his death. Lennon was the first member of “The Beatles”, the 1960’s/’70’s rock and roll group and cultural phenomenon to be taken from us. His death set off a wave of public mourning and remembrances the like of which had not been seen before, but which have become more common with the deaths of cultural figures such as Diana, Princess of Wales, and quite recently with the death of truly important statesmen such as Nelson Mandela. Lennon left behind his wife, Yoko Ono, and his son Julian, and of course, many millions of fans.
Lennon is Shot and Killed in New York
“Police said the shooting occurred outside the Dakota, the century-old luxury apartment house where Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono lived across the street from Central Park. Police say they had a suspect and described him as ‘a local screwball’ with no apparent motive for shooting Lennon. About 300 people gathered outside the entrance to the Dakota, many of them weeping.” said the Associated Press in an article which made the top of the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer the next morning, one of many such front page headlines that this event produced.
The article continued: “Jack Douglas, Lennon’s producer said he and the Lennons had been at a studio called ‘the Record Plant’ in midtown earlier in the evening and that Lennon left at 10:30 p.m.. Lennon said he was going to get a bite to eat and then go home, Douglas said. A bystander, Sean Strub, said he was walking south near 72nd Street when he said he heard four shots. He said he came around the corner to Central Park West and saw Lennon being put into the back of a police car. “Lennon arrived in the company of his wife and the assailant fired.’ He said the suspect, ‘a pudgy kind of man’ 30 to 40 years old with brown hair, was put into another police car. ‘He had a smirk on his face’ when police took him away Strub said.” Lennon was taken to Roosevelt Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.
The “local screwball” turned out to be one Mark David Chapman whose motives were psychotic in nature, and therefore are unworthy of further consideration. “He” was tried and convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty years to life in prison, from whence as of this date he has never been (and hopefully never will be) released, having been denied parole seven times.
The World Learns of Lennon’s Death on “Monday Night Football”
It may seem odd to most of us nowadays, when we have cable TV and literally a 24 hour news cycle, but the world outside of New York learned of Lennon’s death during a broadcast of “Monday Night Football”. An ABC TV news producer, Alan J. Weiss happened to be at Roosevelt Hospital that night for treatment of injuries he had sustained in a motorcycle accident. Weiss recognized Lennon being brought in on a stretcher. Soon, word reached Roone Arlidge, the President of ABC news. It was decided to announce the news soon after it was confirmed. ABC was in the middle of broadcasting the Monday night football game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell (below), ABC’s “Monday Night Football” team of broadcasters were told and made the announcement:
“Cosell: … but (the game)’s suddenly been placed in total perspective for us; I’ll finish this, they’re in the hurry-up offense.
Gifford: Third down, four. (Chuck) Foreman … it’ll be fourth down. (Matt) Cavanaugh will let it run down for one final attempt, he’ll let the seconds tick off to give Miami no opportunity whatsoever. (whistle blows) Timeout is called with three seconds remaining, John Smith is on the line. And I don’t care what’s on the line, Howard, you have got to say what we know in the booth.
Cosell: Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take. Frank?
Gifford: (after a pause) Indeed, it is.”
Associated Press report from the Cincinnati Enquirer, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 1980