In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan managed to get himself, a reel-to-reel tape deck and some cameras into John and Yoko’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. John and Yoko were in between their famous “Bed-ins for Peace” (the first in Amsterdam, the second in Montreal) and the world’s media wanted to talk to them. How a fourteen year-old pulled off such an exclusive is a fascinating story. The meeting had a profound effect on the boy and, thirty-eight years later, Jerry Levitan produced a film about it, and then a book. They are both called “I Met the Walrus”.
Released in 2009 (I only just got a copy) its a really good read.
The book gives a lot more background and detail about Levitan’s childhood, how as a teenager he came to be in the right place at the right time when John and Yoko blew into Toronto in late May, 1969, and how a personal brush with fame shaped his life as a result. The book is lavishly produced by Harper Collins, with an embossed cover, a collector’s DVD, unique photographs, great design, and illustrations like this one by artist James Braithwaite: It was only after I bought the book that I remembered early last year seeing a terrific little animated film that was created about the same young boy going to visit the Lennon’s in Toronto. Turns out it was indeed this Academy Award-nominated film, also called “I Met the Walrus”:
As you can see, the film takes the original hotel interview recording as it’s soundtrack. Director Josh Raskin then illustrates Lennon’s every word in what’s been described as “….a cascading flood of multi-pronged animation”.
The amazing pen illustrations for the film were by James Braithwaite (who also illustrates the book), with digital illustration provided by Alex Kurina.
How the film came about so many years after the interview – and the story of it’s subsequent Oscar nomination – forms the Epilogue chapter of the book.
On the back cover Yoko Ono provides these words: “I remember fondly, how young Jerry came to us and did the interview, when so many journalists were trying to speak to us. He was not only brave but very clear and intelligent. Both John and I thought it was a very pleasant experience.”