Preparation Of John Lennon
October Through December 1980
Oct. 20, 1980 Chapman read in the Honolulu Star
Bulletin about Lennon's return to recording after
a five-year hiatus. Lennon and his wife, the artist
Yoko Ono, had cut an album called "Double
Oct. 23 he quit his security job and signed out
for the last time. Instead of the usual "Chappy,"
he wrote "John Lennon." Then he crossed
Oct. 27 Chapman went to a Honolulu gun store and,
for $169, bought a five-shot, short-barrel .38-caliber
Charter Arms Special. Ironically, the salesman
was named Ono.
Oct. 30 wearing a new suit and topcoat, the revolver
in his suitcase, he boarded a plane for New York.
had several thousand dollars with him, what was
left of a $5,000 loan from his father-in-law.
As with his first visit to Hawaii, Chapman had
decided to live it up a little before carrying
out his plan. He checked in at the Waldorf and
treated himself to a dinner of filet mignon and
Heineken beer at its restaurant.
knew that John Lennon lived in the Dakota, a celebrity-filled
apartment hotel across from Central Park at West
72nd Street. He spent that day walking around
it and studying it, looking for the Lennons' sixth-floor
windows. He struck up a conversation with the
doorman, getting the standard statement that he
didn't know if the Lennons were in town.
also tried to buy the .38 bullets he hadn't bothered
to buy in Honolulu. He found to his chagrin that
New York's Sullivan Law forbade their sale.
called Dana Reeves, now a sheriff's deputy in
Georgia, and said he wanted to visit his old friends;
Reeves invited him to stay at Reeves' apartment.
Chapman flew to Atlanta.
there, he told Reeves he had bought a gun for
personal protection while he was in New York but
he needed some bullets "with real stopping
power." Reeves supplied him with five hollow-point
cartridges - the kind that expand as they pass
through their target.
Nov. 10 he was back in New York. The next night
he decided to take in a movie -- "Ordinary
People," in which Timothy Hutton plays a
suicidal youth trying to come to terms with his
dysfunctional family. When the movie ended, he
immediately made a phone call.
a Jack Jones recording played on the "Mugshots"
show, he describes that call: The experience in
that theater, somehow - when I called my wife,
I had defeated, I had capped that volcano. And
I called Hawaii and I said, "I'm coming home,
I won a great victory. Your love has saved me."
was like a snapback to reality. I realized that
I had a wife and she loves me. I told her I was
going to kill someone and I whispered -- I remember
whispering it in the phone -- "John Lennon.
I was going to kill John Lennon." She said,
"Come back," and that's when I came
demons were gone, but only briefly. Back home,
they were soon tormenting him again.
started making threatening phone calls and bomb
threats. He spent his days harassing a group of
Hare Krishnas who daily appeared in downtown Honolulu.
told an alarmed Gloria he was going back to New
York - but only for a few weeks, to try to find
a new career.
arrived on Saturday, Dec. 6. He told a credulous
cab driver who took him into the city that he
was a recording engineer who had just come from
a secret session of Lennon and Paul McCartney:
They were recording together for the first time
since the Beatles split up.
checked into a $16.50-a-night room at the YMCA
on 63rd Street just off Central Park West; this
time there was no splurge at the Waldorf. He walked
the nine blocks to the Dakota. While waiting on
the sidewalk there he struck up a conversation
with two women, Jude Stein and Jerry Moll. They
told him Lennon knew them by sight and sometimes
stopped to chat with them.
they left, Chapman offered to buy them dinner
if they came back later. Meanwhile he waited,
a brand new copy of "Double Fantasy"
under his arm. At 5 p.m., he gave up the vigil
and returned to his hotel. Ironically, the women
arrived 15 minutes later, in time to see Lennon
and talk with him.
at the Y, Chapman was disturbed by the sound of
the men in the next room, who obviously were having
gay sex. Outraged, he thought of barging in on
them with his revolver. He decided to save his
he checked out of the Y in the morning and moved
to the Sheraton Centre at Seventh Avenue and 52nd
was Sunday, Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
spent three hours waiting outside the Dakota,
then, growing hungry, took a taxi back to the
Sheraton. On the way, it occurred to him that
he hadn't brought a copy of The Catcher in the
Rye to New York. In a nearby bookstore, a poster
of Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion caught his eye.
He bought it.
on the newsstand he spotted the face of John Lennon.
The January Playboy Magazine carried an interview
with John and Yoko, their first in five years.
Forgetting The Catcher in the Rye for the moment,
he bought the magazine and read the interview
over his dinner.
Playboy centerfold reminded him of something that
Holden Caulfield had done on his odyssey in New
York. Chapman called an "escort service,"
but when the call girl arrived he told her he
merely wanted to talk - just as Holden had done.
He paid her $190 when she left at 3 a.m.
about 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 8, Chapman awakened
in his room at the Sheraton. Something told him
this was the day.
dressed. Then, on his dresser, he constructed
a tableau. He carefully laid out a Todd Rundgren
audiotape. He took out the hotel Bible, opened
it to the beginning of "The Gospel of John"
and wrote in the word "Lennon" after
"John." He placed on the dresser a letter
praising his efforts at the refugee camp, along
with photos of him with Vietnamese children. Behind
them was the poster of Dorothy and the Cowardly
picked up the "Double Fantasy" album
and one more item: the pistol, with cardboard
over it to conceal the outline in his pocket.
his way to the Dakota, he made a stop to buy the
copy of The Catcher in the Rye he had forgotten
the previous night. He also bought a ballpoint
pen, and on the inside cover he wrote " This
is my statement." He signed it "Holden
the Dakota, he chatted with the doorman, Patrick
O'Loughlin. Then, leaning against a railing, he
started to read The Catcher. Engrossed, he missed
seeing Lennon get out of a taxi and walk into
he resumed his vigil. Paul Goresh, an amateur
photographer who often staked out the Lennons
and whom Chapman had seen there on Saturday, joined
him. Then Jude Stein appeared again. She told
him that she and her friend Jerry had held a conversation
with Lennon on Saturday after Chapman left.
offered to buy her lunch. Afterwards, they returned
to the Dakota. Five-year-old Sean Lennon came
out with his nanny. Jude introduced Chapman to
him and Chapman shook hands with the boy.
would tell Gaines: "He was the cutest little
boy I ever saw. It didn't enter my mind that I
was going to kill this poor young boy's father
and he won't have a father for the rest of his
life. I mean, I love children. I'm the Catcher
in the Rye."
recalled seeing Gilda Radner, Lauren Bacall, Paul
Simon and Mia Farrow coming or going. But not
chatted with Goresh and with doorman Jose Perdomo,
whom he remembered from his visit in November.
He showed him the album he had brought for Lennon
they were talking, Chapman heard a familiar voice.
He turned. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were emerging
from the building with a gaggle of staff members.
was dumbstruck. Goresh had to push him to approach
Lennon. Speechless, he held out the album and
the pen. Lennon smiled, took them and wrote "John
the "Mugshots" show, Chapman's recorded
voice tells the story. He is describing an event
that happened 10 years before, but there is still
awe in his voice.
said "Sure" and wrote his name, and
when he handed it back to me he looked at me and
kind of nodded his head, "Is that all you
- just like that, like an inquiry into a different
matter, and I said, "Yeah." I said,
he again said, "Is that all you want?"
and there was Yoko, she was already in the car,
the limo, the door was open and it was running,
it was out in the middle of the street and he
asked me twice, and I said, "Yeah, thanks,
that's all," or something like that. He got
into the car and drove away.
stood amazed, the album in his hands, the gun
still in his pocket. He told Goresh, "They're
never going to believe this back in Hawaii."
He offered the photographer $50 if he had gotten
a picture of him with Lennon and could bring it
back the next day.
he would tell Gaines: "I was just overwhelmed
by his sincerity. I had expected a brushoff, but
it was just the opposite. … I was on Cloud Nine.
And there was a little bit of me going, 'Why didn't
you shoot him?' And I said, `I can't shoot him
like this.' … I wanted to get the autograph."
for the first time in a while, he prayed - to
God, for the grace to just take his record and
Chapman was torn, he would later say, between
the adult and the child inside him. The child
won. He stayed at the Dakota.
8 p.m., Goresh announced he was going back to
his home in New Jersey: It was obvious the Lennons
had gone back to the Record Plant, their recording
studio, and might not be back until after midnight.
pleaded for him to stay. "I'd wait,"
he said. "You never know if you'll see him
didn't catch the hint. Chapman was left with doorman
Jose Perdomo to talk to.
told Gaines: "I remember I was praying to
God [to keep me from killing Lennon] and I was
also praying to the devil to give me the opportunity.
… 'Cause I knew I would not have the strength
on my own.''
10:50 p.m. a white limousine pulled around the
corner and stopped at the curb. Yoko Ono got out
first. Lennon started to follow her into the building.
a statement recorded by police hours later, Chapman
declared, "He walked past me, and then a
voice in my head said, 'Do it, do it, do it,'
over and over again, saying `Do it, do it, do
it, do it,' like that."
called out, "Mr. Lennon!"
turned to see Chapman, crouching combat style
with both hands on the pistol.
statement continues: "I pulled the gun out
of my pocket, I handed over to my left hand, I
don't remember aiming, I must have done it, but
I don't remember drawing the bead or whatever
you call it. And I just pulled the trigger steady
turned to escape, but four of the five bullets
tore into him. To Chapman's amazement, he did
not fall but managed to run up six steps into
the concierge's station. He said "I'm shot,"
then fell face down.
was a subway entrance across the street, but Chapman
made no effort to flee.
turned to him: "Do you know what you done?
Do you know what you done!" He knocked the
gun from Chapman's hand and kicked it away.
took off his hat and coat and threw them on the
sidewalk. He knew the police were coming and wanted
them to see he wasn't hiding a gun. He took The
Catcher in the Rye out of his pocket and tried
to read it as he paced the sidewalk and waited.
police car roared up to the Dakota and two uniformed
police jumped out. One ran inside. Perdomo pointed
out Chapman to the other.
put his hands in the air. "Don't hurt me,"
he pleaded. "I'm unarmed."
acted alone," he said as the officer spread-eagled
him against the wall and searched him.
police cuffed him and put him in the back seat
of their car.
sorry I gave you guys all this trouble,"
he kept telling them.