NEWS- Ono? Oh, yes! John and Yoko liked Charlottesville

John & Yoko drawing in the Dakota in 1972

When a delusional fan shot and killed John Lennon outside his home in New York in 1980, his family lost a father and husband; the world lost a visionary. But what has never been confirmed until now is that Charlottesville lost its chance to be Lennon and Yoko Ono's summer home.

Reminiscing to this reporter by telephone from London on Monday, Ono says she didn't remember the Charlottesville trip until very recently, a lapse she attributes to the timing of the trip, which occurred shortly before her husband's murder.

"I blocked it out," Ono says of her Charlottesville visit, which she believes occurred a few months before her husband's death, which Ono witnessed on a New York City sidewalk on December 8, 1980.

If the details of their Virginia visit remain hazy, Ono, now 74, says she now recalls that she and Lennon came away from the area with a positive impression.

"We were looking for a nice summer house," she says. Despite the fact that they didn't tour Monticello or check out other local attractions, she says the spirit of the area affected the artistic couple.

"It was almost like being in touch with the true history [of America]," Ono says.

Local real estate agent Roger Voisinet recalls hearing rumors at the time that the couple had been in town. But he says he never knew for sure. "Whenever someone like that seems to be looking at real estate, that kind of thing quickly spreads," he says. "It's nice to hear she confirms it."

This Friday, May 11, 27 years after his last visit, Lennon returns to Charlottesville– in spirit– with the exhibit "Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon," sponsored jointly by Ono and the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville.

More than 100 of Lennon's drawings and paintings– some original, some limited edition prints and lithographs– will be on display in the former Visitor's Center at 100 5th St., second floor, May 11-13, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the local charity Computers4Kids. The Hook spoke with Ono about Lennon's art and legacy.

Do you have favorite paintings in this exhibit?

I pick them, so I like them all. Recently, the ones I love very much are ones that [son] Sean and John did together. It's such an incredibly good memory. 

John went to art school in the late 1950s, but he didn't make his visual artwork public until around 1968. Was there something that triggered that decision?

He was so famous. He was too scared to do something like that because he was a Beatle. For him to do a show, no one's going to take him seriously. I'm the one who said, "Well, why not?" He said, "Because I'm a Beatle." I said, "You should just do it." He did it. I was wrong, and he was right in that it was not readily accepted by people. 

You have carried his legacy all these years. As an artist and musician in your own right, is it ever difficult to be forever linked to him?

It's a sheer pleasure to be promoting his work. He left it to me for me to do something. I'm an artist myself. I understand how he must feel, if his work would be put in a closet. I would not do that. He made these things so that people can hear them or look at them.

John's art has been licensed for use on baby pajamas, but his songs are not widely used commercially. How do you decide when and to whom to license his music or art?

I ask myself, "Would John think badly about the fact that his art is on babies' pajamas?" No. His songs are sometimes licensed for Amnesty International, where they use his song to promote peace. I think about how he would feel.

In the December 22, 1980 Newsweek, just a week after his death, you're quoted as saying "Please remember that he had deep faith and love for life and that, though he has now joined the greater force, he is still with us." Do you still feel that way?

Some people might feel that I'm ridiculous or crazy, but I feel he is still a big power out there and helping us.

War is Over! by John Lennon