Yoko Ono on Lennon, Drugs and Sexuality


John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono​, the legendary artist and widow of John Lennon, sat down with ​The Daily Beast​ for an exclusive interview about life after Lennon’s assassination,  rumors around Lennon’s—and her own—sexuality, parenting her two children and American politics. The interview, conducted in the Dakota, where Ono still lives and where her late husband’s life was taken by Mark Chapman in 1980, ​can be read in full hereBelow, 15 highlights from the interview:

On living in the home where Lennon was murdered: “We shared this every day. Every day we shared each room…The good memory supersedes the bad memory. The bad memory was just one that was terrible. But other than that, I felt we were still together. I would feel very strange if I had to leave this apartment. There are so many things that he touched here that he loved. Those things mean a lot.”

​On the drugs her and Lennon used:  ​”I hate marijuana. I never wanted to—but in a social situation with people passing it round you just have to pretend…I didn’t like marijuana, so I didn’t constantly take it like most people. I think acid was not bad, but acid is very strong so you don’t take it every day.

On when she stopped taking drugs: ​ ​”Maybe 1981 or ’82. After John’s passing, the doctors said, ‘We’ll give you morphine, every day if you want to.’ When you are in extreme sadness, you don’t know what they will do—jump out from the side of a building or something…What happened was that I suddenly realized I had extra responsibility on many levels, so I couldn’t be taking anything. The first night they gave me morphine, but from then on I didn’t take anything. I couldn’t do it. I had to be super-clear to take on the business situation, the political situation, everything.”

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On her husband’s assassination: “I ​was really lucky that I didn’t die with John. If that had happened, what would have happened to Sean?”

On her husband’s assassin, Mark Chapman: ​”​I’m very, very careful.​ It’s very, very difficult for me to think about Chapman, especially because he doesn’t seem to think that was a bad thing to do. It’s crazy. One thing I think is that he did it once, he could do it again, to somebody else—you know. It could be me, it could be Sean, it could be anybody, so there is that concern.

​On LGBT equality: ​Equality is people having to create their own future.​..Equality under the law and equality in real life is slightly different. People are different from how the law can control them. We have a very complex life called the human life. There’s more than equality in life.”

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​On dealing with prejudice as an Asian woman: “One of the reasons I survived—I am surviving aren’t I?—is that I didn’t take it that seriously.”

​On bisexuality: ​John and I had a big talk about it, saying, basically, all of us must be bisexual. And we were sort of in a situation of thinking that we’re not [bisexual] because of society. So we are hiding the other side of ourselves, which is less acceptable.​”

​On whether or not Lennon had sex with other men: ​”No, I don’t think so. The beginning of the year he was killed, he said to me, ‘I could have done it, but I can’t because I just never found somebody that was that attractive.’ Both John and I were into attractiveness—you know—beauty.”

​On her own sexuality: ​I think my sexuality is extremely old-fashioned. Many people think I’m a strong woman. I never thought that, but probably I am.​..I like normal relationships, whatever ‘a normal relationship’ is.”

On being the woman who “broke up the Beatles”: ​”There were so many negative labels about me, but they were from people who really didn’t understand me at all. If I were to come out and say something it wouldn’t have affected anything. They would have laughed. So I shut up.”

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​On her turbulent relationship with Paul McCartney: mean, he must have suffered a lot, just like I suffered more or less the same thing in a way. So I understand. I’m sympathetic to him for having all sorts of pain. Most people think that Paul or me should not have any pain at all because we are so privileged. But it’s not true. The degree of pain is always there.​”

On parenting Sean and Kyoko: ​”​I’m pretty hands-off. The fact that Sean and I especially understand each other musically and everything, it’s a good relationship in that sense.”

​On family gender roles: ​”[Lennon] felt I knew more about business, which was not true. So he wanted me to take care of the business and he wanted to take care of the child, which was an incredible thing. In those days nobody did that. It was a macho age. And he cooked: He baked bread.”

​On being alone: “I think most famous people are lonely because they are separate. They have a separate life—whatever that is—from people around them. Even when you’re with them there’s a certain separation. It’s something you don’t create. It just happens in your life, and you either accept it or don’t.”