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John & Yoko's Montreal Bed-In

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LENNON.JPG     Hair piece? Where's Bob Greene?
    1 p.m. April 28-----

    Imagine if John Lennon and Yoko Ono had their 'Bed-In For Peace' today.
    Celebrity journalists would soak it up. There would be no vacancy at the bed-inn.

    But when John and Yoko camped out in suite 1742 of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (now Fairmont) in Montreal between May 26 and June 2, 1969 they drew about 150 journalists on a daily basis. The hipster hobknobbers were not your Sean Penn/Brad Pitt types. Celebrities hanging around the bed included comic Tommy Smothers and Chicago activist-comic Dick    Gregory.

    On June 1, 1969 Lennon wrote "Give Peace a Chance" on the spur of the moment in the suite. Smothers, Gregory, space cowboy Timothy Leary and local Hare Krishna temple members sang along in suite 1742. Cartoonist Al Capp was in the house. He did not sing.
The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is offering fans to experience their own "Bed-In" with an "Imagine" package in the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite (1742)......

.......Rates start at $599 per night on double occupancy. The package includes one night accomodation, one CD featuring "Give Peace a Chance," breakfast in bed for two or buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant and a copy of the "Give Peace a Chance" lyrics. The package runs though June 21, closing date for "Imagine: The Peace Ballad of John & Yoko" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The package is good for other Queen Elizabeth hotel rooms starting at $199 per night. Last week the hotel had a request to rent the suite on June 1, 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Bed-In.

As a former Beatle Lennon understood the power of a media event.
The Bed-In was an indoor extension of the hippie sit-ins of the late 1960s. John and Yoko wore pajamas as they addressed the media on their stance against the Vietnam War.
In the current suite 1742 the living room with a western view is where John & Yoko's bed was located. John had the furniture removed and the bed placed on the floor by the living room window. The current bedroom was a dining room.
John and Yoko adjourned to a smaller space in suite 1740 where they took cat naps during their Bedapalooza.

bed_in_list2.jpgThis is John's handwritten guest list to the Bed-In. "Bobby Dylan," did not RSVP. Also note the phone number of the rabbi that told him, "John, you got to give peace a chance," which inspired the song. (Archives courtesy of Fairmont/The Queen Elizabeth.)

     During its construction in 1958 the Queen Elizabeth was the second largest hotel in the Commonwealth and the first hotel in the world to offer air conditioning and electronically controlled heating. The hotel was constructed atop the Central (train) Station. Today there are 1,037 rooms and 100 suites. Of course, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Queen Elizabeth in 1962, 1971 and 1987.
     Piano man Liberace and crooner Tony Bennett appeared in the Salle Bonaventure supper club (now the Salon St. Francois meeeting room) in the 1960s. No word if John Lennon did a dueling pianos thing with Harry Nillson.

Andre' Poulin has been a Queen Elizabeth bellman for 51 years.
He carried John and Yoko's bags in 1969.
"They came in at night and moved very fast," he recalled last week. "They had five, six pieces of bags. We took the service elevator to the suite and left. All employees were told not to go in their room, ask for an autograph or a photo."
Poulin is 76. In 1969 he was more into French vocalists than the Beatles. Poulin assisted the other celebrities who visited suite 1742. "Most of them asked for directions from the main lobby," he said. "Security would escort them."
On June 1, 1969 Poulin wondered what was going on in the suite when he heard a guitar and lots of people singing "Give Peace a Chance." "There were people in the corridor so I knew there was a party somewhere," Poulin recalled. "But I did not know they were singing in the bed."

Andre: Baby, let me drive your car & carry your bag
André Poulin 007.jpg

Montreal was not the first choice for the Bed-In. The lovebirds were married on March 20, 1969 and had their first "Bed-In" in Amsterdam.  The encore Bed-In was to have been in  New York City, but John was not allowed in the country because of a 1968 cannibas conviction. They went to the Bahamas for a one-night stand on May 24, 1969 at a Sheraton but they couldn't stand the heat.

In November, 1964 the Beatles appeared at the old Montreal Forum---the home of hockey's Canadians. They were booked into the Queen Elizabeth but cancelled when they discovered more than 1,000 fans were waiting for them at the hotel. They called an audible and flew out of Montreal after their concert, but not after having the hotel bring them dinner at the Forum.
According to hotel archives, the Beatles dinner consisted of 12 shrimp cocktails, 6 celery and olives platters, 36 dinner rolls with butter, 2 sliced leg of lamp, array of seasonal vegetables, green salad and tomatoes with French dressing, assorted cheese platter, 12 fresh fruit salads and lots of tea.


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I worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel 1969. I worked there as a stationary engineer I attended the room for a VIP check. The maid was struggling to get a bed from the bed room to the dining room of the suite. I helped move John Lennon and Yoko`s bed into 1742`s dining room along with my duties to check the airconditioning. Met Lennon as he arrived at the suite. I got his autograph on QE stationary which I still have. I also gave Yoko`s daughter Kyoko a guided tour of the hotels engineering department and was thanked by Yoko.

Great article! The rabbi noted on the piece of paper was Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, who didn't stay long enough to participate in the recording of "Give Peace a Chance."

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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