His story is not unlike that of countless other music-obsessives of a certain age. In the early 1970s, as a wee brat, Greg Sterlace heard the Beatles, and his world changed, his imagination expanded, and in many ways, his future course was set.
Several decades after that first brush with the Beatles, Sterlace is the author of two books about the band – "The Beatles: Having Read the Book" and "The Beatles Album Guide" - and has completed work on the independent film "Catcher in the Rye with Diamonds," a collaboration with his wife, Paula Wachowiak.
Six years in the making, the film traces the three days in 1980 that Mark David Chapman spent walking around New York City believing he was living in J.D. Salinger's novel "The Catcher in the Rye." On the third day, Chapman murdered John Lennon outside his home in the Dakota Building.
Sterlace has been a fixture of the Buffalo music, arts and culture scene since the '80s, a status he cemented with the launch of his long-running cable access snark-fest "The Greg Sterlace Show" in the early '90s. I asked the often hilarious, always irreverent Sterlace if we weren't perhaps better off doing our best to forget Chapman, rather than digging deeper into such painful memories. His answer was pure Sterlace.
"Why should we forget him? It’s impossible to forget him. Every time Chapman comes up for parole it’s a national news story, with Rolling Stone giving details of the proceedings. Also, how can we Western New Yorkers forget Chapman, since he lives in the midst of our community, at the Wende Correctional Facility? His local paper is the Buffalo News. His local TV stations are channels 2, 4, and 7. He gets his pop and rock music coverage from Jeff Miers in the Gusto."
When the film opens at 11:30 a.m. July 28 at the North Park Theatre, Sterlace hopes it will provide some insight into Chapman's state of mind in the days leading up to Lennon's murder. "Chapman is worth exploring in the same way Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth are worth exploring," he said. "It's interesting to get into the mind of a mad man and see why he would want to kill an important international figure. With his horrible and reprehensible act, Chapman changed pop music history and he, unfortunately, will always be linked with Lennon."
Though Sterlace is serious about his film - and his interest in plumbing the depths of Chapman's damaged mind is clearly genuine - humor has always played a large role in his approach to media. Long evident during the lengthy run of "The Greg Sterlace Show," that humor hit a new peak with "Having Read the Book," a tome premised on a concept that demands to be labelled Meta. It is in fact a Beatles book about Beatles books, and the feather in its cap is that Sterlace reviewed his own book within the book.
"I suggested to John Lombardo of 10,000 Maniacs that I could help him write his autobiography," Sterlace recalled of the genesis of his debut Beatles book. "He was going to call it 'Nobody likes a Wanker,' but he reneged on doing the project because he said that he couldn’t trust me. After all, he’d only known me for a quarter century. So, I tried to think of what else I could write a book about. The obvious answer was the Beatles. Then I remembered Kramer on 'Seinfeld' and his coffee table book on coffee tables. I liked that idea and decided to write a Beatle book about Beatle books."
At the heart of all of this activity sits Sterlace's undiminished love for the band he credits with launching his imaginative and creative life.
"I continue to be a Beatlemaniac to this day because their music endures and because they are such a rich field to study," he said. "I find the nearly half century since their break-up just as fascinating as their years together."