Geoffrey Giuliano, the world's most prolific profiler of the Beatles, has written a "trust me" biography of John Lennon that he contends "has the power to change the course of Beatles history completely and forever."
Giuliano's book says Lennon beat Yoko Ono and bedded Linda McCartney. Was suicidal, perhaps homicidal. Bulimic and bisexual. And did something with his mother that good sons and mothers don't do.
Shocking stuff, much of it unattributed. But the Lockport author says he has transcripts of the diaries Lennon kept during the last years of his life, plus private audiotapes that Lennon and Ono made over the years.
"I didn't make up a single thing in this book. It is 100 percent factual," Giuliano, 46, said in an interview last weekend. "I want the world to know -- the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
Giuliano's primary source materials, however, tell a different story than the one he spins in "Lennon in America: 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries."
The author, when challenged about the lack of attribution in the book, allowed a reporter to spend seven hours reading what he said was key source material, including a typewritten transcript of Lennon's diaries from 1975 to 1979 and correspondence from Lennon to friends, family members and business associates. Giuliano also played what he said were segments of Lennon and Ono tapes that were the basis of several startling charges in the book.
The conclusion: Though the diaries and tapes allude to some elements found in the book, such as Lennon's preoccupation with his weight and a temporary embrace of fundamentalist Christianity, many of the scandalous revelations are not substantiated. In some cases, they're actually refuted.
A comparison of the book and key source materials that Giuliano provided, as well as interviews with Giuliano and others, shows:
If indeed Giuliano is working from the diaries that Lennon kept, these transcripts are possibly incomplete and certainly distorted, according to three people who have seen the original handwritten diaries.
Some of the book's most dramatic passages, such as those detailing sexual contact between Lennon and his mother and Lennon's suicidal tendencies, have been exaggerated by taking material out of context.
Giuliano admits embellishing parts of the book with fictitious dialogue and descriptions.
The author recycled numerous allegations made in other books that the Lennon camp disputed when they were initially published -- such as claims that Lennon beat his wife, Ono, while she was pregnant and had sex with male prostitutes -- without independently verifying the accounts.
Giuliano could not provide notes or written source material to support some accusations,
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such as Lennon's having sex with Linda McCartney, the wife of Paul McCartney.
A careful reading of the diaries and a review of the other key source materials provided by Giuliano suggests that while Lennon had his quirks and unusual behaviors, his life on balance was a far cry from the nightmare of depression, debauchery and disillusionment portrayed by Giuliano in his book.
Nor do the materials support one of the book's central themes, that Lennon and Ono had a hellish marriage. If anything, the diaries suggest the opposite.
"Dear Y. one day -- when you read all this -- remember You're the one I loved," reads one 1979 entry.
Steve Gutstein read Lennon's original diaries when he was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan in the early 1980s.
"I don't recall anything that I would consider scandalous," said Gutstein, who prosecuted Fred Seaman, who stole the journals after Lennon's murder on Dec. 8, 1980, outside the Dakota apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Rather than wild tales of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Gutstein said, the diaries included "a lot of philosophical musings and a lot of (details on) mundane, everyday matters."
Bob Rosen, who spent two months transcribing the diaries from Lennon's handwriting, agreed, saying Giuliano's book bears little resemblance to the journals.
"I see little bits and pieces, pretty mundane stuff, that might have come from the diaries," Rosen said. "The sensational things, I don't know where he got them from. I'm assuming he made it up, because I've never seen anything like that."
It's not just Giuliano's interpretation of the key source materials that raises questions about the book's credibility. His recent past history includes a guilty plea to noncriminal charges involving the nonpayment of seven years of utilities and complaints filed against him with the Lockport police involving allegations of harassment, breaking and entering and making threats of violence.
Giuliano said neither his past nor his methods should cast doubt on the book.
"I'm clean as a whistle in the way I put the book together. '60 Minutes' couldn't have done it better," he said.
"What is it that I don't have?" said Giuliano, who said his writing career takes a back seat to his Hindu-based spiritualism. "People worship me. I sit on a throne. I'm famous. Why would I want to perpetrate fraud on anyone?"
Elliot Mintz, a close friend of Lennon's during the last 10 years of his life and now spokesman for Ono, described Giuliano as "a literary stalker" who has made a career of the Beatles, first by fawning over them in print and more recently by writing harsh and misleading books on band members.
"The journals are so mundane that Giuliano had to rewrite them. He had to create something that wasn't there," Mintz said.
Continued interest in Lennon
The book was released last month and is drawing attention in newspapers and television shows from Toronto to London.
Before "Lennon in America" hit the stands, it was serialized in the Daily Mirror, one of Britain's biggest tabloids, with some 2.3 million readers. An excerpt was published a week ago in the Globe and Mail, the most prestigious newspaper in Canada.
In the past few weeks, the book was featured on a National Enquirer television news program, "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox TV, "AM Canada" and a syndicated program distributed to radio stations nationwide via Westwood One.
Cooper Square Press printed 40,000 copies of "Lennon in America," and its distributor reports the advance sale of 35,265 copies to bookstores. The book's first printing is considered a large run, and its distributor thinks it has a shot at becoming a best seller.
Meanwhile, Giuliano said movie studios are reviewing the book and "a deal is in the works."
The diaries are central to the biography, as evidenced by their mention in the book's title and by the estimate of Giuliano's editor, Michael Doar, that they account for 25 to 30 percent of the book's content.
"The diaries were, without a doubt, a treasure trove of factual information for Geoffrey and an important piece of the project, but just a piece," said Bruce Brown, one of the lawyers who reviewed the book for the publisher.
Lennon chronicled his life and thoughts in blank date books distributed by the New Yorker magazine. He maintained them from 1975 to the day he died. Seaman, one of Lennon's aides near the end of his life, stole the journals along with other personal belongings in the months after his murder. He turned them over to Rosen, and the two prepared to write a book about Lennon. Rosen, who maintains he didn't know at the time that the diaries were stolen, spent two months transcribing the journals.
The two eventually had a falling-out, and five of the six years of original, handwritten journals were later recovered after a police investigation culminated in Seaman's guilty plea to second-degree larceny. Only a photocopy of the 1980 diary has been recovered.
Giuliano maintains he obtained the transcripts from singer Harry Nilsson, a close friend of Lennon's. He doesn't explain how Nilsson acquired the diaries. But people who were close to Nilsson don't believe he ever had the transcripts.
Nilsson was talkative, yet never mentioned the Lennon diaries, nor did his wife find them among his belongings after his death in 1994, according to A. Lee Blackman, Nilsson's attorney and close friend.
"Harry's going to give Giuliano copies when he doesn't tell any of us?" Blackman asked.
And Blackman said Nilsson certainly wouldn't have turned over material that cast Lennon in an unfavorable light.
"Harry was not going to betray a friend," he said.
Ono's lawyers, who sued Seaman in a copyright dispute, are trying to subpoena Giuliano to question him about the diaries and any possible involvement with Seaman. Giuliano has vowed to go to prison rather than turn over his transcripts and other materials.
Little scandal in journals
Materials reviewed by The Buffalo News included 213 pages of the Lennon diaries from 1975 to 1979, a 2-inch-thick stack of photocopied personal correspondence, and portions of three Lennon and Ono audiotapes from 1968, 1970 and 1979.
Here's a summary of the anecdotes, thoughts and incidents recounted in these diaries:
Lennon dreamed a lot, often about sex. In another dream, he was killed at the Dakota.
He often had problems sleeping and maintained irregular hours.
He went through a religious phase that sounded a lot like born-again Christianity, and sometimes watched "The 700 Club" on television.
He took drugs on occasion, but seemed more interested in yoga.
He loved his wife, and his infrequent gripes mentioned typical subjects of marital discord: sex, religion and being in a rut.
He was enthralled by his son Sean, even though the child's behavior as a toddler sometimes frustrated him.
He was extremely conscious of his weight from 1975 to 1978, often going on fasts and diets and sometimes throwing up large meals, though it's never made clear whether the vomiting was self-induced.
He often worried about the health of his family and friends.
He turned to the FBI to deal with extortion threats that clearly unnerved him.
He kept in touch with McCartney and Beatle mates George Harrison and Ringo Starr, but wanted nothing to do with a late-1970s reunion a promoter proposed as a way of raising money for charity.
He enjoyed traveling abroad.
And he retained his wit, quipping in one entry: "Don't shave with your mouth full."
The mundane nature of much of the diary transcripts is consistent with the impression of the three others who said they read the original handwritten journals.
Gutstein, now an attorney in private practice in Manhattan, said the sensational claims made in Giuliano's book sound like a "parody" of the journals, which he said contained "no smoking guns, from my point of view."
Mintz, Lennon's friend, concurs, as does Rosen, who probably spent more time with the journals than anyone other than Lennon. Though the diaries include personal and intimate information, Rosen said, he saw nothing scandalous.
"It was day-to-day routines. It was philosophy," said Rosen, who is releasing his own book, "Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon."
"Everything that was John Lennon, that came out in his concerts, his interviews, his books, it was all there."
Giuliano defends portrayal
Does Giuliano have an accurate transcript of the diaries?
Interviews with those familiar with the journals said the transcript was never checked for accuracy against the original handwritten diary.
Does Giuliano possess a copy of the transcripts produced by Rosen?
Based on Rosen's description of what he produced, it appears Giuliano's version is somewhat abbreviated, formatted differently in some places and perhaps less detailed in others. But the general content of Giuliano's copy is similar to that described by Rosen, Mintz and Gutstein.
Giuliano insists that the diary he has is Lennon's, and he scoffed at the assertions of Mintz and Rosen, saying they have financial interests in challenging his account. Giuliano also stood by his interpretation of the transcripts and tapes, which he said were supplemented by interviews with 37 people and use of previously published material.
"When you put it all together, you get the picture," Giuliano said. "I don't believe I have drawn any conclusions. I was very careful that everything in the book is based on fact."
Interpretation in question
The transcripts aren't the only materials Giuliano used for the book. He also has the Lennon and Ono tapes. The tapes he played for The News suggest that he made leaps in conclusions and interpretations.
For instance, an audio diary from September 1979 with a voice sounding like Lennon's includes a recollection of touching his mother's breast when he was 14. The implication was that the contact was sexual in nature, though the voice on the tape provided few details beyond the fact he was playing hooky from school, a description of his mother's clothing and his thoughts about whether he should go further.
Giuliano begins his book with that encounter, but he writes in much greater detail than what the voice on the tape provides. The book describes the weather and notes the lingerie that hung on the clothesline. It reports, in quotation marks, the dialogue between mother and son. It recounts how the mother placed her son's hands on her breasts, the way her body reacted to his touch and the "jolt of native electricity that went through the boy."
None of those details are on the tape that Giuliano played for The News.
How does Giuliano explain it?
"There's a bit of artistic license -- half of one percent," he said. "We have some ability to color things. It's nothing that's out of the ordinary."
"The biography is an imperfect science."
Elsewhere on the tape, the voice purported to be Lennon's talks about looking out the window of his hotel, wondering if he should jump or go back to bed. With a laugh, the voice says he decided to go back to bed.
Giuliano insists the quip is evidence of Lennon's deep depression and suicidal mind-set.
The book also makes claims for which Giuliano provides no corroboration.
For instance, the book says that Lennon once had sex with Linda McCartney. For this claim, Giuliano said he relied solely on a two-page recollection of the incident that he said was in Lennon's handwriting and was shown to him by one of Ono's employees. He does not have a copy of the handwritten recollection.
Finally, there are claims that are based on previously published allegations but that Giuliano did not substantiate himself.
These allegations include Lennon's kicking Ono in the stomach when she was pregnant with Sean; having sex with male prostitutes; allowing former band mate Stuart Sutcliffe to perform oral sex on him in the early days of the Beatles; and later injuring Sutcliffe in an argument, leading to Sutcliffe's death a year later.
Those claims have been disputed by those close to Lennon. If Giuliano didn't verify the claims himself, how does he know those incidents are true?
"How do you know anything is true? That's my answer," Giuliano said.
Giuliano's editor and lawyer said they reviewed Giuliano's key documentation and came away satisfied the book was credible.
"We certainly wouldn't have published the book unless we were able to confirm that the information within was accurate," said Doar, Giuliano's editor at Cooper Square Press. "The manuscript was carefully edited and vigorously vetted (reviewed) by our lawyers."
Friction with local authorities
So who is Giuliano?
"Geoffrey Giuliano" is a pen name. He changed his legal name in 1997 from Jeffrey Juliana to Jagannatha Dasa Puripada.
He did stints as the Magical Burger King and Ronald McDonald in the late 1970s and early 1980s, became a major collector of Beatles memorabilia and eventually parlayed his interest into a writing career. In 1986, Giuliano wrote the first of his 23 books on popular music, 18 of them on the Beatles.
Giuliano said he practices what he describes as "devotional yoga," similar to orthodox Hinduism. His brick house across from the Erie Canal doubles as a Hindu temple, guest house, animal sanctuary, recording studio and vegetarian food pantry.
Through his Spiritual Realization Institute, Giuliano said, he buys and distributes food and clothing in northern India, where he travels two or three times a year. Most of his book royalties go to that and other charitable work, he said.
Giuliano has had his share of run-ins with the local authorities. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to a noncriminal violation and received a one-year conditional discharge after authorities accused him, along with his wife and oldest daughter, of trying to avoid $21,672 in bills from New York State Electric & Gas. Something Fishy Productions, one of his corporations, pleaded guilty to a felony count of fourth-degree grand larceny in the case.
The Giulianos, according to authorities, tried to avoid paying their bills from 1990 to 1997 by changing the name on the account every time NYSEG threatened to shut off service for nonpayment. Giuliano agreed to pay $15,629 in restitution, though he said he is refusing to pay the last one-third of the debt.
He insists he was unfairly prosecuted -- "they had nothing on me" -- and that he pleaded guilty only because it was cheaper than fighting the charges.
Giuliano has been the subject of several complaints filed with Lockport police since 1995, including accusations from a tenant that Giuliano followed and threatened him, and later broke into his apartment and trashed his furniture; a report from workers who delivered appliances to Giuliano's house that he threatened to "split their heads open" after they damaged a door; and an obscenity-laced confrontation with police after they picked up his daughter on a driving violation.
"They were simply allegations," Giuliano said of the incidents. "Charges were never filed."
His difficulties, he said, are rooted in the bigotry of local authorities and "goon squad" tactics of the Lockport police.
"They don't know what to make of me, dude. They're squares," he said. "It's kind of an inversion of ignorance. It's the blue-collar oblivion in which they live."
The house he and his family live in also has been the focus of attention. The property taxes and water bills haven't been paid on time in five years, public records show. Currently outstanding is a $3,332 water bill.
Giuliano recently told the Washington Post that he owns the house and that it's worth $700,000. Public records show that his in-laws own the property and that it's assessed at $86,400. Giuliano maintains that he was quoted out of context and that he has made improvements to the property to boost its value.
Mintz said Giuliano's background further erodes the book's credibility.
"People like Giuliano want to suggest it was all darkness, that John and Yoko had a loveless relationship and he was a creep of a guy. I imagine it makes for better copy in an age of cynicism," he said.
"I ask the reader, 'Who are you going to believe?' "