Posted on: December 8, 2023, 07:13h.
Last updated on: December 8, 2023, 07:12h.
Some 43 years ago today, John Lennon’s life was ended by a deranged fan in one of the most senseless murders of the 20th century. But 16 years before that, unbeknownst to even most Beatles fans, his career was almost ended at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.
Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Aug. 21, 1964, following two 30-minute concerts at the Convention Center the night before, two underage girls were found in John Lennon’s room.
The discovery was made after the front desk phoned up to inform the group’s handlers that a woman was in the lobby, claiming that the Beatles kidnapped her twin daughters.
Miami radio reporter Larry Kane, who was covering the tour and sleeping in an adjacent room, was asked to meet with the woman. (He was the only one who traveled with a business suit.)
Before taking the elevator down, Kane opened Lennon’s door to investigate for himself. He found Lennon asleep with the girls watching TV at the edge of his bed.
No one can say for sure what happened before that, and Kane has stated his emphatic belief that nothing did, but it was the perception that was the problem.
The woman filed a lawsuit when she got home to LA, according to Kane, but the case was secretly settled by Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
Had the news spread, the Beatles’ winding road might not have been so long.
Sometime in the ‘80s, the two-bedroom suite where the Beatles stayed was halved. Lennon’s was the bedroom in Room 2344, while Room 2342 contains the rest. Unfortunately, the entire resort was stripped to its bones during its 2014 transformation to the SLS, an ill-fated boutique hotel experiment that lasted only five years.
He’ll Be Back Again
Lennon returned to Las Vegas two more times, both during his mid-’70s separation from his wife, Yoko Ono.
“He was fascinated with the Rat Pack and the old world of Las Vegas,” May Pang, former personal assistant to Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, told this reporter in 2010. Pang accompanied Lennon to Las Vegas as his lover on both getaways.
“With the Beatles, he never saw anything except the inside of a room,” Pang said. “This time, he went back as a civilian, going around to take it all in.”
Lennon and Pang shared a suite at Caesars Palace for four days in October 1973, where he caused a near riot of autograph seekers while attempting to learn roulette.
That first trip also included a reunion between Lennon and ’50s rock pioneer Fats Domino, who was headlining the Flamingo lounge over Frankie Valli. Lennon had first met Domino in New Orleans before the Beatles performed at New Orleans City Park Stadium on Sept. 16, 1964.
“Fats came to our table before the show and sat down,” said Pang, who reports that Lennon gushed: “I love you! I can’t believe you’re doing the lounge!”
Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” which appeared two years later on Lennon’s “Rock ’n’ Roll” album, was the first song taught to Lennon by his mother, Julia, who died when he was a teenager. She taught it to him with banjo chords, which he transposed to guitar.
Elvis Presley was never in town when Lennon was, but they had already met at Presley’s Beverly Hills, Calif., home in 1965.
He Should Have Known Better
Lennon’s final Las Vegas visit, in March 1974, wasn’t nearly as bad as his first. However, it wasn’t good, either.
He spent it mostly at the Riviera, where he and Pang stayed, though it also included a tour of the relatively new MGM Grand (now the Horseshoe Las Vegas).
It was a more stressful four days, Pang remembered, because they were accompanied by troubled singer Harry Nilsson, for whom Lennon was about to start producing an album. (“Pussy Cats” would be released later that year.)
Days later, Lennon and Nilsson would be ejected from the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles for shouting insults from the audience at headliners the Smothers Brothers.
“If John joined Harry in escapades, I had to be the one to watch out,” Pang said. “John would drink, too, but he would stop. After a while, John would say, ‘I’ve had enough, I don’t want to be in the papers.’”