On Dec. 8, 1980, Dave Sholin and Annie Leibovitz walked into the same New York apartment, talked to the same couple, admired the same incredible ceiling, a burst of celestial clouds — but never met. It's one of those strange time things, where the hands of almost friends just miss reaching for the same swinging door.
Longtime West Coast radio personality and music director Sholin was there for RKO to conduct an interview. Photographer Leibovitz was there to shoot the cover for "Rolling Stone." Both were on assignment to bring the waiting public something more intimate on the couple who had just co-produced (along with Jack Douglas), the chart rising vinyl "Double Fantasy." Leibovitz met with John Lennon and Yoko Ono at 11 a.m. She was still working with the couple at 12:40 p.m., as Sholin's limo pulled in through the guarded gates.
Staircases and elevators lead to the various apartments in the Dakota. Sholin remembers walking through kitchens and business offices where phones rang constantly. He walked with his team, producer Ron Hummel, scriptwriter Laurie Kaye and Bert Keane with the Warner Brothers label.
They were escorted down a long hallway to the room with the beautiful painted ceiling. They took off their shoes and stepped onto the plush carpet. Yoko greeted them. John was in another room getting dressed. (In the now famous Leibovitz photo, a naked John is curled up next to, and kissing, the fully-clothed Yoko.) "Yoko was smart and had a sense of humor and it was immediately clear that she was a savvy business person," Sholin said. "We talked about John and their son Sean. It was a great conversation. Then the door opens and John jumps in with his arms extended, like 'here I am folks!' We were meeting John Lennon and we were all maybe a little nervous but that just put us right at ease in probably less than a minute." "He was regular guy, very, very sharp and extremely quick witted," Sholin continued. "And he connected with all of us. He had been out of the public eye for five years and he was open to speaking about anything. He did not hold back." Sholin and Lennon bonded on their mutual love for rock 'n' roll, including icons Elvis and Little Richard. Both were also romantics. When Lennon heard Sholin was getting married on Valentine's Day, he autographed a record to Dave's fiancé. "Debbie, I can't wait to see you in San Francisco." "John was serious about touring," Sholin said. "I guess that was the big surprise in the interview, that he was entertaining the idea of going out on the road." At 4 p.m. Sholin and his crew waited for their ride to take them to the airport. John and Yoko also waited to catch their ride to the studio. When their driver didn't show, the couple "hitched" a ride with Sholin. Almost in the limo, Lennon stopped to autograph a "Double Fantasy" record for a silent stranger in an overcoat.
Waving their goodbyes, Lennon and Ono were dropped off at Record Plant Studio and Sholin caught his flight back to the Bay Area. Hours later Dave was driving home to Pacifica when he heard KFRC's DJ Broadway Bill playing one Beatles' song after another. Then the news hit. At 10:45 p.m. John Lennon was shot four times by Mark David Chapman. At 11:15 p.m., John Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital. The shooter was the stranger in the overcoat.
Stunned and grieving -- Sholin, Ron Hummel and Laurie Kaye would put together the RKO syndicated broadcast, "Lennon: The Man, The Memory." But starting with "Good Morning America" the next morning at the crack of dawn, Sholin became "interviewee" for a great number of television and radio broadcasts, nationally and internationally. The Leibovitz photo would run on the cover of Rolling Stone, Jan. 22, 1981. Through their respective work, both Sholin and Leibovitz would help articulate a world-wide collective love and grieving for John Lennon.
Thirty years today, after the death of Lennon, Dave Sholin, who went on to become an inductee in the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall and an inductee in the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, is again a whirlwind of interviews. This past weekend, CNN aired a special on John Lennon called "Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder." Hosted by CNN's John Roberts, the documentary featured an interview with the RKO team of Sholin, Hummel, Kaye and Keane and will be shown throughout December.
Michael Waldman of the BBC also interviewed Sholin for an upcoming segment. On the 3rd, Fox News aired "The Last Days of John Lennon," which featured Sholin being interviewed by Steve Turney.
Anyone tuning into radios nationwide this past weekend, might have heard the Sholin "Lennon" interviews on stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, Miami, Orlando, Portland, San Diego, New Orleans, Green Bay, Albuquerque, Nashville and the list goes on.
"John Lennon got into music because he loved rock 'n' roll," Sholin said. "That whole rebellious side of shaking things up, that was what he wanted to do. 'All You Need Is Love,' 'Give Peace A Chance,' 'Power To The People,' you think of these songs and you hear that he was not afraid to step on toes to say what he had to say." "And he had this incredible love for the fun part of music," Sholin continued. 'Instant Karma,' 'Starting Over,' and he had a lot of plans for the future. And one of the big things he made clear was that he literally couldn't live without Yoko. That afternoon that we met, 30 years ago, he just couldn't wait for the next challenge and he was ready to take it on."
John Dote' who is now living in Las Vegas grew up in the bay area with Dave Sholin. His father and Dave were the best of friends during the 60's through the 90's. Dote' currently produces artists in his recording studio for "American Idol" and "America's Got Talent".
THE VERY BEST OF JOHN DOTE' / THE NEW YORKER