After Yoko Ono married John Lennon, she kept one foot grounded in the mainstream and one in underground culture—in late 1971, for example, the couple appeared on the popular network TV program The Dick Cavett Show as well as at the Eighth Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York. They both mixed art and politics with a healthy sense of humor during events such as 1969’s Bed-In for Peace, when the couple leveraged their celebrity status to spread an antiwar message. Lennon and Ono invited reporters to cover their weeklong stint in bed, but if media outlets wanted to cover this entertaining spectacle, they also had to broadcast the couple’s political opinions as well. This Happening was an extension of the work Ono had done for a decade, but many still thought of her as just a glorified Beatle groupie—despite the fact that Lennon and Ono met at her art opening, since the Chambers Street Series. “I could have been killed because of my sense of humor,” she said, chuckling. “I have to be very careful.” Yoko was referring, in part, to the sorts of “ugly bitch” verbal assaults she endured after meeting Lennon. In the face of the racism, sexism, and pure unadulterated hatred, this trickster figure responded by laughing and screaming at the world.
From Chapter 8 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore