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Archive for the ‘Yoko Ono’ Category

In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibowitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

In this March 2007 photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets American photographer Annie Leibovitz at a reception prior to their photo shoot. Notice that the Queen has her black Launer purse on her arm.

Prior to her May 2007 visit to the United States, Queen Elizabeth II sat for a series of official photographs by famous celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Ms. Leibovitz is well known for her sometimes controversial celebrity photographs including one of a naked John Lennon hugging a fully clothed Yoko Ono.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz. Five hours after this photo shoot, Lennon was shot dead.

December 8, 1980 photograph of John Lennon with wife Yoko Ono taken by Annie Leibowitz.

Leibovitz has said the original concept for the now legendary John Lennon and Yoko Ono Rolling Stone cover was for both to appear nude, designed to mark the release of their album “Double Fantasy.” As legend has it, Lennon was game, shedding his clothes quickly, but Ono felt uncomfortable even taking off her top. Leibovitz recalled for Rolling Stone:

“I was kinda disappointed, and I said, ‘Just leave everything on.’ We took one Polaroid, and the three of us knew it was profound right away.”

It was December 8, 1980. Five hours later, Lennon was dead – shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of his Manhattan apartment.

Now back to what I was saying about the Queen:

Leibowitz took the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II in March 2007. One of the photos, shown below, shows a very serene Queen sitting in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace dressed in a pale gold evening dress, fur stole, and diamond tiara. The wide shot captures the Queen gazing towards a large open window and reveals some of the room’s furnishings and a reflection of a chandelier in a mirror. The room is dark except for the soft light flooding through the open window. All is calm.

Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007

The session was going smoothly until Leibovitz asked the Queen to take off her tiara (crown) to look “less dressy” for the next photo. The Queen flew into a huff and replied:

“Less dressy? What do you think this is?”

Queen Elizabeth II, photographed by Annie Leibowitz, March 2007. The Queen is not amused after having been asked by Leibowitz to take off her crown, which is actually a tiara.

The Queen was definitely not amused and the tiara stayed on the royal head.

The incident was caught on tape and included in a  BBC documentary “A Year with the Queen.” The BBC kept the footage and included it in a  promotional trailer for the film. The trailer shows the Queen telling an aide, “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much” and storming out of the room.  The BBC later apologized and admitted that the sequence of events shown on the trailer had been misrepresented, as the Queen was in fact walking to the sitting in the second scene, not exiting. This led to a BBC scandal and a shake-up of ethics training. The event is known as “Tiaragate” and “Crowngate.” According to sources, the Queen was still furious about the incident months later.

Here’s the NBC-TV report:

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Yoko Ono (b. 1933) photo 2002

Yoko Ono (b. 1933) wearing her trademark wraparound sunglasses and sporting a tattoo. This photo by Mark C. O'Flaherty was taken in London in 2002, the year before Yoko Ono turned 70 and reprised her once-controversial stage show, "Cut Piece," in Paris.

In 2003, when Yoko Ono turned 70, she celebrated her birthday in much the same way the rest of us do. She put on her best outfit (a little black dress, of course), ordered a cake (chocolate), and invited a few friends to come to her party. And, to make it more fun, she hauled out some family photos to remember the old days and tacked them on the wall.

Sounds normal enough, right ? Hardly. The words “Yoko” and “normal” have never appeared in the same sentence before, until now. Yoko, after all, rose to fame first as an avant garde performance artist before she met and wed Beatle John Lennon. True to her fashion, Yoko staged her February 2003 birthday party to be an attention-getting bash. She invited 200 guests to one of New York’s poshest restaurants, Mr. Chow. The partygoers were an eclectic lot,  including creative types like  rockers (Lou Reed, Fred Schneider of the B-52s) and writers (Susan Sontag) as well as recording executives and media moguls. As for the decor:

The room was dominated by a blown-up picture of Ono and John Lennon with their words, “War Is Over If You Want It.” Another wall showed Ono’s “Film No. 4, Autumn,” which features 300 bare butts walking. A portion of the floor was covered with white canvas to create a “painting to be stepped on” of footprints. In another part of the party, Ono’s Bagism, a fabric bag big enough to enclose two people, was available for cavorting guests. Guests received goodie bags that contained Ono’s book “Grapefruit” and her “Box of Smile,” a mirror encased in a box. 

Yoko has been in the jaw-dropping business since 1964 when she first performed “Cut Piece” at the Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo. At the time she was struggling for recognition as a concept artist. “Cut Piece” was her most provocative piece of that period.

In these first performances [of 'Cut Piece'] by Ono, the artist sat kneeling on the concert hall stage, wearing her best suit of clothing, with a pair of scissors placed on the floor in front of her. Members of the audience were invited to approach the stage, one at a time, and cut a bit of her clothes off—which they were allowed to keep.” Yoko left the stage completely nude.

Click to see a film of Yoko’s 1965 Tokyo performance of “Cut Piece.” [The music by Yoko Ono was added later.]

“The Japanese audiences’ volative reaction convinced Yoko that she could not stay in Japan if she expected to attract serious attention.” So she took the show on the road – to New York then London for the fateful meeting with Lennon at the Indica Gallery. (1)

Seven months after Yoko held her birthday bash, she decided to reprise “Cut Piece” for a Paris audience, saying that she was doing it for world peace. “Come and cut a piece of my clothing wherever you like the size of less than a postcard,” she offered, “and send it to the one you love.”

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, cuts away a piece of his artist mother Yoko Ono's dress as she repeats her 1960s performance "Cut Piece," in Paris.  (AP)

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, cuts away a piece of his artist mother Yoko Ono's dress as she repeats her 1960s performance "Cut Piece," in Paris. (AP)

Wearing a layered black silk chiffon skirt (Chanel?) and a black blouse (Gucci?), Yoko sat in a chair onstage as audience members, including son Sean Lennon, came forward and snipped off pieces of her clothing. One woman cut a piece of her own jacket and gave it to Yoko.

“There were a few tense moments. One woman hacked rather brutally with the shears….Early on, one woman cut Yoko’s shoe…but Yoko was obviously not pleased and asked her not to do the shoe, but the damage was already done.”

Stripped down to her matching black bra, panties, and shoes, the show ended and Yoko was escorted off stage in a red kimono.

(1) Spitz, Bob. The Beatles: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

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