People I’ve Met Along The Way | John and Yoko at John’s at the Beach…

Jun 15, 2011 by

People I’ve Met Along The Way | John and Yoko at John’s at the Beach…

It was a warm August evening in 1968 on Dover Lane, in Pierpont Bay, on the beach in Ventura, California. People lined the shore waiting for a run of grunion that was supposed to happen at high tide around 10:00 o’clock. The beachfront was dotted with bon fires as a feeling of excitement filled the salt air. I lived on Dover Lane with my wife and family where we adopted a beach lifestyle of volleyball (The infamous Strobel Spike), barbeques, and Bear’s famous Pina Colada’s. Bear was the head of the “Dover Do Gooders”, a loose knit group of young people who lived in the house at the very end of Dover Lane, right on the sandy beach and ten feet from the volleyball court. What happened next is clouded by pina colada but true, so help me God!

One of my daughters ran by me and said, “The Beatles are at John’s At the Beach. C’mon dad we’re going over to see them…” In 1968 I was a 37 year old father of six, living a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle of work and play with the emphasis on “play”. I had just finished a series of narrations for an industrial documentary producer and decided to live the “good life” for a while on my earnings. Dover Lane was two streets west of Seaward Street where John’s At the Beach held the spotlight on delicious cuisine and Ventura nightlife. I was intrigued enough that I followed the kids to the restaurant and sure enough, there was a glorious white “Silver Cloud” Rolls Royce parked next to the entrance of the establishment. That’s a fancy word for the place as the owner, John Blonder, a former motion picture actor and producer, kept it mysteriously dark and foreboding. I went to the side door and saw Blonder standing near the Maitre’d desk and ask him what was going on. He said, “Hi, John, it’s just some friends of mine, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They came up to have dinner and now John has agreed to entertain my customers with a few songs. C’mon in, you can sit there next to the stage.”

The stage, as Blonder called it, was a tiny riser that took up the room of a small cocktail table and was lit with a single dim blue spotlight. There, sitting on the riser, guitar across his lap, sat John Lennon. “The” John Lennon of the Beatles, in fact he was still a Beatle at the time. Next to the “stage” sitting at another small table was a pregnant Yoko Ono listening intently to her lover sing. She didn’t move the whole time I was there, just stared directly at Lennon and applauded politely at the end of each song. She later lost the baby she was carrying through a miscarriage but they named it John Ono Lennon prior to its burial.

That night I became a fan of John Lennon. I was bred and raised on “Big Band” music, syncopated rhythms that you could “Cut a Rug” to, “Jitter bug” or “Balboa” the night away. The strange sounds of the guitar heavy Beatle Mercy Beat music was foreign to me until that night at John’s at the Beach.

Lennon sat bolt upright in his chair on the “stage” singing softly. Being new to what I now realize was adoration of a super talent, I can’t even tell you what songs he sang that night but I can tell you that he was totally John Lennon, the artist, not John Lennon the Beatle.
I know, I know, the world is full of fans who attach artistic triumph to everything the Beatles did and I am not trying to degrade their accomplishments, I am only trying to describe a different man than the one who “performed” with Paul, George and Ringo.

Moments Count - Lohn Lennon and classic guitarThe night was magical. He only performed four or five songs but warmed to the audience’s applause. The audience was made up mostly of regulars who came to John’s At the Beach for a fabulous seafood dinner or one of his famously well prepared steaks. Dining at “John’s” was a treat and being entertained by John Lennon was icing on a cake of monster proportions. I sat in my chair, transfixed by this young Englishman who had captured the heart of the world with his musical messages of peace and freedom.

I had been introduced to him once before at a press conference at Capitol Records in Hollywood prior to their tour of the U. S…A friend and colleague of mine, Bob Eubanks was the Producer/Sponser of that tour and Bob was kind enough to offer introductions at the end of the press conference. I felt lucky that day meeting the most popular young men in the world, but that night at “John’s At The Beach” was even more significant as I actually shook hands with Lennon as they left to return to Hollywood..

It was a night I will always remember.

Moments Count - grunion run

This is what a grunion run looks like

Oh! And as if you cared, the grunion never showed up that night.

-O-

10 Comments

  1. Dear John,
    What a wonderful memory, so glad that you shared it. You may not remember me, but I used to play with Wendy and John when we were little. I lived across the street from you when you were on Trinity Dr. I have the fondest of memories of playing and having such a crush on your sweet John Jr. My parents shared with me the tragedy of his leaving this world. I was heartbroken for you all.
    It is good to hear that you are well and doing well. Give my regards to everyone else.
    I sure miss grunion hunting evenings on the beach. Haven’t done it in years. I live in Northern Ca. now in the Sierra’s and loving it. Mom and Dad are still at the homestead.
    Happy trails and may the Good Lord bless you.
    Alicia Richards

  2. Jeni

    ah, John, this is the kind of story I love to read … you made me feel like I was sitting there with you … of course I would’ve ordered dinner … what a wonderful memory … what a great experience … glad you followed your daughter!! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Don Rea

    I cant believe what I just read……. I was a original ..Dover-do-gooder..lived at the house at the end of Dover Lane with 3-4 other guys from Iowa..I remember John’s at the Beach with the peanut shells and all the great times…keg parties with a live band …dancing on a parachure

  4. Claire Wilson

    Absolutely terrific article! Loved every word. You have a tremendous knack for catching the moment and bringing back the feelings of the day. I also grew up in that lazy, friendly unique attitude of Pierpont but moved there just after this happened! Sorry I missed it but this article almost made me feel like I was there to. Thanks for sharing John.

  5. thank you John for this delightful trip down memory lane; you told it with the exqusite warmth of the story itself:-)

  6. My dear friend; Thank you again for your kind comments. Billy you and I shared so many wonderful moments growing up in Ventura that I sometimes have difficulty sorting them all out. From 1943 to when you went into the Army we were inseparable and even after you had gone, when I thought of a freind it was always based on our relationship. You and Cliff and I were the “Three Musketeers” of Ventura. D’artagnan, Aaramis and Porthos…We never found our Athos ( A lot of A-holes but no Athos). I am no Alexandre Dumas but I use that example of a writer’s characters with great humbleness because when you write those encouraging words I know I have, in some small way, achieved the greatest accomplishment a writer can experience, that he has stirred emotions in a reader. I look forward, with great anticipation, to reminiscing with you about our lives as life long friends…Thank you Bill for the encouragement.

    Your friend
    John W. Strobel III (Johnny)

  7. Bill Nelson

    Oh John the nostalgic feelings your writings conjure up in me are so good and yet emotionally difficult at times to deal with. The grunion – if they were running tonight and if I were there, I would be there. I was not a huge Beatles fan but enjoyed many of their highly popular musical renditions. Later on, I want to recall with you some of the memories I have. Meantime, keep producing the fine writing.

    With great fondness, as always,

    Bill

  8. Thank you very much for your kind words. I know my wrting style is rather colloquial but if I am able to write my stories in a way that causes worldly readers like you to write a positive comment then I feel I have done my job. Even if it is for just a few moments, I have entertained you…Be safe, be well and shalom…JWSIII

  9. Cobbe

    John,

    How sweet is this article – captured me from your first word!
    Love it………….

  10. Donna Morask

    Oh John, you’ve done it again. I felt as if I were there with you sitting at watching these extraordinary moments… Sometimes I can feel what you described as feeling in those moments! You have had a rich life indeed my friend, and meeting John Lennon for me, would be the thrill of a lifetime. He has a not well known song he plays on acoustic guitar called “Working Class Hero”. Give a listen… I think you’ll enjoy. Another fine blog. Thank you for sharing so many of your moments. Peace