The Beatle and the avant-garde artist married in Gibraltar on March 20, 1969, and days later headed to the Amsterdam Hilton, where they laid in bed for a week, shaggy and in baggy pajamas, talking to the press about peace amid the Vietnam War.
The John-and-Yoko honeymoon tour resumed in late May with a bed-in at a Montreal hotel, where a crowd of pals that included Tommy Smothers, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary helped Lennon record what quickly would become an international anti-war anthem, “Give Peace a Chance.”
With the world still far from war-free, Ono has taken the quest for peace from bedside press conferences to the United Nations and even the Internet: She’s asking couples to recreate the bed-in, and upload pictures and stories to imaginepeace.com.
The anniversary also is being marked around the globe. The John Lennon Museum near Tokyo is celebrating with a music-filled event called “Wedding Days.” The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with Ono’s help, is set to open an exhibition on the Canadian bed-in that promises to “contextualize” the event.
The Amsterdam Hilton, immortalized in the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” is giving the public tours of its John and Yoko Honeymoon Suite for the first time. The room usually runs $2,400 a night.
If all the hoopla seems a bit much, it’s actually a fitting tribute to Lennon and Ono, who knew the value of a good publicity stunt-- and weren’t afraid of coming off as silly, outrageous or naïve for a worthy cause.
During the bed-in at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Lennon told reporters that peace was a product like soap – “you’ve got to sell and sell.”
"Yoko and I are quite willing to be the world's clowns, if by doing it we do some good,” he once said.
Lennon may be gone nearly 30 years, but there are still many of us who can imagine peace. The Ballad of John and Yoko plays on.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.