GIULIANO IN CONVERSATION
The Long & Winding Road From
???THE BEATLES / A CELEBRATION??? TO ???LENNON IN AMERICA’
The World Beatles Forum – Volume Five, Number Two – Sept. / Oct. 2000
Conducted via telephone Thursday, July 27, 2000
The Joan River’s Show 1991
FROM THE INTERVIEW
???I have spent the better part of my life chronicling the life and times of The Beatles as very, very human beings, trying to set the record straight, as far as I can as an outsider, as to who these people were – and with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the myth. It???s much more magical this incredible, unparalleled, fantastic work emanated from four, very fallible human beings, than four demigods who touched down from planet Dingdong to save us from ourselves, time, and decay. It???s stupid. They???re just people. That the fans apparently don???t want to hear that makes me fear for their state of mind.???
???Yoko-or ???Mommy???, as Lennon called her towards the end of his life, ran interference between John and the world. That however, soon turned into something far more sinister, which isolated John keeping him a virtual prisoner in the Dakota – a bird in a gilded cage. Just because he was a great musician, lyricist, clever social commentator and erstwhile pop philosopher, doesn???t mean John was either emotionally healthy or any kind of demigod. What makes Lennon so interesting is the realization (after twenty years gone from this world) was that he was so weak, so fragile, so made of glass, so very susceptible. Sadly, he found someone who took full advantage of his teetering emotional state, and thus, Yoko Ono Lennon continues to milk that fucking cash cow dry to this very day.???
???The problem doing damage control with me is I???ve got a big mouth, and I???m too dumb to be afraid.???
???How come there isn???t a John Lennon Hospital? If Ono wants to sell Beatle barbeque aprons and baby booties, she could at least give the money to the John Lennon Liver Cancer Hospital or something. Judge the tree by the fruit, and the fruit of Beatle worship is a lot of smarmy self-indulgence. A lot of these Beatle people are lost souls who don???t need to be. If they just try to take The Beatles??? and John Lennon???s work at the highest level, they could really do something great.???
???I???m a recovering Beatleholic. I encourage everybody to get on a 12-step program away from all addiction. My daughter once said to me, ???Don???t think just because you don???t take drugs, you???re not an addict. You???re addicted to work. You???ve written thirty books in less than ten years. You???re just hiding in your work.???
???There are many people who love my work. I get that all the time, but I get the other side too! The reason I don???t talk much about people who like it is that they???re not as sick. They don???t need as much help. I feel sorry for people who are obsessed with The Beatles. Are you obsessed with The Beatles????
???When the first copy of ???The Beatles: A Celebration??? came in the post from the publisher I cried. Then when my second book, ???John Lennon: My Brother??? came, I got a little teary-eyed. Now, I don???t even open the damn package. I just throw it in the corner and there they sit. After you???ve written like 20, 30 books, the bloom is off the rose. It???s not such a big deal. I???m tired of writing. I can???t keep fooling around with the Beatles forever!???
G eoffrey Giuliano – you either love him or hate him! Some Beatles fans love to hate him, citing he not only distorts the truth, but makes up stories that taint the image of The Beatles. His many supporters believe that he refreshingly tells the story as it really happened. In this controversial interview, we present Giuliano as he???s never been seen – warts and all.
Geoff Franklin (GF): Geoffrey you knew going in that Lennon In America would raise eyebrows. Has it created more or less controversy than you expected?
Geoffrey Giuliano (GG): The book didn???t get the media play I suspected it might or felt it should. I believe that???s a direct result of a whispering campaign to various obvious media venues by persons who have a vested, continuing business interest to see that the Lennon Estate continues to do business unimpeded by the likes of me. We didn???t get things I was sure we would get – venues like Entertainment Tonight; Inside Edition – these kinds of shows did not pick it up. I???ve done business with most of these shows over the years on various books and I know exactly the kind of thing they???re looking for. It is my suspicion, that rather than confront me too much, publicly, which then calls for rebuttal and maybe stirs the thing up, so one gets more publicity, it???s easier to give a call to your buddy who???s the executive producer . . . and keep whoever you want off by promising them something in the future.
GF: And this would be people in Yoko???s camp?
GG: Yes, people like Elliot Mintz. That???s what I think happened. I certainly can???t prove it did. But, it???s what I would do, if I was in their shoes – it???s easy to do. He???s a major PR person in Los Angeles. He???s got ongoing relationships with those people. It didn???t get the play I thought it was going to get. And the play it got wasn???t on a very high level. They just picked out less than a handful of sensational bits from the book and ran them into the ground without background or regard to their importance, position in the book, or indeed any further commentary from me. They took comments from Elliot Mintz, Harry Nilsson???s lawyer and Yoko???s white glove lawyer . . . and they put them down as gospel, as though they were somehow carved in stone. I wasn???t impressed with that. But, it???s par for the course for the media. The American media certainly isn???t very deep. They???re just looking for sound bites, so they just did a slash and burn on the book. The problem is that the book isn???t really what all that is about. Yes, there are those elements which are sensational. They have to do with sex, drugs, troubled marriages, emotional upsets and the inner landscapes of John???s mind. So, I understand how people would want to pick on those, but they???ve missed the point of the work. Now, we don???t expect the media to get the point of anything. I???m pretty cynical about them. They just squeezed out what play they could and moved on. But, I feel really badly . . . that these ardent, hardcore, year-after-year, decade-after-decade Beatles fans, are very closed minded people who have formed their world around them and refuse to allow anything as trivial as reality to intervene . . .
GF: . . . meaning that they don???t want the myths of their icons exploded . . .
GG: Yes, and I think that???s an extremely dangerous way to live, and so, by the way, did John Lennon. These people need to get a life!
GF: Okay, so the media missed the point. What about the readers?
GG: I got a lot of emails from people. Some of them got it, absolutely, which is, ???Hey, you really have a lot of affection for John, and thank you for trying to go out on a limb the way you have, personally, to bust the many myths surrounding John.??? I tried to give this man humanity . . . There was a review called, Lennon Dismembered. But, I feel it should be more Lennon Resurrected, because I was trying to give the humanity and a reality to him he deserves. I absolutely have the greatest respect for John Lennon. I cannot however, abide Yoko Ono. I think she???s just a very manipulative, cold, untalented, overambitious, money grubbing gold digger. I could go on and on with adjectives . . .
GG: It wasn???t really. I did a couple of interviews with her. I was up there, socially . . . one time . . .maybe two times for business.
GF: You had photos taken with Yoko and Sean.
GG: Those were photo ops. People shouldn???t read too much into that.
GF: So, you were never friends, then?
GG: We were never . . . no, no. I don???t think Yoko has the capacity to be a friend to anybody . . .
GF: Did you realize this from the first time you met her, or did it take some time to develop that opinion?
GG: Before I met her I understood she was a highly manipulative human being and I think it is very unfortunate John Lennon ever got involved with Ono. I really think it was his downfall. As someone said to me, ???Hey, if it wasn???t for Yoko Ono, we wouldn???t have great music like Imagine.??? And I said, ???That???s true, but we might have had about thirty more years of Beatles music!???
GF: So, the book got the notice of Yoko and all the damage control that you surmise she was probably the leader in . . .
GG: The problem doing damage control with me is I???ve got a big mouth, and I???m too dumb to be afraid.
GF: Are you afraid of being sued by her?
GG: I would be delighted to be sued by Yoko. I???m sure it would do wonders for my career. They tried to do the same thing to me, the Beatles fans they did to John, trying to make me this one dimensional, cardboard cut-out . . . [that] I???m an evil, terrible person. On the Internet, somebody said I was worse than Mark David Chapman. All I can do is laugh, because this is not at all who I am. I have spent the better part of my life chronicling the life and times of The Beatles as very, very human beings, trying to set the record straight, as far as I can as an outsider, as to who these people were – and with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the myth. I think it???s much more magical that this incredible, unparalleled, fantastic work emanated from four, very fallible human beings, rather than four demigods who touched down from planet Dingdong to save us all from ourselves, time, and decay. It???s just stupid. They???re just people. And, the fans just apparently don???t want to hear that makes me fear for their state of mind.
GF: Was it a difficult decision to dissect him and reveal some of the things about John that obviously flies in the face about what we thought we knew about the man?
GG: You have to understand that this book has very little to do with me. Why do I say that? All of this bullshit about the diaries not being real, that is all a fuckin??? smoke screen, smear campaign – garbage. These are John Lennon???s diaries. There is zero question of that . . .
GF: . . . these are the unadulterated diaries . . .
GG: Absolutely, the full thing . . .
GF: . . . not the Fred Seaman ones?
GG: I have John Lennon???s diaries from 1975 through 1979. I do not now, and have never had nor have I ever seen the missing 1980 diary . . .
GF: . . . not the Robert Rosen versions?
GG: Absolutely not!
GF: So, can you tell us how you obtained these?
GG: Everybody knows the story. It???s like an urban myth. I got them from Harry Nilsson. I don???t think we should waste the interview with that, if you forgive me. I wrote the book from John Lennon???s genuine diaries. I wrote the book from a two-inch stack of photocopied letters in John???s writing and typed by John, augmented by his handwriting I got from his Liverpool family members and other business associates who gave me copies of letters John had sent to them. I also have what I think is far more shocking than any of the aforementioned. I have some audio tapes of John and Yoko talking about some very bizarre things concerning their sex lives and all that in minute detail that absolutely no one has ever heard. These have not been out. I don???t even know if Yoko has them. I was able to use only a very small part of these tapes in the book and I look forward to using them as part of the basis of my next book which is called Revolution: The Secret History Of The Beatles. Again, I???m fighting this high-priced tidal wave of spin that???s put out by The Beatles, Apple and now the fans – you know, they get behind it, to tell the truth about The Beatles. If anybody thinks The Beatles Anthology [book] is going to be kind of the final word on the reality of The Beatles and their contributions to the world and themselves as people, then they are obviously very susceptible to being hoodwinked, because that???s going to be nothing but a $67.00, multi-color . . . piece of fluff, put out to scratch the egos of three old men . . . I???m hoping, at least, there???ll be some good pictures, but if anybody think there???s going to be anything revelatory in The Beatles Anthology . . . there ain???t. Therefore, I???m writing my next book.
GF: And you have more revelatory stories?
GG: Oh, absolutely.
GF: More shocking stories?
GG: I don???t know if they???re shocking. Is [oral sex] shocking? Not in my world . . . Is drug taking shocking? Are people who are weak, tortured and tormented shocking? What kind of grade school world are people living in, here? The world I understand, that I live in, and I thought we all lived in has [oral sex], drug shooting, extra marital . . . whatever . . . embezzlement, fraud, and also the other side, good things, happy things, nice things, children, sunshine. But, we???re adults. I just can???t believe people are so easily shocked. So, when you say shocking, I don???t know. . . Listen, the money???s not that good with these books, believe me. And, there are other things I want to do. I???m 46. I want to make TV documentaries. I want to act. I want to be involved with spiritual endeavors. The last thing I would do is waste my time on something untrue. I???m the loose cannon, the lone wolf. I???m the guy who takes all the abuse from people. I???m everybody???s whipping boy for telling the truth. It???s not so hard on me. I just kind of feel sorry for people who are inspired to do that.
GF: Let???s talk about the British edition of Lennon In America. I understand it???s going to contain about thirty more pages. What information is missing from its North American counterpart?
GG: That???s right. I had to write this [book] very quickly, admittedly, to whip Robert Rosen???s ass, which I did profoundly. I got out a month or something before him and took all the sales. I do this for a living, folks. I write books so they???ll be informative, entertaining and be part of a body of work, but, also to make money, yeah sure. I don???t see anything wrong with it. The British edition goes into more detail about the content of phone calls between Julia Baird and John???s Liverpool family and John and some comments on the estate Will. And I worked in a few more snide comments about Yoko. Given the chance, I???ll never miss an opportunity, there!
GF: You have an axe to grind with her . . .
GG: I don???t like her . . . Anybody who falls for this idea that Yoko???s some kind of incredibly, highly sophisticated artist, wherein her current M.O. is to go to Brazil (where they???re just happy to have any celebrity) she goes to some art gallery. They paint it white. She puts two piles of stones . . . or whatever in the middle of the floor and says with a sign in front of them, ???Where would you like to spend Eternity???? I don???t think that???s Art. I don???t think it???s particularly clever or intelligent. It???s been done to death, starting with Fluxes and Andy Warhol and this entire minimal, conceptual thing. Why doesn???t she open a Yoko Ono Cancer Hospital or a Yoko Ono John Lennon Feeds Dying Indian Kids Hospital? What a fucking waste of money on bullshit.
GF: In your opinion, with the intelligence, the creativity, and sensitivity of John Lennon, how did he fall under her spell?
GG: . . . Because he was an emotional cripple, frozen in time from the day of his mother???s death. He was shunted about as a kid. It affected his ability to ground himself in adult relationships. He was sexually retarded and objectified women. . . unable to relate on a meaningful level. Being a Beatle did nothing but encourage his isolation, which as a protective device, he had to enact – because he had the whole world at his door. Yoko- or Mommy, as Lennon called her towards the end of his life, ran interference between John and the world. That soon turned into something far more sinister, which isolated John keeping him a virtual prisoner in the Dakota, a bird in a gilded cage. Just because he was a great musician, lyricist, a clever social commentator and pop philosopher, doesn???t mean John was emotionally healthy or any kind of demigod. What makes Lennon so interesting is the realization (after twenty years gone from this world) was that he was so weak, so fragile, so made of glass, so very susceptible. Sadly, he found someone who took full advantage of his teetering emotional state, and thus, Yoko Ono Lennon continues to milk that fucking cash cow dry to this very day with her John Lennon baby clothes. If John could come back for five minutes, he???d probably kick two people???s asses: me first, and then Yoko Ono???s. Me for fucking stirring up all this shit, and Ono for putting out this goofy line of doodles, barbeque aprons, greeting cards, baby clothes, booties, sunglasses, sun visors, sweatshirts, t-shirts, thong underwear, and whatever the hell else she???s put out. Julian hates it. Anyone with any brains or taste hates it. She takes John???s doodles. Fair enough: they???re fairly interesting . . . you could do as well. I could do as well. But, we???re not John Lennon, so there you go. Then she gets some crayons out and colors onto a plate and gets some of her minions to run them off on lithograph and then the estate signs them and sells them for thousands of dollars. The defining thing I have to say about Yoko Ono is that she has the ambition of a diva with none of the talent. This must have been incredibly frustrating for this poor woman, because here she is living with a man the whole world adores and, nobody particularly likes her. Her art never caught on and people made fun of her. In the end, all she had was the money. She???s like Mrs. Haversham [from Great Expectations], sitting there in her wedding dress, after 40 or 50 years: ???Hey, look. I was married to John Lennon and I got all the money.??? Like Julian Lennon said, ???She doesn???t have the Lennon DNA.??? She doesn???t have that pioneer blood flowing through her veins. She got the money – now she sucks her thumb and wonders by the banks of her own lagoon.
GF: Let???s remove the word ???shocking.??? What was the most interesting thing or the biggest revelation, during your research, about John Lennon.
GG: . . . the extent of how dominated he was by Yoko. The only way for him to get any peace was to go into the bedroom and lock the door. Fifty per cent of this book was left on the cutting room floor by the lawyers. It???s a much more shocking story than I was able to tell for legal reasons.
GF: Will that be told in the subsequent book?
GG: I???m going to try. Nobody talks like this. This is so obvious. I???ve read some of your interviews. Let???s wait until Ono leaves this world then the tale can and will be told.
GF: Our readers will love this . . .
GG: No. They???ll love to hate me.
GF: I don???t think so. I???m a huge Lennon fan, a huge Beatles fan and I did not hate the work you put together and I can tell by the number of things that you???ve put together over the years that you are not a guy who hates John Lennon.
GG: He was very important to me as a child. When I was a kid, I really didn???t have a father and my mother was chronically depressed. She didn???t want to leave the house and she didn???t clean up. It was tough. I used to go in my bedroom and put headphones on . . . and this was like a big brother talking to me, talking to me through the music. I don???t mean it in any psychotic way – just listening to the lyrics. I was a young man and they would help me form opinions and ideals. I have a great debt to John Lennon. The last thing I would ever want to do is go to my grave knowing I had in any way demeaned or diminished such a great man.
GF: Let???s fill in some of the blanks for our readers. You were born in Rochester, New York, lived and worked in Canada for awhile. This is interesting.
GG: Yeah. In 1976, I graduated from drama school. The idea was to be an actor and the only job I could get, right out of school, (I had a couple of kids, and I had to immediately get some work) was playing Ronald McDonald in Canada. Sorry, first I was the Marvelous, Magical Burger King in New England. Then, I was Ronald McDonald in Canada. It???s just a coincidence. I was a vegetarian the whole time and now that gives me a really good platform to speak about animal rights, which I do frequently. I lived there [Canada] for five years. I was kind of lost. I was like these Beatles people who go too far – who are obsessive, compulsive. I have, in the far distant past, spent the rent money on Beatles memorabilia. It became a compulsion. My father was a gambler, so maybe I inherited some kind of gene. I was at a Beatles convention, just after I wrote The Beatles: A Celebration, and I saw a flyer on the floor which said, ???Hey! Do you really need that Yellow Submarine lunch box? Is it really going to make your life perfect? Why don???t you people get a life???? At first, I was really pissed off. Then a light went on in my head and it???s never gone off. I got rid of all my memorabilia and decided since nobody was really telling The Beatles??? story in the intensely human way required I would do it myself. Now I tell you . . . Mark Lewisohn is a statistician. He???s a civil servant. He gives you information that???s very meticulous and well organized and chronicled and probably as perfect as we could get with the passage of time, but he doesn???t tell you anything about their cultural impact, the kind of people they were, what their private lives were, what inspired them to create, what their foibles were, what their good points were, what their relations with their families were. He just tells you that they used this guitar here and they did these vocals at ten o???clock. It???s okay, and I use his books to keep my stories straight, as research. But, he???s not a biographer. Mark Lewisohn is categorically not a biographer. He???s a statistician.
GF: But, he has come up with some incredible stuff for those books.
GG: Absolutely! I???ve got all the books and they???re referenced. They???re all well worn, because I use them to check dates and facts. I give them to my researchers. He???s also ingratiated himself to The Beatles, and so . . . it???s not like I???m jealous of Mark. If I was offered that job, I would not do it. So, it???s not a question of that . . . The biographical art, people don???t understand what it is. George Harrison???s theory is that you have to physically know and be intimate with the people about whom you write. I don???t buy that. What about all those books about Hitler and Churchill? We???re called historians and biographers. We do have a place. Yes, there is a place for sisters, mothers, friends and next door neighbors writing memoirs about the time they spent with celebrated people. No question about it. And there???s certainly room for autobiographies. But, there???s also room for biographies wherein the people don???t know the people at all, and yet, they conduct these incredibly exhaustive investigations into their backgrounds in a scouring way. That???s what I do. I wish people would understand that.
GF: Now, you???ve mentioned brothers and sisters. Louise Harrison, George???s sister, at the Ottawa Beatles convention back in 1996, stated that she did not really care for your book, Dark Horse: The Secret Life Of George Harrison. Apparently, she didn???t like your portrayal of George and she???s not listed in the first edition???s acknowledgements. Did you ever interview her for the book?
GG: No. Her relationship even with George isn???t that great, right now. This is a sad thing . . . Ruth McCartney has tried to make a life for herself. She???s a sweetheart. These people, Bob Wooler, even Bill Harry . . . by the way, I???ve written more Beatles books than anybody. I don???t know if you know that. I can???t say anything for the quality, but the quantity, I???ve written more. I counted Bill???s up, the other day, and I think he???s about three behind me. Okay, Louise Harrison doesn???t like my book, big deal. That???s a long, fucking line of people who don???t like Geoffrey Giuliano???s work. But, what???s bullshit is this whole thing that I???m this terrible person. That???s ridiculous. I don???t know if you???ve gone to any of my websites, not the commercial one, but I have a spiritual one. We give away a lot of the money my wife and I make. We???re just going to India in a couple of days. We???re taking food with us – food relief. We have orphans we pay everything for. We???re ethical vegetarians. We run a food bank. So I don???t accept I???m this horrible man.
GF: I think this is an important thing to continue discussing. Beatles fans may be aware of your strong spiritual and religious convictions, but . . .
GG: By the way, George and I practice the same religion. There???s no question about that and that???s everything to me . . . The Beatles were my first gurus. Guru means teacher. When I was a young kid and didn???t know anything about life I looked to The Beatles for inspiration, guidance and leadership through their music and through their larger than life personalities, particularly John and George. Then, when The Beatles went to India, I purchased a book on yoga philosophy. It absolutely changed my life. After that, I got a little bit into LSD. In those days, there were very powerful – clean, pure psychedelics and it also showed me things helpful to me. Now I absolutely have nothing to do with drugs, and am adamantly opposed to any type of drugs. But, at that time, in that place, they were helpful to me. But, I learned everything I learned after three or four trips and there was no need to continue to repeat the process. So, I dropped that. But, I didn???t drop yoga philosophy. I didn???t drop the . . . you call it Hare Krishna, here in America, but it???s really a 5,000-year old religion from West Bengal. George and I certainly share that in common. I might not look or talk like a devoutly religious person and neither would George, with his cigarette smoking, although I think he???s kicked that, now. Like he said in a press conference in 1984, he doesn???t do it in the road anymore. It???s something personal to him. It???s not important to me to compare myself with George Harrison. But, the religious and spiritual thing is absolutely, unequivocally the most important thing in my life. It???s more important than my family. It???s more important than my life. It???s everything I aspire to and if it was possible for me never to write another Beatles book, again, that would be fine.
GF: And you also augment these beliefs with your extensive, daily charity work?
GG: I do. I go to India two or three times a year and I spend maybe 200 dollars for some Indian clothes. I wear 5-dollar sandals. I don???t have a watch. I don???t have jewelry. I don???t read newspapers. I don???t watch TV. I am a strict vegetarian. I don???t drink, smoke, take drugs. I have a very limited sex life, only with my wife. I meditate in the morning. I don???t even live in a house. I live in an ashram with other people from around the world devoted to this path. We eat and live communally. I don???t have a bank account. I don???t have a credit card. I???m not, at all, the money grubbing guy people say. I was fairly ruthless in my first half of my life. And, at the end of the first half of my life, my mother, father, and brother died, in rather close succession. I realized I did not want to continue on the path of ruthlessness. The end justifies the means, but I should try to really open myself up and be as selfless as I can. I don???t spend any money on myself. All of my money goes for other people. We???re involved with raising a couple of kids whose parents are incarcerated in prison due to drug offences – one???s a crack baby. When you give, the left hand shouldn???t know what the right hand is doing, so I don???t really like to publicize what I do. We just built a school in America. We???re just building a school in India . . . let???s just put it this way, the money from my books goes to charity. I have a bedroom I stay in and the rest of it is public. People can come and visit our ashram.
GF: How long have you been doing that?
GG: Since 1994, formerly. If you came to this place, there???s a sign in the front, ???The Spiritual Realization Institute, all welcome.??? There???s a school on the property. There???s a guesthouse. There???s a really beautiful temple with stain-glass windows of Krishna. There are ten acres. We have an animal sanctuary where we take animals we saved from the slaughter house and other things . . . we have a couple of cows, peacocks, and other distressed animals we???ve saved. . . and we do a lot of work with children. I???ll tell you something: it???s absolutely a fact . . . this is not anyone???s opinion but rather a law of the Universe. When you get into a habit of giving, it???s much better than when you were money grubbing for yourself. You can say, ???Well, this really doesn???t sound like the guy who wrote a book like Lennon In America.??? But I don???t see any dichotomy. I can laugh at a lot of this crap, because it???s just so not me. It so misses the point I don???t even feel connected to it. At least if they said I was fat or something. . . there???s an element of truth there. But, they come up with this wild shit that???s so out in the ozone all I can do is scratch my head. There???s no dichotomy between my spiritual life and the books I write, because it???s in-your-face truth. My spiritual life is in-your-face truth and my work life and my writing life are in-your-face truth and if you don???t like it and if you can???t handle it [then] . . . it doesn???t really matter. It really doesn???t matter if they [readers] like me or don???t. All I???m going to do for the rest of my life is to try as anonymously as possible, using whatever energies that come to me, to assist other people to awaken spiritually and assist people who are having a difficult time.
GF: You speak of the outspokenness you show in your books versus the outspokenness showing in this interview. These are very different forms of speaking out. If people were to go on the perceptions of what they think they know about you from what they???ve read, do you think your outspokenness in that form has had a negative effect on book sales?
GG: I think bad publicity can keep people away from purchasing books. As a result of that mentality, although the book???s selling well . . . we???ve had very few returns after two and a half months, which is good. I think they put 40,000 on the street and they???ve only had a couple of hundred returned. And, I???m going to England to promote the British edition of the book, after I go to India and Nepal . . . then, I will go to London in September to promote the book. My speculation is that it does have a negative impact and that people who might have read the book and enjoyed it – got some insight out of it, didn???t get the opportunity because they were influenced by some other people???s ideas which may, or may not, be accurate.
GF: Yet, this interview may change people???s perception of who you are and they might go back and look at that book and give it another read.
GG: Two or three years ago, I would say that we can only hope. But now I don???t really care. One of the things that happens is that as you go deeper and deeper and deeper in to a spiritual path, you disconnect from a lot of the things that most other people feel are just so incredibly important. What???s important to me is a report that one of my orphans in India may have tuberculosis. What???s important to me is that there is a young lady who has overcome a terrible crack addiction – from a good family – who ended up as a prostitute and who has successfully been clean for several months, but now they???re trying to send to prison on some stupid technicality. And they???ve not seen that she???s worth saving. Rolling Stone used to have a motto, ???Think globally and act locally.??? I think people should philosophically and spiritually embrace the whole world. One thing I know, there???s always something good to do. You can always do good. ???Gees, I???d like to do good, but there???s nothing around.??? It doesn???t work like that. There???s always somebody who you can assist. And where did I get many of these ideas? From The Beatles, as a kid. There???s a Beatle politic all these so-called fans are missing, which is, ???Quit dreaming about the past. Get off your ass. Go feed somebody. Go help somebody off drugs. Go to some old folks home and talk to these poor bastards who are looking death right between the eyes and quit sitting around moon-dogging over four, sixty-year old men and get a fucking life. Forget about yourself and your daydreams – don???t be afraid of life and get out there and make a contribution.??? That, I???m sure, must be the Beatle dream, the Beatle politic at its highest level. They just need to get a life. God bless them. They need to get a life for themselves.
GF: Did you get the Beatle message in the first half of your life?
GG: The Beatle message is a timeless, eternal message that has been said in every successive generation by many people of all genders, gurus, teachers, artists, musicians, painters, ordinary people – butchers, bakers, candlestick makers. As George said, ???We were just four loonies taking drugs and trying to be honest.??? They were trying to be honest. They were trying to give us some truth. I thought about writing a book called The Gospel According To John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I still might do it – and show the spirituality of The Beatles. This is something that???s been completely overlooked, as everybody???s lost in this Entertainment Tonight cardboard, cut-out, celebrity bullshit everybody???s wasting their valuable life with. How come there isn???t a John Lennon hospital? I just can???t believe . . . if she wants to sell barbeque aprons and baby booties, she could at least give the money to the John Lennon Liver Cancer Hospital or something. It is so dumb and selfish. You???ve got to judge the tree by the fruit, and the fruit of this Beatles worship is a lot of self-indulgence. A lot of these Beatles people are lost souls who don???t need to be. If they just try to take The Beatles??? and John Lennon???s work at the highest level, they could really do something great.
GF: Do you think that some of your early things you wrote, in your first half of your life, feed that false idea that you???re clearly unhappy with now?
GG: Well, just the mere fact that I???ve written so many. It???s something like 28 books, and 86 spoken word projects. I would say I do share a certain measure of responsibility for trivializing The Beatles and by promoting this kind of hero worship I now absolutely condemn as a foolish waste of time.
GF: Analyzing your first book, The Beatles: A Celebration . . .
GG: I have a fear that the truth about that book is what somebody said about Julian Lennon once. They said it took him twenty years to write and record Valotte, in terms of life experiences and about six months to record his follow up. So, that Beatles: A Celebration was just all those years of me being a lonely boy in my room, having the headphones on, and seeking refuge in the White Album and Sgt. Pepper. I didn???t like the early stuff very much, at all. It???s tuneful. It???s cheery. But, I like the heavy stuff . . . They were friends to me. I???m like a recovering Beatleholic. I encourage everybody to get on that 12-step program, away from any addiction. My daughter said to me, because we had a lot of addiction in our family; ???What? You don???t think that just because you don???t take drugs, you???re not an addict???? I said, ???What do you mean???? She said, ???You???re addicted to work. You???ve written 30 books or something in less than 10 years. You???re just hiding in your work.??? I take all these things to heart . . . I???m just taking off and going to Nepal. And don???t think I stay in some five-star hotel when I go to Nepal, either. First of all, I???m not a rich man. We just travel ordinary, and we will be staying in a $9 a night hotel, which is actually a pretty damn good hotel in Nepal. So, like Paul McCartney says, ???Live a little. Get around.??? So, that???s what I???m trying to do.
GF: What you???re trying to do and what you???re allowed to do, obviously, has been supplemented by all the various books that you???re put together. The Beatles: A Celebration must have opened the door for other opportunities.
GG: Publishers don???t like Beatles books, at this point. Publishers think the public is sick of Beatles. Beatles books don???t sell that well. When was the last time that you saw a Beatles book, any Beatles book on the best sellers list? Maybe Peter Brown did it. I???m a solid mid-list author. Actually, you???d be amazed. There are a lot of people who are pretty ardent fans of my work. We talked tonight about the many people who have a problem with my stuff. But, there are many – or more who love it, and think that, ???Oh, yeah. That???s right. I agree. That???s the way it was. You???re right. Thank you.??? I get that all the time . . . but, then I get the other side too! The reason I don???t talk so much about the people who get it is that, I figure, they???re not as sick. They don???t need as much help . . . I feel sorry for people who are obsessed with The Beatles. Are you obsessed with The Beatles?
GF: I am not. I have always been a fan and . . .
GG: Good, healthy fanship, there???s nothing wrong with it. But, there are guys who go to Star Trek conventions and dress up as Klingons. Clearly, there???s something wrong there.
GF: I???ll give you that. I did not go to Abbey Road dressed in a Beatles Pierre Cardin suit.
GG: But, we???ve seen those people, haven???t we? It???s a little scary.
GF: A lot of people refer to the Celebration book.
GG: Yes. It???s a long road from The Beatles: A Celebration to Lennon In America. [laughter]
GF: Big Time! Up until Celebration, Beatles books were generally bad quality, bad photos, bad book stock. But, Celebration oozes with quality.
GG: I???ll tell you another arm of my work I???m pretty proud is my interview books. I???ve done around seven or eight now and I???m working on another one. I think those are really good . . . I see on the Internet, people say, ???Well, you know you can???t trust Giuliano,??? and this and that. Believe me, all those interview books are from tapes. . . . if you put those eight books, The Lost Lennon Interviews, The Lost Beatles Interviews, Things We Said Today, Conversations With The Beatles, Glass Onion – there are several others –all together, it would be like a 1,000 or 1,500-page encyclopedia of everything The Beatles have ever said.
GF: With the quality of the Celebration book with its high quality paper, photos, the personal text that wasn???t always available from other authors, I think readers want to know how you accumulated all of that incredible memorabilia.
GG: I had always intended to be a movie star. That was my early goal in life. When that didn???t happen for various reasons, I just veered off into this Beatles addiction and became obsessive – compulsive. People say, ???Well, you???re very critical of these Beatles fans.??? Yeah, because I was the worst. I???m probably more aggressive than most people, who keep their addictions private. But, I go very public with everything I do. I got out there and made sure I went around seeing the relatives that everybody had forgotten and business associates. That???s the way I???ve put together my books. You can love me or hate me, but I never repeat photos. The photos are genuinely really good that people have not seen before. Most publishers just pick the same crappy images over and over. I???ve always fought with publishers to make sure I had the highest quality of everything . . . I was going to put John . . . I???ve got some autopsy photos. But, I stopped myself. Maybe we won???t use the autopsy photos of John Lennon. I have tried to use good photographs and images in my books, and I have a very large archive of photographs and images in my books. I have 10,000 photos of The Beatles I own the rights to, which I???ll probably end up selling to Apple when I go out of business here in a few years.
GF: Who was the first Beatles you met and interviewed?
GG: George Harrison in 1983. But, in 1988, whenever I wrote John Lennon My Brother, with Julia Baird, she got a last minute interview with Paul and there wasn???t time for me to fly over, because it was the next day. He just gave a short, ???Okay, I???ll do it. Come tomorrow.??? So, I authored something like eighty questions typed them up and faxed them to Julia Baird. So Baird went in there, and on tape asked all my questions. It was a long interview, and I have the tape of it. They constantly refer to the paper and the fact that the questions were written by me. So, that???s how I interviewed Paul McCartney. I interviewed Yoko Ono extensively and then right on down the line from Cynthia to Julian to everybody else. But, I???ve sat in a room with George Harrison and interviewed him. That was at a mutual friend???s house – Jon Lord from Deep Purple. Actually, that interview???s in The Lost Beatles Interviews. It???s not a great interview. I actually sat down and talked with him for about an hour.
GF: And how did that feel?
GG: . . . it would be a lot different now, he was sitting in front of me, and I was sitting on this ottoman. As I was making my point, I got excited and I was kind of tapping on his knee with my finger and that wasn???t cool. I was too familiar. I was nervous. I embarrassed myself. He picked up on it and split and it was a cause of some concern for me for some time . . . I would not treat them or accept them as people . . . He said something about, ???In the Sixties, we all . . .??? And I said, ???Yeah, but when you guys did things, you really . . .??? I didn???t act like I???m acting with you. I couldn???t be myself. That was the problem. That was the fucking fan crap that got in the middle of a golden opportunity to sit down and spend some time with George Harrison, the guy. But, I fucked it up by being a fan. So, that???s why I???m a little bit weary of all of this stuff.
GF: Now, you???ve written a few books on John, Paul, and George, but not about Ringo . . .
GG: . . . Nobody wants it. You???ve got to understand I???m not the publisher. You???ve got to convince other guys this is a great idea that will make lots of money and believe me, whether I care about the money or not, that???s all they care about. So, it???s an upward battle to get anything published. But, because I???ve done so much work, it???s easier for me than many other people. When I have an idea, I can actually get a meeting with pretty much anybody in publishing anywhere in the world, sit down and talk to them and they???ll listen to me and consider it and they usually say, ???No.??? I still would like to do a book about The Beatles??? experience with the Maharishi, which I???d probably call The Beatles Rishikesh Diary and their whole idea of the Indian experience. But, I???m going to write Revolution . . . You see, I???m a bit of a bad boy, too. I kind of like to rile people up. I???m a bit of a rabble rouser . . . I don???t mind messing with people. Sometimes, just for fun, I???ll mess with people. I???m a button pusher. I do enjoy pushing buttons with people and saying things that will rile them up. I don???t sit there and design the whole book to push people???s buttons. But, I might throw in a few inflammatory things just to piss people off, if I???m in that kind of a mood.
GF: Let???s see if this pushes a button. I know that you have been accused of inventing some of the dialogue in the new Lennon In America book. Can you comment on this?
GG: Yeah, sure. Oh, absolutely. That???s . . . from Jim Heaney from the Buffalo News. Let me tell you how that worked…
GF: May 28, 2000 Buffalo News interview.
GG: If you think Lennon In America is a crock, you better check this article out. It is totally bogus. That guy???s a slime-ball. He contravened every agreement we had. He quoted from the diary. He agreed he would not. I???ve already said whatever I want to say about Heaney. Look, I???ve got a tape, in my possession that talks about John having sex with his mother. I set up the scene in the book with two fucking sentences of dialogue. ???Hi, how are you? Good morning. Come on in. Sit down.??? Just completely analogous, generic, not meaningful setups to set the scene and give a little color to the book. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, whatsoever. And how does everybody know I did that? Because, I told everybody. Jim Heaney didn???t catch me with me pants down. I told him that. I played him the original tape. ???Well, that???s not on the tape.??? No, it???s not on the tape. He had to come in the house. He had to have sat down on the bed. He was riding his bike in those days . . . see, I???ve been to that house and I???ve spent hours there looking at it and studying it, plus there???s a little thing in there about lingerie on a clothes line. Julia Baird told me the house was like that. She lived there with her mother, Julia Stanley Lennon. There was a clothes line with a negligee on it and stuff. I took it from a few different sources and did I concoct those two sentences? Yes. Is it a big deal? Not in my mind. But, if you???re looking for a fucking scape-goat, if you???re looking to punch holes in the book, I suppose you could try to dig a little one there. The real allegation is that I don???t have the diaries, when I say the real one, not that it???s truthful, the meaningful allegation would be, if it were true, which it is not, is that I do not have the diaries; I do not have John Lennon???s personal correspondence, and I do not have hours of him talking about very personal things on tape. I do have all of those things. And, if I could find a legitimate media venue to air those things, I thought it was the Buffalo News, but I was wrong . . . I would be happy to show the world I have these things. These things are very safe, somewhere on this planet . . . and no matter what happens to me physically, at any time in the future, those things will exist and will be part of my possessions. I would hope that in the future, it would be very, very . . . I guess I probably won???t be around for people to say, ???I???m sorry,??? for the way they treated me – calling me a liar and stuff. I think there???ll be a time when these diaries will be made public.
GF: Let???s talk about some of the copies you have of some of Lennon???s audio diaries. You???ve got these? How are they laid out, Geoffrey?
GG: Yeah. Well, he says like, ???Six of September, 1979. Here I am sitting alone in the bedroom . . .??? And he just goes on and just talks into the tape.
GF: So, he runs through what he???s going to do?
GG: No. He just gives a date. ???Six of September, 1979. Here I am blah, blah, blah. Hey, I did this today. I did that. You know, I was thinking about this. And I was wondering about that, blah, blah, blah.???
GF: Is there any of John???s music on these tapes?
GG: No. But, I do have other tapes he recorded at Kenwood in 1967, in which there is some very bizarre music. I don???t know if you ever heard about John in the Hunter Davies book, he talks about he had something like nine Grundig German tape-recorders that he hooked up together and made weird tapes just for fun with his buddies. I have about four hours of those, and nobody has those. Nobody. I don???t think even Yoko has those. So, I was thinking about putting them out, calling them The Kenwood Tapes. Actually, I have lots of stuff that no one???s ever heard. I have a Beatles album. I have a Beatles album nobody???s ever heard. Denny Laine gave me an acetate of London Town – a test pressing of London Town. And I was playing it and when I turned over the other side, there???s a completely, never-before-heard Beatles album from around 1965 period. Now, that???s not to say that there are songs we haven???t heard, but versions of songs that we???ve never heard. Very unusual.
GF: Stuff that has not been bootlegged?
GG: I???ve got tons of stuff that hasn???t been bootlegged . . .
GF: If you had to pick the top two or three . . .
GG: The Kenwood Tapes. Oh, they???re incredible. I wish everybody could hear them. The whole content of this eight hours I have of John and Yoko talking about their sex lives. Yoko . . . lived with a woman for six months. I do say that in the book. But, she goes into great detail. John???s asking her how big Tony Cox???s penis was. All this is crazy. These tapes are crazy. I have those.
GF: You???ve already expanded into audio books.
GG: If you listen to my audio books, there are some rare tapes in there. But, the the stuff I knew that no one else had, I have not put out. I can???t, probably, legally in some cases, and because it has great monetary value, in some cases, and if I did, there???s no way to control that, once you put it out. If you put a tape out, especially now with the Internet, MP3, you can???t control anything that you???ve got. So, I???m just sitting on a lot of stuff. I may put out The Kenwood Tapes in the next couple of years.
GF: Now, when you say you???re sitting on a lot of stuff, over the past 15 years or so, you???ve also written about some of the biggest Hollywood people – Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Rock Stars – like Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis . . .
GG: Those weren???t necessarily things I would have done of my own volition.
GF: And that includes the controversial political figures – Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky, Ronald Reagan?
GG: [laughing] I got a call from Random House and they offered me crazy money to do those. So, I did them. That was just for money.
GF: Sports icon Michael Jordan.
GG: I have no interest in sports whatsoever. But, sports figures like Mohammed Ali . . . well, Mohammed Ali is a great man. Everybody loves him. There???s a reason Mohammed Ali is so well loved around the world, and he is an amazing figure. I really enjoyed doing that. It???s funny, I enjoyed doing the two baseball ones. I???ve got two new baseball ones coming out with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. When I was a kid, I heard all this from my father and we were silly, watching the game and all that. I was a hippie. I didn???t pay attention to any of that shit. Now, that I???m an old man, too bad my father???s not around. He???d probably be proud that I did a Joe DiMaggio CD. A lot of this stuff, I do for money. The Beatles book is more of a love, a kind of a mission, to tell the truth about The Beatles. I respect Mark Lewisohn. I don???t want anybody to think that I don???,t or I belittle his work. I do not in any way. He also tells the truth about The Beatles, but it???s a different facet of the truth about The Beatles.
GF: But, if he???s the world???s premiere statistician on The Beatles you are the premiere biographer . . .
GG: There are only two people in the game. Me and Mark [laughing] . . .
GF: Why are publishers so attracted to your work?
GG: Because I???m a good, solid bet. I don???t win many races, but I always place. I guess I must make enough money for them that they???re interested in carrying on to the next, to see what he can do next.
GF: Is it the way you pitch the story?
GG: I???m a convincing fellow. I have a good ability to talk to these people and convince them that these are great projects and they???ll be terrific. Whether they are or not, I don???t know. I do my best. We work like dogs over here. This isn???t just some armchair thing. Sometimes it???s a very high stress level. If I didn???t have the religion, I would be a drug addict, for sure. We were just working when you called. I was writing captions for a vegetarian cook book that my wife???s just written called, Compassionate Cuisine. We???re just putting the finishing touches on it, by the same publisher, by the way. So, there are always many projects going on here. There is never a time when there aren???t several important projects . . . I???ve just been offered, well I guess I can tell you. I???ve just been offered my own national radio show by a very major player. I will be making a demo for that soon. It???s tentatively called, Real Rock Stories With Geoffrey Giuliano. It???s weekly, one hour a week, national and it will be heavy duty . . . kind of like Lennon In America on radio. It???ll be heavy, not so happy, sugary, behind the music – more hard-edged than that. That???s the plan. I???ve been offered a job and I???m doing a demo for it. I don???t know what???s going to happen with it. But, it???s definitely the direction I???d like to go. I tell people, when The Beatles: A Celebration came in the post, the first copy from the publisher, I cried. Then, when John Lennon: My Brother came, my second book, I got a little teary-eyed. Now, when they come, I don???t open the damn package. I just throw it in the corner and there they sit. After you???ve written like 20, 21, 22, 23 books, the bloom is off the rose. It???s not such a big deal. I???m tired of writing. I???m tired of writing these kinds of books. I???d like to write spiritual books . . . I???m 46, so I have to do them. I can???t keep fooling around with this Beatles thing.
GF: But, you have plans for more Beatles projects.
GG: I do. That???s one thing I???m sure, pisses everybody off, that I manage to come up with a new . . . there would be no need for me to write Revolution: The Secret History Of The Beatles, if The Beatles were going to do it themselves, do a good, proper job with the Anthology, but I just know they won???t. I know it???s written by Derek Taylor who I have great respect for and he was very charming and very funny. I knew him, personally. These are PR people. The Beatles didn???t write that book. They were interviewed by somebody on a tape, same way they did the Anthology
. . . now they???ve turned it into print. It???s not what it seems. I know it???s not going to be that good, from my point of view. What I consider good is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth at every millisecond.
GF: And there are more truths to come.
GG: More truths to come, yes.
GF: Geoffrey fascinating.
CHAINED IN A BASEMENT WITH GEOFFREY GIULIANO
The Buffalo News Sunday Features
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Question: You’ve obviously known many famous people. How did that happen? What was your initial ‘in’?
Geoffrey: I always knew things about myself other people could not quite see. I could feel creative forces connecting in me. My head would flood with ideas. It was frightening as a kid. I woke up in my crib once at night at about 9 months and thought like an “adult”. I thought, “Oh I see, you are in a child’s body now. You have come back.” And then I slipped back in to being a crying baby again. Was everyone like this? It didn’t seem so. Was I mad? I wrote a script from my mother’s old Charles Dickens book of ???A Christmas Carol??? in first grade and directed a play at school. I played Scrooge. I was conscious that was a tad unusual. I was different. I lived in books. I drew constantly. I sat on our back porch hanging over Lake Ontario in gails and felt incredible energy and power from nature. I swam in these storms alone, with strong currents and huge waves. I liked the idea of being consumed, of being taken over – of being very small in the midst of something so much bigger than myself. Later, hanging out with famous people seemed to fulfill some of those same nooks inside of me. How did it happen? I made it happen.
Giuliano Word Class Beatles Collection Is Shown For The 1st Time In Bangkok
Question: Of everyone you have written about, which was your favorite as a fellow human being?
Geoffrey: Pete Townshend I came to know. I still know him. We connected in 1976 we have had a relationship of sorts ever since. He is powerful. But the celebrity that made me feel like a baby – a retarded baby – was Bonzo Dog man Vivian Stanshall. His command of the English language and mountain-of-a-man presence was intimidating and thrilling. I am a mere slip of a slug next to him. His brain power was immense. Being with him was like sitting in a gale on my back porch as a kid and watching the heavens collide.
Question: Who is one person you have not written about, but would like to?
Geoffrey: Mickey Rourke, George Carlin, Joe Pesche, Meher Baba, Yogananda, Groucho, Hitler – people who mirror a truth. But number one? Jim Jones. That story thrills me. The footage is crazy to watch. What the fuck was going on there? I would love to play Jones in a film. I have a title to a song I am yet to write in my head somewhere – ???The Ballad of Jim Jones???. He was one messed up powerful motherfucker. The ultimate twisted sister. Cool sun glasses as well! After Jimbo – George Carlin is a huge GOD to me. And he should be to you. Guru???s tell the truth – not easy. Carlin tells the truth and makes it funny – impossible!
Question: Typically, how long does it take you to write a book?
Geoffrey: A year is cushy but I can do it in a month. 100,000 words.
Question: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Geoffrey: I work seven days a week about 18 hours a day. I write way better in the morning.
Question: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Geoffrey: My complete, unassailable, unstoppable, mile high image of myself as a force of nature. Sorry, but inside me are a lot of energies. Strong, mysterious energies. A kind of Amityville Power Station of strong currents from the void spilling into time through me. A Hindu monk once told me I was not ???human???! Oh sorry, I did not read the question properly – I JUST saw the word “writing”. Okay re writing… I can write while under water.
Question: Which two of your books were the easiest and hardest to write?
Geoffrey: ???Paint It Black??? squirted out like diarrhea. So did my soon to be published poetry book, ???Chocolate Wings??? (hence the name?). The hardest? ???Lennon In America??? as I had lawyers hanging over every word with a scalpel. And also ???Revolution???, my 500 page total one stop history of the Beatles.
Question: If only one of your books could survive for future generations of music lovers, which would you wish that one to be?
Geoffrey: ???Lennon In America??? and ???Paint It Black??? are the most important works. Followed by ???Dark Horse??? which I wrote in my pajamas.
Question: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Geoffrey: Now that’s a question with legs! 75% think I am the literary incarnation of Godhead and the Beatle Botards who are thirty five, run around the house in Sgt. Pepper outfits and still live with mom think I am the Anti Christ. I tend to hang my hat on the first group!
Question: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them or let them influence your writing in any way?
Geoffrey: Sure! The bad ones I read and then send up to the ancestors in a cloud of smoke. The good ones I tattoo on the backs of my six children… The bad ones make me want to show people they are full of shit. So they help in a way. I NEVER agree with the bad ones however.
Question: Have you ever written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn’t?
Geoffrey: No. Funnily enough controversy pretty much dogs me everywhere I go. One thing that really pisses me off is that my enemies got a hold of my Wikipedia thingy filled it with lies and bad reviews and I cant clean it up! Some fuck watches it 24/7/365 and EVERYONE reads it and BELIVES IT. It causes me a lot of grief. Controversy is a byproduct of truth by the way.
Question: How about the opposite question: have you ever written anything that you thought would NOT be controversial, but turn out to be?
Geoffrey: No. I am always in trouble. Like an old girlfriend said once, I am a trouble “magnet”. I think it goes back to the old Amityville Power Station thing.. I’m Bacccccck!!!!!
Geoffrey: I have freezer full of uppity reviewers parts in my basement.
Question: Is it wise or detrimental for an author to read their reviews?
Geoffrey: I am empowered by my detractors. Tell me I CAN???T do something and stand the fuck back! What comforts me is that cool, hip, aware people dig my books and uptight Fox News watchers do not. Generally the bad reviews are simply wrong.
Question: What are some of your latest projects?
Geoffrey: Rewiring the inside of Bill O???Reilly???s head – there???s a massive amount of bold fresh bullshit in there by the way. Trying to talk sense to Bin Lauden, learning to play the Usaphone, finding a place to cash in my S&H Green Stamps…let me see….making Glen Beck into a stylish table lamp… so much for a mother to do, tee hee! Making a feature film is the real answer however. Writing is a pain in the ass. My total love is acting. I want to make MY movies – not appear in other people???s bad films. I am perfectly capable of producing bad films of my own thank you very much!
GEOFFREY GIULIANO / THE LONDON TIMES INTERVIEW 1997
THE ACTOR WHO PORTRAYED RONALD MCDONALD & THE BURGER KING IN THE USA IS NOW A CRUSADER FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS
An Early 1990’s Interview With ‘Ronald’ In London
I n mid 1980 Geoffrey Giuliano, his wife Brenda, their two young children Sesa and Devin moved to Toronto, Canada where Geoffrey signed on with McDonalds to portray Ronald McDonald in Canada. He did the job for about a year and a bit. As time wore on Giuliano???s ethical vegetarianism and the dubious goings-ons at McDonalds Corp wore away at him and he left. He was given $5000, presumably to keep his mouth shut, but it didn???t work! Since about 1990 Giuliano has freely shared his thoughts about the corporate juggernaught with countless media outlets around the globe. In this in depth 1997 interview conducted in St. John???s Wood, London, held to promote the upcoming McLiable case brewing at the time, Giuliano kept nothing back as he held forth on his slippery times as the world???s most famous clown prince of meat eating.
Question: Are you the “original” Ronald McDonald?
Geoffrey Giuliano: No. The first Ronald is a silly weatherman on NBC’s ‘Today Show’ named Willard Scott.
Question: How many years did you do it?
Giuliano: It was basically a year and a half. I was the Burger King for just under a year before that in New England. That was a very professional traveling show rather like old time Vaudeville.
Question: Was being Ronald a full time job?
Giuliano: Oh, yeah. I worked at an ad agency, Vickers & Benson in Toronto. I was way up on the 30th floor and had my own window office. One of the first things that struck me was that the executive core of McDonald’s and their advertising agency don’t ever eat McDonald’s food! They had a cordon bleu chef – you called them up and they would make you whatever you wanted! I also had to do a lot of traveling to gigs.
Question: What was the background to you being Ronald McDonald and was there a particular moment or time when you realized you’d had enough?
Giuliano: I was pretty much fresh out of drama school (SUNY Brockport) and I had really big ideas that the Ronald McDonald Safety Show would help children not to drink bleach and set themselves on fire and things, so I learned it and did it. Then one day, as I was in the dressing room I found a memorandum from one of the McDonald’s executives and it said: ‘To all personnel re: The Ronald McDonald Safety Show, the purpose of this show is to increase the public’s awareness and especially young peoples’ awareness of McDonald’s goods and services’. I thought, gee, I thought it was to help kids! The whole act was pretty corny and unbelievable from the start. The story, as we told it, was that hamburgers have nothing to do with a dead cow, that they grow in a happy little patch and you pluck them with the Hamburglar and all the other McDonaldland characters. They cloaked this wholesale slaughter of innocent animals in fairytales and PR. I once went to the McChicken plant where they “prepare” the chickens to make McNuggets. The chickens at one end are alive and come out dead at the other end. It smelled terrible. And there was something slippery goo on the floor. You knew this was a place of death. I remember taking a ride with George Cowan, the President of McDonald’s of Canada from gig to gig because I was something he liked to show off, “the” Ronald McDonald. I had a big fat book of unlimited limo account cards and such, the best make up, the best of everything. Including this goofy 30th floor office with a sexy secretary named Lynne. I used to go in the office, I had absolutely nothing to do, but I had the office and the executive washroom. It was just madness, cheap, sullied and dirty. You could feel the dirt, and everybody just took with both hands. After awhile it got to be too much and my conscience got the better of me. Things started to eat away at me, and over a few months, I decided “I can’t do this anymore, this is sick and pointless”. I realized there would be a lot of consequences for me if I stayed with that job. One of them would be that I would make a lot of money. In fact, my mother was once standing with one of the big executives – John at McDonald’s of Canada and he said to her, “We expect great things from Geoffrey”. I thought to myself, “look, after about a year and a half, that’s enough, take this job and shove it! I was out of work for a long time, which was tough, but they gave me a golden hand shake. Since I’ve ‘come out of the closet’ as an ethical veggie, now they make the other Ronald???s sign a document promising not to tell, and they give you some money if you keep your mouth shut. They gave me five thousand Canadian dollars and I just took off. As for my personal campaign against them, I was lying at home unemployed one day and I saw the Marlboro Man on TV. He was dying of lung cancer from smoking and he was doing an anti-smoking ad. I thought “wait a minute, what a great thing this is.” When I did a speech up in Toronto at the Vegetarian Food Fair I did my usual rabble-rousing. The next day Simon Halls, a spokesperson for McDonald’s of Canada said in the Toronto Star “Giuliano has a right to his opinion. In fact we like vegetarians, we serve chicken and fish on our menu.” Chicken and fish! Now, the last time I checked they were not vegetables. Half the time they don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about, but they don’t care. I was talking to one of the marketing guys Vic Knocks, once and I said, “Do you think this is really good enough, do you think people will like it?” He said “You don’t get it do you? We put shit out there and people buy it if you put enough money into the advertising.”
Question: What do McDonald’s think of you now?
Giuliano: Well, they have publicly said that, “Mr Guiliano has a right to his opinions and views and we obviously have a right to conduct our business”, which is absolutely correct. Perhaps I flatter myself, my suspicion is that I’m public enemy number one in the US. The big problem is I haven’t had as wide an access to the media as I might have if the McDonald’s advertising dollar wasn’t so powerful. For example, there was a local paper in western New York that did a story on me, and the owner of two McDonald’s, one of the biggest concerns in the area, threatened to pull all his advertising if they went ahead. They did. Yeah, that stuff goes on, you know, this is like a cold war at times, I’ve had death threats. I’ve had kidnapping threats. I’m not suggesting they came from McDonald’s, but it certainly came from someone with a vested interest in keeping this game going and not being exposed for the murderers they are.
Question: How do you and how did you see your relationship to these children?
Giuliano: Well, there’s no question I was manipulating these children. I was a highly paid, highly trained, highly polished actor. Every show was a performance and I had a mandate to get that message out there, and yeah, it was not too hard – anybody can manipulate a child. I just went home one night, and I said “I cannot do this, I can’t live with myself if I continue to do this”
Question: So do you feel that you were in turn manipulated by McDonald’s?
Giuliano: I was a young guy on the make, I was just out of drama school, I was the hot shot actor in college, I thought I was going to be the next Robert De Niro (not!). It turned out I was the next Ronald McDonald. It was mutual, I was just looking for a job.
Question: What do you think now when you see Ronald McDonald on television?
Giuliano: When I see Ronald on TV now, the first thing I think is, “that poor sap needs a fucking job”. I just think what a crying shame it is. We could at least lay it on the table, tell the kids what the food is, what they’re really eating. Instead we get this fake smiling image. It’s what McDonald’s makes money on and that’s all they’re after. Ronald himself, the deification or Godhead of meat eating is just a cover for their greed. Like their charities, the Ronald McDonald Houses. They care about as much for dying kids as they do for live ones! They only care about the money, just money. It’s commerce in it’s most brazen, unfeeling, uncompassionate form. They can hoodwink the public with their Ronald McDonald House for dying children and their families, but not me. It’s just a hollow attempt to make money, for anyone with any insight. You can see that they’re just trying to put on a good front, you know. It’s rather like Nazi propaganda. It could even be offensive to someone who sees this for me to compare McDonald’s Corporation to the Nazis, but they didn’t live it, I did. I saw it. It’s very much like a religious cult. They have silly pep rallies, they have team songs, they have goofy cheerleaders at the Ronald McDonald University and you get a ring after 10 years of being Ronald – a six hundred dollar ring with rubies and gold. It’s just dumb, it’s like high school gone really, really bad. I was the figurehead of meat eating on the planet. Not only was I Ronald McDonald, but previous to that I was the Marvelous Magical Burger King. I believe I’m the only person with that dubious honor.
Question: So what would you say if you could address the board of McDonald’s now?
Giuliano: Most of the Canadian stores are owned pretty much directly by George Cowen himself and he’s in his sixties now. I’d say, “George, you’ve got a lot to pay for, you know. You better tread carefully, because there is such a thing as karma and you don’t have to be a guru to know that. Direct cause and effect is pretty obvious. You do stuff like this, George and it’s gonna come back to haunt you.” If I were George, I’d be very, very afraid to die.
Question: What about you? How do you feel about what you did?
Giuliano: Just like the old Sicilian Catholic ideal, that I am by my heritage, I gotta atone, I gotta do something. I gotta, say whatever I can say and appeal to whomever on this issue. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. If you don’t have to kill to eat, don’t do it!. What’s it for, is it so that we can all make a great living? No, it’s for a few greedy evil men who are making the profits from this. It applied to me when I was Ronald as I was benefiting directly from this, and so what do you have to do to balance it.
Question: How much effect do you think Ronald McDonald has? He’s more recognized than Santa Claus?
Giuliano: Oh the kids love him! They don’t know why they love him, they love him because they were told to love him. Somebody paid somebody to make them love him, so it’s all a very unthinking, unfeeling exercise. The whole message is like, “this is what we’re giving you, take it, shut up and put your hand in your pocket, and we’ll take the proceeds”.
Question: Do you think it was smart of McDonald’s to have come up with Ronald?
Giuliano: Oh, it’s real 50’s, not really very anything inventive. A clown is a friendly, unthreatening thing. It’s happy, it has a mask of make up, it’s not real. There’s no hard edges, it’s all soft and blurred, you can easily embrace it. It’s also safe and warm like a big animated stuffed toy. It’s just a con job and not a very sophisticated trick at all, it’s just been around for so long it’s familiar. Like what Hitler said; if you tell a lie long enough everybody believes that it’s the truth, it becomes truth. Burger King got rid of the Marvelous Magical Burger King but Ronald is still with us. I’ll see that bastard into the ground before I’m done…
Question: If you could look at the image of yourself in the Ronald McDonald suit, how do you react to that? Is it happy or sad?
Giuliano: Well, there I am as Ronald. The image there seems somewhat duplicitous to me. It seems really in your face, but if you look into the eyes, there’s guile there – the smile is painted on. I remember when we used to put the black mascara on, they’d tell us to get it really dark to avoid ‘pink eye’, you know, they didn’t want that pink, they wanted everything as unreal as possible. I remember it was like the army, you know I’d have a kit inspection, they’d come and look and say, “zip that zipper up private”, they wanted curls in the wig, but I was always a bit of a rebel – my zipper would be down when it was supposed to be up, that sort of thing.
Question: What do you think of Helen and Dave’s role in this?
Giuliano: Anybody that does anything in this regard is a hero in my book. What we are trying to do here is raise consciousness, We’re not going burn down restaurants or anything. It’s all up here, in our heads. This is one of the things the McLibel trial is about. All the people around the world are working towards this end. The consciousness changers and expanders group and that’s how real change comes about. So don’t ever think this is a waste, and don’t ever think we’ll go away, and don’t ever think this is not going to work. Because it will work, one person at a time.
Question: Do you feel you’ve ‘atoned’ for what you did?
Giuliano: I’m in the process of atoning, and it’ll take many years. One and a half years as Ronald McDonald is equal to about thirty years as an ardent, enthusiastic, animal rights activist, and then maybe I’ll be able to die with a peaceful mind some day and move on successfully to the next level!