Yoko Ono

yes yoko ono in houston

Press conference at the museum on Friday at 11 AM

We arrived on time (a 3 hour drive from Austin that morning). "Press" (me & about 30 others maybe) were allowed to view the exhibit first so that was wonderful. Photos and videos were all allowed to be taken - for the only time during the installation's stay. Yoko came about 11:15-11:30 dressed in the same peach jacket she wore during the Starting Over interview, walked around the museum once and set up for a press conference at a long table flanked by Jon Hendricks and Alexandra Munroe along with the Houston museum curator Marti Mayo. I sat front row center with my subtly gift wrapped Tex Bowling shirt. When she sat at the table she saw me and mouthed "hello"! The woman next to me said to me "she seems to know you." She did!

After several generic type questions I asked about works that had been done since this "retrospective" that were two of my favorites, why they weren't included: Ex/It and the Berlin train car installation. Alexandra and Jon reacted with enthusiasm, whispering to each other in excitement. "He must read the internet" I heard Jon say. About Ex It and the difficulty in moving it Yoko said that in the future they would just build the caskets where they went and use indigenous trees.

After some more press conference questions I asked another question about her two new names: Grandma and Doctor. Again Jon & Alexandra looked at me like "who is this guy?" Yoko said she loved being called Gran and that essentially her "doctorship" or "doctorate" was odd since she was given a doctorate of law - "they seem to reward me for the things I'm not and criticise what I do" - was the gist of her reply.

After the press conference many press types got their one on one with Yoko for a few minutes each. We watched patiently as I was wanting to give Yoko my shirt at an opportune time. Curt (Yoko's personal assistant) said to sit tight so I did. (He is such a nice, sweet young man. Turns out he got his job because he went to school with Kyoko and she told him her mom needed a new assistant!). We sat with Sam who turned out to be Sam Koppelman, the drummer on Rising and Ann - Yoko's "Health person" - both of whom accompanied Yoko to Texas.

When all the press was done Curt said I could give her the shirt "before or after the blue room." We followed to the blue room - and watched from the outside of this little room. Many flash bulbs. We found out later that Yoko was writing instructions on the wall of this room and it was part of the exhibit that needed to be finished. (I didn't see that in NY; also here in Texas I did not see the "stone" piece with piles of small rocks. I forget the concept of that but it wasn't here).

When Yoko exited the blue room and finished her writing on the wall she came straight towards me and saw the package. It was a beautiful corrugated cardboard box with flowers and a silk bow. The bow was tied tight but she wanted to open it with her tiny hands properly. She said something to the effect of "I know what this is" and "Isn't this ironic" which I took to be a reference that here she was in Texas getting the shirt I sent to NY 6 months ago. She opened the box and seemed truly pleased with the shirt. holding it up to her with flash bulbs a popping!! I said it should fit well as we used a threadbare white shirt of hers that was sent to me from the Dakota as a blueprint. Yoko said "Yes it was threadbare but did you send it back?" Obviously the threadbare shirt had a special meaning for her and Curt assured her he had gotten it back to her closet in the Dakota.

Yoko and I hugged and she was whisked away to meet 2 other museum people. When she walked back my way I asked Yoko if I could introduce her to my wife. Yoko seemed genuinely enthused and gave Barb a hug. Barb said "It's so nice to meet you since your presence is all in our home." Yoko seemed touched and Barb got two autographs. We left very happy and rested at the hotel til dinner.

The dinner

The dinner was at a hoity-toity Houston country club called the Bayou Club. Cocktails at 6, dinner at 7. I figured Yoko wouldn't be there at 6 but when we arrived about 6:30 she was there! Dressed in a white jacket on a small couch in the corner of a glassed in 2nd floor porch that overlooked a green area with a gorgeous blue pool. Flanked by Jon and Marti, Yoko received folks who had either paid $125 dollars to aid the museum or were sponsors. Barb and I approached her and we talked to Yoko about her trip to Liverpool and Dovedale School and the John Lennon Liverpool Airport. She said by the time she got back to London she laid down and slept for 11 hours straight. She told us of going to Dovedale, playing with the children on the playground she donated. She also apologized to Barb when she found out Barb was a lawyer (about the remarks she made earlier about getting a law degree in Liverpool) and we laughed. It was sort of a receiving area so we made room for the next folks and had cocktails.

We were at table #3 behind Yoko's - which had Jon and Alexandra, a magazine editor and some big contributors to the museum and exhibit. The topic of talk by Marti at the podium was about how this almost didn't happen because of Houston's major recent flood Alison. It was truly a miracle the exhibit happened at all. Yoko said some words after dinner before desert. Saying in earlier years Alison might have been compared favorably to herself! She started her remarks by saying "As my husband John once said when receiving an award - "Thank you, you've got a lucky face!" I loved it and her short talk about heartbeats and connectedness.

After dinner there was a preview show of Yes Yoko Ono for members of the museum so we went back. This was about 9:30 p.m. Friday. The museum was crackling with energy. Barb & I were standing by the acrylic maze piece that leads to the toilet. (Yoko's humor is so present at this exhibit!!) As Barb and I were talking Yoko came walking straight up to us followed by popping flashbulbs. She commented on how nice the dinner was and Barb remarked on how she had done the maze earlier but kept walking into walls. Yoko remarked in a way that was both specific and metaphoric: "Everyone walks into the walls." I mentioned that the acrylic maze was first seen on the 45 RPM single cover for Cold Turkey. She nodded knowingly and said "Plastic Ono Band."

Yoko had changed from her more formal dinner attire to a cool black jumpsuit type outfit. The whole day she wore the coolest black sports shoes! After our talk in the museum we called it a day.

The lecture

The lecture the next day was FUN. Yoko came out wearing the shirt I gave her! I was beyond happy. She had a variety of teapots set out on a table and spoke of how each represented a different art movement. Then she had an interview with a man named Lars (Schwander, the director of Fotografisk Center, and a contributor to the book YES Yoko Ono), an art expert from Copenhagen. The interview had its moments but he asked some non-essential things and also struggled a bit with language (not to mention he poorly used his microphone). But he did ask why "bagism" wasn't part of the exhibit - and then he and Yoko proceeded to get in a big black bag and roll around while the "Blueprint" DVD played behind them silently. When Yoko came out she had taken the shirt I had given her off and was in a black leotard jumper. When she placed the shirt on the chair she said to the audience that "a friend of mine from Houston had this made this especially for me" and showed the front and back..."do you like it?" and there was applause. It had the name "Tex" engraved over the pocket and the Texas symbol on the back. I was on Cloud 9!

Yoko then invited Sam Koppelman up to play tamboura and they improvised for about 10 minutes, running through the gamut of Yoko's vocal modulations. What a thrill!!

Then there was a Q&A session with the audience with queries both good and lame. I enjoyed hearing Yoko say that she e-mailed both Kyoko and Sean from Houston to tell them about her trip. I think her family situation has settled and made her happy.

As the audience asked questions (and Yoko choked a bit and needed more water and lozenges) Ann and others wrapped the audience in yarn - blue for the sky, white for the clouds and yellow for light - to unite us all. Jon and Curt were on the left side of the stage doing something with yarn and a bowl - I missed the significance of that.

The entire "lecture" clocked in at just shy of 90 minutes and then Yoko left quickly but her ideas seemed as if they'd be around forever.





Yes yoko ono

© Sari Gurney
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