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John Lennon Tribute, Featuring ‘The Lennon Report’ Film and Beatles Music, Draws Rock Royalty

Night at Roosevelt ER Detailed in ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in 'The Lennon Report' with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Karen Tsen Lee, who portrayed Yoko Ono in ‘The Lennon Report’ with Brooke Halpin and director Jeremy Profe – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Albert Lee with wife, Karen – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

For John Lennon fans —  and for the rest of the world as well — Dec. 8 will always be a day of mourning.  That’s the day the Beatles founder was murdered, back in 1980.

The film, The Lennon Report, tells a story from the point of view of those who were closest to him on that day.

The Lennon Report was presented by Beatles expert Brooke Halpin at the Crest Westwood at a screening that was attended by celebs and rock royalty, all of whom had fond recollections of Lennon.

If you were around on that December day in 1980, you can probably remember where you were when the news of Lennon’s death hit the airwaves. It happened in New York City when the musician known for peace and love met a violent end to what could only be considered a dream life.

John Lennon and The Hospital Staff

John Lennon’s music and life impacted just about everyone. But few were impacted more than those in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital where the medical team tried with all their might to keep the legend alive.  And director Jeremy Prufe puts us right into the room with the nurses and doctors, blood and all.

That night is documented in gritty detail by writers Prufe and Walter Vincent in the period film The Lennon Report.

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Walter Vincent as Alan Weiss and David Zayas as officer Joseph Medina – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The movie is an eye-opener, revealing facts that we may have let slip through the cracks as time has passed and the shock of the crime has settled.

For instance, the movie points out that the ambulance took so long to get to Lennon as he lay dying on the ground at The Dakota that officers called to the scene had to take him to the hospital in their squad car.

The story centers on an Eyewitness News producer, Alan Weiss, (Vincent) who happened to end up in the ER at the same time Lennon was there.

Weiss knew he had the biggest story of his life and he had to brave a busted hip — the result of a motorcycle accident that very same night — to get the story in to his news desk and make it to broadcast first.

He also had to get past the nurses Barbara Kammerer (Stef Dawson) and Deartra Sato (Ashlie Atkinson) and officer Joseph Medina (David Zayas) to call in his devastating information to the ABC Eyewitness News desk.

It didn’t seem to be an ethical dilemma to tell the world it was John Lennon in the room adjacent to the hallway where Weiss was lying on a gurney — after all these were the days before HIPA laws. Weiss overhears John Lennon’s name being mentioned and thus discovers he’s in the same ER as the famous Beatle.

True Reporting With ‘The Lennon Report’

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

Karen Lee as Yoko Ono – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

The film moves at a fast pace through basically two rooms in the hospital.  And it is painstakingly reassembled almost 40 years since his death.  There are some facts that are revealed that we never knew and some liberties taken with other facts, but mainly The Lennon Report is a solid first attempt by an independent filmmaker who’s passionate about a subject.  Vincent does a nice job in his portrayal of the tenacious Eyewitness News producer, and he co-wrote the strong script.

The Lennon Report is a narrative but it could have easily been a documentary, although that would not have done the amount of information justice. And if you’re expecting any backstory in the picture, forget it.  We don’t know too much about any of the characters except that the nurses are friends. We know nothing about the shooter and the audience doesn’t get a good look at the victim.  All actors evoked the emotion each was supposed to bring and the ensemble works well. Particularly great was Karen Tsen Lee as Yoko Ono.

Howard Cosell Told It Like It Was

'The Lennon Report' one sheet - Photo courtesy of 'The Lennon Report'

‘The Lennon Report’ one sheet – Photo courtesy of ‘The Lennon Report’

Actor Rick Crom showed the conflict in sports broadcaster Howard Cosell, who was given the duty of announcing the tragedy during a tie-score Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots Monday Night Football game. We have a soft spot for Cosell, mainly because after a disagreement we had over running back Alvin Garrett, he included this upstart United Press International reporter in his book, I Never Played The Game. The guy had a lot of heart regardless of what you thought of his style.

During the Q and A, director Profe said he didn’t want the famous figures to steal the spotlight.

He wanted the focus on the hospital personnel, and how with the journalist there as well, they endured a night of unforgettable emotional and physical trauma.

It’s not easy to let go of your icons and this film points that out with pinpoint accuracy.  It’s never been told until recently about the true story of the ER that night and it probably will never be. Profe said his interviewing and the research gets the result to about as close as it will ever come given it’s 37 years later and his work is based on human memory. It’s clear these people who were so close to John Lennon at his death would be haunted by this one night forever.

Revelations: John Lennon’s True Surgeon

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reel Players with Brooke Halpin – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It only came out recently and likely as a result of the research by the filmmakers, that Dr. David Hallaren (Evan Jonigkeit) is the surgeon who actually worked on Lennon.  Dr. Stephan Lynn said for years publicly that he was the surgeon responsible.  It was a no-win situation for the hospital and those operating on Lennon, as he was classified dead on arrival, try as they did to keep him alive.

Following the screening a question-and-answer period with the director Profe and the actress who portrayed Yoko Ono, Karen Lee, followed.

The topic of not allowing guns to get into the hands of people who have a proven mental problem arose, and it sparked a major discussion among audience members including attendee Spencer Davis, founder of The Spencer Davis Group.

“I have a one-word question to ask,” said the impassioned Davis. “That question is, ‘Why?’ Simply ‘Why?‘”

The great Albert Lee also made an appearance, accompanied by his beautiful wife, Karen.

Playing a few Beatles songs after the show were Lenn Johnston, a Lennon impersonator and the evening was hosted by Brooke Halpin, the Beatles expert, who also graced the audience with a performance of Beatles songs as well.

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