While Erin toils in academia with an unusually heavy workload, I thought I would share another unpublished excerpt from The Historian And The Beatles regarding this now infamous statement attributed to Paul by his erstwhile lover, Francie Schwartz:
One example of Doggett’s occasional acceptance of unverified testimony as fact is his use of Francie Schwartz’s claim that the reason Lennon and Ono left McCartney’s London house (where they were temporarily staying) in Summer 1968 is because McCartney left the couple a postcard with the words “You and Your Jap Tart Think You’re Hot Shit” on it. Schwartz, McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, is the only source for this scene, (Body Count, 220) which, Doggett argues in both You Never Give Me Your Money and in a later interview with Oomska, initiated an irreparable wedge between Lennon and McCartney.
However, neither Lennon nor Ono ever mentioned this incident, even during Lennon Remembers, in which Lennon accuses the other Beatles of seriously mistreating Ono but also acknowledges that their offered examples of mistreatment are unconvincing: “Even when it’s written down, it’ll just look like I’m paranoid.” (Lennon Remembers, 44) Given that Schwartz portrays this incident as an extremely painful moment in Lennon’s relationship with McCartney, and that it directly led to Lennon and Ono departing Cavendish, it would presumably have been, for both Lennon and Ono, a particularly memorable moment. More, describing this incident would have heavily reinforced Lennon’s Lennon Remembers interview agenda to portray himself and Ono as victims of McCartney and the other Beatles. His failure to remember and recount the incident in this particular instance casts suspicions on the accuracy of Schwartz’s account.
While Garraghan declares that “the testimony of a single witness whose competence in every respect is above suspicion may be accepted as true,” (Garraghan, A Guide to Historical Method, 244) Schwartz does not qualify as a competent witness. Her brief relationship with McCartney ended badly when he told her to move out and Schwartz quickly sold articles about her time with McCartney to Rolling Stone and later produced a book, Body Count, in which Schwartz details the postcard scene. The Beatles Bibliography (which repeatedly discredits those pro-Lennon sources promoting the “Lennon Remembers” and Shout! versions of Beatles history) describes Body Count as “a travesty of a memoir,” in part because of its “self-serving and non-reflexive tone.” In credibility terms, Schwartz’s unverified eyewitness testimony is equal to that of the Apple Scruff claiming that Lennon once attempted to hit a pregnant Linda McCartney. While both Schwartz and the Apple Scruff’s claims are generally reinforced by circumstantial evidence (Schwartz by Beatles insider Derek Taylor’s claims that McCartney was sending him anonymous but ominous postcards in that same time period, the Scruff’s by Lennon’s admitted acts of occasional violence against women) Beatles writers who recount both scenes should explain that they are unverified testimony presented by an unreliable source.
Anyone still questioning whether Francie Schwartz is being truthful about the “jap tart” comment need only consider the point which Erin makes here: that J&Y would have been been screaming about this to the press to bolster their position that the rest of the band mistreated them/Yoko, had it been true. I would also add that the vernacular–calling something or someone “hot shit”– sounds far more American than late 60’s British. I think Schwartz gave herself away with that one.
I’m shocked that Doggett didn’t come up with those same, very simple observations.
What say ye, commentators?
24 thoughts on ““You And Your Jap Tart Think You’re Hot Shit.””
I was going to say the same thing about the phrase “hot shit” which I always thought was jarring, even when I read “Body Count” back in the Seventies. Francie Schwartz’s comments through the years, as well as her vagueness about when things happened and how one she was actually with Paul, certainly makes her the epitome of an unreliable narrator!
Unreliable narrator is a good way to put it, Gael.
One thing I’ve always found interesting about Beatles historiography — and this is something you see not only with Francie, but also with other debatable sources — is how authors will pick and choose evidence from that source to make a point or provide a motivation, but those same authors will ignore information from that same source on other matters. With Francie, the best example I can think of is the supposed “love letter” she found from Brian to Paul, which, so far as I know, none of the secondary books on the Beatles have ever discussed, even though some of them address the “Jap Tart” postcard. Or with Fred Seaman: now pretty much everyone recounts Seaman’s claim that John’s hearing Paul’s “Coming Up” was what really inspired him to start recording again, while ignoring the numerous other claims that Seaman makes in the book. The “love letter from Brian” and the “Jap Tart” episode are equivalent pieces of evidence: They are both unverified testimony from a semi-questionable source. But one instance is repeatedly referenced and discussed while another is almost wholly ignored. Given that there’s considerable evidence that Paul and Brian’s relationship was getting closer in the period preceding Brian’s death, wouldn’t the idea of an affectionate letter from Brian to Paul — either platonic or otherwise — be worth exploring?
Re: Seaman’s claim that John got inspired by ‘Coming Up’ – that comes also from Paul’s own recount. He had mentioned it was indirect information, but he sounded so self-confident about it that one would assume he knew what he was saying..
I can believe Coming Up inspired John to get back into the music game. From what I’ve read, John loved watching tv and may have seen the video of Coming UP which is hilariously clever. Watching all those Pauls, (10 of ’em), in characters of other artists, including smiling, winking Beatle Paul, giving the thumbs up and McCartneyII Paul singing lead (and looking incredibly youthful and handsome)
Add to that, Linda as gal & guy back up singers, with everybody looking like they were having a ball!
I bet John watched that and LHAO, enjoying the humorous fun and playfulness, the art of it, (maybe wishing he was part of it too). I can see something like that could inspire and motivate him, like he hadn’t been in years.
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I tend to agree. I always found it suspicious, precisely because neither John nor Yoko ever, ever mentioned it. I don’t think either of them would have given voice to such petty complaints (Paul looked at Yoko during “Get Back”!) if they had such a trump card up their sleeve that would have redeemed their resentments in the eyes of the public. Then there’s the matter of Francie herself. Having read some (but I’m sure not all) of her posts on the old Beatles newsgroups, she changed the facts of her story frequently depending on what narrative she wanted to present on any given day, typically a virulent anti-Paul one. (I think she mentioned in Body Count suffering from some mental problems and that seems reflected in her posts, too.)
A theory I find interesting which is kind of in-between and a little more generous to Francie, is that the incident happened but didn’t mean what she thought it meant. Going by memory of her account, Paul never acknowledges writing the note but does apologize for putting it on the mantle where John and Yoko later saw it (or says something like, “I thought it was funny”). At that time, bags of the Beatles’ fanmail were delivered to the members’ homes, which they went through occasionally (as friends and acquaintances noted; there are also photos of such times). I think Francie herself may have mentioned fanmail lying around. Anyway, in this interpretation, at a time when Yoko was hugely unpopular with the Beatles fans, the note actually came in the mail. Paul opened it and left it (whether accidentally or purposefully) in a place John and Yoko would see it. That would both explain what Francie saw and John and Yoko seeming to forget it. They might be hurt in the moment at Paul for leaving it out, but then forget about it as just another example of anonymous fan hate, which the band was not unused to.
Sure is possible that it was fan mail, and Francie set in on the mantle to frame Paul. That scenario I can see.
“I don’t think either of them would have given voice to such petty complaints (Paul looked at Yoko during “Get Back”!) if they had such a trump card up their sleeve that would have redeemed their resentments in the eyes of the public.”
You summed up in a sentence what it took me a paragraph to say. John and Yoko were never hesitant at portraying themselves as the victims, esp. during the breakup period but also afterwards — witness John’s claim in 1980 that Paul sabotaged his songs. Wenner in “Lennon Remembers” is egging them on to provide concrete examples of the other Beatles rotten behavior towards toward Yoko, but neither one references this supposedly incredibly painful moment which directly led to their departure from Cavendish. Its possible that it could have slipped their minds during that interview, but they also never brought it up in subsequent interviews.
Another alternative is that it could have been discretion on John’s part for fear of how Paul would retaliate: John had to know that Paul had absolutely devastating information regarding John as well. Yes; mentioning this incident would have reinforced their victimization claims, but if, say, the Apple Scruff’s story is true — If John really did try to hit a pregnant Linda — then surely John would have been aware of what an explosive piece of information that would be if Paul let that out publicly in retaliation for the “Jap Tart” story. Of course, that assumes that John — who refers to the Eastman’s as WASP Jews and “fucking stupid middle class pigs” in Lennon Remembers — was capable of discretion in that interview at all. I rather think not.
One thing I’ve also always wondered about in respect to this event is the timeline: when, exactly, this supposed event occurred. Does John and Yoko’s departure from Cavendish pre-date Yoko’s taped soliloquy during the White Album sessions where she talks about how nice Paul has been to her, how she views him as a sort of “brother” and how she, John and Paul are all on this level together? Because if it did, that would certainly indicate that this event didn’t happen, or didn’t happen the way Francie depicted it. Unfortunately, my schedule at the moment is crazy, and I don’t have the materials available to cross check. I know Doggett puts the tape before the Cavendish departure, but it would be interesting do double check.
Erin I don’t have an exact time line but I really think the taped soliloquy pre dated John and Yoko staying at Cavendish. I think the tape was probably made in May. Yoko had only been around Paul for a short time at that point. From what she says on the tape it sure sounds like they got along okay in the beginning. I think the stay and departure regarding Cavendish took place in July. I think Paul and Francie began their affair in early June and she moved in with Paul shortly after that. I think she was probably gone by late July or early August at the latest. He spent September with Maggie McGivern, taking her to Sardinia. Then Linda moved in, in October. I once pieced together this timeline with the help of The Complete Beatles Chronicles and The Complete Recording Sessions.
Linda, would you mind putting quotes around quoted portions? It makes it easier to follow, and saves me from adding block quotes after the fact.
Karen I haven’t made any comments where I’ve quoted someone. I thought I was using quotation marks when I quoted people in other comments.
Oh sorry I now see what you mean about quoted portions. I thought you meant quotes from the Beatles and other notables that we discuss. Now I realize you meant my habit of copying and pasting other people’s comments into my comments and then answering them. I can see how it would be hard to follow without quotes around the copied portion. I will do that from now on.
That’s what I meant, yes. Thanks. I’ve been going after folks and adding block quotes or plain quotes, when I see it, but I decided to post a notice to everyone in case newbies join us.
I think the “Jap Tart” postcard is constantly brought up because it “fits” the “accepted” narrative of JohnandYoko against the world, but especially against Mean Old Paul (when most on-lookers agree that it was George who was actually the most openly anti-Yoko member of the band). The supposed love letter form Brian also goes against the idea that Brian was hopelessly in love with John seemingly from first sight, when there is evidence that he certainly had very deep feelings for Paul, especially after he knew them all better. I believe Hunter Davies mentions that Paul had the ability to upset Brian more than any of the others, and if you read Joe Orton’s diaries he connects Brian and Paul over and over, if not overtly sexually, then in ways that hint at something else going on. The famous party he went to at Brian’s house was co-hosted by Paul and Orton certainly read it was a “gay” party — and as an openly gay man his “gaydar” has to count for something, even if he was mistaken about the Easybeats being male prostitutes hired for the evening! But note that there were no women at this party (or so it seems) which was another reason he could have read it as gay, along with Brian’s reputation for hosting all-male soirees. Yet, there is Paul right in the middle of it.
It’s so odd to me that no-one ever officially rejected the “jap tart” claim–but aside from Doggett who should know better, maybe it’s because Schwartz had such little credibility that anything she said wasn’t even worth rejecting.
As an openly gay man myself, allow me to interject: our “gaydar” is not infallible. Harvey Fierstein once opined in an early Eighties interview that the gay world is like stepping through a looking-glass, and an example he cited was that most straight people assume someone is straight unless they are told otherwise, whereas for gay people, most of them assume someone is gay unless they are told otherwise. And if there are levels of attractiveness that just “light our fire” (to borrow a phrase from Jim Morrison and Robby Krieger), then our “gaydar” crosses wires with what I call our “pleasebegaydar,” as when Joe Orton assumed the Easybeats were the evening’s entertainment. While it’s a reasonable assumption that Brian’s and Paul’s respective circles of friends included gay people (it’s a matter of record that they did), it’s not necessarily an indicator that there was something fishy about Paul being in a room full of gay men, or that the room was even necessarily filled with gay men.
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I loved the “pleasebegaydar” expression, provider. And thanks for your perspective.
I have The Orton Diaries and so I have to give a counterpoint, Gael. I have the book with me so let me respectfully give a different read on what you remembered (I’m not going to type out passages, but I’ll summarize):
“he connects Brian and Paul over and over, if not overtly sexually, then in ways that hint at something else going on.”
Orton doesn’t connect them “over and over.” He meets Paul only once. Orton’s relationship with Brian is purely business – despite both men being gay, it doesn’t mean they had a personal relationship with each other. Orton actually doesn’t write at all about any interaction between Paul and Brian themselves. He writes about his own interaction with Paul but nothing of any interaction of note with Brian.
Orton (then experiencing much success as the new star playwright of London theatre) was first contacted by Walter Shenson, who had produced A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, to note that the Beatles were interested in Orton rewriting the (existing) script for the next film, as they were unhappy with it. Shenson told Orton that he’d be contacted by either Brian Epstein or Paul McCartney further about it, so “don’t be surprised if a Beatle rings you up.” Orton says it would be like a phone call from God and Shenson tells him “the boys” are very respectful of talent and there’s no reason to be nervous. Orton is send the script and reads it, thinks it has potential.
On page 69 of the diaries, Orton gets a call from Peter Brown, scheduling a meeting with the Beatles and Brian Epstein. On page 72-73, Orton arrives at Brian’s office for the meeting about possibly writing the Beatles’ next film, but is told their appointment is cancelled because Brian’s other meetings have been pushed back. Orton is offended. Brian asks if he’d rather meet him and Paul McCartney for dinner that night but Orton has a previous engagement, plus he’s just mad about the meeting being cancelled. His theatre engagement that night gets cancelled, so ends up calling and accepting the invite after his boyfriend, Kenneth Halliwell, convinces him.
Orton goes to Brian’s house in Belgravia that evening. He’s greeted at the door by a butler and is amazed, having never met one before. He goes to the bathroom and comes out confused, because the house seems to be empty. He finally hears music and goes up to the first floor where everyone is congregated. He’s introduced to a couple of other people and Paul McCartney (“just like the photographs”) who is playing the new single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever on the record player for everyone (Orton likes Penny Lane but not “Strawberry something”)
“But note that there were no women at this party (or so it seems) which was another reason he could have read it as gay, along with Brian’s reputation for hosting all-male soirees.”
There are women at the party. For example, Orton specifically mentions a French photographer with a beautiful woman on his arm.
Just because Orton and Brian were both gay, that doesn’t mean they necessarily had “gay parties,” or that every dinner party Brian threw had a subtext or turned into an orgy or something. I can’t imagine Orton’s description as being any different if Brian were straight and had the exact same party. Note that Orton writes graphically of his sexual exploits elsewhere, but he makes no insinuations that this dinner is anything but business. There’s no mention of flirtation between anybody (including him and Brian), no mention of the party being all male, no mention of anybody doing anything untoward or sexual at all.
Here’s what happens at the party, per Orton: after listening to the Beatles record, everyone sits down for dinner. Orton describes he and Paul talking “intermittently” but nothing about talking to Brian Epstein at all. Paul compliments Orton’s play Loot and says it’s the only play he hadn’t wanted to walk out of before the end. They discuss setting the new Beatles film in the 1930’s. They talk generally of the theatre community vs. the pop music world. Orton talks about a new drug, mushrooms, which are hallucinogens like LSD. Orton talks about his travels in Morocco and mentions tentatively having smoked marijuana there. “The atmosphere relaxed a little” after he openly admitted smoking pot. After dinner, everyone goes into a room to watch a news program about Swinging London on the television.
There’s a knock at the door and the Easybeats, a new pop group, arrive. I have to disagree that Orton seriously though they were prostitutes, it seems clear to me he was joking. After calling them “pretty” he writes, “I rather hope this was the evening’s entertainments, it wasn’t though.” Orton remembers seeing them on TV and liking their music.
After some time, Paul, Joe Orton and Peter Brown go another room also with a TV (I think also to smoke pot). The photographer arrives with his (female) date and some other people. He’d just taken photographs of the Beatles for their new record sleeve and shows Paul, Peter, Orton et al. Orton notes that it’s an excellent photograph but the band looks different with their mustaches. Everyone goes back downstairs to join the main party. The photographer’s girlfriend leaves. Orton talks to the “leading Easybeat,” feeling like “an Edwardian masher with a Gaiety girl.” Orton then becomes tired. He tells Paul he decided to do the film, there’s only one thing they’ve got to fix up. Paul asks if it’s money, Orton says yes. They smile and Orton gets a cab home. He notes that it’s raining. Orton tells his boyfriend Kenneth all about the evening when he gets home. They talk about an hour or so, Kenneth makes tea then they go to sleep.
Orton never meets Paul McCartney or Brian Epstein ever again. He never meets the other Beatles either. Orton ends up rewriting the script using ideas from his film novel, and calls it “Up Against It.” He submits it to Walter Shenson, who sends it back without comment. “No explanation of why. No criticism of the script.” Orton cannot get a comment from Brian’s office either. “Fuck them,” is Orton’s conclusion. He decides to rewrite the script minus the Beatles. Sadly, a couple of months later, Orton was murdered by his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell.
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Thank you for posting this, Rose. This is much as I remember it going; the introduction to the published edition of Up Against It quotes liberally from Joe’s diaries in telling the story of how the film turned out.
This is very intriguing. I would love to know more about this.
Oh, no, I never suggested there was anything “fishy” — just that it does show that Paul at that point in his life was certainly hanging out with Brian, in a social and cultural context, but also personally. He had a lot more in common with Brian in his interest in art, etc., than with John, who was in one of his suburban angst phases. Brian’s London circle was made up of gay men who were artists, writers, actors, and playwrights like Orton. Paul seems very comfortable in that world and very comfortable at a “gay party” (in Orton’s view). I’m just trying to set up the possibility that Brian and Paul were much closer (which seems obvious) than the usually narrative of John being madly in love with John, while ignoring the others in John’s favor. Especially around 1966-1967 that is patently untrue. But after reading Orton’s diaries, I still think his gaydar was pretty finely honed! It had to be, considering the time and his sex life.
Sorry for such a late reply; I was traveling all weekend, and only just settled in at work.
Sorry for the lateness of my reply; I was travelling. And then catching up with work.
I think your main point — about looking at the changing nature of the Brian/Paul relationship — is worth further discussion. (As is the nature of the Brian/George relationship; which we nudged at with the previous post about why George chose Klein; because he possibly felt overlooked by Brian).
The John/Brian relationship, both personal and professional, tends to attract the most attention from biographers and fans. The story has always been that the Brian/John relationship was more important, more intense, more personal, than Brian’s relationship with any of the other Beatles. We get hints of that in Brian’s accounts, from Norman’s Shout! — where, according to Mimi, Brian declared that John “was the only one that mattered,” which might as well have been the subtitle of Shout: “Shout! Where John is the Only Beatle that Matters.”
We also get it in Coleman’s bio of Brian, in John’s interviews about Brian, etc. And given John’s alleged psychological issues, his reliance on but mistreatment of Brian, the possibility of anything sexual happening between the two of them on their Spain trip, there’s a lot of information to mine there. It certainly seems as if, in personal and psychological terms, John needed Brian more than Paul needed Brian, and Brian liked being needed. Not to mention that John identifies Brian’s death as the moment everything began to crumble. John complaining about Paul’s refusal to accept Brian in “Lennon Remembers” has some legitimacy to it — Paul was always the one who was most willing to question Brian’s business decisions — but it also feeds into John’s overall agenda of painting Paul as a malcontent: of course Paul doesn’t like Klein; he didn’t like Brian either, because that’s just how Paul operated.
But the John/Brian focus has sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room in regards to Brian’s relationships with the other Beatles. So many writers seem to think that because Brian’s relationship with Paul started out as semi-contentious, that it remained that way until Brian’s death; they take a slice of time, from the period of a few brief years — 1963-1965, let’s say — and extrapolate that out over the entirety of the Brian/Paul relationship, and that’s silly. As you say, there’s a lot of evidence to indicate that Brian’s relationship with Paul was considerably closer, professionally and personally, in the latter two/three years of Brian’s life than it had been earlier. You have a marvelous account by Barry Miles, who witnessed the two of them brainstorming the rough sketch of MMT together, where he declares its obvious how much Brian adored Paul; you have the encouraging letter Paul wrote Brian after one of his suicide attempts. Paul and Brian were, by Paul’s admission, running into each other in London clubs while the others were living in the Stockbroker belt. Most Beatles writers place Paul’s ascendancy as the de-facto leader of the Beatles in the 1966-67 time period; surely Brian would have realized which way the wind was blowing; how would that have impacted his relationships with John and Paul?
I, for one, would love to know more about Paul’s relationship with Brian, beyond the tired old “bath” story and the first John-centric years. How did Paul regard Brian’s implicit favoritism regarding John? If John noticed Brian and Paul’s improving working relationship in the year or so prior to Brian’s death, was he pleased by it or threatened by it? Did Paul and Brian ever think about teaming up to convince the other Beatles to resume touring? How did Brian and Paul’s approaches to each other change over time? Does Paul believe, as John did, that Brian’s death was the point of no return?
That’s what I take issue with, though, Gael. You’re still claiming that Joe Orton considered this a “gay party” which he did nothing of the sort. It was a last minute invitation to dinner to talk business – being hired to write the Beatles’ new film – and there was nothing romantic or sexual or even personal about it, as Orton describes it in his diary. I take issue with you repeating that it was “Orton’s view” that it was some sort of “gay party,” because I feel that you’re basing that solely on the knowledge that both Orton and Epstein were gay, not on his actual description, and to me that’s just reducing two men to their sexualities rather than acknowledging that they were human beings who had careers and business interests, and were perfectly capable of interacting with others (including fellow gay men) without a sexual component.
I also take issue with you claiming that Orton was “in Brian’s circle.” If you read the diaries, Orton met Brian Epstein only twice. Once briefly at Brian’s office, where Orton becomes offended at having his meeting cancelled and Brian tries to arrange another time. The second is at Brian’s house for dinner that same day. While I’m sure that Orton and Brian must have chatted at least a little bit at dinner, it was not notable enough for Orton to describe in his diary. Literally, I repeat: Orton does not describe Brian at all at the dinner party – he does not write about taking to Brian himself nor anyone else interacting with Brian, though Orton notes talking to other people at the party.
Joe Orton and Brian Epstein were not friends. Aside from that single day, they never interacted. Every gay man in London was not connected or part of the same circle. Orton was invited to dinner at Brian’s to meet Paul McCartney and discuss being hired by them because Brian couldn’t meet with him during the day. There was zero sexual or untoward component to it. Orton and Paul discussed business (from Orton’s description). The only “risque” part of the dinner was the discussion of drugs and Orton being unsure if he should admit to smoking pot.
I’m sorry if my posts are too strident, but I feel like I have to defend Joe Orton on this point. Yes, he was a sexually active gay man but he was also a professional writer. He had no personal connection to Brian Epstein as a fellow gay man (Orton does not even mention Brian’s sexuality) and, like most everyone, Orton was perfectly capable of having business meetings unconnected to his personal life. Orton describes the dinner party as business. He was not there to get laid or to make friends. He did not flirt with anybody nor did he make mention of anyone flirting with each other. It was not an “all male party.” He made a joke about hoping the Easybeats “were the entertainment” for the party but I think you read far more into it than it was. Recall that Orton wrote that in his personal diary as he was making a joke about how good-looking he thought the band was. In the next sentence he recalls seeing them on television before – he knew very well they were not male prostitutes. He, privately, thought they were pretty. He did not tell them that. He did not try to sleep with them. Orton does not describe anything remotely untoward going on at the party, either from himself or anyone. It was a dinner he attended to try and secure a job, he then left alone and returned home to his own partner where they recapped their days and went to bed. It was quite normal.
Thank you, Rose, for the clarification on Orton. Information of that sort is always helpful, allowing us to gain a clearer, more nuanced picture.
I’ve not read Orton’s diary, but did find this account of the whole affair. According to this account–which seems to source Orton’s diary as well as interviews with Walter Shenson–the meeting wasn’t a “gay” party, but rather an informal type of business meeting among the principals, for the purposes of engaging in some preliminary dialogue about the script.
The reason the script was rejected, according to Paul (and John, in later interviews), was that it was seen as “too gay.”