John Lennon's final autograph to his killer part of PNE exhibit
'Even if you don't like the Beatles, it's an incredible story,' Beatles curator says
The last album it is believed John Lennon ever signed — for the man who murdered him hours later — is part of a Beatles memorabilia exhibit at the Pacific National Exhibition.
The LP would become one of the most sought-after objects in music history, but the Toronto curator who bought it struggled with whether it was the right thing to do.
"It was a really unnerving experience," Peter Miniaci said of his decision three years ago to buy the autographed album of Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy.
"I'm sort of ambivalent about that whole experience," Miniaci told CBC's On The Coast, saying he had mixed feelings about buying the LP Lennon signed for his killer, Mark David Chapman. It seemed morbid.
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Miniaci, who flew to Los Angeles from Toronto for the purchase, was so unnerved that he called a close friend, who assured him he did the right thing.
"He said: 'Look you know, you're preserving history here. This is very, very important, whether you're feeling uncomfortable about it, this is very very important.
"So that kind of lifted up my spirits and I picked up the pieces, and the rest if history."
On the flight home to Toronto, a passenger wearing a Beatles T-shirt sat near him, which Miniaci interpreted as a sign "that everything was good. It was sort of like the universe saying: 'You're going to be OK.' "
A moment in rock and roll history
Back in Toronto, Miniaci brought the LP to a party. Someone asked him testily why he brought it. But later, the partygoers seemed to realize - like Minaci - that the LP represented a seminal moment in rock and roll history.
"It's the end of the Beatles, " Miniaci said. "Like George Harrison said, 'there is no Beatles reunion without John Lennon.'"
The route the LP took from Chapman to Miniaci's hands was long and winding.
The day Lennon died on Dec. 8, 1980, Chapman stood outside Lennon's apartment building on Central Park West. As Lennon left, Chapman asked him to sign the album, then stuffed it in a tree planter. When Lennon returned hours later, Chapman shot him. As crowds gathered, the LP fell out of the planter near a maintenance man, who took it home but later handed it over to police, Miniaci said.
The authorities offered the album to Ono, but she didn't want it. They also offered it to Chapman because it was his property. But Chapman didn't take it either, so it was returned to the man who first discovered it. He later sold it to a collector on the U.S. West Coast.
When Miniaci saw the LP at the PNE Exhibit, he was moved.
"It's quite emotional. You can't help it. Even if you don't like the Beatles, it's an incredible story."