WILDES PACKS THE HOUSE
FOR FAMILY AFFAIR.
Play about John Lennon's deportation case brings
Wildes' personal, professional and political lives together.
Leon Wildes is more than the father of Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes. He's the Mayor's law partner at one of the most prominent immigration firms in the United States . On the road to building that law practice, Leon Wildes represented John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1972 through 1976 to secure lawful permanent residence after the U.S. government attempted to deport them.
Recently Leon Wildes recalled how the celebrated case came to him: “I received a call in mid-January 1972 from Alan Kahn, who had been a classmate of mine at law school. He was legal counsel to Apple Records--the recording company used by the Beatles and John Lennon. Kahn said, ‘ Leon , I think that you'll have a very interesting day if you have some time. We have real heavyweights here, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, who have some immigration problems, and I thought of calling you.'”
I'm embarrassed to say that I said, “Alan, tell me, who is John Lennon?”
Some thirty years later, Leon Wildes is one of the producers of an off-Broadway play about the FBI investigation surrounding the deportation case against the Lennons. Last Thursday night, April 1 st , his son Michael brought nearly 100 supporters of his political career to a sold out performance of his father's show “Ears on a Beatle” to gain a first hand account of piece of history he lived through as a child.
“I remember answering the telephone in our home as a young boy and John Lennon being on the other end of the line,” said Mayor Wildes. “He was very polite – very respectful that he might have been invading our family's privacy.”
Lennon's case was complicated, involving not only United States ' immigration laws, but the terms under which Lennon had been convicted of drug possession in England years before. Leon Wildes' job was to overcome the drug conviction as a barrier to residency in the United States to permit Lennon and his wife to stay here. Wildes successfully did so.
The play, “Ears on a Beatle”, takes the case a step further, with respect to the political intrigue of the times. In the years leading up to the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, Lennon had been a severe critic of President Nixon and the Vietnam War.
It is in this context that “Ears on a Beatle” examines the selective nature of the legal prosecution of Lennon's case and what writer and director Mark St. Germain describes as the threat Nixon perceived from Lennon's statements during the 1972 campaign, the first election in which those aged 18 to 21 had the right to vote.
“Nixon had won the 1968 election by some 500,000 votes,” said St. Germain during a post-performance question-and-answer session. “In 1972, there were millions of 18 to 21 year-old voters who could have been influenced by what John Lennon said about Richard Nixon and his handling of the Vietnam War.”
“Ears on a Beatle” is playing at the DR2 Theatre at 103 15 th Street in New York City . More about the play can be found at the website: www.earsonabeatle.com .
“I'm proud of what my father has accomplished as an attorney and now as a producer of this show,” said Mayor Wildes. “I was honored to have had the opportunity to share this aspect of our lives with my friends and the supporters of my political career.”