When I “met” John Lennon back in 1966, after The Beatles’ final Toronto concert, I accidentally tripped him as he was heading down a flight of stairs on his way to the group’s press conference.

Author and lawyer Jerry Levitan did way better. As a 14-year-old determined Beatles fan, he snuck into Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Toronto hotel room back in 1969. He ultimately got a taped interview with these two famous pop figures as they were launching their world peace campaign.

“The moment when I barged into the room and saw John and Yoko, I knew it was a profound moment,” Levitan recalls. “I knew it would change my life forever.” Indeed it did.

In 2008, his tape would subsequently form the basis of an Oscar- and recent Emmy-nominated animated short called I Met the Walrus. Now Levitan’s dream story has been turned into a delightfully engaging and informal memoir (also titled I Met the Walrus) about how his brush with greatness altered his life in totally unexpected ways.

“I was definitely an unusual kid,” Levitan explains. “And I had this great need to see a different world than my north Toronto suburb where I didn’t feel that I fit in.”

Within that quaint suburb, Levitan describes himself as a loner with thick glasses and no hope, or desire, to be the school quarterback. But he was a huge Beatles fan — and John Lennon was his idol.

“He was the kind of person I wanted to be.” And when they met, they discussed the prospects for world peace and how high school students could best help in attaining it.

Meeting Lennon obviously transformed Jerry Levitan’s life, but it turns out that his story also had an indelible impact on one of its subjects — Yoko Ono.

“A couple of years ago I was in Las Vegas for the first anniversary of the Cirque de Soleil’s Beatle show, Love,” Levitan recalls. At the after-show party, he saw Yoko and went up to her and said, ‘I was the 14-year-old kid in Toronto…” But before he could finish his sentence, she immediately clasped both his hands. “Water was welling up in her eyes, and she kept saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!,’” Levitan recalls. “She actually remembered me and was likely remembering a happier time with her husband.”


• The I Met the Walrus documentary recently received Daytime Emmy Award nominations and a nod from The Banff World Television Awards. The book will hit stores in Canada tomorrow.

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