Why Won't YOKO Release TEN for TWO?
You'd think a movie starring the likes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, Phil Ochs, Archie Shepp, Bob Seger, Bobby Seale, Rennie Davis, Allen Ginsberg and others of such stature would be a tremendous success, right?
Well, there is such a movie, made at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally of December 10, 1971. Only it's been sitting in the can ever since it was finished in 1972, as yet unreleased to the nationwide commercial distributors who eagerly await rights to the film.
"Ten for Two," has been held up these past two years ever since John Lennon and Yoko Ono broke their original agreement with the subject of the film, John Sinclair, on what to do with the potentially lucrative proceeds from the movie.
The dispute, detailed here for the first time publicly (prompted by a distorted report on the situation as a brief gossip mention in the last Rolling Stone) boils down to this: Sinclair proposed that the proceeds be divided up among a specified number of non-profit political prisoner defense funds and movement organizations represented in the film, and Yoko is insisting that the money all go only to unspecified "women's causes" which she alone would choose.
The story begins at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally itself. Plans for the rally had been initiated several months earlier as part of a strategy that aimed to secure John's release by putting as much public/political pressure on the state as possible. (John was being held on a 9 1/2-10 year sentence in segregation at Jackson Prison for allegedly possessing two joints.)
About three weeks before the rally, Jerry Rubin called Leni Sinclair and said that John and Yoko wanted to play at the event. The participation of the two transformed the event into an international media spectacle. 15,000 people jammed Crisler Arena for $3.00 apiece (which paid the cost of the event) and became part of a massive, 12-hour benefit which synthesized music and politics. The combination proved very effective, for three days later John was released from Jackson State Prison on bond after serving 2 1/2 years. A few months later the Michigan Supreme Court confirmed his challenge to the state's marijuana laws by declaring them unconstitutional. The same Supreme Court that only 6 months earlier refused even to let Sinclair out on appeal bond. Something had obviously changed their elected minds.
John and Yoko brought an array of color film and 16-track audio equipment with which they recorded the entire December 10 event for a possible movie. The participants in the rally, who had come together to achieve a political purpose and appeared for free, agreed that the proceeds from the movie would go to the same kinds of people s causes represented in the event. In order to get the film out. they would all have to sign releases after the financial arrangements were set.
The rough cuts of the movie were assembled and edited by Steve Gebhardt of Joko Productions into an exciting documentary and rock and roll movie. Gebhardt recently produced i and directed the hit movie known as "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones."
Aiding Gebhardt from time to time were John and Leni Sinclair, who made several trips to New York to help edit the film and plan its promotion. During those visits the two participated in a series of meetings which included John and Yoko, Peter Andrews of Rainbow Multi-Media, Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, Rennie Davis (pre-Mahara-Ji days) and Stu Werbin from Rolling Stone. The meetings were held to work out a plan that would take John and Yoko on a tour of several major U.S. cities to raise money for and focus attention on local progressive movements. The tour was also being timed to aid George McGovern's chances in the last election; it was to have culminated in a massive outdoor Festival in California just before that state's primary.
The tour, of course, never took place. During this time John and Yoko were coming under increasing government and police harassment for their activities, for which they are now suing the government. And Lennon was facing an extradition to England on a dope charge that the U.S. government seemed increasingly intent upon carrying out. But back to our story. Around the time of the meetings Gebhardt asked John and Leni to draw up and present a proposal detailing where the money would go. Gebhardt urged them to prepare it quickly as he was anxious to release what he knew would be a popular film.
The proposal they drew up would have divvied up the proceeds as follows: 10% to the Black Panther Party, 20% to the Attica Brothers' Defense Fund, 10% to the San Quentin Six Defense Fund, 10% to the Rainbow People's Party, 10% to Amorphia for the legalization of weed and the defense of prisoners challenging state marijuana laws, 10% to a political prisoner general defense fund for the likes of H. Rap Brown, Robert F. Williams and Karlton Armstrong, 10% paid directly to John Sinclair's attorneys for their work, and a final 10% to a proposed entity to be known as the Rainbow Economic Development Council. The non-profit Council would be composed of a volunteer collective which would raise seed money to put into alternative programs aimed at organizing the new culture; community ballrooms, food coops, printing presses for alternative newspapers and other needed equipment to be used nationwide.
The plan also called tor the premiere of the film in major cities to be utilized as benefits for progressive groups. The letter of July 10,1972 to John and Yoko which details the proposal stated emphatically; "We are not irrevocably committed to this plan. Our interest is in setting out clearly and precisely, before the film is released, just what will happen with the profits and who will be the recipients. We are certainly open to discussing the drawbacks of our plan and coming up with alternatives if this is unacceptable..." .
"We thought it was important to take the money from this film to emphasize the politics of the event," Sinclair explained recently, "we wanted to make it an example, to show people what can be done with the money these kinds of projects can earn."
The proposal was mailed to John and Yoko and their attorneys. Two months went by, with no response. A meeting was finally arranged. John and Leni went to New York but the Lennon's cancelled out. Then another meeting was set up in New York, to take place on a Thursday. The meeting finally got together on Saturday morning at 8:30 am, two hours before the Sinclairs were to catch a plane home.
"We went to their place," relates Sinclair, "and then Yoko launched into this long diatribe about the historical oppression of women. We couldn't figure out where she was coming from. John Lennon hardly said a word the whole meeting. And then she said that we have to accept that all the money was going to female causes. Boing! We were dumbfounded. And that was it. There wasn't anything to discuss about it; it was just that we had to see that was the only way it could go."
Meanwhile Leni started talking to Yoko about having such a separatist position on women, but "she didn't appear interested in discussing it, just laying a trip on us. So then she went into well, of course we know all the established women's groups are bullshit, so I'm not talking about giving it to the feminist movement. If it's going to go to prisoners, then it should go to their wives and girlfriends, because most prisoners are men anyway so you're talking about giving to a male-dominated cause."
Yoko insisted that she would distribute the money herself, determine where it would go, and wouldn't have to account for it to anyone. The Sinclairs related that, while they were not opposed to giving some of the funds to women's groups, they could not present such a one-sided plan to the people in the film who would need to sign releases, as it violated their previous understanding.
John and Leni then departed for Ann Arbor. And there the case has sat ever since. The film sits locked up in a metal can (although it was shown once publicly in Ann Arbor). Nothing has been heard from the Lennons on the matter since. Sinclair made a counter-proposal later on which would give 50 per cent of the proceeds to Yoko for her to distribute, as long as a record were kept of where it went, and 50 percent to be distributed according to the original plan. It has never been responded to either.
The SUN's efforts to reach John and Yoko for their comments on this matter have not been successful as we go to press. But Sinclair offered this explanation for why things got to such an impasse.
John contends that the problem may have been the political content of the movie itself. At the time the agreement broke down, the extradition case against Lennon was pending hard. The government was tapping their phone and conducting surveillance. Yoko was trying to get her child back. "So it occurred to me," explained Sinclair, "that they didn't want the movie to come out, because it was so pointedly political. I think they essentially got scared and turned away from that kind of activity, and were advised to keep it cool and not stir up any trouble. They can afford easily to lose $150,000 on a film. So they decided not to release it and get involved in such a controversial plan for use of the-money which could only bring down more heat. l'm sure Yoko knew we would never accept her proposal, nor would the other people involved. So she just made these maneuvers to insure the film wouldn't come out and make herself look righteous at the same time."
Both Gebhardt, Sinclair and all the people who worked on the film continue to urge the Lennons to release it now for its political and historical impact. According to Gebhardt, "two years ago the ideas in this film were considered way out. Now they're accepted by millions."
The real tragedy in all of this is that a great flick sits in the can. "Ten for Two" is tightly edited. High-intensity speeches damning Richard Nixon while calling for America's liberation are quickly alternated with inspirational folk, jazz and rock and roll music. It concludes with footage of John walking out from behind the bars at Jackson. Particularly now, with the tide against Nixon going as it is, this movie should be released.
"With people talking about the movement's dead and nobody can do anything," explained Sinclair, "the film reminds people very clearly, even though people like Rennie Davis have gone completely into the zone, still the stuff that was being said then lead to the situation that's developed now. The musicians also have become more popular. It's a good movie; it gets you off." --David Fenton