‘Bed-In’ with the Spirits of John & Yoko

While in Amsterdam, we met friends and former neighbors, Mark and Claudia, for a fun filled weekend. Mark suggested we stay at the Amsterdam Hilton, an iconic landmark that sits alongside the Noorder Amstelkanaal in the beautiful Apollobuurt section of Amsterdam. Positioned just outside the city center, it’s a 15 minute walk from Museum Square and VondelPark. It is also famous for hosting John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the late 1960s.

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Bed-In for Peace

John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married in Gibraltar in the spring of ’69. Seeking to capitalize from the publicity of this event, the two headed for Amsterdam. Historical accounts report that just before midnight on March 24, 1969, a white Rolls Royce pulled in front of the Amsterdam Hilton. A throng of admirers were on hand to welcome John Lennon and Yoko Ono with white tulips. The couple booked the Presidential Suite, room 702 and lounge 704; and shortly thereafter removed all the furniture, except for the bed. This was the beginning of their first “Bed In” for peace.

The term “Bed-In” is derived from “sit-in”. Sit-ins were non-violent protests where participants literally “sat” in unified groups until their established objectives were met; or until they were arrested, or evicted. These types of protest were popular during the ’60s, especially in protest of the Vietnam War.

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Each day for a week, from 9am to 9pm, John and Yoko hosted the world press corps in their suite. The press didn’t know what to expect, considering the couple’s previous forms of self-expression included the ‘Twin Virgins‘ nude album cover. They suspected a publicity stunt and believed John and Yoko would be nude, engaged in sex, or some other form of lewdness.

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Instead, they found John and Yoko fully clothed in pajamas, and in John’s words, “talking like angels” about peace.

Immortalized in Song

Lennon immortalized many of the events surrounding the “Bed-In” in ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko‘.

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton, talking in our beds for a week
The newspapers said, ‘Say what’re you doing in bed?’
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace!”

Christ you know it ain’t easy, You know how hard it can be
The way things are going, They’re going to crucify me

The “Bed-In” continued for 7 days, after which they flew to Vienna to host a “Bagism” conference. John and Yoko coined the term “Bagism”, a concept that by living in a bag one couldn’t be influenced by outward appearances, thus eliminating stereotyping and prejudice.

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Vienna “Bagism” Conference with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Made a lightning trip to Vienna, Eating chocolate cake in a bag
The newspapers said, She’s gone to his head
They look just like two gurus in drag

Shortly afterwards in April 1969, John and Yoko sent acorns to the heads of state in various countries around the world with hopes they would plant them as symbols of peace. They also requested meetings to engage in dialogue promoting world peace.

Caught the early plane back to London, Fifty acorns tied in a sack
The men from the press, Said we wish you success
It’s good to have the both of you back

Sadly, the couple was not granted a single visit with any world leaders. Although the media ridiculed John and Yoko, they were savvy enough to manipulate the press in spreading their message of peace. A few months later, John and Yoko held another bed-in in Montreal where they recorded the famous anthem “Give Peace A Chance.”

The John and Yoko Suite at the Amsterdam Hilton

Moving forward to 1990, the Hilton Amsterdam completely renovated and renamed rooms 702 and 704 the John and Yoko Suite. With assistance and design approval from Yoko, the hotel recreated the suite with historical details from the famous ‘bed in’.  Furthermore, all of the materials are natural, symbolizing purity. The Hilton has made a few concessions to accomodate the luxuries expected of today’s guests.

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Since its designation, the John and Yoko Suite has become one of the most popular honeymoon suites in the world. So much so, that on November 1, 1996, the City Borough designated the Amsterdam Hilton and the John and Yoko Suite official locations to perform wedding ceremonies.

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Floorplan of the John and Yoko Suite

Although we didn’t book the suite for our stay, we did manage to make it to the seventh floor for a photo op.

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Iconic Artwork

The framed artwork on the outside of the door and repeated throughout the suite features an embraced couple; one cradling and kissing the other. For some reason, it seemed eerily familiar.

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Room 702, Amsterdam Hilton

After a little research, I realized the art is a graphic interpretation of an iconic Annie Leibovitz photo. On December 8, 1980, Annie met John and Yoko at their New York City apartment in the Dakota Building  to shoot a cover for Rolling Stone Magazine. It features John, naked and in a fetal position, cradling and kissing a clothed Yoko.

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Source: Annie Leibovitz

Five hours after the photo was taken , Mark David Chapman shot and killed Lennon as he exited The Dakota. It is considered the last professional image taken of him.

Christ you know it ain’t easy, You know how hard it can be
The way things are going, They’re going to crucify me

-John Lennon

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