Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beatle People: Anthony Fawcett

Anthony Fawcett is a British writer, art critic, and a former personal assistant to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He took over the role briefly held by Lennon's boyhood friend Pete Shotton, after Shotton's resignation from Apple Corps, and Fawcett's role was later filled by May Pang.

He had made his entry to the London art world shortly after leaving school, when he became an assistant at the Robert Fraser Gallery.

Fawcett later joined Lennon and Ono in the spring of 1968, as they made their first joint forays into avant garde art during the first flush of their romance (including two acorns planted near Coventry Cathedral, and Lennon's You Are Here, which consisted first of helium balloons with attached cards released into the English sky, then a room of charity collection boxes at the Robert Fraser Gallery surrounding the message "YOU ARE HERE" in Lennon's handwriting), Fawcett served as their personal assistant until their departure for New York at the end of 1971.

Fawcett witnessed firsthand many of the goings-on at Apple's Savile Row headquarters (also chronicled in The Longest Cocktail Party by Richard DiLello), and many of the business and interpersonal breakdowns that marked the end of the Beatles as a group.

He later wrote a biography, John Lennon: One Day at a Time, published by Grove Press in 1976. A 1980 reissue (with updates) of this book inadvertently played a role in Lennon's murder, as Mark David Chapman bought and read a copy, discovering Lennon wasn't living in retirement at Tittenhurst Park as Chapman had thought, and that Lennon had resumed his musical career in New York.

Some years before this, after meeting musician John Foxx in New York and again in California in 1979, Fawcett decided to return to London at the beginning of the 1980s. Through Foxx, he (together with his then partner photographer Christina Birrer) began to reintegrate himself with the London Arts scene, initially through befriending current musicians, artists and filmmakers.

Genesis P. Orridge, Julian Temple, Howard Devoto and Foxx were some of the figures who were early participants in the social hub that Fawcett was so adept at facilitating. Fawcett also picked up his professional relationship with the colorful Robert Fraser. Fraser had taken a sabbatical for some years after the end of 1960s, but still maintained his gallery premises near Bond Street.

Over the next few years (1982-6) Fawcett rapidly expanded his social circle to encompass several major artists including Gilbert and George, (who he later persuaded to participate in a successful major arts and business sponsorship venture, with Becks. Other artists also participated during this period, notably Tracey Emin).

During this same period, Fawcett created Anthony Fawcett Associates with architectural writer and critic Jane Withers. Operating through this company he became involved in organizing events for the Victoria and Albert Museum during the period when it was headed by Roy Strong.

He notably played a role in organizing the lavish Warhol event -the London staging of an international series of events initiated by the Warhol Foundation to mark the artist's death in 1987. At this point, such Victoria and Albert occasions had become one of the artistic and social magnets of 1980s London. He extended his work to the Serpentine Gallery while also participating in organizing major events for the Tate Gallery such as the opening of the new wing containing the Turner Gallery.

Fawcett is mentioned in Shout! The Beatles in their Generation, by journalist Philip Norman, and in Shotton's memoir The Beatles, Lennon and Me. He may also be the "Anthony" heard mentioned in "Radio Play," a track on Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions.


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