Saturday, 8 December 2007

Day Lennon died


It was Dec. 8, 1980, a quiet Monday night in the Toronto Sun newsroom. Deadlines had come and come and the presses at 333 King Street East were ready to roll.

Peter O'Sullivan was relaxing after putting the paper to bed, but there would be some odds and ends for a replate before the night was over.

In New York City, Beatles legend John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, were walking to the entrance of their Dakota apartment building just shy of 11 p.m.

Enter madman/gunman Mark David Chapman; four shots in the back; declared dead 20 minutes later in hospital; Lennon gone at 40.

The Sun always shines in a crunch and late on that December night, the newsroom quickly got into the groove when the news of Lennon's murder broke.

O'Sullivan, who was known to take a baseball bat to editorial meetings, didn't have to brow beat reporters and editors. Most were Beatles fans and all were stunned by the news.

A couple of off duty reporters returned to the Sun newsroom to work the phones for local and New York interviews. Dedicated and loyal Sun people did that more than once.

TSF doesn't know who suggested using the 1980 Double Fantasy album cover showing Lennon and his wife standing outside the Dakota, but it was a brilliant choice.

The packaging of the Lennon murder edition, with a mix of local and New York reaction, wire service reports and photos, was professional at every level.

Twenty-seven years later, that classic Toronto Sun front page ranks in the Top 10 favourite fronts for the tabloid.

And Mark David Chapman remains behind bars in Attica.

I read the news today oh boy


  1. We should have some memories posted about that night. It's still burned in my memory, hearing the news on the car radio as I drove to the El Mocambo to shoot photos of Juice Newton. Jonathan Gross was already inside, and I shouted the news in his ear, over the music. He left to go back to the newsroom immediately, and of course, the concert photos never made the paper. Overshadowed by a bigger entertainment story.

    Bill Sandford

  2. My most vivid image was the work of Andy Donato. Simple and clear the pain we all felt at that time.