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John Lennon and Yoko Ono shared their bed with the world 50 years ago — a plea for peace

Their Amsterdam bed-in was immediately followed by others in cities around the world

John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the first day of their “bed-in” on March 25, 1969, at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. (Eric Koch/National Archives of the Netherlands)

On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were a few days into their marriage when they invited the press to join them at their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.

The Washington Post reported that an acquaintance of Lennon and “Uno” had said the couple was planning “the century’s most uncensored love-in.” So some journalists showed up thinking they were about to witness a conjugal act between the Beatles megastar and his Japanese bride.

When they arrived, however, they found Lennon and Ono in conservative pajamas buttoned all the way up.

“There we were like two angels in bed, with flowers all around us, and peace and love on our heads,” Lennon said later.

You have to admit, he does look quite angelic. Or perhaps, Christ-like?

Why were they there? To protest war (in bed) and preach world peace (by growing out their hair), they said.

At the time, Lennon and Ono had been dogged by negative coverage of their love affair. (Both had been married to other people when they began their relationship, and many people later blamed Ono for the breakup of the Beatles.)

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But, Lennon explained, they had decided to harness and redirect that attention for their own purposes.

In this archival footage, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono explain why they intend to stay in bed for a week at their hotel in Amsterdam. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Lennon and Ono took visitors for 12 hours a day for a week, before continuing their world tour. Next stop: Vienna.

The bed-in went over well with fans, and Washington Post humorist Art Buchwald joked:

“I was lucky to interview students in Fort Lauderdale on Easter vacation to get their reaction. . . . An Oberlin music major said, ‘If sleeping is going to make this country wake up to the fact that we want peace, then I say we should sleep.’ His girlfriend said, ‘After a week in Fort Lauderdale, I’ll need seven days and seven nights of sleep, even if it isn’t for peace.’”

Months later, Lennon and Ono planned to hold a second bed-in in New York, but Lennon was denied entry into the United States because of a drug conviction. So they chose an alternative location.

“We are going to the Bahamas to protest — in bed,” Lennon told Reuters. “I don’t know how long we will stay there. It depends when, and if, the visa is granted.”

They lasted one day, purportedly due to the island country’s heat, and flew to the cool climes of Montreal instead.

There, they holed up at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel for another week.

In Montreal, Lennon and Ono hosted visitors, including poet Allen Ginsberg and civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory. They also recorded “Give Peace a Chance” with a crowd of backup singers that included LSD advocate Timothy Leary and the musical comedian Tommy Smothers.

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Ono released this video, with footage from both the Amsterdam and Montreal bed-ins, on her YouTube page in 2007:

She also released the full “Bed Peace” documentary free.

After the Montreal bed-in, Lennon and Ono continued their campaign for peace by sending world leaders acorns “for peace” and buying full-page ads and billboards with the message, “WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT.”

The Amsterdam Hilton room where the newlyweds stayed is permanently memorialized in its moment in history. You can still rent it, but it’ll cost you between $1,800 and $2,300 per night.

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