Beatles memorabilia worth an estimated £6m goes for auction

An archive of material from John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 peace protest is among the items to be sold this month at one of the most expensive Beatles auctions ever held.

Memorabilia will go under an online hammer with an upper estimated value of $8m (£6.3m). It includes a section of TV set wall that formed the backdrop to the Beatles’ breakthrough Ed Sullivan show appearance, clothes, speakers, signed contracts and a curious birthday card from George Harrison to his caretaker signed “Adolf Schinkengruber”.

The auction will be hosted by GottaHaveRockandRoll auctions in New York.

The bed-in material not only provides insights into Lennon and Ono’s frame of mind but it also tells the fascinating story of an enterprising teenage fan who blagged her way into the bedroom and secured an interview.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono married in Gibraltar in March 1969, a place chosen, he said, because it was “quiet, British and friendly”. After a few days in Paris they arrived in Amsterdam in Lennon’s white Rolls Royce to begin their bed-in: a week-long peace protest staged against the backdrop of the Vietnam war. It became a huge media event with journalists invited in to ask questions of the pyjama-wearing couple.

Reading all this in her attic bedroom was a 16-year-old Beatles fan named Constance Vrijdaghs. She decided that she just had to travel from her home in the village of Aerdenhout to the Amsterdam Hilton. When she arrived, she started chatting to youngsters looking up at the rooms with the signs “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” displayed in them.

Constance asked if anyone had tried to go to the room. Everyone said no, emboldening her to enter the hotel, calmly tell a doorman she was there for coffee and then running to the lift to press the ninth floor button.

Before the doors could close a porter caught her. She pulled out her Beatles Club Fan Club membership card and declared: “I am from the Dutch Beatles Fan Club and I would like to congratulate John and Yoko on their marriage and I am here to interview them.”

The porter was dubious and the girl was removed from the lift and told to wait while a call upstairs was made. Twenty minutes later, two men from Bovema, the Beatles record company in Holland, came and took her up to room 902, the presidential suite, on the ninth floor.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Constance congratulated the couple on their marriage and chatted until it was suggested time was up. Before going, Constance asked if they would answer questions that she would send up from the hotel lobby. Of course, they replied.

The questions included:
“Do you both still use drugs?”, to which Lennon answered in replies posted back to Constance: “Occasionally.”

”What do you think at the moment?”
Lennon: “I feel tired. I want peace. and some food.”

”Do you still believe you can talk to the [late] Brian Epstein?”
Lennon: “Maybe. I believe in EVERYTHING until it is disproved.”

“Why do you say (if you really said it) that people may say that you’re the most awful couple of the world? You two look just lovely in those white pyjamas.”

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Lennon: “It hurts when people are cruel – but I also feel sorry for them. And thank you.”

The archive of the peace protest material will be sold on 22 September and has an estimated value of between $200,000 and 300,000. There are 119 lots in total. They also include a greetings card that will play into theories that George Harrison had an unhealthy interest in Hitler.

Harrison successfully sued a US tabloid that carried extracts from a biography that said he was fascinated by Hitler. The headline was “Beatle George is a big Nazi fan”.

The greetings card being sold is from Harrison to the caretaker of his Hawaii estate. Written in German, it reads “peaceful birthday my friend”, and is signed as “from Adolf Schinkengruber [the birth name of Hitler’s father was Schicklgruber] – George, Olivia and Dhani”. It includes a drawing of Hitler.

The auction house says it could suggest “a certain degree of intrigue” that led to the legally contentious reports. Or, it says, “perhaps it was simply a reference to the house caretaker’s strict rule over Harrison’s Hawaiian manor?”

It will be up to the buyer to make their own conclusion. The card will cost them an estimated $20,000-$30,000.

This article was amended on 5 September 2023 to include material left out during the editing process.