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Old Jul 18, 2001, 09:36 AM   #1
HMVNipper
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Default Wonderful Article About John (Long)

The article below was posted on one of my other lists. It is lovely -- long, but worth the read! Enjoy!

*************
All You Need Is Love

By Michael Allison

John Lennon sat alone in a darkened studio, beneath a halo of light,
recording guitar overdub tracks for his new album. Music stands,
microphone booms, and sound partitions cluttered the room; empty
chairs poked from the shadows like tombstones. "Live from the
cemetery . . . live from Forest Lawn," he scoffed when his playing
faltered. He was in an upbeat mood, though. After listening to a
playback of himself, John observed, "He kinda' rushes it. I don't
blame him. He's so excited, he can't wait to start. . . . Who is that
******?"

It was August 1980, Lennon was working on Double Fantasy, his first
album in five years, and behaving like a giddy teenager in love. "I
get so excited we're recording. You know I used to be pretty big in
this business . . . before I took me shoes off." I had worked for the
erstwhile Beatle during his "shoeless" years, and I, too, was excited
that he was recording again. I was a production assistant on the
album, but also had other responsibilities as part of Lennon's
household staff: recordist, archivist, film and video editor, and
apartment gardener.

I met John Lennon on March 13, 1976. Serendipity? Fate? At the time,
I operated my own decorative plant service while apprenticing as a
film editor. An acquaintance asked me to advise a friend on
decorating his apartment with plants. The acquaintance made an
appointment for me and said, "Ask for Apartment 72," but he wouldn't
give a name. He said his friend lived at the landmark New York
building called the Dakota.

On the appointed day, I went to the chateau-like building on Central
Park West. After a brief telephone call, the concierge directed me to
a service elevator. When I reached the apartment's service entrance,
I noticed a small brass plaque on the door that read "Nutopian
Embassy." I pushed the bell and waited. The door was eventually
opened by a thin, shabby-looking man, cradling a baby in his
arms. "Oh?" he squinted to see me. "You must be the plant man. Come
in."

Standing in the doorway, barefoot, he was slightly shorter than
myself, with reddish-brown hair pulled carelessly into a ponytail. He
wore cut-off jeans and a T-shirt, and hadn't shaved in days. His
piercing hazel eyes gave me the once-over, then softened. "Hi, I'm
John," he said, shaking hands with a smile. "And this is Sean," he
continued, bouncing the baby as he spoke. His voice and British
accent sounded 'vaguely familiar. My heart began to pound as I
suddenly realized . . . it was John Lennon.

While I stood frozen at the back door of an immense kitchen, he
crossed the room, gave the baby to a nanny, then nodded to me, "Come
this way." At the far end of the room, an overstuffed white couch and
arm chairs sat in front of a wall of white cabinets, filled with hi-
fi equipment, a large television, and hundreds of books and records.
He pushed open a door and paused. "Would you please take your shoes
off?"

Stepping through that door, I sank into an ankle-deep white carpet
as I followed him down a long, dimly-lit corridor. At the end of the
hallway, we approached a set of double doors and he pushed them open.
Blinding sunlight greeted us.

"This is the White Room," he gestured with arms outstretched. "Isn't
it great!" Sunlight flooded the space, spilling in through towering
windows that looked out over the Manhattan skyline. Everything in the
sparsely-furnished room was white: white carpet, white sofa, white
walls. "Where would you put plants?" he asked. "What kinds?"

I disregarded his questions and went to the window, admiring the
spectacle of the city. Outside, a hint of spring hung over Central
Park like a pale green veil. Across the park, the buildings along
Fifth Avenue stood in silhouette. The southern skyline was also
visible, from another window in this corner room.

Between the two windows stood the white grand piano immortalized in
the film Imagine, its top decorated with framed photographs. John
picked one up and handed it to me. "Here's me in front of my auntie's
house when I was twelve years old." The photograph showed a thin
smiling boy dressed in a white shirt and shorts, proudly sitting on a
bicycle. "My uncle George gave me the bicycle when I graduated
elementary school." As I studied the picture, he disappeared from the
room.

"There's a plant in here," he called from the next room. He pointed
to a small indoor tree and asked me to identify it.

"It's a fig tree," I replied, grinning nervously.

"You mean we're going to have figs?" he said, radiating childlike
wonder.'' "Well, not quite. This is a Ficus benjamina. Edible figs
come from a different species."

At the end of the visit, he told me I could buy any plants I wanted;
within a few weeks, several large indoor trees were decorating the
apartment. While I made my rounds caring for them each morning, I
usually encountered John in one room or another. I always greeted him
politely but said little else. Only a contractor performing a
service, I felt it was inappropriate for me to insinuate friendship.
But after months of our not talking, he began to ask questions and
initiate conversations. Cautiously, he learned to trust me, and we
became friends.

Later I discovered that he liked to give those associated with him a
nickname. These usually involved a pun, and often encapsulated his
evaluation of the person. I got mine after installing a towering fig
tree in the White Room, which became his favorite plant. The ten-foot-
high tree, planted in a white container, had ferns around its trunk
and created an island of green in the room. He placed an armchair
next to the tree and often sat under its spreading foliage, reading
or gazing out the window. One day I entered the room unannounced. He
began to introduce me to his guest, "This is Michael . . . " and then
went blank. Smiling mischievously, he blurted out ". . . Tree. This
is Michael Tree."

One afternoon, while I was caring for the plants in another room,
John wandered in playing his favorite guitar, a large black acoustic
with a gold dragon painted across the front. I looked up from my work
and gave him a smile but said nothing. Then I realized he was
entertaining me. "You know, John," I said, "I've never said anything
to you about the Beatles. But I just want to let you know . . .
well . . . what I mean. . . ." Every time I paused, searching for the
right words, he played more of the tune on his guitar, then stopped
abruptly, mocking me. Finally, I said, "The Beatles were just great!
Thank you for all the peace and love." He beamed and played the tune
through to its end. "Well now, that's very nice," he said, looking me
in the eye. "It's been returned, hasn't it?"

During my years with John and Yoko, and for a long time afterward,
friends and acquaintances asked me, "What does he see in her? Does
she love him?" I always told them, Yes! Why does someone love
another? I can't answer that, but the glow of love is unmistakable.
The public often complained that John was controlled by her. But from
the relationship I observed, John was his own man and willingly gave
Yoko whatever control she exercised, an acknowledgment that her feet
were on the ground while his were in the clouds.

The man I knew loved Yoko for her intellect, her emotional honesty,
and her fierce independence. "Mother doesn't need me around to wipe
her nose," he told me. Yoko's art and music also attracted John. He
was titillated by her zeal to challenge conventions, which resonated
with his own rebelliousness. Yoko's love also gave him a second
chance to be a father, something he wanted very much. The role
of "househusband" threatened the tough guy from Liverpool, but she
supported and encouraged his nurturing side. While John cared for
their baby, he trusted Yoko's ability to look after his interests in
the music business, where I think he felt at a disadvantage because
of his instinct for fairness."

His dominion was the recording studio, where he most came alive. I
first learned about John's expected return to the studio in July
1980, when I visited him in Bermuda. The weather on the tiny island
was sunny, hot, and extremely humid. Trees and brightly colored
flowers bloomed everywhere. Shortly after arriving at his rented
oceanfront estate, I found him sitting on a stone pier, pensively
searching the ocean and the late-afternoon sky. He was dressed in
black swim trunks and a T-shirt, still with shoulder-length hair. He
squinted to see who was approaching, and flashed a broad smile when
he recognized me.

"Well, look who's here," he said, his arms outstretched.

"Hi, John! You look great." We embraced, slapping each other on the
back.

"You've lost some weight," I observed. "It looks good. You were
always a bit chubby as a . . . well, in those days. You're getting
better looking with age."

"Thank you, thank you. I know what you mean. `Those days' I was so
insecure I kept stuffing me face. Now we're eating macrobiotic. Isn't
this place fantastic?"

"Yes! I love all the flowers."

"Yeah, they are great. You know the British; they bring their
****** gardens with them. But first they took this place from the
Spanish."

He asked me about New York and life back at the Dakota. We sat on
the stone pier talking, when an assistant called us into the house
for dinner. I joined John, four-year-old Sean, and the nanny at a
large round table in the kitchen. The Japanese housekeeper served us
stir-fried vegetables and large portions of brown rice.

"They told me in the office," I said with a mouthful of food, "that
you sailed here from Newport, Rhode Island. Where's the boat? I'd
love to go sailing."

"Oh, it was rented. I've already sent it back." He sprang from his
chair without another word, left the kitchen and returned with a
photo album. "I took the Polaroid camera with me," he said, opening
the book between us. "Here's the boat. It's a forty-foot ketch."

Pictures of the sailboat, John, and the crew filled the pages. "This
is me at the helm. I took it meself." The photograph, shot at an odd
angle, showed him dressed in a yellow raincoat with the hood down.
His long hair hung in wet strands around his grinning face. As he
described the voyage, his Liverpool accent became stronger. "Next
year, we're sailing to England. It's every Scouser's dream to sail
the oceans."

A few days later, while exploring the vast estate, I discovered a
small sailboat. I didn't see John, however, until lunch that
afternoon. "Top o' the mornin' to ya' !" he greeted me. "Where did
the sailboat come from?" We set out in the small boat about an hour
later, with John at the helm. As we zigzagged through a small cove
with houses along the shore, we could hear music from a distant
radio. Suddenly, the strains of Sergeant Pepper came drifting over
the water. He sang along with animated pleasure.

"Boy, does that sound bad," he said when the song ended.

"Are you kidding? It's a classic."

"Yes, I know. But it sounds like s***. There's a lot of noise and
distortion. He was squeezing all this stuff onto just four tracks,
then he would put them into one. Later he'd mix those tracks into
another."

I didn't ask who "he" was, assuming John referred to Beatles'
producer George Martin.

"The Beatles gave everything they had to become the Beatles. That
took our youth. When everyone else was goofing off, we were working
eight days a week. Towards the end, we were always high. We'd come
into the studio the next day and listen to the takes, and they'd all
sound like s***. We had a lot of fun when we were high, but we
couldn't make good music."

John and I continued sailing for about two hours. When we returned,
he said he wanted to show me something and I followed him through the
house to his bedroom. Newspapers, magazines, and clothes lay
everywhere in piles. He went to the dresser and sorted through a
stack of audio cassettes.

"We're going to make an album," he announced, putting a tape into
the boombox on his dresser. The sound of crickets and the high trill
of peepers (a kind of toad) came from the speakers. Then John's
voice, half-talking, half-singing: "This here's the story of a
househusband, who, you know, just had to get out . . . he's been
watching Sesame Street for days and days. I'm stepping out. . . ."

"What do you think?" he asked, when the song had ended. I told him I
liked it. I was impressed. "Yeah, not bad for a first take," he
said. "I can't wait to play it for Mother."

Later, when he returned to New York at the beginning of August, he
went right into the studio and worked on his songs with a robust
excitement. Whenever there were delays, he would play Beatles tunes
on his guitar or reminisce with the other musicians. During one
session, the bass guitarist began wildly improvising on one of the
tracks. John's face brimmed with delight. "That's lovely! That's what
we didn't have in those days . . . a good bass."

Another day, while he recorded vocal harmonies, double-tracking
long "ooohs" and "aaahs," Yoko listened from the control room. She
smiled at him through the glass and teased him over the
intercom, "You sound like a Beatle."

"An ex-Beatle, you ****** Jap," John shot back, adding a good-
natured laugh. "Actually my dear, I'm supposed to be Smokey Robinson
at the moment. Because the Beatles always were supposin' they were
Smokey Robinson." His clipped Scouser accent boomed from the control
room monitors. "Somebody should have a hit with this song. Not
me. . . We've done a good demo."

The promotional single for the album was released shortly before his
fortieth birthday on October 9, 1980, and received an enthusiastic
response from critics. Later that month, I got the job of sorting out
tapes from the recording sessions. Cataloging them one evening, I
stopped by the kitchen to get an update on the presidential election
and found John watching the returns.

"Why don't you sit down and watch it," he insisted. "It's too late
to be working anyway." Who did he think was going to win, I
asked. "Watch Reagan. He's going to be the most popular president of
our time."

I knew he disliked President Carter but his reply still surprised
me. I asked him to explain.

"Reagan's star is rising." He grinned. "He uses astrology."

How did he know? John wouldn't say.

So I changed the subject. Years before, John had encouraged me to
play an instrument, and I had told him about my teenage years playing
the five-string banjo. Now, I mentioned my urge to pick it up again.
John turned his attention from the television and gave me a hard
look. "It's you it's coming from," he pointed, wagging a finger at
me. "I've been thinking of picking up the banjo again, meself. But
it's coming from you. There's one in the guitar room. Why don't you
take it!"

The guitar room in an adjacent apartment had about thirty or forty
guitars, amplifiers, speakers, and other recording equipment crammed
into a closet-sized space. As John searched for the banjo, he pulled
an electric guitar from its case. "This is from the Ed Sullivan
Show," he said, handing it to me without looking up. A small piece of
paper was taped to the back.

"Is this a song list from the show?"

"It sure is. I couldn't even remember the words to the songs, I was
so nervous."

"I think you passed the audition," I said, playing on his words from
the movie Let It Be.

"I hope so. What would I do with all these ****** guitars?"

He eventually found the banjo and removed it from the jumble. On our
way back to the kitchen, I thanked him for lending it to me and told
him I'd take good care of it. But John became angry. "I said, 'Take
the ****** thing!' I'm never going to use it . . . Start practicing."

I practiced during the next few weeks, but without devoting much
time. Meanwhile, John kept asking me to play for him. It was now
December, and I was tired most evenings from spending my days running
Christmas errands.

When I arrived at the Dakota on those December mornings, I usually
found him at the kitchen table waiting to give the day's orders. He
wasn't home on the morning of Monday the 8th, but he returned in the
early afternoon, sporting a new short haircut. I went to greet him
and told him I liked it.

"Yeah, isn't it great?" He sat down on the carpet to remove his
shoes. "This is how I looked when I started." For some reason, his
comment made me uncomfortable. My mind jumped to the news I'd learned
that morning in the office: Double Fantasy was topping the charts in
England.

"This is the first time the critics have liked me since the
Beatles," he said, now standing barefoot. "We're opening the door
slowly to see if anyone is still out there."

*****************

About the Author:

Michael Allison is a feature film editor and filmmaker.

This article is copyright 1999 by Michael Allison.



[This Message Has Been Edited By HMVNipper On July 19, 2001 03:19 AM]
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Old Jul 18, 2001, 02:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

Very nice article, Nipper, thanks for posting it! It's good to hear an "insider" account that's not out to trash John or treat him as something other than human. If this guy puts out a book, I'd certainly be willing to get it.

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Old Jul 18, 2001, 07:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

It is a nice article, Nipper. I think it shows just what John's attitude was like back then. If you would, please clean it up a little. (I think you know what I mean.)

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Old Jul 19, 2001, 02:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

AACK!!! So sorry, Kat...you know, I think my problem is that whenever I read stuff that John said, I gloss right over the "earthy" language, I'm so used to it from him...but I'm usually much more vigilant than that, and so my mind must've been someplace else completely when I posted that article. I think I caught everything now.

Again, I'm sorry!



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Old Jul 19, 2001, 04:03 AM   #5
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:
I think my problem is that whenever I read stuff that John said, I gloss right over the "earthy" language, I'm so used to it from him.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It's funny you should say that! I didn't even notice it either when I read the article! (Then again, I'm not a parent, so I'm not used to being the Bad Language Police! )

Thanks for posting the article; it came from a different perspective than most things I read - neither muckraking nor blindly hero-worshipping! Thanks!


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Old Jul 19, 2001, 07:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

Yep, that was a great article! I read it over a year ago, but was glad to read it again. It was worth reading again. I liked what he had to say about John. This was written by someone who knew him and worked with him, not someone who wasn't even there. Thanks for posting this, Susan!
All You Need Is Love,
Kristi

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Old Jul 19, 2001, 01:10 PM   #7
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

Yes, thank you for the article, Susan. It was very touching and lovely. (I think you know John is my favorite Beatle)!

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Old Jul 19, 2001, 08:23 PM   #8
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:
I gloss right over the "earthy" language, I'm so used to it from him...<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I thank you Susan for the editing. I normally read over it myself, but we do have to remember that certain things should not be shown nor read. I'm not trying to be the censor here, the bad guy as it were, I just think that with so many people visiting here, we should at least show some common courtesy to the younger generation.

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Old Jul 19, 2001, 10:21 PM   #9
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

thanks for the story. it's neat to see John as a real person with typical emotions and feelings.

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Old Jul 20, 2001, 03:16 AM   #10
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By bearkat77:
I thank you Susan for the editing. I normally read over it myself, but we do have to remember that certain things should not be shown nor read. I'm not trying to be the censor here, the bad guy as it were, I just think that with so many people visiting here, we should at least show some common courtesy to the younger generation.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Oh, Kat, no apology necessary -- you are absolutely right, and I know the rules of this board regarding strong language...John, God bless him, was sometimes a bit more colorful in his phrases than some people, I guess! But I don't think you were a bad guy at all -- I should've been more vigilant! (And I'm a mom, too -- you'd think I'd realize these things!)



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Old Jul 20, 2001, 10:16 AM   #11
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

It's only fair as we want to make this information accessible to ALL persons. The younger generation deserves to know about John Lennon, the Chief Beatle.

The "editing" was a service and John's core personality and talents and expression remain intact. It was a lovely article and I want to thank you again, Susan, for sharing it.

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Old Jul 20, 2001, 05:43 PM   #12
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

Nice, very nice. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Old Jul 21, 2001, 01:39 PM   #13
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

I'm so glad everyone enjoyed this article...I did too, I thought it was very thoughtfully written and was really lovely.

Nice to see an article that seemed to be from the heart, rather than exploitative and tabloidy!



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Old Jul 21, 2001, 02:12 PM   #14
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:
tabloidy!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Is that a word?

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Old Jul 21, 2001, 05:24 PM   #15
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By bearkat77:
Is that a word?

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I dunno...would you prefer "tabloid-like" or "tabloideseque?"





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Old Jul 21, 2001, 06:32 PM   #16
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:
I dunno...would you prefer "tabloid-like" or "tabloideseque?"




<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Well, she IS an editor, Kat, though I think we should ask to see her poetic license.

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Old Jul 21, 2001, 08:42 PM   #17
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*siren* Pull over miss. Let's see your license.

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Old Jul 22, 2001, 03:04 PM   #19
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By 4thGenFan:
That was a good article, Nipper, thanks for posting it.

It's not fair he had to die...

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Glad you liked, Forty...and no, it's definitely not fair...not at all...

Kat, I don't know that I can show you my "poetic license," you'll just have to take my word for it that I'm qualified!


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Rooftop Sessions - The Finest In Beatles-Related Fiction. July 2001 Issue up now! About.com BEST OF THE NET, April 2001! www.rooftopsessions.com
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Old Jul 23, 2001, 05:51 PM   #20
bearkat77
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Default Re: Wonderful Article About John (Long)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Tahoma, Arial, Sans-Serif">Quote:</font><HR>Originally Posted By HMVNipper:
Kat, I don't know that I can show you my "poetic license," you'll just have to take my word for it that I'm qualified! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I believe you, Susan. After all, it was John who said; "You have a kind face."

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