Hawaii Film Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Notorious H.N.L.

Mark David Chapman & John Lennon

Beyond the picture-postcard palm trees and sunshine, Hawaii is rife with dark stories. One of these is the story of John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, who called Hawaii home for a number of years, and planned his infamous murder here. A British production company recently shot an independent feature biopic of Chapman, utilizing Hawaii locations such as the state library and Ala Wai boat harbor. Here's Chapman's Hawaii story:

After seeing a map of Hawaii, Chapman decided to come here in 1977 to have a last hurrah in paradise before committing suicide. He spent his savings on a lavish stay at the Moana Hotel and then changed his mind about killing himself. He moved into the YMCA to stretch his dollars. But then he got depressed again and tried poisoning himself with carbon monoxide, only to be thwarted by a Japanese fisherman who tapped on his windshield to see if he was OK. To Chapman, the fisherman was an angel of God who had given him a second chance. He checked himself into a mental health clinic and was admitted to Castle Memorial Hospital under suicide watch. He bounced back, got a job at the hospital, and married Gloria Abe, a Japanese American woman. But his demons came back and he lost his job. He got another job as a night security guard at a luxury apartment building and tried drowning out his sorrows with alcohol.

That's when his obsessions began to flourish. He first became obsessed with art, then with getting out of debt, then with Catcher in the Rye. He was so obsessed with J.D. Salinger's novel that he wrote the Hawaii attorney general to try to change his name to Holden Caulfield. Finally, he became obsessed with John Lennon, calling him a hypocrite for preaching love and peace while being a multi-millionaire.

Chapman planned on going to New York. He bought a .38-caliber gun at a Honolulu gun store and left for New York in October of 1980. He studied the Dakota building, where Lennon lived, and bought bullets for his gun. But then he backed down and returned to Hawaii. A few months later, his demons reappeared, prompting him to make bomb threats and harass the Hare Krishnas downtown. Finally, Chapman returned to New York, where here shot and killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980.

Today, Chapman sits in Attica Correctional Institution. In 2004, he was denied parole for the third time. He's up for parole again next year.

Chapman's is just one of Hawaii's many notorious tales that have been subjects of films. Others include the Massie Affair in which a white woman accused five Hawaiian and Asian men of rape, launching a national race war; the quarantine of Hansen's disease sufferers on Molokai; the crystal meth epidemic; prostitution in downtown Honolulu; and the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom by white land robbers.

>> Mark David Chapman: The Man Who Killed John Lennon; Chapter 4 :Escape to Paradise [By Fred McGunagle for Court TV]

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