If you are old enough to remember the 1960s, “Give Peace a Chance” could melt your heart or cause youthful memories to tumble into consciousness.
Walking in the gallery door, there’s the stirring sound of John Lennon’s anti-war anthem for the ages.
Then, before that door shuts behind you, we see them: John and Yoko, two hairy hippies hanging out in bed together in flowing white pajamas, like apostles for peace.
At the new 12 Pine Street Gallery, 52 photographs transport viewers to May 1969, when the celebrity newlyweds staged their “Bed-in for Peace” in Montreal.
For eight days, the former Beatle and his wife, Yoko Ono, camped out in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel as a nonviolent protest against the war raging in Vietnam.
Lennon, who was 28, and Ono, 36, did their first bed-in while honeymooning in the Netherlands two months earlier.
‘Give Peace a Chance: John & Yoko’s Bed-in for Peace’
WHERE: 12 Pine Street Gallery, 12 Pine St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Through April 19. Gallery, which has a wheelchair ramp, is open from 12 to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday or by appointment
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 883-2145 or www.natlexhibits.com; John and Yoko’s 1969 documentary “Bed Peace,” with a 2012 message from Yoko, is posted on YouTube
The second publicity stunt was targeted for New York City, but Lennon was barred from entering the U.S. because of a marijuana arrest.
“They basically spent a week in their pajamas, talking to anyone who would listen to them. To me, it’s very powerful,” says Victoria A. Rehberg, organizer and curator of the exhibit.
The images, in color and black-and-white, were shot by Gerry Deiter, a Brooklyn photographer on assignment for Life magazine.
“He was the only one who covered the whole eight days,” Rehberg says.
“Give Peace a Chance” has been exhibited in England at The Beatles Story in Liverpool and Coventry Cathedral.
In 2009, it stopped at The Museum at Bethel Woods, and from Glens Falls it’s headed to the Muhammad Ali Center in Kentucky and the San Diego County Fair.
The show is in our area because Rehberg moved to Glens Falls from Boca Raton, Fla., with her business, National Exhibitions and Archives, which organizes and curates photojournalism exhibits that travel to museums, libraries and other public spaces.
Rehberg, a Guilderland High School graduate who has a brother in Queensbury and a son at Cornell University, runs her office and gallery from a putty-colored house on a quiet street near downtown Glens Falls.
She installed “Give Peace a Chance,” which opened Feb. 9, so local residents can see it.
“When it’s not on loan, it’s open free to the community,” says Rehberg.
Moving from room to room, the images are anything but boring, even though John and Yoko are always pictured in bed amid an ever-changing disarray of flowers and gifts from peaceniks.
Psychedelic drug researcher Timothy Leary, musician and TV comedian Tommy Smothers, activist and comedian Dick Gregory and Hare Krishnas visit them.
In one photo, Smothers strums a guitar and Leary has taken off his shirt because the room was warm.
Like scenes from TV’s “Mad Men,” cigarettes are everywhere.
In another photo, Kyoko, Ono’s child from a first marriage, holds a daisy in her hand as she listens to a boy reading a story.
A close-up portrait of Yoko, her black hair streaming onto a pillow, would be an exquisitely beautiful image even if the subject wasn’t a famous woman.
Lennon sniffs blossoms and plays guitar. Nestled close to Yoko, he reads to her from “Book of the Tao.”
“They had this ability to shut out their surroundings,” says Rehberg.
Visitors see a photo of the poster board on which Lennon scrawled the words to “Give Peace a Chance,” which was recorded in the hotel room by Andre Perry.
While this exhibit isn’t as elaborate as the traveling version (at one venue, there was a reconstruction of the bed-in scene), there are embellishments.
John and Yoko’s 1969 documentary “Bed Peace” plays on a computer screen, and “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” signs, like the ones that hung over the couple’s bed, are stuck to the gallery windows.
In one corner, Rehberg has turned an antique standing candelabra into a “wish tree,” covered with paper messages. “People can write their peace wishes and cover the tree,” she says.
Going back in time
We can inspect the printed hotel menu for the bed-in, with its Jell-O, eggs, halibut, steak and tea. Nothing too unusual, except maybe for “fried natural brown rice, served cold.”
Forty-five years later, the Queen Elizabeth offers the bed-in rooms and menu to guests.
“You can actually rent the suite, eat the food that Lennon did,” Rehberg says.
Deiter’s photos never made it into Life. Ho Chi Minh, communist leader of North Vietnam, died in September, and the “bed-in” story was pushed aside.
When Dieter died in 2005, his friend Joan Athey acquired the 400 negatives and contacted Rehberg.
Since she started her business in 1999, Rehberg has created and traveled 17 exhibits, including “Capturing Camelot,” photos of the Kennedys by Stanley Tretick, including the shot of John John under JFK’s desk, and “The Beatles! Backstage and Behind the Scenes,” from the CBS archives, which appeared at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Rehberg’s next show at 12 Pine, opening in late April, is “Songs for the Soul: Jazz Appreciation,” portraits of musical greats like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.