There’s a UFO over New York City…
One of the most frequently asked questions I get about John is, “Did he really see a UFO?” Yes is the answer. 40 years ago, on August 23rd around 9pm, both John and I saw a UFO. He was out in the balcony having his cigarette — in his birthday suit — when he yelled for me to hurry out. I was inside waiting for the pizza man but his voice had such an urgency that I ran out to find out what was wrong.
As I got to the balcony, I started to ask what the problem was when I noticed this object flying low in the sky over us. I could see the underbelly of it and see the heat waves rippling off like the ones you’d see driving on a hot road. We both noticed how strange it was that this thing flying above our heads, no more than 2 to 3 stories high, was absolutely silent. We could hear the cars from the East River Drive below and the helicopters on the other side of the river. I started screaming, “It’s a f…king UFO!” but no one answered or even looked out of their windows – not even our downstairs neighbor who was connected to us by the balcony stairs. If anyone knows New York, it is a dead city in the summer, especially on a Friday night… folks have made their great weekend exodus to the Hamptons. The apartments all around us were dark and quiet.
We watched this thing for approximately 10 minutes as it floated down the East River, flying at different heights, speeding up and slowing down. It hovered over a building on E. 23rd street for a while then moved toward the Williamsburg Bridge. We thought it was heading off to Brooklyn, but it stopped and went straight up into the sky.
We had photographer Bob Gruen make a few phone calls to the local newspapers and police to see if anyone had reported this. A couple of people who lived further uptown had called to say they had spotted it by the East River too, so obviously it had been traveling down the river.
I was always pretty certain there were UFOs out there. Whatever little doubts I might’ve had were gone after that. John didn’t want to forget what we had seen, so he grabbed the first thing he could — a manila envelope — and drew it. It definitely made an impact on both us. It even came up again in one of his last songs. I’m glad we got to share that experience together.