When he was just 14-years-old, Jerry Levitan got a sort-of historical interview with John Lennon, after sneaking into his Toronto hotel room, despite being surrounded by other reporters.
Lined outside his hotel room were eager reporters waiting for him to settle rumours about a possible Beatles break-up and make a public comment about the Vietnam War.
In his 40-minute interview with Mr. Levitan, Mr. Lennon said peace was
in the hands of the people and they had the power to overturn
government warmongering. Mr. Levitan recorded the conversation on an
old reel-to-reel tape machine and showed it off to friends at school
and the local news station. But he mostly kept it to himself.
Many Hollywood agents have been trying to get Levitan to make a movie or sell the rights to his photos and recordings over the years. Finally, Levitan, now 55, has decided to publish a book, 'I Met the Walrus: How One Day With John Lennon Changed My Life Forever'.
The book includes a DVD of a five-minute animated short he created with animator Josh Raskin, which was posted on YouTube in 2007.
At the 36th Annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards, August 29th, Levitan recieved an award for 'I Met the Walrus,' the web short that has been in the works for four decades. The animated short won the "New Approaches - Daytime," category, and was up against "All My Children" video podcast, the New York Times Style Magazine screen tests, and a Web show "Imaginary Bitches".
The same animated short had been nominated for a 2008 Academy Award and won Best Animation at the Manhattan Short Film Festival.
The film's strong message of peace during the tough times of war and the Beatles' fame gave the film an extraordinary boost, against the other nominees.
Levitan told the Observer he had kept the materials locked up for so long as he didn't want to exploit the experience. "I never wanted to do anything that was either cheesy of minimized the event or commercialized the events," he said. "I just got this crazy idea -- I was sort of sick of people asking me about it. So I thought I'dmake something that would be good for kids and grandkids and do something whacky."
"The thing is, there's never been anything like The Beatles and it's hard to explain to this generation or even generations before that The Beatles weren't just a rock band," Levitan continued, "They had influences politically and socially and culturally that went beyond strutting on stage and putting out fancy records,"
"John Lennon himself was an extremely intuitive person," He added. "He himself connected with people on so many different levels, it wasn't all about the music."
In the celebrated video, Levitan - who has recorded several children's music albums as Sir Jerry - worked with Raskin on the animated short, which includes beautiful pen work by James Braithwaite, and digital illustration by Alex Kurina. The outcome is this:
"He was the biggest star in the world--and even though he was under enormous pressure professionally and personally, he chose to spend a day with a kid who was amazed by him," Levitan said. "He gave me quality time. He respected me. He was kind to me, who does that? That story in itself is what's propelling this around the world."
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