San Diego On the evening of December 8, 1980, Kristy Mundt, a cashier at Vons, was relaxing in her Lemon Grove home, watching the Miami Dolphins play the New England Patriots at the Orange Bowl. When Howard Cosell interrupted his play-by-play to announce that in New York John Lennon had been shot by an unknown assailant, Mundt took the news perhaps harder than did most Monday Night Football fans in Lemon Grove. When Cosell a few minutes later announced Lennon was dead, Mundt cried as if her heart would break.
"I cried a lot. Just the waste of it. The total waste of a very creative life."
Almost precisely 16 years earlier, on the evening of December 9, 1964, Mundt's brother had encouraged her to watch the Ed Sullivan Show, a program she found particularly boring. But Mundt's brother had told her that an English rock band was to appear on the show, a band she might find interesting.
"They got a couple of chords into 'She Loves You,' and that was it. I saw Paul McCartney's baby-doll eyes and thought he was the cutest thing I'd ever seen in my life. I was 12 years old, so a lot of my reaction was screaming and jumping up and down, 'I love the Beatles!' It wasn't until I was older that I was able to listen to their music and really understand their message, which is 'all you need is love.' "
Eight months after Mundt's Ed Sullivan conversion, she and two girlfriends won tickets to the Beatles' performance at the Hollywood Bowl. She saw the Beatles perform in 1964, and in 1965, and in 1966. When A Hard Day's Night opened, Mundt's mother would drive her down at noon to the theater and Mundt would stay there all day, watching the movie again and again until 9:00 at night, when her mother had to drag her home. Mundt saw George Harrison perform at the L.A. Forum during his 1974 Bangladesh Tour. She bought two copies of every Beatles album. (She now has 75 in her El Cajon home, 25 of which have never been opened.)
By the time Mark David Chapman -- identified as "a local screwball" by the New York police and, later, "Inmate 81A3860" by Attica Correctional Facility -- opened fire on Lennon, Mundt was a Beatles aficionado of long-standing, a veteran. She'd never joined a formal fan club, but the media's persistent description of Chapman as a "deranged fan" nonetheless rankled her.
"Was he deranged? Yes. Okay. Was he a fan? No. No fan would ever do anything like that."
For Mundt, her love for the Beatles was a private matter until 1994, when she began talking with Pam Telles, a caterer who often shopped at the Vons near the intersection of Governor and Genesee where Mundt worked.
"It was October 9, John Lennon's birthday, and Pam was in my checkout line, and she had on this little Beatles pin, and I saw it and said, 'Oh, yes. It's John's birthday,' and the two of us just started talking. She told me about this local fan club called 'Come Together,' which we joined. We became core members and together we dreamt up the idea for the annual Beatles Fair. The first one was in 1995, the 30th anniversary of the Beatles' appearance in San Diego. We held it at San Diego City College, and about 1000 people showed up. We've held it every year since then. Last year we had it at the Doubletree Hotel in Mission Valley, and close to 4000 people came.
"The fair is sponsored by Come Together, which is a nonprofit organization that has about 450 members. Most are here in San Diego, but there are people all over the world that get our newsletter. The Fair really doesn't make much money. When we do make a profit, Come Together donates it all the to American Cancer Society in Linda McCartney's name. From the past two fairs we've managed to donate about $1000 to the American Cancer Society."
It was while working at the 1996 Beatles Fair that Mundt, at an after-dinner party, spoke with a member of the Moptops, a Beatles lookalike group that had played at the fair.
"This guy looked just like John Lennon, and we started talking about John's death. This guy mentioned that sooner or later, Chapman was going to come up for parole. I'd never really thought of it before. But it was true. Chapman was going to come up for parole eventually, and by that time I was pretty much convinced that someone who takes a life doesn't deserve a life. I mean, I don't believe in the death penalty in all cases, but someone like Chapman doesn't deserve parole."
Mundt was primed for her discussion with the Moptops' John Lennon lookalike. In April 1988, a cousin of hers in Torrance was raped and murdered by a burglar who ultimately received life without possibility for parole. When Mundt realized Chapman could possibly be freed, she got busy.
"I started making calls. I called the New York Department of Corrections and asked when Chapman was up for parole. I'd collected all the magazines at the time of John's death -- People, Newsweek, you name it -- that had a lot of information about Chapman, but I'd never read them. It was too painful. I finally sat down and read them, and I learned a lot more about Chapman and who he was and why he did what he did. I was able to give to the New York Department of Corrections Chapman's date of birth and other information. They told me he'd be eligible for parole on December 4, 2000. I got to work. On October 9, 1996, I went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to John's star in the sidewalk where people gather every year, and I had a petition with me. A petition opposing Chapman's parole. I got 150 signatures right there.
"I knew if I sat back and did nothing, if nobody did anything, Chapman might slip through the cracks. And so I went home and did some research and came up with a list of 50 Beatles fan clubs around the world. I sent each of them a letter and a copy of the petition -- clubs in the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, all across the globe.
"In March 1997, I finally broke down and bought a computer. A cousin of mine did the Web page for my site. He designed it so you could download a copy of the petition and print it out. Since then, I've gotten mail every day, from places around the world, from people collecting petitions. There was one girl who went to Strawberry Fields in New York on the anniversary of John's death, and she alone collected 1400 signatures.
"At present I have close to 20,000 signatures on the petition. Chapman's parole hearing should be in late September or early October of this year, and I plan to be there in Attica, New York, where Chapman's being held, with my boxes of petitions. Every day I get three or four envelopes of petitions from all over the world.
"I'm doing this because I don't want to see Chapman dead. I don't want to read about some 'Lennon fan' killing him. Even back when I started collecting signatures in 1996 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for every ten people who signed the petition there was one person who wouldn't. He'd say, 'I won't sign the petition because if they let him out, he's a dead man.'
"There are so many people out there who still feel the intensity of John Lennon, and they still feel strongly about the man who killed him. I have no personal grudge against Chapman whatsoever. He made his choice. He has to live with it."