John and Yoko with Kyoko, five, in 1969
It is barely heard at the start of one of the best-loved festive songs. Happy Christmas Kyoko” is Yoko Ono’s breathy greeting to her baby daughter. It was uttered in the middle of Happy Xmas, War Is Over, which became a huge hit both on the Atlantic and on the Yuletide charts half a century later.
Behind the seemingly cosy displays of family affection was a tragic, sometimes absurd, trauma John and Yoko were experiencing at the time the album’s release – namely, a hunt for Yoko’s daughter Kyoko.
This search was crucial in the decision of their family to move from England to the USA on August 31, 1971, 50 years later.
John wouldn’t return. Kyoko, Yoko’s only child, was born to Tony Cox (a jazz musician and film director, as well as a fellow avant-garde artist).
After Yoko divorced Toshi Ichiyanagi in 1963, Tony and Yoko were briefly married. However, Tony and Yoko parted ways when Yoko went on an extended visit to London to perform a solo show at Indica Gallery.
Yoko placed Kyoko under the care of Cox’s relatives for nine months, while Tony and she made their way into New York.
Yoko once called her pregnancy a tumor and even tried to arrange for Cox’s aunts, to formally adopt Kyoko. Tony eventually caught wind of this idea and stopped it.
After Yoko and Lennon got romantically involved, what began as an amicable divorce between Tony and Yoko turned into a bitter fight.
The Lennons then spent $1.5 million in the present day to search for Kyoko. This hunt saw them frequently violate the law and turn themselves into Bonnie and Clyde.
In 1969, John and Yoko found out that Tony and Kyoko had been in Majorca, staying at an ashram run by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This guru was the one John and the other Beatles had visited in India a year earlier.
John and Yoko flew from the UK to try to kidnap Kyoko at a children’s playgroup on the island. However, Kyoko’s wailing about her father ended their attempts to kidnap.
Spanish police detained John and Yoko. They were released only after Allen Klein, the Beatles manager, flew to the island, and paid off a relative working at the court through a lawyer.
Unknown person managed to change Lennon’s confession about Yoko and him trying to kidnap Kyoko to a more incriminating statement.
Yoko and John with Kyoko, Tony and wife Melinda in July 1970
The famous couple were perhaps persuaded that the attempt was amateurish and needed to take a different route if they wanted to locate Kyoko. John and Yoko decided to take action on the information that Kyoko and her father had been living in the US.
Yoko received custody of Kyoko during the summer 1971 by a US Virgin Islands court. This was the exact same place where Cox’s divorce was completed. However, Cox received custody at the same moment by Houston’s court.
John and Yoko realized that stopping their constant toing and froing across Atlantic was the best way to achieve their goal. They arrived in New York via St Thomas, US Virgin Islands on the final day of August. The dog-leg flight route was an attempt to deceive US immigration into believing that the ex Beatle peacenik and drug convict was in the country.
The move to New York seemed successful at first. John and Yoko were granted visitation rights to Kyoko, so they flew to Texas early in December 1971. They eagerly awaited a legal sanctioned reunion.
Cox, however, was not so sure.
He was already aware of the potential dangers of the couple after the attempted kidnapping. However, he made a ploy and stated that he and Kyoko would not meet in person without the permission of the church minister.
John and Yoko refused to accept the terms of Cox’s proposal meeting. They flew home in a rage with a phalanx detectives.
A few weeks after Yoko filed suit against Cox, right before Christmas, a judge ordered Cox produce Kyoko. When he failed to do so, he was thrown into jail.
After his lawyer had obtained a writ de habeas corpus, Cox was released after spending only one night in prison. Kyoko and he fled immediately.
American sympathized with John and Yoko’s circumstances, despite not being aware of Cox’s surveillance techniques on his family and friends. The couple appeared on some of the most popular TV talk programs in America. The couple, Dick Cavett included, begged Cox to contact them if he was watching. Cox could not see them and chose to ignore them.
Yoko and daughter Kyoko, here aged 38, meeting up in 2001
He was aware that America and most of the world were concerned about the situation. To avoid him being captured by Yoko’s private detectives, or by a worried Lennon fan who wanted to reunite Kyoko and the ex-Beatle, he required the best cover.
The Church of the Living Word provided him with cover, which he found in the San Fernando Valley cult. This tight-knit group promised to defend him and his little girl from the grieving Beatle.
Lennon stated that he was living with a mother who screams for her child each night. “We’ve become so desperate that we have been recording messages to our records.”
In March 1972, Yoko was officially given sole custody after there had been a nationwide manhunt for Kyoko and Cox.
But it made no difference. Cox refused to follow the orders. On Kyoko’s ninth birthday, John sent a desperate card that read, “We want peace. No FBI. No detectives. The problem is our concern. We are available via any media or group you trust. We have not made any moves. We are waiting for your letter or call. If you wish to end war, it is possible. We need your help. Love and Peace John Lennon
In July of that year, when Craig Pyes (editor of an alt-music magazine known as Sundance) and the Lennons drove through San Francisco, where Craig believed Cox or Kyoko might be hiding, the chase turned into something absurd.
Pyes believed she saw her ex-husband enter an apartment building. Yoko ordered Pyes to knock on doors, asking for any information.
The apartment owner was too shocked to speak and simply stood as John Lennon (and Yoko Ono), the world’s most well-known couple, invaded her apartment. They searched for Cox, and then climbed out the windows, looking for him.
Cox, despite being one of most prominent fugitives in the world, was not found.
He remained one step ahead John, Yoko and all the other law-abiding media.
Cox stated that Yoko demanded access to Kyoko, and that he (and his wife Melinda), were not against it. However, we would see so much chaos in our lives we would need to withhold contact… touching them was like touching a high-voltage machine.”
The Lennons had lost their search by the middle of the 1970s. One year after their first child, Sean was born and Kyoko’s domesticity in New York suggested that Kyoko wouldn’t be reunited again with her mother.
Even though Yoko was sent a telegram by Cox and Kyoko in the aftermath of John’s December 1980 murder, but it wasn’t until 14 years later that Kyoko, a 31 year old, reached out to Lennon to regain contact.
Kyoko is now an artist in Colorado, and wants to remain out of the spotlight. Kyoko, who has been confined to a wheelchair since age 87, remains close to Yoko. John.
John looked back at the adventure that, despite his fame, wealth and influence, didn’t work out.
He never saw her again and, after reflecting upon the colossal risk he took with Yoko, he said: “It’s a classic case where big boys play macho. I tried to control Tony Cox. Tony was adamant that he would not get his wife if he didn’t get his child.
Publiated at Sun 22 August 2021, 13:24:54+0000