Daily Tribune staff photo by Gary Malerba "Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?" As though acting out the lyrics to a Beatles song (above), Jeremy Treece of Romulus cozies up to Lexie Arnold of Allen Park as the couple looked at sheets of lyrics during the VIP preview of "Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon" Wednesday evening at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak.
ROYAL OAK - "You say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too, yeah ..." John Kenyon, 66, of Rochester Hills, could have legitimately sung that famed Beatles song Wednesday night at the preview of "Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon."
Presented by Yoko Ono and Stagecrafters and held at the Baldwin Theatre, the VIP and media opening of the show coincided with what would have been Lennon's 62nd birthday had he not been shot and killed in 1980.
Kenyon shares the birthdate of the legendary musician, artist and poet, and celebrated the occasion by buying two limited-edition Lennon prints with his wife, Lorraine.
When The Beatles made their first landmark appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964, the Kenyons were celebrating their engagement party. Everyone at the party gathered around the TV to watch "The Fab Four."
The couple has felt a certain kinship with the band ever since and own three pieces of Lennon art.
Their daughter, Jennifer of Pleasant Ridge, also attended the multi-media exhibit, which features film footage, music, original drawings, signed albums, estate pieces and children's drawings.
Jennifer Kenyon said she was tempted to buy a piece and start a collection of her own.
"You sit there and watch the video and listen to the music, and you become entranced," she said. "He's so soulful, and you look at these pieces and you connect."
According to promoter Larry Schwartz, the exhibit travels to about 20 cities a year to raise money for children's charities. It's the second time in three years the show has come to the Baldwin Theatre, with part of the proceeds funding Stagecrafters' children's theater programs.
Pieces on sale range in price from $150 for the unframed lyrics to "Little Flower Princess," to $25,600 for a framed sketch of Lennon and Ono's "Bed-In for Peace."
Many of Lennon's simple line drawings depict him and his life with Ono, and each is accompanied by a description of the inspiration behind the work.
Lennon fans will likely find the exhibit enlightening whether or not they make a purchase.
A placard next to lyrics for "Dear Prudence" explains Lennon wrote the song for Prudence Farrow, the sister of actress Mia Farrow. The Farrows and The Beatles studied under the Maharishi in Rishikesh at the same time, and when Prudence spent too long in meditation, Lennon implored her: "Won't you come out to play?"
The song "Julia" was a tribute to Lennon's mother who was killed in car accident in 1958. She bought Lennon his first guitar and taught him how to play.
Lennon wrote "Imagine," the famous solo song that describes his desire for world peace, on a paper bag while attending a play in London.
Many of the 200 VIP buyers who attended the sneak preview described a personal connection to Lennon's work.
Paul and Eran Chuhran have the lyrics to "Grow Old With Me" hanging next to their wedding portrait. The couple came from Trenton for the exhibit, and considered delaying a kitchen renovation to buy another piece.
"We didn't want to miss it," Chuhran said.
Ann Arbor resident Michelle Spornhauer said she was named after The Beatles song "Michelle," and purchased the lyrics to "I'm Losing You," when the show was in Ann Arbor last year.
Waterford resident Lynne Boyens bought her boyfriend Stephen Schmitt the lyrics to "Steppin' Out" for Christmas because the song reminds him of living in Manhattan near the Dakota, the New York City apartment building where Lennon wrote the song and where he was shot.
"I don't think there's anyone who can't relate to everything that's here," Boyens said of the exhibit.
Carl Gustafson and Doug Gunnette, both guitarists from Royal Oak, attended the show together and said The Beatles' music has influenced theirs.
"How could it not?" Gunnette asked.
While he splurged for a colorized portrait of Lennon, his friend settled for a golf shirt emblazoned with a small "Imagine" logo, chosen from among the T-shirts and other merchandise on sale.
Royal Oak Downtown Manager Jerry Detloff, who volunteered to work at the exhibit and described himself as a die-hard Lennon fan, also considered purchasing a piece. Detloff said "Nowhere Man," which he bought two years ago, always provokes a smile because of what it represents.
"To me, the message is simple, about peace and love and living in harmony. It's so evident in his music and you can see it in his artwork," Detloff said, adding that it's an honor Ono hand-picked Royal Oak as a destination for the exhibit, even though she will not make an appearance here.
"It means so much. What we feel is such an asset here in this town are the arts and culture," he said. "It's a chance to own a piece of history."
"Come Together: The Artwork of John Lennon" will be open 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette. A $2 donation is suggested. For more information, call (888) ART-1969 or visit www.johnlennonartwork.com.