The Beatles, in a March 1966, were interviewed by journalist Maureen Cleave. John Lennon said that the public was more infatuated with the band than with Jesus and that the Christian faith was declining.
His opinion caused angry reactions from Christian communities when it was republished in the United States the following July.
His comments caused protests and threats throughout the Bible Belt, resulting in radio stations refusing to play Beatles songs, records were publicly burned, press conferences canceled, and the Ku Klux Klan picketed their concerts. This controversy preceded the Beatles1966 US tour and press coverage of their newest album Revolver. Lennon apologized in a series of press conferences and explained that he was not comparing himself to Christ.
Later in July, Disc Jockeys Doug Layton and Tommy Charles of WAQY-AM 1220, (Birmingham, Alabama) got a copy of the interview. During their July 29th breakfast show, they asked for listeners’ views on Lennon’s comment, and the responses were mostly negative. Their listeners felt it was absurd, sacrilegious, and blasphemous by right-wing religious groups.
More than 30 radio stations, including some in New York and Boston, followed WAQY’s lead by refusing to play the Beatles’ music. Some radio stations broadcast hourly editorials condemning the Beatles; bonfires to burn the Beatles album were scheduled. Organized demonstrations abounded.
This became known as the “More popular that Jesus” controversy or the “Jesus controversy”
The controversy resulted in the band’s disappointing tour, which they never undertook again. Lennon also refrained from touring during his solo career.
In 1980, he was murdered by a Christian fan of the Beatles Mark David Chapman, who stated that Lennon’s quote was a motivating factor in the killing, although in later years he denied it was a motive.
The civil and criminal actions lawsuit that came after the accident, during the filming of Twilight Zone, was the result of negligence. It was scandalous as the film’s director, John Landis, was charged and tried for manslaughter, along with other members of the film crew. They were eventually acquitted in terms of criminal liability, but civil penalties were assessed. Landis continued his career with little negative impact, but he found several of his long-term friendships with other filmmakers ended as a result of his “condescending attitude” towards the accident.
Millions of dollars were awarded to the families of the victims, mostly paid by insurance companies. Landis deflected the blame for the accident, claiming that the cause of the accident had been in part a special effects fireball detonated by error.
The television series The Twilight Zone was a popular weekly program from 1959 to 1964, the brainchild of writer and director Rod Serling. Its popularity resulted in a demand for reruns for years, and eventually was adapted as a full-length motion picture.
During the filming of the motion picture verson, an accident involving a helicopter killed actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, with multiple injuries to the helicopter crew and film personnel onboard. Morrow and one of the children were decapitated by the helicopter’s rotor; the other child was crushed. The accident brought to light unsafe working safety, particularly for children on film sets, and years of litigation which kept the story on the front pages for a decade.
On July 23, 1982, Morrow, 53, and two child actors, seven-year-old Myca Dinh Le and six-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were filming on location in California, in an area that was known as Indian Dunes, near Santa Clarita. They were performing in a scene for the Vietnam sequence, in which their characters attempt to escape from a deserted Vietnamese village from a pursuing U.S. army helicopter. The helicopter was hovering at approximately 24 feet above them when the heat from special effect pyrotechnic explosions delaminated the rotor blades (the blade material fractures into layers) causing the helicopter to plummet and crash on top of them, killing all three instantly.
Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims. The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.
Co-director John Landis and four other men working on the film, including the special-effects coordinator and the helicopter pilot, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. It was the first time a film director faced criminal charges for events that occurred while making a movie. During the trial, the defense maintained the crash was an accident that could not have been predicted while the prosecution claimed Landis and his crew had been reckless and violated laws regarding child actors, including regulations about their working conditions and hours. The trial lasted ten-months with the jury acquitted all five defendants in 1987. The families of the three victims filed lawsuits against Landis, Warner Brothers, and Twilight Zone co-director and producer Steven Spielberg who settled for undisclosed amounts. Twilight Zone: The Movie was released in the summer of 1983. The film received mixed reviews.
Click here for the news report of the accident.
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