As a 16-year-old girl traveling abroad, Alisa Cooper never imagined her “once-in-a-lifetime” memory would be the subject of a story told nearly five decades later to a national audience.
But, the Atlantic City native’s curiosity and quick-thinking — combined with a bit of luck — landed her an exclusive interview with two of the 1960s most enduring personalities and a place within the annals of music history.
On Tuesday evening, Cooper will appear in an episode of ABC’s six-part docuseries “1969,” where she reveals the events leading up to her momentous interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono inside the newlyweds’ suite in the Amsterdam Hilton. The week long “bed-in for peace” in the Netherlands, along with a second anti-war protest in Montreal, are the subject of an hour-long episode which airs at 10 p.m.
Cooper, 66, now lives in Linwood and serves as vice-chair of the Casino Control Commission. She spent several decades performing in casino nightclubs and theaters as a singer and entertainer before following in her mother Dolores’ footsteps and becoming involved in local politics.
But, her extraordinary connection to one of the defining moments of the 1960s will put her in the spotlight once again.
“It was so informal, casual, charming,” Cooper said Monday afternoon, discussing the tone of her interview with the Beatle and his new bride. “I think they got a kick out of the fact that I was a 16-year-old fan and managed to make the right calls, have the right conversations and arrange an interview on their honeymoon.”
Fifty years later, Cooper still recalls how she managed to pull off the remarkable feat.
While vacationing in Amsterdam with family and friends, Cooper said, she immediately knew something big was happening at the Hilton when the group arrived for lunch and saw a large police presence and hundreds of bystanders gathered outside. She learned of the famous couple’s honeymoon accommodations from a police officer.
From there, the Beatles’ fan used a bit of teenage innocence and naivety, coupled with a journalistic instinct (Cooper hosted a weekly radio round-up at Atlantic City High School at the time) to land an interview for the ages.
Cooper found a hotel house phone and asked the operator to connect her to John Lennon’s room. Surprisingly, the operator did.
“If you think about that today, and somebody called a celebrity’s room, security would be there in seconds,” she said, with a chuckle. “But, it was indicative of the time.”
The man who answered instructed her to call back in an hour. Upon returning to her lunch party, she noticed a man enter the restaurant and decided to approach him, as she suspected he might be connected to Lennon. As it turned out, the mystery man was Lennon’s personal manager. He listened to the American teenager’s story and, for one reason or another, decided to grant her interview request.
“If I had been in my 20s, I couldn’t have pulled this off,” she said.
What was supposed to be a brief interview wound up lasting more than an hour. Lennon and Ono, surrounded by anti-war and pro-love posters, stayed in bed and ate lunch.
The audio recording of the interview is in a secure location, Cooper said.
When ABC producers learned of Cooper’s involvement with the infamous “bed-ins,” she was invited to New York City (complete with door-to-door limo service, wardrobe and make-up) for an on-screen interview about her experience.
Cooper said she has not seen the episode and has no idea how much of her interview will make the final cut. She said that, regardless of how much content the television network uses, she is always glad to share her “once in a lifetime” memory.
“It’s a very unusual, very unique story,” she said. “It was pretty exciting.”