On March 25, 1969, John Lennon and his new wife, Yoko Ono, staged their first “Bed-In For Peace.” These “Bed-Ins,” based on sit-in protests, were meant to be experimental tests to promote peace and protest war. Lennon and Ono spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam, 5 days after their wedding, sitting in their hotel room bed, discussing peace while the press was allowed to come in to their room to ask questions and take photographs of the famous couple.
The couple knew their marriage would be a high profile event that the press would latch on to, so they took this publicity opportunity to convey to the world their thoughts on peace. Starting on March 25, and lasting an entire week until March 31, Lennon and Ono took up residence in the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel’s Room 902, spending the entire time in their bed and allowing press to visit from 9 AM – 9 PM daily. Because Lennon and Ono were known for previous lascivious public images of themselves they had used as promotional material, most of the press expected something lewd upon visiting the hotel room of the two stars. Instead, they found Lennon and Ono in their pajamas, comfortably sitting up in their hotel bed with signs that read “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” above them. The two discussed their visions of world peace with the press and their opposition to the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Most of the press that covered this protest/performance “peace” did not take it seriously, but Lennon insisted that that was exactly what Ono and he wanted. “It’s part of our policy not to be taken seriously. Our opposition, whoever they may be, in all manifest forms, don’t know how to handle humour. And we are humorous,” said Lennon.
Seven days later, the couple flew to Vienna, Austria where they held a press conference to discuss Bagism, which was a term created by Lennon and Ono to satirize prejudice and stereotyping. Bagism literally involved encapsulating oneself in a bag, so that no judgement about the outward appearance of a person could be made, and people could only judge someone by the vocal messages they conveyed. It was viewed as a form of total communication.
The Amsterdam Bed-In was not the only one performed by Lennon and Ono. In May of 1969, the couple again reenacted their previous peaceful form of protest in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. It was here that they recorded “Give Peace a Chance” with other notable individuals. Later that year, they further publicly spread their message of peace by displaying on billboards in 11 major American cities, “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas From John and Yoko”. A documentary film made of the two’s Bed-Ins can be watched here.
The impact made by Lennon and Ono’s Bed Ins has been seen in the several popular culture references made about the peaceful protests, and protest groups and artists around the world have reenacted the famous “peace” since the 1960s.