Looking back at Lennon

IT HAS been 30 years, today, since Dr Stephan Lynn was called back to work at Roosevelt Hospital in New York to help with a gunshot victim. ''It wasn't until a nurse looked inside his wallet for identification that we realised who it was,'' he told the New York Daily News. It was John Lennon although in grey-faced death he looked nothing like he had in life, the doctor recalled. The former Beatle had been shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman, to whom Lennon had given an autograph at the same spot outside his Central Park West apartment earlier that evening. Chapman eventually pleaded guilty to the murder and is locked up in Attica Correctional Facility after his sixth attempt at parole failed this year. His actions left the heart of one of the greatest musical icons of the century in Lynn's hands, who, the Daily News said, found it ''empty and still''. ''I … massaged it to see if we could restore some cardiac function, to see if we could get it beating again, to see if perhaps with giving him some blood we could get something started,'' he said. ''Nothing worked.'' Lennon would have been 70 this year, but Yoko Ono, with him when he was shot, told The Times he had not liked to mark the passing of time. The appeal of his music has not faded. The Australian musician John Waters will commemorate the anniversary today (and his own 62nd birthday), performing Lennon's songs which feature in his show Looking Through A Glass Onion at Darling Harbour's Hard Rock Sydney shop.

Union heavies to the rescue

In life the cavalry comes in all shapes and sizes but its arrival is dependably last-minute. And yesterday, at Rushcutters Bay, it arrived on cue in the form of ''five big swaggering men from the CFMEU''. A quick recap. Rushcutters Bay tennis centre has been the scene of an ongoing picket and occupation by the former mayor Dixie Coulton and others to save the groundsman's cottage from demolition. It has also been a sort of Alamo - a symbolic last stand - for the supporters of its previous tenant, Rory Miles, who was recently awarded a tender by the City of Sydney to manage the centre - a centre he had run on his own terms for 27 years - and who, even more recently, declined to execute the contract the City gave him to sign. On Monday night the council passed a motion to consider tenderers other than Miles for the gig, and to renew its commitment to bulldozing the cottage. (We're told Clover Moore cast the deciding vote, passing the motion with ''great pleasure''.) Which is where, in the eyes of Coulton at any rate, the cavalry - or the boys from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union - come in, with the wrecking ball poised early yesterday. ''At 7am we went down to the cottage feeling quite defeated,'' Coulton told us. ''And just when they were going to knock down the laundry, we looked up and saw five big swaggering men from the CFMEU who came in put a stop to it.'' Coulton characterised the union's intervention as an act of solidarity with her cause. ''The fact there is community support for the residence staying there - they have 800 to 1000 signatures - is very important,'' Brian Parker of the union told us. Parker said they had written to the council, noting a number of concerns with the building site, including the possibility of ''hazardous materials.'' He added: ''We've spoken to the contractor and we're quietly confident it won't proceed without further discussion.'' Tomorrow: what the council thinks.

GOOD SPORTS

The Diary has learnt of a sweetly ironic moment on Monday night during the prize-giving awards at SCEGGS Darlinghurst. When it came to awarding the prize for Most Outstanding Performance in Sport at a Representative Level there was probably only one real contender, Samantha Marshall, who won silver this year at the Commonwealth Games in the 100 metres breaststroke behind Leisel Jones. Marshall, you might recall, is the granddaughter of the former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, so it was all rather delicious when, upon reaching the stage, she should be handed her prize named for Margaret Whitlam, wife of Gough Whitlam, the prime minister her grandfather deposed in 1975. We're happy to report only warm feelings bathed the room and that Marshall gave the audience what they wanted, when, accepting her prize, she quoted Fraser's famous line, that ''life wasn't meant to be easy''. Incidentally, life and its lack of ease was also a theme taken up on the night by Noel Pearson, the special guest of SCEGGS, who ruminated (''tubthumped'' is the phrase our witness prefers) in his speech on the idea of an ''unjust God''. ''I find myself in the dark night of my soul wondering why God has made our task in this world so hard,'' he said. We're told Pearson spoke strongly about his hatred of injustice to children, especially the suffering of children in Aboriginal communities, and that he invited his audience to think about God's allocation of suffering in the world. Why, or how, a just God can permit evil is an religious and philosophical speculation: it's called theodicy. And who would a disagree that the SCEGGS prize night, in the weeks before Christmas, is as good a time and place as any to pose vexing theodicean questions, even if (and perhaps precisely because) it might not be what the audience is expecting.

HARRY NEEDS HELP

''Shoot straight you bastards!'' Harry ''The Breaker'' Morant was more than his deathless last words. But how much more? That we celebrate him at all as the soldier, poet, gun horseman and quintessential Aussie tough nut that he apparently was is surely because we (for whatever reason) admire that he said those words when he did: standing before a firing squad in South Africa in 1902, before it executed him, and Peter Handcock, for killing Boer prisoners of war (the third co-accused, George Witton, was sentenced to life imprisonment). Of course, the Bruce Beresford film did much to foster the idea of Morant as a charmingly fearless chap. But legends need fostering. Among Morant's most dogged supporters of late must surely be the former Australian miliary lawyer James Unkles, who was rebuffed last month by the British government when he hoped he was on the verge of securing Morant and his co-accused an official pardon. The reason given by the Secretary of State for Defence was that the British government would not consider the case for pardons in the absence of original court transcripts. Unkles is not so easily deterred and has contacted us to let us know ''I have announced a reward of $5000 to anyone who can provide me with a certifiable copy of the original court martial trial or court of inquiry transcripts''. Details of the case for pardons and the reward on offer can be viewed at: www.breakermorant.com. There - just the excuse you needed to clean the attic.

STAY IN TOUCH  ...

WITH SLEEPING AROUND

SIMPLY read it was not. The Guardian has issued a correction for its interview with the Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall, who told the paper 1000 women had agreed to sleep with him during three years in the mid-1980s, and that he would like to apologise to them all. He's still sorry but so is the paper, after someone pointed out (Hucknall, perchance?) that the figure was significantly higher. ''That was meant to be more than 1000 a year, based on his estimate of an average of three such encounters a day, as stated elsewhere in our stories,'' the correction read, citing an editing error for the mistake. That leaves the Ain't That a Lot of Love singer with a total of 3000, which puts him between the Kiss bass player Gene Simmons, who claimed to have slept with 4897 women, and the Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman, whose estimate is closer to 1000. Perhaps they could start a band. But in the numbers game the basketballer ''Wilt the Stilt'' Chamberlain is still in front with the claim in his 1991 biography, A View From Above, to have slept with 20,000 ''different ladies''. ''At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was fifteen years old,'' he wrote. Which would have been closer to 23,408, had he kept that up until his death eight years later.

WITH DOGGED PUBLICITY

IS THERE anything they can't do? A month after revealing that dogs help racehorses win on the track, Dogs NSW informs that dogs can detect skin cancer, too. ''The same attribute of dogs that makes them effective in sniffing out bombs and drugs for our federal police can be used to detect a variety of cancers in their human carers,'' the organisation's media release states. The research is nothing new, but then nor is the media release. A Dogs NSW spokesman, Dr Peter Higgins, is quoted in a similar missive sent out last year - then as a spokesman for the Australian National Kennel Council. Last summer he was very excited by the scientific possibilities. This year he cautioned prevention is better than cure. So buy sunscreen before a terrier, we suppose.

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