The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has reopened the rooms where John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously staged their 1969 Bed-In for Peace. The renovation puts together all four of the rooms they rented into one large suite with two bedrooms, a dining room, two lounges, two bathrooms and a pantry.
The bed sits at the end of the room, under the window, like a little stage. That is, of course, what it was for a week in the spring of 1969, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono used the bed to rally the world to the cause of peace, with a panoramic view of the city’s west end behind them.
John and Yoko’s Bed-In for Peace is a major part of the Beatles story — the moment when Lennon began pulling out from under his group’s unified image to begin his solo career, even before the band’s breakup.
And the hotel room high over downtown Montreal was where he recorded his first solo single, “Give Peace A Chance,” on the room’s bed, which had been dragged to the windows overlooking Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral and Dorchester Blvd. (now Blvd. Rene-Levesque.)
Room 1742 of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has been a pilgrimage site for decades now, since around the time of Lennon’s murder, but long after the original furniture had been taken away during one of the hotel’s periodical refreshes — like the $140-million renovation that recently closed the Queen Elizabeth for a year.
“During the bed-in, the hotel received many complaints from guests and local residents telling management to put an end to this circus,” says Joanne Papineau, public relations regional director for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for Eastern Canada.
“Guests were not happy about these ‘hippies’ taking up residence, but management added security and did what they could to control fans congregating in the lobby. At the time, we did not know what an impact the bed-in would have around the world.”
Toronto photographer Steve Stober was a 15-year-old Montrealer when he talked his way into the media circus back in May of 1969.
“As a kid photographer and self-proclaimed ‘world’s biggest Beatle fan,’ I was awestruck yet steady-handed when whisked past security into the now-famous suite at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel to witness history in the making.
“I assumed a position at the bedside and shot frame after frame for about 10 minutes before being ushered out. Everything else remains a blur. Kind of a peaceful gathering, from what I do recall. John did look directly into my camera. And he looked pretty good in his PJs.”
The hotel got permission from Ono to begin renting the suite in Lennon’s name in 1991, but the current renovation puts together all four of the rooms they rented into one large suite with two bedrooms, a dining room, two lounges, two bathrooms and a pantry.
The bed is beneath the window again, and the suite is full of artwork commissioned for the room, as well as a wall of archival photos of the ’69 bed-in.
Fairmont has also invested in a lot of technology to tell the story of that week.
In one lounge a wall of “filing cabinets” opens up to reveal audio visual displays devoted to aspects of the Bed Peace story, and a pair of virtual reality goggles sit beside the bed to let guests experience it from John and Yoko’s perspective.
A vintage telephone, TV set and tape deck also provide video and audio snippets of Lennon quotes, captured during the week. And if you’re so moved, there’s a guitar in the corner for strumming.
Reservations are filling up, but the suite can be rented for the relatively low price of $1,969 a night — a bargain considering it apparently cost Lennon $1,000 a night to rent all four rooms back in 1969.