In the spring of 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, married barely two months, arrived in Montreal to stage what would be remembered as one of the ’60s more novel antiwar statements. Dubbed “The Bed-In for Peace,” the weeklong circus—a sequel to an earlier event, staged in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton and memorialized in Lennon’s “The Ballad of John and Yoko”—was one part activism and two parts egotism. Dressed in pajamas and propped up (or flopped down) on the king-size bed in Suite 1742 of Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Lennon and Ono (and, occasionally, Ono’s young daughter, Kyoko) held court. From May 26th until June 2nd, they greeted members of the global media and an unlikely procession of friends, acolytes, and celebrity admirers. The bed served as a soapbox from which Lennon could express his dismay at the bloody conflict in Vietnam and wax lyrical on his pursuit of world peace, and he brought the show to a crescendo on June 1st, when—right there in Suite 1742—he and a hodgepodge of collaborators who included singer Petula Clark, LSD booster Timothy Leary, and a handful of Canadian Krishnas recorded the ballad “Give Peace a Chance.”
Last week, in a move no less opportunistic than the Bed-In that inspired it, the Queen E’s owner these days, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, unveiled the new “Suite 1742,” a charming if unsubtle homage to the Lennon/Ono Bed-In of ’69, complete with period decor, a smattering of artifacts, and, because why not, a bespoke virtual-reality experience with dorky VR headsets on the bedside tables.
The hotel’s name-dropping isn’t entirely new. The Queen E has sold John-and-Yoko-inspired pajamas in its lobby gift shop for years, and guests who booked the room occasionally received a commemorative recording of “Give Peace a Chance.” But the reborn Suite 1742 is a whole new level of JoYo reverence: Almost every wall and corner brims with Beatle-maniacal goodies, including a clever bank of filing cabinets inspired by a similar wall of drawers that stood in Lennon and Ono’s New York City office; here, faux fronts open to reveal letter-sized kiosks presenting audio and video clips, archival photos, and historical documents.
The suite’s main space features a six-place dining set at one end and a chummy living room in the middle (there’s also a tidy kitchenette, a comfy second bedroom, and a pair of thoroughly modern bathrooms). Overall, the furnishings are handsome and functional and only mildly evocative of circa-’69 interior design. And really, that’s OK. Of particular note, however, is the artwork, a classy smattering of new pieces by acclaimed Canadian artists, including a splendid eight-panel cyanotype by Karen Tam and a dazzling transparent sculpture by Jannick Deslauriers.
“From a design point of view, the suite is proposing an environment that goes beyond the reconstitution of the original room,” says the project’s lead architect Martin Leblanc, a partner with Montreal-based Sid Lee Architecture. “Overall, it is an eclectic, if respectful, collage of meaningful design elements recomposing the story of John and Yoko through the experience of the guests.”
It’s safe to say, however, that nobody rents 1742 (which is by no means the Queen E’s biggest or most lavish suite) for the comfy couch or the pictures on the walls or the in-room Nespresso machine (for the record, there is one). No, the main event here is the Bed-In zone at the suite’s far end, the very nook where John and Yoko publicly canoodled 48 years ago. The windows behind the bed (which afford a dramatic dome-level view of the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral across the street) carry cheeky decal reproductions of John and Yoko’s impromptu “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace” window dressings, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder and guitar-on-a-stand props are, if nothing else, highly Instagrammable. And, because we’re not in 1969 anymore, the aforementioned bedside VR headsets allow guests to strap in and conduct a virtual Bed-In of their own. Groovy.
The Queen E is presently accepting reservations for the John and Yoko Suite, with rates starting at about $1,580 per night through the end of the year. Singing Krishnas not included.
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