November 7, 2011

When George Harrison focused on dying — dying the right way — his wife Olivia intervened and beat his attacker with a fireplace poker.

A summary of what's in the Scorsese documentary "Living in the Material World" (which we watched over the weekend):
“Before I entered the fray,” Olivia said, “[the home intruder Michael Abram] would have finished off George right then and there.” Aghast at what was happening, Olivia grabbed a fireplace poker and began striking the tall, straw-haired intruder with it....

“There was a moment during the struggle,” Olivia said, “that I noticed that this silk hanging we had on the wall was getting covered in blood, and I thought, He’s winning. He’s going to kill us. We have to step it up and do this.”...

“He told me that his mind focused on letting go, leaving his body in the way that he wanted to go,” Olivia said. “He thought that he was being murdered, and he didn’t want to die on someone else’s terms. He told me, ‘I was lying there, thinking, I can’t believe this is happening! Well, I’d better just start getting with God, preparing.’”...

“I was just so impressed by George when he told me that that was what he’d been thinking,” she said. “But I was not ready to be killed. That’s when I came in with the fire poker.”
Not in that summary, but in the documentary, Olivia Harrison reveals that George spent a lot of his time preparing for death, following a religious conception about the importance of the way the soul departs from the body. And there he was that night — 2 years before he really did die, of cancer — framing his mind around dying well, and his wife clobbered the man with a poker.


By the way, Abram was a schizophrenic. Acquitted in the criminal trial, he was confined for treatment and released after only 19 months. He said:
"People may find it hard to accept but with the help of the medication I'm on I am sure I can lead a normal life. I just want to be an ordinary bloke.... My illness was missed by almost all the doctors and nurses until I was turned out of a hospital while I was still very ill. If only the doctors had correctly identified my illness, it could have been avoided."
And, indeed, not long after the attack, the British authorities apologized "after an inquiry found 'significant failings' in the care of" Abram:
"Had there been better integration between the mental health services in Knowsley, Merseyside Drugs Council and the Criminal Justice Liaison Service and, indeed, better communication with Michael Abram's mother, Mr Abram may have received more appropriate treatment."


AllenS said...

Is it true that they have free health care over there?

edutcher said...

Sounds like George's wife had a better grip on things than anybody - or everybody - else.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

The definition of a liberal is someone who is too enilghtened to defend himself.

Henry said...

Think of George Harrison and Abrams as a grand metaphor for Steve Jobs and Cancer.

Both men wanted to confront the threat to their lives on their own terms. Only one man had a wife with a fireplace poker.

DADvocate said...

Olivia should have whacked the guy on the head a few more times.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

PS- the law in Britain regulary prosecutes victims for defending themselves from home invasion. If Harrison were not a former Beatle he and his wife would have faced jail time as well as a civil suit from his attacker.

Shouting Thomas said...

I don't think that Harrison was motivated in this by liberalism.

Listen to his music. He was obsessed with leaving this vale of tears and meeting God.

Listen to My Sweet Lord.

He wasn't kidding.

m stone said...

He was motivated by Buddhism and the more worldly belief that he didn’t want to die on someone else’s terms.

Buddhism only takes you so far.

Surfed said...

"Within you and without you...

Carol_Herman said...

If he struck someone else, the story would be different.

The lunatic somehow got into George Harrison's house. And, hearly killed him. Good for Harrison that he had a wife who took action.

For all you know, all the banging on this lunatic's head ... that the wife inflicted ... may have been the cure, itself?

The drugs? You have faith that schizophrenics even take their medicine? I doubt it.

And, you don't know if this Abram's guy was a repeat offender, or not. OR if the head banging done by Harrison's wife wasn't what did the trick. But psychiatrists would never admit to such a thing.

Surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Surfed said...

@edutcher - She had a better grip on the poker, that's for sure.

Shouting Thomas said...

George Harrison was the most interesting of the Beatles, both intellectually and musically.

He was a brilliant writer and incredible lead guitarist.

He really was completely nonplussed and mortified by the monstrosity of the fame and wealth thrust upon him. I find this very interesting.

"Why in the hell did this happen to me?" he seemed to always be thinking. "It could just as well have been anybody else."

He was right, you know. He was brilliant. But, the world is full of millions of people who are brilliant at playing 3 chord songs and great lead lines. I've met thousands in my own life.

Harrison really, really wanted to meet God, so that his questions could be answered, and so that he could live in the presence of the truth.

His music is all about this. Why not simply believe what he said?

Pogo said...

This couldn't be true.

Schizophrenics are never violent.

E.M. Davis said...

OT: Politico has found a 4th mystery woman to allege sexual harassment at the hands of the black demon, Herman Cain.

She is repped by — guess who? Gloria Allred.

Allie's Apple said...

The definition of a liberal is someone who is too enilghtened to defend himself.

11/7/11 10:53 AM
Unless it's a liberal woman with a fireplace poker in her hand and fury in her heart.

Curious George said...

I think many wives would handle the intruder first, and then the pussy husband second.

Allie's Apple said...

I was surprised to learn that Lennon wrote Across the Universe, my favorite Beatles song, I always thought it was. Harrison, because of his spirituality.

traditionalguy said...

Self defense is a natural reaction.

Harrison had to be cult controlled into welcoming Death.

Death is our enemy, and he has to be fought, not invited in for some tea and writing out the funeral announcement.

Pogo said...

I hate learning about the private lives of artists I admire.

They always turn out to be so goddamned human.

cassandra lite said...

This got my attention too. When they were at the hospital, Harrison told her that what was going through his mind was that, after all he'd been through, he was dying the wrong way.

Listen, if I thought that someone trying to kill me was then going to move on to my family, that wouldn't be my thought.

It was the single most illuminating moment of the whole documentary, and has significantly contributed to the downgrade of my opinion of GH.

David R. Graham said...

"Had there been better integration between ...."

Alice plays croquette using a flamingo for a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball. Illustration of a meta-random system.

"The drugs? You have faith that schizophrenics even take their medicine? I doubt it."

Note the perp blames the meta-random medical "system" for his behavior.

Most upset and discomfort on public transit is caused by certifiable passengers who are not taking their medications. Again, illustration of a meta-random system.

Individuals can make decisions (George's wife, George), committees are meta-random systems.

CatherineM said...

I also like her description of the two of them in the dilapidated NHS hospital, sitting in broken wheel chairs while waiting for treatment.

I really enjoyed the documentary although the amount of time on Ravi Shankar could have been cut down.

I was particularly touched by Ringo's story about the last time he saw Ringo. He had to leave George's bedside to be with his daughter in Boston for her own brain surgery and George asked him if he would like him to be there (and then he died a day or 2 later). So sweet.

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm so proud of what I said that I'm going to expand it a bit.

People think musical genius is rare. They're wrong. I know, because I'm a complete music whore, and I've played with just about anybody who will sit down and play with me for 60 years.

The world is full of people who can craft a great 3 chord song and an incredible, spare lead line. I've met, literally, thousands at jam session and studio session and gigs. I know guys living in trailers, who can't afford to have their teeth fixed, who are absolutely amazing players and writers.

Harrison knew this. The great mystery of his life seemed to be how in hell God picked him out of so many potential candidates for the glorious ride of fame and fortune the Beatles experienced.

He felt very deeply the injustice of this arbitrary gift of fame and wealth, while so many others labored in obscurity and poverty.

He's pretty unique in that respect. I find him quite admirable.

Ron said...

I love this remark from Bill Wyman (on Slate)

Finally, the film really never investigates the real mystery of Harrison: What was he so morose about? Now, Ringo Starr is one who appreciates the cosmic joke life played on him. He has a cheerful acceptance of life's whimsy, hiding what no doubt has been his daily prayers since circa 1963: "Please, God, I don't know what a goofball like me did to deserve this life, but thank you very much, and please let me know if I'm doing anything that would cause you to end it." Harrison, by contrast, has always had a sense of the aggrieved about him. I just don't know what the source of it was

Ann Althouse said...

I'm living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the lord sri krsnas grace
My salvation from the material world

Chip Ahoy said...

That must have been the good sturdy kind of fireplace poker, the kind you see in the old movies of stone houses with gigantic fireplaces. The kind of fireplace poker that can do real damage.

I recall dismissing as mere decoration my parent's fire poker that came in a set with a matching brush and shovel.

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, Ringo was at the opposite end of the spectrum from Harrison.

My good friend, the late Rick Danko, played bass with Ringo's All Star band that toured the U.S. several times.

Rick also took the joke in stride, loved that he'd won the cosmic lottery, and tried to milk it for everything he could get out of it.

He was one hell of a lot of fun. And he knew that, if it all fell apart, he'd be right back to working as an assistant in the butcher department of some grocery store.

ndspinelli said...

I like George and I love Marty. But, I found the doc pretty weak.

edwardroyce said...

I refer the old Scottish saying:

"Die fighting!".

Harrison? meh.

ndspinelli said...

Shouting, This is a good topic for you. Why don't you focus on what you know. You know a helluva lot more about music than I do. I know a helluva lot more about criminal and civil law and sexual abuse than you. It was my profession.

Allie's Apple said...

Rick also took the joke in stride, loved that he'd won the cosmic lottery, and tried to milk it for everything he could get out of it.

He was one hell of a lot of fun. And he knew that, if it all fell apart, he'd be right back to working as an assistant in the butcher department of some grocery store.

11/7/11 11:37 AM
Life is capricious that way.

Seeing Red said...

Olivia called the estate staff to call the police but none of the estate staff came to help?

pm317 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EDH said...

Harrison, or his wife, evidently got a little more pragmatic after the incident.

The widely reported story is that Harrison finally died in the company of Gavin de Becker, a guy who's made a career of being a security consultant to the stars and who befriended Harrison after the attack.

But there is some mystery as to the circumstances of George's actual demise. Rather than de Becker's address, Harrison's original death certificate evidently shows a completely ficticious address.

And the rumors ensued.

The fun begins. His death certificate is released. They put a phony address on it. Gloria Allred - who would blow you for an inch of column space - makes it her job to make sure the proper information is out there. They release an updated death certificate with de Becker’s address on it. They even release a (what I think is obviously fabricated photo) of George and Olivia standing in front of de Becker’s mailbox. Everyone is supposedly happy, but I’m sure its still wrong, and George really did die in McCartney’s house. They just didn’t want to have it become a shrine.

(Photos at the link.)

Ann Althouse said...

"I like George and I love Marty. But, I found the doc pretty weak."

Me too. It was so long, and it avoided endless opportunities to delve into things. It should have been willing to explore the man's obvious shortcomings.

Why was Jackie Stewart even in the movie? Who cares? The Erics, Clapton and Idle, are very boring as talking heads. Waaay too much of them.

Seeing Red said...

“He was wearing a black, quilted Issey Miyake jacket....

Very communal. Everyone has 1 in their closet.

Psychedelic George said...

Here's a way for you to get clean:

By chanting the names of the lord, and you'll be free.
The lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see.
Chanting the names of the lord, and you'll be free.
The lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see.

Awaiting On You All

ken in sc said...

PM, Christians don't think they deserve God's blessings. They know they don't. Maybe you could read-up on it. It's called grace.

William said...

I watched the documentary. It was good enough to watch until the very end so give it credit for that. It wasn't hagiography or pro Harrison proganda excactly, but you could find another narrative under those data points. There had to be an undercurrent of either malice or self hate in his relationship with Clapton. Curious that someone who wakes up in paradise should spend so much time seeking an otherworldly experience.

Doc Holliday's Bastard said...

Was the "insanity" tag inserted because of the intruders untreated schizophrenia or because of Harrison's willingness to die and leave his wife endangered?

Spread Eagle said...

I wonder if George said, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'd cut George a little slack on the whole willingness-to-die thing. People who've just been stabbed are often not at their best.

Njall said...

Beser tsu shtarbn shteyendik vi tsu lebn af di kni (better to die standing than to live on your knees)

Greybeard said...

Reminds me of the "peacenick" finally forced to violence in the movie Straw Dogs.

Freeman Hunt said...

Imagine coming out of a fog one day and finding out that you tried to stab George Harrison to death.

I agree with Paul Z. on Harrison not fighting back. I'd cut Harrison some slack on that.

Good for his wife for picking it up.

Amartel said...

George focused on dying.
Olivia focused on living.

The difference between someone who has decided that his life is complete (except for the dying part) and someone who has definitely not reached that decision. I don't fault George for not fighting back. He could have been wounded beyond being able to fight, after all. Also, if he wants to focus on dying, so be it, that's his individual choice. Totally admire Olivia for whacking the whack-job, though.

England should stop focusing on dying and start focusing on living, though. National suicide.

Freeman Hunt said...

Greybeard, have you ever listened to the commentary track on the Straw Dogs Criterion Collection DVD. It's hilarious. The guy who does it is generally very good, but he can't bring himself to identify the movie's theme for what it is. So, he says the movie is about the futility of violence. (???!!!) He backs that up by saying that Peckinpah said so in a letter after being cowed by the outrage at the movie. Ridiculous.

Great movie, so people can't help liking it, but it doesn't square at all with any peace-on-your-knees type ethics, so people are willing to ignore what they actually see on the screen and accept any ridiculous statement to reconcile their cinematic taste and far left liberal cred.

Doc Holliday's Bastard said...

I don't have a problem with the acceptance of dying, dying on your own terms can be a truly noble thing. What strikes me as odd is that you know the intruder is willing to use lethal force, your wife is still in the house and your decision is to lay down and die, without attempting to make sure she's safe...that just seems off.

Meade said...

I didn't realize it was a fireplace poker. I thought I remembered Olivia Harrison, in the documentary, talking about a baseball bat and recalling that her father taught her that if she was going to swing a bat, to not swing it "like a girl" and that she took that advice to heart.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't have a problem with the acceptance of dying, dying on your own terms can be a truly noble thing. What strikes me as odd is that you know the intruder is willing to use lethal force, your wife is still in the house and your decision is to lay down and die, without attempting to make sure she's safe...that just seems off."

Olivia's mother was also in the house. On first hearing the break-in, Olivia got up and locked the bedroom door. George opened the door and went out to confront the intruder because the mother was in the house.

You have to count that part.

And George's thoughts about how to die properly came after he was stabbed a few times and had a lung collapse. (He already had lung cancer.) He believed he was dying at that point and switched to resignation.

What is more disturbing to me is that, according to Olivia, he spent a lot of his life mentally involved with the issue of departing from the material world and dying the right way. He was devoting himself to practicing how to die, like that was the point of life: dying properly.

When he believed the time had come, he was able to go to that place that he'd practiced to get to... or so he reported from his hospital bed.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is all so interesting. But it is strange to visualize the guy going down without any defensive wounds. As well as the picture of a woman picking up a sturdy weapon and using it. It's in contrast to how women are usually depicted just screaming.

ndspinelli said...


I wondered about Jackie Stewart myself. My thought was he has a great accent[many love Scottish accents, myself included]. Also, Marty is a businessman and maybe thought he would bring in another demographic of viewers? Just guessing really.

Doc Holliday's Bastard said...

It still seems off to me. He accepted death, was ready to go...yet when he sees Olivia fighting, he gets a second wind and is able to help her ward off Abrams. I feel as though his preoccupation with death caused a moment of huge egotism after he was stabbed...along the lines of "now I get to face death in a manly fashion, no crying, weeping, slow decline like I feared," but when he saw Olivia a sense of familial selflessness kicked in and he was able to help her.

The problem, for me, is that he thought so much about death that he never considered his wife from the moment he was stabbed til the moment he saw her fighting and only then did it seem to kick in that keeping her safe is more important than dying the way he wanted to. It may not be true at all, but my most likely naive view is that most people wouldn't need a visual simulent of their loved ones in trouble before answering the call for protection.

Shane said...

Ann: Can I ask how you saw this film? Do you subscribe to HBO? Is this the only means? Thank you, Shane

Shane said...

Ann: Can I ask if you saw this on HBO or is there some other means of viewing it at this point?

cassandra lite said...
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cassandra lite said...

I'm just guessing that if an intruder breaks in to Meadehouse, and Meade is stabbed, he's thinking more about how to save his wife before he dies than he is about how to die well.

It was hard to come away from the doc, which we here at Cassandrahouse watched three times--the third time keeping up a running commentary track--without concluding that Harrison was a truly dark asshole.

Not unlike Steve Jobs.

jamboree said...

I came across an article once that had investigated any Irish ancestry the Beatles had.

Now this obviously could be complete bullshit , but the lineage they gave for George is the only one that struck me enough to remember it. His ancestors apparently lived in a huge manor, but being religious zealots, refused to convert and were forced from their home into poverty where they labored for generations, their past status forgotten, until Harrison (also a bit of a religious zealot) restored the rights of the progeny to a big house with gardens, that is.

Ralph L said...

It's in contrast to how women are usually depicted just screaming
Or even more annoying, they knock the bad guy down--then drop their weapon and run, instead of finishing him off.

Kirk Parker said...


How God picked him out? Well, if there's any truth at all, even partially, to that Free Will business, it could be the answer is that God didn't do the picking.

I think revulsion at the concept of free will is much of what drives folks like Dawkins, fwiw.

wv: phyte -- what Harrison didn't have enough of in him, at first.

purpleslog said...

The attack took place in Hawaii at his home correct, not the in the UK?

At the time of the attack, I think he had already almost died of cancer once around and was left physically pretty weak.

Ralph L said...

Purple, unless the ferry 'cross the Mersey takes you to Maui, I believe it happened in the UK.

The Crack Emcee said...

cassandra lite,

Harrison was a truly dark asshole.

Not unlike Steve Jobs.

Haven't seen it. Figured it was going to be lies, being "spiritual" and all. NewAgers are some pretty dark assholes, and the denial and/or willingness to cover for them is pretty disgusting. We've got a lot to learn by unraveling their belief system - rather than the blind acceptance we've been living under because of people like Harrison. Especially regarding ethics.

It seems everyone's catching the flawed results (He left his wife undefended) but without considering that and other idiotic possibilities being (or having been) played out around the world. Apple's Steve Jobs being Exhibit A.

NewAge is a cultural problem, creating a world where 'a truly dark asshole' is worshiped like a god because he wrapped himself in the fraudulent nonsense of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. One result is a populace so "open-minded" it's lost the ability to spot even an obvious fraud. We have been and we are still being harmed by this. A nation without common sense cannot expect to prosper, but that's exactly the expectation we've had. It's madness.

George wrote some good songs, but he was an asshole. So was Eric Clapton. So was John Lennon.

Michael Jackson, friend to the Maharishi's buttboy, Deepak Chopra (and spoonbender, Uri Geller) is now officially dead at the hands of a quack.

When it comes to NewAge, there's more dark assholishness going on than any of you appear to comprehend.

RIP Georgie, you prick.

MadisonMan said...

It's in contrast to how women are usually depicted just screaming.

It was fortunate a mouse didn't enter the room, making her scream and jump onto a chair.

blake said...

I've yet to be able to sit through the documentary, but I don't recognize Hari from the comments here. He's never struck me as dark—just very comfortable in the Indic mindset.

Hindu, by the way, not Buddhist, as "m stone" suggests. (Unless there's something surprising about GH's religious views in this doc.)

Nobody's quoted the relevant song!

There'll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing Sister Mary can do
Will keep me here with you
Nothing in this life that I've been trying
Could equal or surpass the art of dying
Do you believe me?

There'll come a time when all your hopes are fading
When things that seemed so very plain
Become an awful pain
Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you've learned the art of dying
Are you still with me?

But if you want it
Then you must find it
But when you have it
There'll be no need for it

There'll come a time when most of us return here
Brought back by our desire to be
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying
Until you've realized the art of dying
Do you believe me?

cassandra lite said...

Crack Emcee,

It requires a colossal amount of ego to do what Jobs and Harrison, et al, did. So I'm all for the benefits--artistic, commercial--that these guys bring to our lives.

Reminds me of two things. In Franny and Zooey, when Zooey's having her breakdown and blubbering about all the little egos running around, Zooey assuages her (a bit) by pointing out that she wouldn't want her beloved Emily Dickinson to have resisted the egotistical urge to write a poem every time it struck. And then there's the debate, such as it is, about playing Wagner in Israel. Can the magnificence of the music supersede the baggage that this was Hitler's soundtrack? For the Israelis, the answer is yes.

So, as I type these words on my 27-inch iMac, I'm not at all offended by learning that Steve Jobs is who I thought he was all along. But after seeing that Harrison, during the attack on him, was more concerned on a meta level with dying this way than he was about saving his wife, "Here Comes The Sun" now sounds to me like "You Were a Son of a Bitch."

Paul said...

fireplace poker?

Here in Texas it would have been a .38 (or better!)

And here George himself could have spent the time LIVING the right way, and let the attacker die the 'right way'.

blake said...

People are being less than generous here (which is pretty typical). The only time I've been perforated, I didn't exactly respond crisply.

Hare Krishan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hare Krishna said...

George was influenced by the Hare Krishna philosophy (more specifically known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism) whose most important book is the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God). He was always mistakenly thought to be following the teachings of the Maharihsi Mahesh Yogi of the TM group. In fact he had a close relationship with the founder of the Hare Krishna group in the west, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Listen to some of his songs like My Sweet Lord (where the Hare Krishna mantra was sung), Living in the Material World, Within you without you, All things must pass.

George donated a mansion in the U.K. called the Bhaktivedanta Manor, after the H K founder.
He financed the publications of the many books of the H K. He visited the places in India considered by the devotees as sacred. He had been always called within the devotee community as a "plain clothes" devotee.

I can understand why he did what he did, he must have thought he was on his deathbed.

george said...

I think his wife was a Mexican. Pretty symbolic of both cultures. One is obsessed with dying well and the other with living well.

England's embrace of liberalism seems to be a sort of self-mortification for all of its perceived past sins. Unfortunately it leaves the rest of us to try to soldier on without them just as Harrison's wife had to soldier on without him. There is no use in that nor is there any honor.

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