John, Yoko and Ron

by Simone Forgia, Claudio Santoro

Jonh Lennon and Yoko Ono with their La Pavoni

Everyone knows who John Lennon was; he wrote songs that have made history and will remain forever in the world's musical heritage. Only a few, however, know that he was a fan of lever machines. Here is the unusual story of Ron Gompertz, the man who sold the British star a La Pavoni. 

In the year 1975, Ron was a 21-year-old young man recently graduated from Rutgers College with a degree in psychology. Like many of his generation, he first saw The Beatles on a Sunday night on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, and from there began his obsession with each of their albums. While he had dreamt of a job in the music industry, Ron took a job in retail at the famous and trendy Bloomingdales Department store on 59th Street in New York City. In those days Bloomies was frequented by many Manhattan celebrities and in the first months of his work he had met Chevy Chase, Olivia Newton John and even Queen Elizabeth of England.

In the spring of 1976 Ron was promoted to assistant buyer of the Gourmet Cookware department. He was working at his desk when Mr. Rosenthal, the operations manager, came in shouting, 

"Hey, we're short handed out here. I need anyone who's available."  

Ron was getting ready to go on his lunch break, but he went right to where it was needed. He saw a man and a woman with their backs to him snooping around in the gadget section, so he walked over.

"Hi, can I help you?"

he asked, walking toward a short Asian woman wearing dark sunglasses and a baseball jacketed man with wavy hair and tinted lenses. The man turned around, holding a little black handled gadget with 5 small holes at the end, and asked,

"Yeah. What's this thing for?"

Ron recognized his voice before recognizing his face. Momentarily shocked, he tried not to show it and answered routinely,

"Oh, that’s a citrus zester. You use it to peel off some of the rind."  

The man put the gadget back in the wooden bin. Apparently disinterested, the woman said, 

"John, I need to find something to wear. You don't need me here, do you?" 

"No, go ahead darling. I want to look around. I'll see you down at the car."

From there the discussion between Ron and his idol went on. John told him that he drank mostly tea, but he often hosted writers, musicians and other friends at the Dakota and wanted to have drink options for his guests. He wanted to serve coffee like those offered at Greenwich Village coffee houses. In those years Ron liked to go to the West Village to see music performed at the legendary Folk City on West 3rd Street. After the shows he would walk down Bleeker Street and often end up at Café Reggio for a cappuccino and cannoli. He had no idea how to make an espresso, but he knew the equipment. Back then, in addition to the cheap Mr. Coffee and Melitta drip machines, the Bloomingdales stocked up on more gourmet choices such as Chemex, Bialetti moka and Neapolitan rotation coffee makers. Then he remembered the exotic and more expensive machine that had been imported from Italy. The store brought it for the authentic and theatrical environment it gave to the exhibition. Ron told him that that one made the best espresso, and John got one right away without thinking twice.

A few minutes later John had paid for his purchases and a stock guy pushed the rolling cart full of pots and pans, accessories and a La Pavoni to the elevator. At the 3rd Avenue entrance a black limousine with Yoko inside was waiting for him. 

The story of the meeting ends here, but for the next 43 years, Ron had always been curious to know what was so special about those lever machines, so after such a long time he finally decided to buy one. In honour of that day he baptized it John and placed it next to Yoko, his grinder. As for the real John instead, we don't know if he ever became an expert pulling shots, but we like to think the Pavoni helped him finish his latest album Double Fantasy.