Spending $30,000 for a rotten tooth of John Lennon’s was a sweet deal, says Red Deer dentist Michael Zuk, who bought the celebrity molar through a U.K. auction house on the weekend.
Zuk admitted that owning a tiny piece of the Beatles cost him a “fortune” — and caused him some grief from his wife and his daughter, who pointed out that Zuk could have bought her a pretty nice car instead.
“But when you think about it, I couldn’t buy that kind of publicity,” said the dentist, who’s been fielding calls from global media, including Britain’s BBC, a Chicago radio station, and a newspaper in the Philippines.
As the author of the 2010 memoir Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist, Zuk believes all the world-wide exposure could help his book sales.
He also plans to tour the tooth through dental schools and rent it out to other dentists. They could display Lennon’s decayed molar in their offices to encourage patients to take better care of their own teeth.
“Maybe eventually this will pay for itself,” he said.
While Zuk has a quirky collecting history — he owns an old mousetrap signed by Agatha Christie, who authored a book-turned-play called Mousetrap, and has ancient dinosaur teeth and a fang belonging to a prehistoric cave bear — he believes Lennon’s tooth is about the most interesting thing he could buy.
“This takes (collecting) to a whole other level. John Lennon was about as famous as you can get.”
The tooth that once graced the mouth of the assassinated rock star was among the rock memorabilia auctioned off Saturday by Omega Auctions. The molar was formerly owned by Dot Jarlett, who was Lennon’s housekeeper in the late 1960s.
According to information from the auction house, Lennon came home from the dentist and asked Jarlett to either dispose of the extracted tooth or present it to her daughter as a souvenir. The family has had it in their possession ever since, but it was sold to support Jarlett, who recently turned 90.
Although its authenticity has been questioned, Omega Auctions stands by the tooth’s provenance.
For all anyone knows, it might be the last bit of DNA that exists from Lennon, who was cremated after being shot by a deranged fan in 1980, said Zuk.
He muses that in a science-fiction-like future “some diabolical scientist might want to clone another replica of the Beatles.”
If Lennon had entered a dentist’s office with that kind of tooth today, Zuk believes it could have been saved — even though it’s visibly rotten and contains a large hole. “We could have done a root canal or a crown.”
Zuk, who has practised dentistry for the last 25 years, believes the tooth he has so far only seen in pictures, is a second or third molar or wisdom tooth.
He speculates that Lennon could have had an acid reflux problem brought on by his hard-drinking, pot-smoking lifestyle. “Also, musicians are often playing late at night, so your stomach doesn’t know when to go to sleep.”
Zuk believes the decayed tooth is another reminder that nobody’s perfect.