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HELLO!.....Number 306.....May 28, 1994

THE ASTONISHING STORY OF HER LIFE WITH THE LEGENDARY BEATLE

CYNTHIA LENNON

IN HER OWN WORDS EXCLUSIVELY FOR HELLO

John gets heavily into drugs and I welcome him trying meditation. Brian Epstein dies and we go to India where John receives letters secretly from Yoko Ono. My worst fears are realised when I find them together. John tries to divorce me on the grounds of my adultery.

John and I had a lot of fun before everything changed.  Here we are fooling around in the garden       Looking back, it all started with a simple article in The Times. John was sitting in bed one morning looking through the papers when a crazy story caught his eye and he started to laugh. "Look at this, Cyn," he said, holding up the page.
      I glanced over. It was a light-hearted account of a film made by a Japanese lady which consisted entirely of bare bottoms. Titled concisely: Bottoms, the film was apparrently a study of naked rears of various shapes and sizes.
      We thought it was a hoot. It sounded such a bizarre idea. I never realized as I laughed over John's "posterior" jokes that sunny morning that our fate was sealed by reading that innocent little story.
      The artist responsible for the unusual film was a lady called Yoko Ono and she was to reappear in our lives with devastating consequences.
      Although I was trying to close my mind to it I suppose our marriage was already under threat at this stage. It wasn't other women that were driving us apart, it was drugs.
      John by now had become a heavy user of LSD. He wanted to be a genius, he wanted to travel outside his body, he wanted to prove to the world that he had a unique gift. Acid stimulated his creativity and opened up his mind to previously undreamed-of wonders, he believed.
      I kept saying to him: "John, something terrible's going to happen to you if you keep on like this."
      But he wouldn't believe me. I couldn't convince him.
      "I've cracked it, Cyn," he'd reassure me over and over again. "I can handle it. I've taken acid today and I'm fine. I'm normal."
      But he wasn't normal. I'd look at his long matted hair, his face obscured by eccentric granny glasses, his outrageous clothes and I despaired. He thought this was normal. He'd lost touch with reality.
'What had happened to the down-to-earth, witty young man I used to know? The man who laughed at pomposity and could spot a phoney at a hundred paces?'
      Perversely, the music was fantastic. The brilliant Sergeant Pepper album was conceived at this stage and it was wonderful. I couldn't deny that. But what had happened to the down-to-earth, witty young man I used to know? The man who laughed at pompousity and could spot a phoney at a hundred paces?
      At home things went from bad to worse. I used to dread it when John went out at night. I'd lie awake waiting for his return just knowing what was in store. Sure enough, about four in the morning a string of cars would pull up into the drive and decant 15 to 20 people all high on acid, pot and whetever else they could lay their hands on, ready to party. I'd get up at breakfast time to find the place littered with drugged bodies and Julian, little soul that he was, couldn't understand what was going on.
      That's what upset me more than anything else. I thought okay, you can do what you like with your own body but don't influence the innocents.
      Julian would step over the bodies looking for his daddy and these strangers would start talking to him in weird, spaced-out terms that he couldn't comprehend.
      There I was, trying to cook breakfast and get him off to school, trying to be normal, while outside the kitchen door the house was strewn with zombies, one of whom was his father. Julian was utterly bewildered.
      It was a nightmare period. I didn't want to lose John and I feared for his health but I was desparately worried about Julian. I didn't know how to handle it. My mother, who'd moved to London by this time, and often came to stay, saw what was going on and was appalled. But both of us felt helpless.
      So when George's wife, Patti, and some other friends went to a lecture in London on meditation given by this Indian guru called the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and came back raving about it, it seemed like a straw to clutch at. "It's absolutely fantastic," they told John. "You don't need drugs. You can get the same effect with meditation. You've got to go." John had high hopes for meditation and was full of enthusiasm for what the Maharishi had to say
      I must admit I was sceptical at first. I didn't quite see how meditation could produce a mind-blowing effect like LSD, the effect John seemed to crave. But Johnn was so enthusiastic. He thought I'd be pleased. And I had to admit that I knew nothing about meditation. "Cyn, it's without drugs. I'll be off drugs. No more drugs, I promise," he insisted.
      I think perhaps deep down he sensed that he was on the rocky road and was looking for another way. Anyway, as far as I could see it sounded harmless and if it really meant he'd give up drugs, I'd willingly go along with it. I'd do anything to get him off this horrible LSD and get my old John back. I agreed to give it a try.
      As it happened the Maharishi was taking over Bangor college for a series of lectures that very August of 1967 and we arranged to go. The idea was that we'd stay for the weekend and learn the basic principles of meditation for which John had such high hopes. A special train packed with celebrities was laid on and we would travel to Bangor accompanied by the Maharishi himself. Ringo and Maureen [Maureen did not actually attend as she had just given birth to her second son Jason a few days earlier, but Patti's sister Jenny went with them] and George and Patti decided to meet up at our house so that we could drive to the station in one car. As usual, hating to be late, I got up hours early to arrange all the bags and luggage in plenty of time. But at the appointed hour, there was no sign of our guests. They were late. John and I waited and waited, surrounded by bags, with increasing anxiety. By the time they arrived we were so behind, we had to dash off to the station in a mad panic.
      We got there just as the train was ready to leave and we raced along the platform like lunatics. I was struggling behind with the hand baggage, trying to keep up. In front of me the others lept on the train, I moved forward, arms full, to follow them, when suddenly a policeman was barring my path. "Sorry, love," he said, "You can't get on there."
      I looked around for John but of course he was nowhere to be seen.
      "But I'm Cynthia," I protested. "I'm with them."
      The policeman looked blank.
      Miserably, I started rifling through my bag for some means of identification. Then suddenly a whistle blew and the train began to move. All around me the press pushed closer, cameras clicking and then a carriage window opened and John's head was thrust out.
      Irratibly, he glanced up and down the platform. The boys became fascinated by meditation and we all arranged to go to Bangor by train to hear the Maharishi.  That was the day I got left behind at the station as the train pulled away without me.  Even then I felt it was an omen for the future
      "Where are you, Cyn?" he shouted, then as the train began to pull out of the station he saw me. "What are you doing there?" he called, but already the engine was gathering speed and he was sliding past. His unjust words floated back to me. "Why are you so bloody late - again?"
      I just stood there, surrounded by baggage, watching him slip away from me, tears streamiung down my face.
      It was only a missed train and yet somehow it was much, much more than that. I had a terrible black feeling that it was an omen. Watching them go, in my heart it felt like something was over. John was moving on, leaving me behind.
      Someone touched my arm. It was the roadie who'd driven us to the station. "Don't get upset Cyn," he said, completely misunderstanding my distress. "I'll take you to Bangor in the car. We'll probably get there before them!"
      And so we drove to Wales and it was a beautiful drive, through exquisite countryside just starting to turn gold with the first touch of autumn and I tried to persuade myself the incident wasn't an omen, just a missed train.
      In Bangor we caught up with the circus. The Beatles were there, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were there, the college was full of famous people and the press were going crazy. Back to normal really.
      We were to sleep in the students' dormitories and we were just being shown to our quarters when the journalists arrived outside with an urgent message. This was very important, they insisted. We must be told. Bad news had just come through. Brian Epstein was dead. He'd been found in his flat, the victim of a drug overdose. He was just 30 years old.
      The shock left us speeclhess. Once again that dreadful chilling feeling I'd had on the platform flooded over me again. This is definitely the end. It's all over. It's the end of an era. Poor Brian.
      The Maharishi shepherded us into a quiet room.
      "You musn't allow this to upset you," he said. "Brian has gone to a better place now. You must have joy in your heart. You must rejoice for Brian."
      It was comforting at the time but we couldn't facve the meditation lectures now. None of us had any heart for a stimulating weekend. John had gone white, his face stiff and set. All we wanted to do was to go home.
      Driving back in the car the two of us hardly spoke. The shock left us sealed in our own separate bubbles. It was almost as if we were floating.
      I didn't believe that Brian had taken his own life. In fact, the verdict in the end was accidental death, but I did know that he was unhappy. He loved the Beatles, he'd done everything for them and now he sensed that he was losing them. They were growing up and growing away from him and they were moving down paths where he couldn't follow. Brian Epstein's death was such a shock.  This is us on the way to the memorial service
      Down-to-earth Brian didn't approve of the Maharishi and all the psychedelic stuff. He saw characters coming in and using the boys and the situation but was contributing nothing. He could do nothing about it. He was losing his influence over them and it hurt.
      The strange thing is that Brian has had so few accolades. Everyone remembers those that have gone, yet Brian has gone and no one has commemerated him. It's so unfair because he was wonderful. The Beatles would never have been the Beatles without him.
      As far as John was concerned it was a tremendous blow. Another special person in his life had been taken away. Yet in a strange way it was also a release. Another link with the past had been snapped. Now it was easier for him to move in a different direction.
      For a while after Brian's death we were very close. We were both upset and clung together for reassurance. It seemed as if we'd faced so much tragedy together. Yet deep down, although I wasn't consciously aware of it then, John was ready for a major change in his life. Always a restless person, he wanted to strike out on a completely new path.
      By this time, quite by chance, John had met the Japanese artist we'd read about in The Times. As far as I can tell it wasn't a romantic encounter. It was yet another introduction of the kind that happened to the Beatles every week. John Dunbar, who'd been married to Marriane Faithfull, ran an art gallery in Masons Yard, London and he'd invited John, known for his interest in art, to pop in at any time. So one day, after a night of revelry, John walked in and saw a striking piece of conceptual art. Apparrently it was a stepladder with a hammer lying on top. You had to climb the ladder, pick up the hammer and knock an imaginary nail into the ceiling with it.
      John, still in party mood, thought this was hilarious. Totally wacky. He climbed the ladder, knocked in his imaginary nail and was then introduced to the artist by John Dunbar.
      John didn't actucally mention this encounter to me, but he made no attempt to hide it either. In the weeks that followed there were a lot of phone calls from Yoko and John also received a constant flow of letters from her. Once again there was nothing secret about them. John read them and left them lying around. They were all much the same. Yoko wanted desperately to be successful, was the gist of them. She said she needed help.
      I assumed she meant financial help for her artistic projects, but once again did not think there was anything unusual in this. John was known to be wealthy and a lot of people approached him for assistance. It struck me that she was particularly persistent, nothing more.
      Life continued much as before. Once the shock of Brian's death had faded, the boys began to think about the Maharishi once again. Wouldn't it be marvellous, they thought, to go and stay at his Meditational Institute in India. They needed a break and there they could study meditation away from the distractions of normal life. It was George's wife Patti who first got us interested in meditation.  Here we are listening to the Maharishi.  That's John and I sitting to the left of George and Patti, with Paul and Jane Asher next-but-one to our left
      I was all for it. The promise of abandoning drugs was as alluring as ever and it would be wonderful to visit India and have two whole months with John without the interruptions of work.
      Before we left we attended a last meeting in London with the Maharishi to finalize our plans and I happened to notice a small, oriental woman sitting in the corner. She looked very avant-garde. She was dressed entirely in black with long black hair flowing down around her black sweater. She didn't speak to anybody, she just sat silently in her corner and nobody made any refernece to her. I wondered fleetingly what she was doing there but then I was caught up in the details of our exciting trip and I didn't give her another thought.
      It wasn't until we were climbing into the car afterwards and she begged for a lift that I noticed her again but even then she didnt seem to be a threat. She said not a word throughout the trip and John seemed to be as baffled by her presence as I was. I just thought she must be rather strange.
      Anyway, in February 1968, we set off to join the Maharishi in Rishikesh, India. Looking back it was very funny. There were us four girls, Patti, Maureen, Paul's girlfriend Jane Asher and me, with all these trunks of clothes, having no idea what we were going to. All we needed it turned out, was a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Our first day in India - it was freezing, so we pulled the blankets off the bed
      The complex was right out in the wilds in tiger country on the banks of the Ganges and it took us 8 hours in an Indian taxi to get there from Delhi. By the time we arrived, we were a sorry, bedraggled-looking crew. Eight hours bumping over those rough roads would have dampened anyone's enthusiasm and the weather didn't help. We'd expected warmth and sunshine and wore light clothes but it was the end of the rainy season and the weather was terrible. It was cold and wet, and the complex which consisted of a group of little bungalows clustered round an open space resembeled a barracks. We dragged the blankets off our simple beds and wrapped them round us for warmth and in the pictures that were snatched soon after our arrivial we look thoroughly miserable.
      Yet in many ways things improved tremendously as the days went on. The weather brightened, the sun came out and we took our meals at long bench tables sourrounded by white creeper-clad trellis where mischievous monkeys swung down and pinched the fruit from under our noses.
      India was fascinating. On the outskirts of the compound were Indian tailors working in tents, sitting crossed-legged on the floor stitching away with little sewing machines. I bought some material and had a sari and a long Indian tunic made.
      During the mornings we'd meditate with the Maharishi, sitting on the roof of his bungalows, then later the more dedicated would continue their studies while us girls, who didn't take it quite so seriously, would gossip or go exploring the local village.
      There were no drugs, the food was fresh and healthy, and there wasn't supposed to be any booze but in the evenings we'd play cards and inevitably someone would send out in a taxi for wine. We found out later that dozens of people had died from drinking the wine that had been mixed with paraffin or some such substance but fourtinately it didnt seem to have any ill effects on us.
      George embraced the meditation and philosophy 100 per cent and started to learn the sitar. John, while not as convinced as George, took it very seriously but Paul and Ringo were not so impressed. We'd thawed out by the time this picture was taken - I'm sitting next to John, towards the right
      Maureen couldn't stand the flies that swarmed everywhere and it wasn't long before she, Ringo, Paul and Jane went home. George, John, Patti and I stayed for two months.
      On one level I was enjoying myself. As an artist I loved India. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the extraordinary extremes, were fascinating to me. Yet on a personal level I was unhappy. Something had gone very wrong between John and me. A great coldness had come over him. He withdrew into himself, he hardly spoke to me and it was as if a barrier had come down between us.
      He got up very early which was odd because he'd never been an early riser and he kept disappearing and wouldn't say where or why. I've found out since that he was going off to collect secret letters from Yoko. She was writing mind-blowing stuff to him such as: "Watch the clouds, it's me coming over..." which in his mental state he thought was wonderful. But at the time I had no idea of this. All I knew was that I couldn't reach him.
      It was as if a brick wall had gone up between us. There were no quarrels, no arguments, yet the atmosphere was so bad that we couldn't even mediate together. I'd sit there getting such bad vibes from John that I'd have to move to a different room.
      The only time I broke through was on Julian's birthday on April 8. Julian was at home in Weybridge with Mum but nevertheless we wanted to mark his big day. The Maharishi invited us to his bungalow and there was a little ceremony during which he opened his trunk and brought out an exquisite set of hand-painted soldiers for Julian, as well as a beautiful oufit of Indian clothes. It was as if he sensed the rift between John and me and was trying to push us together again.
      Afterwards, as we walked back to our quarters, John suddenly turned to me. "I do love you Cyn," he said, clearly moved. "I love you so much. I really love you." He thought going to India was a great idea
      It sounds soppy when you write it down but he came to me in such a strong way, I knew he meant it and I was so happy. I thought that's fantastic. It's going to work out after all.
      Sadly, I was wrong. I think that just for a moment, the Maharishi's words had touched him. For a moment he realised what he had. He had a son, he had a wife, two people who loved him very much, he had a beautiful home, he had gifts from the gods and he was on the verge of throwing them all away. For a little while he hesitated but not for long. The moment passed.
      Back home the distance between us opened up again. Soon after returning from India John was going away again and Patti's sister Jenny and some other friends of ours were planning a holiday in Greece. They asked me along.
      All of a sudden John was concerned for my health. "It'll do you the world of good," he said enthuistacially. "You go." He was so encouraging that I decided to do just that.
      Well, I had a good time but for some reason we decided to come home earlier than planned. We couldn't get a direct flight to London, and had to stop off in Rome. I tried to phone John to tell him that I was on my way. The phone rang and rang but there was no reply.
      This wasn't particularly uusual. John led a hectic life. So disappointed but not suspicious I continued on my way. Eventually the holiday party puled into the drive at Weybridge to find the outside lights blazing.
      "John must be home," I said, pleased. So I opened the front door and we all went in, calling from room to room: "Hello! Hello? Hello!"
'I got to the breakfast room, walked in and stopped short. John and Yoko, wearing nothing but matching purple dressing gowns, turned to look at me. I stared at them and they stared back'
      There was no reply. Then I got into the breakfast room, walked in and stopped short. John and Yoko wearing nothing but matching purple matching dressing gowns turned to look at me. I stared at them and they stared back.
      There was this terrible silence. Behind me our friends had caught up and their cheerful chatter died away as they took in the scene.
      The slience went on and on. I felt I had to say something. "I tried to phone," I found myself prattling foolishly. "I wanted to say wouldn't it be lovely to have breakfast in Greece, lunch in Rome and dinner in London with you..." tears were making my eyes blurry. "I thought it would have been lovely..."
      I trailed off, unable to get any further. Still there was no response. Neither of them said anything at all. I couldn't bear it. Turning quickly, I walked out.
      I think my mind was blocked most of the next few days because I have very little memory of them. I know that I went to stay with Jenny and she did her best to comfort me but I was in complete shock. I was desperate. I didn't know where I was going or what I should do. I didn't know how to handle the situation.
      I wanted it to be a mistake. I wanted to have completely misunderstood the scene, I wanted there to be an innocent explanation. But of course I knew this was ridiculous. I had to face the fact that they were having an affair. I could only be grateful that Julian was staying with Mum and hadn't witnessed the whole thing.
      Worst of all there was no explanation. How had this happened? Why had it happened?
      After three miserable days with Jenny, not knowing what else to do, I went home to see what would happen. To my amazement nothing happened. John was still there, Yoko had gone and John behaved as if the whole thing was a figment of my imagination. The way I heard about John and Yoko was a real kick in the teeth.  This picture of Julian and me was taken after he left, in 1968
      Perhaps I was wrong but I allowed this pretence to continue. I didn't want to lose my husband and I thought if I didn't confront the situation perhaps the affair would blow itself out and John and I could rebuild our marriage.
      Oddly enough the weeks passed and on the surface it probably looked as if we were happy. John was unusually demonstrative. He kept coming up to me and putting his arms round me and saying: "I love you".
      He'd never been a demonstrative man but suddenly he was always hugging me and whispering things that were very special. I should have been pleased but inside I felt strange. The words and actions were lovely. They gave me a little hope. But I couldn't shake off the feeling that it was all a bit unreal. John was covering up something.
      The one day he announced that he had to go to America to do some work. I asked him if I could go with him. "No," said John. "I'll be too busy and nobody else's going."
      I was hurt. Well, I shan't sit around here on my own I thought. Mum knew nothing of the Yoko affair and our recent troubles and she'd been pressing me for some time to take Julian on a family holiday to Italy. She and my Auntie Daisy and Uncle Bill had discovered this wonderful hotel, she said, which was perfect for kiddies. Julian would love it.
      "In that case," I said to John, "D'you mind if I take Julian and Mum to Italy?"
      "Go ahead," he shrugged.
      The day we left John didn't even come down to say goodbye. We said our farewells in the bedroom and John stayed in bed, not bothering to get up to wave us off. I had a dreadful hollow feeling inside as I led Julian to the car. Nothing had been said but we couldn't pretend any longer. Our marriage was over.
      I wasn't exactly in holiday mood when Mum, Julian, Auntie Daisy, Uncle Bill and I arrived at the little hotel by the sea. The weather was beautiful, the Italians couldn't have been more friendly but I felt dreadful. I promptly went down with tonsilitis and took to my bed with a temperature, agonising throat and swollen glands. I couldn't eat, I could scarcely speak and I was filled with anxiety about my relationship with John.
      And while I was lying there trying to force a cold drink down my sandpaper throat I opened the newspaper and came face to face with a big picture of John and Yoko going to a play together in London.
      I was absolutely devastated. So this was it. He'd gone public. He was proclaiming to the world that our marriage was finished and that Yoko Ono was the new woman in his life. It was such a blatant kick in the teeth. He hadn't even told me first.
      I knew that there could be no going back now, no ignoring the situation. We would never live together as man and wife again.
      All hell broke loose then. The papers were wild about the story. It had taken a lot of courage, in a way, to do what John had done. He knew that being a Beatle, the fuss about his conduct wouldmblow sky high. His image as the lovable moptop was shattered and he was risking everything he'd built up. But I do believe he couldn't help himself. In a way he still loved me. You don't just switch off loving someone but he was swept along by something much bigger that he just couldn't resist. He was driven.
      He was quoted much later as saying of Yoko that for the first time he'd met a woman who was like a man. Like a mate, as opposed to a man/woman relationship. She was on the same level artistically and in every other way. He'd never known love like it.
      Against that there was nothing I could do. If I'd ranted and raved, if I'd blackmailed, it would have made no difference. It wouldn't have stopped John. Nothing ever did.
      Years later at a family funeral, Auntie Mimi scolded me about the break up. "How could you have allowed it to happen Cynthia?" she said. "You should have fought. You should have battled." But there was no battle I could fight. No battle I could win. You can't chain a man to you. If he doesn't want to be there he won't stay. I read somewhere that John said he'd never experienced the sort of love he had with Yoko.  Aunt Mimi told me off for not doing more to win him back but, quite honestly, I don't think anything I could have done would have made a jot of difference
      Thank god for mothers. I was too distraught and too ill to go back and face the press so Mum said she'd fly back to London and try to find out what was going on. We didn't know whether John had moved out of Weybridge or moved Yoko in. We had no idea of his plans at all.
      So Mum returned to the London falt lent to her by Ringo and within minutes of arriving there was a knock on the door. It was a delivery man with a bouquet of flowers. Puzzled, because no one knew she'd left Italy, Mum took them indoors and opened the card.
      "Beat you to it Lil," said the message inside. It was signed John.
      She couldn't understand how John could have known she was back. It was only moths afterwards we discovered that John had sent a private detective to watch us in Italy.
      A few days later, pale and exhausted but over the worst of my tonsilitis, I brought Julian back to join her in the ground floor apartment. Mum still hadn't been able to establish what was happening at our old home and I didn't know where else to go.
      Within half an hour of taking my coat off, there came another knock at the door. It wasn't flowers this time. It was a legal document for me.
      Bleakly I scanned the close typed lines in growing disbelief. I dropped the papers in astonishment and then snatched them up to read them again. I couldn't believe it.
      John was divorcing me on the grounds of my adultery.
NEXT WEEK: John and I
get divorced. Over the next
few years I remarry,
unsuccessfully, twice. I
take Julian to America and
we see John for what is to
be the last time.

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