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|Born||September 10, 1939|
|Died||April 1, 2015|
|Association with the Beatles||Ex-wife of John Lennon.|
Cynthia Lennon (née Powell) (10 September 1939–1 April 2015) was the former wife of musician John Lennon. She grew up in the middle-class section of Hoylake, on the Wirral Peninsula, and at 12-years-old was accepted into the Junior Art School, and later was enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art. Lennon also attended the college, meeting Powell in a calligraphy class, which led to a relationship, although Lennon was only in the class because other teachers had refused to teach him.
When Lennon was performing in Hamburg with The Beatles, she rented Lennon's bedroom from his aunt and legal guardian, Mimi Smith, even though Smith's attitude was often unfriendly. After she became pregnant with Julian Lennon, the Lennons were married on 23 August 1962, at the Mount Pleasant Register office in Liverpool. In 1968, Lennon left her for Yoko Ono, and planned to sue for divorce and sole custody of their son. During this time Paul McCartney visited her, composing "Hey Jude" on the way. The Lennons' divorce was legally granted on 8 November 1968.
She married Italian hotelier Roberto Bassanini in 1970, divorcing him in 1973. In 1976, she married John Twist, an engineer from Lancashire, but divorced him in 1983. After her divorce, she changed her name back to Lennon by deed poll and met Jim Christie, who was her partner for 17 years. She published A Twist of Lennon in 1978, and later married Noel Charles, a night club owner, in 2002. In September 2005, she published a new biography, John. In 2006, she and her son attended the Las Vegas première of the Cirque du Soleil production of the Beatles Love, which marked her only joint public appearance with Ono. In her final years, she lived in Majorca, Spain.
Lennon died in Spain at her home on April 1st, 2015.
Cynthia Lennon was the last of three children born to Charles Powell and his wife Lillian (née Roby) who had two older sons named Charles and Anthony (Tony). Charles Powell worked for the The General Electric Company plc (GEC) company, and sold electrical goods to shops in Liverpool. In 1939, Mrs Powell (who was carrying Cynthia) was sent to Blackpool after World War II had been declared, and lived in a small room in a bed-and-breakfast on the Blackpool seafront before giving birth. She was in labour for a whole day and a night until a midwife arrived. The nurse locked the door, swore her to secrecy, and "dragged" the infant into the world. After the birth, the Powell family moved to a two-bedroomed semi-detached house in Hoylake; across the river Mersey from Liverpool. Her eldest brother, Charles, was a talented pianist who left home at 16 to work for the General Electric Company (GEC) in Birmingham. At 12-years-old she was accepted into the Junior Art School, which was where she met Phyllis McKenzie, who became a lifetime friend. When she was 17, her father died after a long battle with lung cancer, but before he died, he told his daughter that she would have to get a job to support her mother, and would not be able to go to art school in Liverpool. As her mother wanted her daughter to receive a better education, she squeezed four single beds into the master bedroom, and rented it out to four apprentice electricians.
In September 1957, Powell gained a place at the Liverpool College of Art, and turned up each day wearing glasses, twinsets and tweed skirts, because she wanted to be the model student, although many other students at the college dressed differently, and were called 'Beatniks' because of their Bohemian lifestyle. During her first year she dated the son of a window cleaner called Barry, whom she later described as the "Romeo of Hoylake". They talked about marriage, but their relationship faded after he was unfaithful, and stopped altogether after she met Lennon.
Powell started to change her dress style, grow her hair, and often did not wear her glasses, which meant she sometimes got off a bus at the wrong stop, and misread notices in college. She had to wear glasses in class, as she admitted that she would not have been able to work without them. Although studying graphics, she also took calligraphy classes. During the first class a Teddy Boy came in late and sat down behind her. He tapped her on the back and said, "Hi, I'm John" [Lennon]. He never had any drawing tools with him, so he constantly borrowed pens and pencils from Powell, who found out that he was only in the lettering class because other class teachers had refused to instruct him. Lennon sometimes brought a guitar with him into class, and once sang "Ain't She Sweet" directly to Powell, which made her blush and run out of the class. She once overheard Lennon make a comment about a girl with blonde hair in the college, who looked similar to Brigitte Bardot. The next Saturday, Powell turned up at the college with her hair several shades blonder. Lennon noticed straight away, exclaiming, "Get you, Miss Hoylake!" (Lennon's nickname for her, referring to the middle-class suburb where she lived). He also used to call her "Miss Powell", but after their relationship started, simply "Cyn" [Cynthia].
Relationship with Lennon
Their relationship started after a college party to celebrate the end of term, when Lennon asked her to go to the Ye Cracke pub with him and some friends. When Lennon returned home to 251 Menlove Avenue ('Mendips') after the first Hamburg trip, Smith (Lennon's aunt and guardian) threw a cooked chicken and a hand-mirror at Lennon for spending money on a suede coat for Powell. Smith referred to her as "a gangster's moll", and was often unpleasant towards her. The Beatles went to Hamburg again in 1961, and both Powell and Dot Rhone (McCartney's girlfriend at the time) visited them two weeks later, but had to stay up all night because of the long sets, with both taking Preludin, which The Beatles were also taking to stay awake.
After the trip to Hamburg, her mother told her that her cousin and husband were emigrating to Canada with their new-born baby, and that she (Powell's mother) would also be going with them while they studied to become teachers. Powell then waited until Lennon came back from Hamburg before she asked Smith—who had taken in lodgers before at 251 Menlove Avenue—if she would rent a room to her. Smith rented out the box-room above the front door (which used to be Lennon's bedroom) but insisted that she do chores around the house. Powell remembered Mendips as cold and draughty, as it had no central heating system, with only old electric fires in the downstairs rooms. To pay the rent, she took a job at a Woolworths store in Liverpool after her student grant had run out.
In 1961, when Lennon was 21 years old, he received £100 from his aunt Mater who lived in Edinburgh, and went to Paris with McCartney for a holiday. Powell could not accompany them as she was studying for her final exams, and had to participate in teacher-training sessions at local schools. At a girls-only college she made the mistake of teaching a class the wrong material for an exam, although the students were allowed to retake the exam.
The Beatles went to Hamburg again in April 1962, but Powell did not want to live with Lennon's aunt any longer, so she stayed at her aunt Tess's house, or slept at McKenzie's house. She eventually found a bedsit in a terraced house at 93 Garmoyle Road, Liverpool, which was close to the two schools where she was teaching. It had a one-ring cooker, a one-bar electric fire, a single bed, an old armchair, and the hot water meter needed one shilling for enough hot water to take an ankle-deep bath in the shared bathroom. When an old woman who was living in the larger room next door moved out, Rhone was asked to move in.
Shortly after having failed an exam in July 1962, she found out that she was pregnant with Lennon's child. She explained that she and Lennon had never used contraception, had never talked about it, and didn't think about it at the time. When she told Lennon he said, "There's only one thing for it Cyn, we'll have to get married", but when he told Smith she "screamed and raged" at him, threatening never to speak to him again if he went through with the marriage. When Powell's mother came back to visit Liverpool from Canada, she was informed about the upcoming marriage to Lennon the day before she was due to go back to Canada. Powell married Lennon the next day.
She married Lennon on 23 August 1962, at the Mount Pleasant Register office in Liverpool, but Smith did not attend. Lennon had wanted his half-sisters, cousins, and aunts to be there, but Smith blocked their attendance. Her brother, Tony Powell and his wife did attend, along with Beatles' members George Harrison, McCartney, and The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, who was Best man. The wedding was farcical, because as soon as the ceremony began a workman in the backyard of the building opposite started using a pneumatic drill which drowned out anything the registrar, Lennon or Powell said. When the registrar asked for the bridegroom to step forward, Harrison stepped forward instead, which increased the confusion. With no photographs or flowers, the wedding party celebrated afterwards, at Epstein's invitation, in Reece's restaurant in Clayton Square, with a set menu of soup, chicken, and trifle, but no alcohol, as it did not have a beverage license. Coincidentally, Reece's was the same restaurant where Lennon's parents, Alf Lennon and Julia Lennon, had celebrated their marriage twenty-four years earlier, in 1938. The newly weds had no honeymoon, as Lennon had to play an engagement at the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester the same same night .
During her pregnancy Epstein offered the couple the use of his flat at 36 Faulkner Street, and later paid for a private hospital room when the pregnancy was coming to term. After the Lennons had been living at Epstein's flat for a few months (and after hearing about a near-miscarriage) Smith offered to rent the downstairs rooms of Mendips to them both. Although pregnant, the new tenant had to boil hake fish for Smith's three Siamese cats every day, as per Smith's instructions. While Lennon was in Hamburg he would often telephone Mendips, but Smith always got to the phone first and talked to him until shortly before his money ran out, only then handing over the phone to Lennon's wife.
After she had been in labour for 24 hours, John Charles Julian Lennon was born on 8 April 1963, at 6:50 a.m. in the Sefton General Hospital in Liverpool. Lennon was on tour at the time, so was not present—Smith was the first to see Julian—although Lennon did see his son three days later during a short stop-over trip to Liverpool.
After Julian's birth, she often found one of Smith's cats in Julian's cot, with Smith vacuuming outside her door every morning to let her know it was time to get up, and complaining that Julian's constant crying during the night was keeping her [Smith] awake. In November 1963, she left Mendips and moved into a bedsit with her son and her mother Lillian, who had returned to live in Liverpool. They lived in the bedsit for a month as they had to wait for the lodgers in the Powell family's house in Hoylake to move out. The press heard rumours about Lennon having a wife and child at the end of 1963—after Beatlemania had already swept the whole of Europe—and descended on Hoylake in November and December. Friends and neighbours protected her anonymity, but she was often approached by journalists. In late December she had her son christened at the Hoylake parish church, but did not tell Lennon because she feared a media circus, and also because she knew Lennon would not approve; only telling him about the christening two days after the event. Epstein asked to be Julian's godparent|godfather, and not long after newspapers printed the full story about Lennon's "secret wife and child".
The Lennons moved to London and found a three-bedroomed flat in Emperor's Gate, off Cromwell Road. The flat was the third flat of three, which were all built over two floors, which meant climbing six flights of stairs. She first had to carry her son up to the flat, and then go back down to collect shopping bags, but when fans found the address, they would camp out in the hallway, so she would have to push through them when leaving or arriving. On The Beatles' first trip to America she accompanied the group, with Lennon agreeing to photos of the two of them together. She was once left behind in New York while Lennon and the other Beatles were quickly ushered into a car, and in Miami she had to ask the help of fans to convince a security guard who she was. Lennon's response was, "Don't be so bloody slow next time, they could have killed you". When The Beatles arrived in Washington in February 1964, she wore a black wig, and journalists were told, “Mrs. Lennon doesn’t give interviews, Mrs. Lennon likes to stay in the background.”
Back at Emperor's Gate the situation became intolerable, with fans sticking chewing gum in the lock of the flat and tearing at any article of clothing when either of the Lennons left or arrived. The Beatles' accountant advised Epstein that the individual Beatles should move to houses near the accountant's own house in Esher, so the Lennons bought a house called Kenwood, which was a mock-Tudor-style house in Weybridge, where Tom Jones and Cliff Richard already lived.
Lennon spent twice the original £20,000 purchase price on renovations for Kenwood, reducing its 22 rooms to 17. The new kitchen was so modern and complicated that someone had to be sent to Kenwood to explain how everything worked, and during the extensive renovations the couple had to live in the attic bedroom for nine months. Although she enjoyed entertaining in the larger rooms, Lennon could usually be found in a small sunroom at the back of the house overlooking the swimming pool, which was similar to Smith's conservatory in Liverpool. She often found Lennon there daydreaming, and said that in that state he was "present but absent". When Lennon was working, or just non-communicative, her £50 a week allowance allowed her to go shopping. Assistants in expensive shoe shops in Weybridge would happily welcome her when she walked in, knowing they were sure of a sale. She enjoyed the closeness of Maureen Starkey (Ringo Starr's wife) and Pattie Harrison (Harrison's wife) as they lived nearby, and they often went shopping or on holidays together.
Kenwood became the place to visit for the other Beatles, various American musicians and total strangers that Lennon had met the previous night in London nightclubs. The Lennons enjoyed London nightlife in 1965, and went to many expensive restaurants and clubs which Epstein recommended. At home they enjoyed simple food—as she admitted that she couldn't cook—like bacon or steak sandwiches, meat pies, cheese on toast, and tea. She was often photographed at Beatles' movie premières and special occasions, and sometimes with Lennon and Julian at home, which meant she had the role of a public Beatle wife, as well as being a mother. She would often go to nightclubs with Lennon until nearly dawn, and then take Julian to school. When she passed her driving test Lennon bought her a white Mini car, and then a gold Porsche. One day she found a red Ferrari in place of the Mini, as Lennon had traded the Mini in for the Ferrari (which was for himself as he had recently passed his driving test) without telling her. Lennon later bought her a green Volkswagen Beetle.
In 1965, she opened the front door of Kenwood to see a man who "looked like a tramp", but with Lennon's face. He explained that he was Lennon's father, whom Lennon had supposedly not seen for years. She invited him in, and gave him tea and cheese on toast until Lennon came home. While waiting, she offered to cut his "long, stringy locks" of hair, but after waiting for a couple of hours for Lennon to arrive, he left. Lennon was annoyed when he came home, telling her for the first time that his father had visited the NEMS office a few weeks before. Three years after the meeting in the NEMS office, Lennon's father (who was then 56-years-old) turned up at Kenwood again with his fiancée, nineteen-year-old student Pauline Jones. He asked if his son could give Pauline a job, so she was hired to help with Julian and the piles of Beatles' fan mail. Lennon's father and his fiancée spent a few months living at Kenwood in the attic bedroom, but was often remembered as "crying all the time and arguing with her mother on the phone".
She knew that Lennon took drugs like cannabis — which made her feel sick and sleepy — and previously Preludin, but saw them as not being very dangerous at the time. At a dinner party the Lennons, Harrison and Pattie Boyd were given LSD without their knowledge by a dentist, John Riley, at his flat in Strathearn Place, central London. Against the repeated advice of Riley and his wife, they later went to the Pickwick club, and then the Ad Lib club, where they thought the lift up to the club was on fire; crawling out of the lift which Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and Starr were waiting for. Harrison then drove them back home in Boyd's Mini Cooper at no more than 10 mph, as he was still feeling the effects of the drug. They then sat up all night at Kenwood experiencing the full effects of their first LSD trip, although she thought it "horrific", and hated the feeling of not being in control, and not knowing what would happen next. Lennon thought differently, however, and started taking LSD on a regular basis. After encouragement from Lennon, she agreed to try LSD one more time, but the experience was worse than the first. She fantasised that she saw her own skeleton in a mirror, watched the friends that Lennon had invited turn into snakes, and saw their cat's fur bounce in time to the music. The next day she told Lennon that she would never take LSD again, although she relented and took it for the last time a few weeks later, on the way to a party at Epstein's house in Sussex. The results were the same, and she soon realized that a gulf was opening between her and Lennon.
The Beatles publicly renounced drugs — although never completely — after their initial meetings with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London, and took a train to Bangor, in Wales, to meet him again in the summer of 1967. A policeman stopped her from boarding the train as it was pulling out (not knowing who she was) with Lennon calling out of a window after her, "Tell them to let you on!". She broke down in tears, and later said that it symbolised where she felt their marriage was heading, with Lennon speeding into the future and herself being left behind. Epstein had previously agreed to travel to Bangor to join them after the August Bank Holiday, but died of a drug overdose on 27 August, which was a massive shock to both her and Lennon.
India and Ono
The Beatles were scheduled to fly to India to visit the Maharishi for two or three months, but before they left she found letters from Ono that made it clear that Lennon had had contact with her over a period of time. She had previously met Ono when she asked for a lift in the Lennon's car, after a meeting with the Maharishi in a London suburb. Lennon denied that he was involved with Ono, explaining that she was just some "crazy artist" who wanted to be sponsored, although Ono kept up a stream of calls and visits to Kenwood.
In February 1968, the Lennons flew to India with the other Beatles and their partners. She took pens and paper with her, so was able to draw and meditate with Lennon every day, and began to write poetry for the first time. "Magic Alex" (Greek-born Alex Mardas who was part of Apple Electronics) arrived later, smuggling in alcohol from the nearest village as it was not allowed in the ashram. After two weeks Lennon wanted to sleep in a separate room, saying he could only meditate when he was alone. She found out much later that Lennon walked down to the local post office every morning to see if he had received a telegram from Ono, who sent one almost daily.
She had suspicions of Lennon's infidelity over the years, as friends had told her that Lennon had had numerous affairs as far back as their time together at art college in Liverpool, but she decided to ignore the warnings. After returning to Kenwood from India, Lennon got very drunk on scotch and coke and confirmed that there had been other women during his time with her. He then went on to detail his liaisons with every groupie, friends, such as Joan Baez and Maureen Cleave, and the "thousands" of women around the globe. She was totally taken aback at the time and simply replied, "That's OK". Two weeks later, in May 1968, Lennon suggested that she take a holiday in Greece with Mardas, Donovan, and two friends. Lennon said that he would be very busy recording The White Album and that it would do her some good to take a break.
The first major blow to the Lennons' marriage came when she arrived back at Kenwood from Greece earlier than expected, on 22 May 1968, to discover Lennon and Ono sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring into each other's eyes, and finding Ono's slippers outside the Lennons' bedroom door. She then asked Jenny Boyd and Mardas if she could spend the night at their apartment. At the apartment Boyd went straight to bed, but she and Mardas drank more alcohol, with Mardas trying to convince her that they should both run away together. After she had vomited in the bathroom she collapsed on a bed in the spare bedroom, with Mardas joining her and trying to kiss her until she pushed him away.
Lennon seemed absolutely normal when she returned to Kenwood the next day, and steadfastly maintained his love for her and their son. Lennon went to New York with McCartney shortly after and told her she could not go with them, so a trip to Italy was arranged with her mother. Mardas appeared during the holiday in Italy and broke the news that Lennon was planning to sue for divorce on grounds of adultery, seek sole custody of Julian, and "send her back to Hoylake". She said in 2005: "The mere fact that ‘Magic Alex’ [Mardas] arrived in Italy in the middle of the night without any prior knowledge of where I was staying made me extremely suspicious. I was being coerced into making it easy for John [Lennon] and Yoko [Ono] to accuse me of doing something that would make them not look so bad."
She was allowed to return to Kenwood while Lennon and Ono took up residence at Starr's flat at 34 Montagu Square. Lennon and his wife had one last short meeting at Kenwood (with Ono alongside Lennon) with Lennon accusing her of having an affair in India, saying that she was no "innocent little flower". McCartney visited her and Julian that year, even though it was frowned upon by Lennon. On the way to Kenwood McCartney composed a song in his head that would later become "Hey Jude". Having just broken up with fiancée Jane Asher, McCartney took her a single red rose, and asked, jokingly, "How about it, Cyn? How about you and me getting married now?"
During their divorce, Lennon refused to give his wife any more than £75,000, telling her on the phone, "That's like winning the pools [Football pools], so what are you moaning about? You're not worth any more." Not wanting to take half of Lennon's estate because of the lengthy court battle that would ensue (even though she would have been entitled to) she accepted £100,000, plus £2,400 a year, custody of Julian, and Kenwood. Their decree nisi was granted on 8 November 1968.
She learned of Lennon's death on 8 December 1980, while she was staying with friends in London. She received a call from Starr two hours after Lennon had been shot in New York. "I don't remember getting out of bed and going down the stairs to the phone. But Ringo's [Starr's] words, the sound of his tearful voice crackling over the transatlantic line, is crystal clear: 'Cynthia, I'm so sorry, John's dead.' In my stunned state I had only one clear thought. My son, our son, [Julian] was at home in bed, I had to get back to Ruthin so that I could tell him about his father's death."
Later life and death
On 31 July 1970, she married Italian hotelier Roberto Bassanini, whom she'd first met in Italy in 1966, and had started dating after parting with Lennon, although she divorced Bassanini in 1973. During Lennon's separation from Yoko in 1973 and 1974, his girlfriend, May Pang, actively tried to get Lennon to spend more time with Julian, forming a friendship with Lennon's ex-wife in the process, which continued even after Lennon and Yoko had reconciled. She said in an interview in 2005: "I met her [Pang] the first time I took Julian to see his father after he had split with Yoko. She was a very young girl and she was so kind and so lovely to Julian.... She embraced him and she talked to Lennon about his responsibilities. I’ve never forgotten that. I have a really soft spot for May and you can communicate with her – I’ve never ever been able to communicate with Yoko on any level."
On May 1, 1976, she married John Twist, an engineer from Lancashire, but they divorced in 1983. She then settled in Ruthin, north Wales, and opened the Manor House Restaurant, in Well Street, while her son attended Ruthin School. She later met Jim Christie, who was her partner for 17 years. She said at the time: "Jim [Christie] has never felt he's living in John Lennon's shadow. He's four years younger than me and wasn't really part of that whole Beatles scene, though his parents were in showbusiness. He knew Julian before he knew me... taught him to ride motorbikes – and we became friends as a result." They lived on the Isle of Man for some years, but broke up in 1999.
After her divorce from Twist, she changed her name back to Lennon by deed poll. She had kept mementos of Lennon for years, including never-published photographs, letters and personal items; auctioning off many of them after his death. She published a memoir, A Twist of Lennon, in 1978, telling about her life before and with Lennon, and containing her own illustrations and poetry. In 2002, she married Noel Charles, a night club owner. In September 2005, she published a new biography, simply titled John, that re-examined her life with Lennon and the years afterwards, including the events following his death. In 2006, she and her son attended the Las Vegas première of the Cirque du Soleil production of the Beatles Love, which marked her only joint public appearance with Ono. In 2009, Lennon and Boyd travelled to Yerevan, Armenia, for the opening of the new Cafesjian Museum of Art, giving a live interview with the museum's executive director, Michael De Marsche. The two shared their thoughts about their husbands and themselves, including fame, drug abuse, alcoholism, and their divorces.
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. Little, Brown and Company (New York). ISBN 1845131606.