Cynthia Lennon - Later Life To Present

Later Life To Present

On 31 July 1970, Cynthia married Bassanini, whom she had started dating after parting with Lennon; the couple divorced in 1973. She then opened a restaurant in Ruthin, Wales, called Oliver's Bistro, which also had a B&B above the premises. She enrolled her son into the Ruthin School, and he later joined the local Combined Cadet Force. During Lennon's separation from Ono in 1973/74, his partner at the time, May Pang, actively tried to get Lennon to spend more time with his son, forming a friendship with Lennon's ex-wife in the process, which continued even after Lennon and Ono were reconciled. A meeting during this period was the last time Cynthia saw John. Previously, Julian had been allowed to visit his father twice a year by himself, but Lennon complained that during his time with Pang his ex-wife also wanted to be present, saying: "She thought she could walk back in 'cos I wasn't with Yoko!" After his reconciliation with Ono, he complained again that his son was not being allowed to visit him.

On 1 May 1976, she married John Twist, an engineer from Lancashire. She published a memoir during their time together, A Twist of Lennon, in 1978, telling about her life before and with Lennon, and containing her own illustrations and poetry. Lennon tried to stop the publication of the book, after an excerpt was published in a newspaper.

On 9 December 1980 (UK time), whilst staying at Starr's ex-wife's home, she received a phone call from Starr, two hours after Lennon had been shot in New York. "The memory of Ringo's words, the sound of his tearful voice crackling over the transatlantic line, is crystal clear: 'Cynthia, I'm so sorry, John's dead'. I had only one clear thought. My son, our son, was at home in bed, I had to get back to Ruthin so that I could tell him about his father's death".

Cynthia's memoir gained renewed interest, and went to a third printing of 200,000 copies in the weeks after Lennon's death. She and Twist separated in 1981, and were divorced in 1983. She sold the Bistro, and changed her name back to Lennon by deed poll, later commenting about why it was financially necessary: "Do you imagine I would have been awarded a three-year contract to design bedding and textiles with the name Powell? Neither did they. When it is necessary to earn a living, it is necessary to bite the bullet and take the flack".

She began a relationship with Liverpudlian chauffeur Jim Christie in 1981, who became her partner for 17 years as well as her business manager, living in Penrith, Cumbria. She said at the time: "Jim 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." They later lived on the Isle of Man and then Normandy for some years, but separated in 1998.

She had kept mementos of Lennon for years, but began auctioning off them after his death, including a personally drawn Christmas card from Lennon to her that fetched £8,800 at Christie's in August 1981. With her finances in an unsteady state – she would say in 1999 that "Apart from John, the men I have fallen in love with have never been good at earning a living" – more of her memorabilia of Lennon went up for auction in 1991, including antiques from Kenwood. She said at the time, "I've enjoyed these things for 30 years. But it's time for a change." Another set of items, including some of Lennon's drug paraphernalia, brought over $60,000 for her in 1995. She later stated, "I think in life we collect so much baggage, when you have a clearout, you send it to a car-boot sale, etc. My baggage was in demand and sold at Christie's. When you have to pay the bills, you're not proud and you can't take it with you".

Over the years she entered some failed business ventures, including in 1988 a perfume named Woman (after the 1980 John Lennon song) and, in April 1989, a restaurant named Lennon's—at 13/14 Upper St. Martin's Lane, Covent Garden—which had menu items such as Rubber Sole (a play on the already-punning 1965 Beatles album), as well as Sgt. Pepper's Steak and Penny Lane Pâté. It had a short life as a business venture, as it was considered to be far too expensive. She would later blame some of these efforts on the men in her life encouraging her.

The Beatles' Hamburg days were the subject of the 1994 film Backbeat, with Jennifer Ehle portraying Cynthia Powell. The film characterizes Lennon and Cynthia's relationship as one that will eventually be doomed by their wanting different things from life, but with Lennon not wanting to hurt her. Cynthia later complained that the film made her out "as a clingy, dim, little girlfriend in a headscarf". Cynthia was subsequently portrayed in the troubled, Ono-centric 2005 American musical Lennon, with her character – played by Julia Murney – gaining a little more prominence during one of the show's rewrites. Her life had a more central role in the 2010 BBC Four film Lennon Naked, with Claudie Blakley playing the part. However, her character was absent from the 2009 British film Nowhere Boy, which purported to cover the story of Lennon from 1955 to 1960 but focused on his relationships with his aunt and mother.

In 1995, Cynthia made her recording début with a rendition of "Those Were the Days", which as produced by McCartney had been a number one hit for Mary Hopkin in 1968. It failed to chart. Whilst living in Normandy, an exhibition of her drawings and paintings were displayed at Portobello Road's KDK Gallery in 1999. By the 1990s she was appearing at some Beatles conventions, but appeared ambivalent about the practice. At times she maintained she was moving on with her life and putting her Beatles past behind her and at other times seemed to embrace continued interest in that past as inevitable. The Daily Telegraph said in a 1999 profile, "In essence, she is a suburban woman who – almost in spite of herself – got caught up with one of the most extraordinary men of modern times. More than 30 years since her marriage to John Lennon ended, she is as entangled as ever."

In 2002, she married Noel Charles, a night club owner. In September 2005, she published a new biography, John, that re-examined her life with Lennon and the years afterwards, including the events following his death. Michel Faber, writing in The Guardian, said of the book: "John is Cynthia's attempt to prove how much more she was worth. In theory, the disclosures of Lennon's loyal partner from 1958 to 1968 cannot fail to be valuable. On the page, the potential withers". In 2006, she and her son attended the Las Vegas premiere of the Cirque du Soleil production of Love, which marked a rare public appearance with Ono. In 2009, she and her son opened an exhibition of memorabilia at The Beatles Story exhibition in Liverpool, and she and Pattie Boyd staged a first-ever joint appearance at the opening of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia. On 30 September 2010, Julian opened his "Timeless" exhibition of photographs at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York. In attendance were Cynthia, Julian, Ono, Sean, and Pang, which was the first time that all five had been in the same room together.

The John Lennon Peace Monument was unveiled by Cynthia and Julian at a ceremony in Chavasse Park, Liverpool, on 9 October 2010 to celebrate what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday. She currently lives with her husband on the island of Majorca in Spain.

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