All You Need Is Hate

The Mirror October 1, 2000

   An explosive documentary sheds new light on the tangled loves in the life of John Lennon.

She looks around the house she once lived in with John Lennon and shivers. "It's sad, full of ghosts," says Cynthia with a sigh, glancing back at the bedroom they shared just after their son Julian was born.

At the Liverpool home in Menlove Avenue, owned by John's late aunt Mimi, memories flood back of a chapter in Cynthia's life which has since become legend.

On October 9, John Lennon would have been 60 and on either side of the Atlantic his first and second wives, Cynthia and Yoko Ono, can only imagine what might have been if he had lived. The former Beatle was shot five times by crazed fan Mark Chapman as he returned to the apartment he shared with Yoko in New York's Dakota Building, on December 8, 1980.

In a controversial new documentary, The Real John Lennon, it is revealed that his marriage to Yoko was on the rocks and he was planning to return to Liverpool. Ironically, Yoko had moved his belongings out of their apartment and was planning to divorce him as it has been revealed she had a long-term lover.

Friends and family talk about life with John. And in a frank interview Cynthia, 61, reveals her dislike of Yoko, whom she blames for wrecking her marriage and for keeping John and Julian, now 37, apart.

"I knew there was nothing I could do to keep the marriage together because there were other forces, more powerful and devious than I was," says Cynthia. She met John at the Liverpool College of Art in 1958 and they married when she fell pregnant in 1962.

John first saw Yoko when one of her quirky art exhibitions was featured on TV. He and Cynthia laughed at her as a "nutcase" but, intrigued by Yoko's wackiness, John went to see her show and struck up a friendship which quickly turned into an affair.

"He'd receive letters from Yoko saying she couldn't handle things," says Cynthia. "She'd arrive and ask to use the phone, and come in and leave her ring behind. She did a number, she was determined."

Cynthia recalls returning home from a week-long holiday with Julian to discover she had lost her husband to Yoko. "All the lights were on, we went in and shouted, 'Anybody home?' John and Yoko were sitting there, he was in a dressing gown and she was in a dressing gown. They just sat there as if everything was normal," she remembers.

But worse was yet to come. After John relocated to New York, Cynthia got a call from Yoko. It was the start of a bitter ongoing feud between the two.

"She said, 'John and I have decided that from now on I speak to you about Julian and he speaks to my ex-husband about my daughter Kyoko'. Then there was no contact for four years. Julian would watch TV and it would be, 'That's my daddy!' At school it was, 'My daddy is a Beatle'. But daddy wasn't having anything to do with him," she says quietly.

Cynthia was not the only one hurt by John and Yoko's bizarre relationship. Former personal assistant May Pang talks about her highly-publicised romance with John after his marriage to Yoko turned sour.

"Yoko came into my office and said, 'John and I are not getting along. He's going to start going out with other people. You haven't got a boyfriend, John should go out with you'. I said, 'I don't want your husband'. She was laughing," recalls May. "Yoko kept saying, 'You two must get together'. Finally we ended up alone at my place, then he made moves."

John and May's ensuing affair has been described as his "lost weekend". In fact, it lasted for 18 months and the couple even moved in together.

"Yoko wanted a divorce in February 1974," says May. "John came home and said, 'I'm going to be a single man in six months'. One time he got angry with her and said, 'If we're going to get divorced let's do it quick, I've had it'. Three months went by and I said, 'What happened with the divorce?' He said Yoko had said the time wasn't right, it wasn't in the stars."

Like Cynthia, May claims that Yoko, who is depicted in the documentary as cold and calculating, exploited John's weaknesses - the deaths of his mum Julia, killed by a drink driver when John was 17, and close friend Stuart Sutcliffe.

John later went back to Yoko and the couple hired another personal assistant, Fred Seaman. He describes the odd life of the Lennon household. "It's said that Yoko returned to the apartment after giving birth to their son Sean," says Fred. "She handed him the baby, and said, 'I did my part, now it's your turn'. John told me he'd retired from music, he was tired of being competitive and felt it would be an opportunity to be a better father to Sean than he'd been to Julian.

"I didn't get the impression that he was happy, I had the feeling he was frustrated because he wasn't getting very much physical affection from Yoko. He talked about renewing his relationship with May."

Yoko's control extended even after his death. John's half-sister Julia Baird says, "Yoko did not want any of the family at that funeral. We were totally excluded." His cousin Stanley Parkes adds, "We had a letter from John saying, 'I'm coming home...I'm going to look after my own family for a change'."

Cynthia sums up the anger which has haunted his family ever since. "After John got shot there was a phone call from Yoko wanting to speak to Julian," she says. "He was very distressed and said, 'Mum, Yoko wants me to go to the funeral'. I said, 'Do you want me to go with you?' He said yes. I told Yoko I didn't think he was in any fit state to go to America alone and she said, 'Look, Cynthia, if you come he won't be coming - it's not as if you're an old school friend of mine, is it?' I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

Yoko was invited to appear in the documentary but, unsurprisingly, she declined.

The Real John Lennon, Saturday, C4, 9pm.