told exclusively to Monkee Spectacular by Phyllis Nesmith
As Told to Ann Moses
When Mike and I left for our first vacation in England I had some wild ideas about what I wanted to see and do, but I never dreamed we would spend an entire weekend with John and Cynthia Lennon!
When we first arrived in London, we wanted to call John Lennon, even though we’d never met him. We wanted very much to take them to dinner so we sent a telegram.
John never responded to our telegram, but the next night we received an invitation to the Beatles’ recording session. John met us there and told us he got our telegram and he thought it was lovely. He knew it would be hard to get together, so he waited to invite us to the session. At the end of the session John and Cyn invited us to spend the weekend with them!
The session, itself, was the wildest thing I’ve seen in my whole life. First of all, it was a very private thing—everyone was there by invitation only. The Stones were there, Marianne Faithful, Patti Harrison. The only wife who wasn’t there was Maureen because she wasn’t feeling well.
I was so nervous because it seemed like such a freaky scene because I didn’t know what went on. The four Beatles were so cordial, I can’t begin to tell you! We walked in and sat by the door on two little chairs and Paul came over and said “Hello, how are you, its good to see you.” We had met Paul at a club the night before.
When we first came in, everyone else was seated at one end of the studio and they were laughing and talking and the orchestra was tuning up. And you should have seen the orchestra! They wore white ties and tails and they all had false noses and weird glasses!
Paul was doing most of the work with the orchestra, so George came over to us and he was so outgoing and nice. Finally John came over and thanked us for the telegram and said, “Come on down and meet Cyn” and he made us feel so at ease.
We all went down and John introduced me to Cynthia and I sat down and said, “I’m so nervous.” She said, “Hold on, this isn’t really my scene, you know, I’m nervous too.” She said that John had told her to put on something wild, so she wore these wild purple pajama pants. Everyone else was really dressed freaky.
When we sat down, the idea of the session was to record everyone talking and laughing. All the girls except Cynthia and I were walking around the orchestra with sparklers. Cynthia and I talked and we found that our reactions to our husbands and their fame were so much alike we really hit it off.
We agreed that it was important to our family and our husbands to maintain a sense of proportion throughout the whole thing. It wasn’t so much expressed in words, I knew she felt the same way. We said that it was hard to be married to a person who was affected by so many outside things. You really have to be on your toes and you have to really love in order for that not to make any difference.
You have to be able to sort out the hang-ups that come from the outside and affect your husband—what really pertains to your own relationship and really keep a sense of proportion about that, then you’re going to have a groovy relationship no matter what it looks like to the outside world.
I think John acts toward Cyn very much like Mike acts towards me—he sort of keeps her in good humor. She has a tendency, like I do, to be overly sensitive. Like John teases her and she starts to take offense and then he says, “Oh, Cyn, don’t do that.” Then she can laugh and she knows it doesn’t have anything to do with her.
Cynthia is very thoughtful and very quiet. She’s very sensitive because she had an awful lot to go through. I never traveled on tour with Mike, so I don’t go through the airport scenes. I don’t go to any press interviews or anything like that. And I don’t feel left out because I understand that when Mike is going through all of that, it’s very hard on him. There is a lot of loneliness and inactivity being on tour—sitting in a hotel room, getting all excited about the performance, being let down when it’s over. You go through changes and I know if I were with Mike for more than two or three days on tour there would be tension between us.
John was telling us that Cynthia never goes with him because he treats her so crumby and he feels bad about taking it out on her. I’m sure that Cynthia loves her husband and I don’t think she’s unhappy at all. I think living with John Lennon forces her to grow, expand her life and outlook—people are like weather vanes, they change. She may wish for peaceful moments and they may not come to her too often, but that’s not unhappiness.
She is as vital to John as his right arm and I’m sure she knows that. I haven’t always been perfectly content, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m fulfilled because that seems like such a nothing state of being to me. There is something more than that sense of accomplishment, it’s progress and growing, never standing still. Sometimes you think that it’s unhappiness, but it isn’t, it’s learning.
The Lennons live in a big old brick house with lots of high ceilings and staircases that wind up three floors. Mike and I sort of wandered through the house during our weekend there. I remember the dining room—there’s a huge banquet table and the walls are covered in purple velvet. It’s very rich and very comfortable; it’s great.
John has a lot of freaky psychedelic art, just little objects that are hard to explain. There was so much stuff all over. In the breakfast room John has wildly colored shelves. He’s on a kick of wildly colored things, so he had a friend paint a piano with flowers and designs and every key is a different color. It goes through all the shades from light to the darkest. The wildest thing of all is his Rolls Royce car. It’s yellow with all the flowers on the side. It really blew our minds; it’s beautiful.
The Rolls is really fantastic. It has a record player, a TV, a tape recorder and a telephone. We didn’t go many places, except that Cyn took me to Maureen Starr’s house. I never did meet Ringo’s little boy—he was out for a walk. But we had tea with Maureen and talked. We enjoyed that.
Julian Lennon is a very withdrawn child. He may be going through one of those stages where he’s very shy, but he didn’t want to talk to us. A record was on and he was dancing. He amuses himself nicely. He’s very quiet.
The whole weekend was so relaxing. Cyn and I cooked a big Sunday dinner. She made a roast and some great potatoes. The potatoes are really the best thing about English cooking
I watched how she made them to learn how. She peeled them, cut them into pieces, boiled them for awhile, then about 20 minutes before the roast was done she put them all together to cook. The outside of the potatoes were all brown and the inside was almost as soft as mashed potatoes. They were the best potatoes I’ve ever put in my mouth.
John showed us some movies the first night we were there. They were really weird films—like art films. Then we talked for awhile and went to bed. The next day we just sat around and had tea and talked. John played the unfinished tracks to “Sgt. Pepper” (it wasn’t out then) and that was so exciting to us.
I’ll never forget the weekend, it was great just to relax and get to know such wonderful people. They mentioned to us they loved fresh grapefruit, but couldn’t get it in London; when we got home I went to Farmers’ Market and had a whole crate sent to them. I hope they liked it.