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Cynthia started out about hearing how John died in 1980

 

    The next day I went to stay with my friend Mo Starkey in London...

    It was always good to see Mo. We'd been friends since 1962, when I was John's girlfriend and she was the teenage fan who fell in love with Ringo at the Cavern. Ringo and Mo had married eighteen months after us, and in the days when the Beatles were traveling all over the world, she and I had spent a lot of time together. Her oldest son, Zak, was fifteen, a year and a half younger than my son, Julian, and the boys had always been playmates.

    When Mo and Ringo parted in 1974, she had been

 so heartbroken that she got on a motorbike and drove it straight into a brick wall, badly injuring herself. She had been in love with him since she was fifteen and his public appearances with his new girlfriend, American actress Nancy Andrews, had devastated her.

After the split, Mo, still only twenty-seven, had moved into a house in the London neighborhood Maida Vale with her three children, Zak, eight, Jason, six, and Lee, three. Because of the injuries she'd received in the motorbike accident she had plastic surgery on her face and was delighted with the result, which she felt made her look better than she had before. Gradually, she'd begun to get over Ringo, and she had a brief fling with George Harrison before she began to see Isaac Tigrett, millionaire owner of the Hard Rock Cafe chain.

    The evening I arrived, Mo had her usual household of people. Her mother, Flo, lived with her, as well as the children and their nanny. Mo always had an open house and that evening some old friends of ours, Jill and Dale Newton, had joined us for dinner. The nanny had cooked a hugh meal, and later, Jill and Dale, Maureen, and I sat over a couple of bottles of win and talked about old times. After a while, the conversation turned to the death of Mal Evans, the Beatles' former road manager. Mal had been a giant of a man, generous and soft-hearted. We'd known him since the early days when he'd worked for the post office and moonlighted as a bouncer at the Cavern Club. When the Beatles began to be successful, they took him on to work for them.

...The Mal we knew could no more have shot someone than flown to the moon. Whatever the true story, his death had shocked us all and that night, our talk around Mo's fireplace was of what a good man he had been and how awful his premature death was. To us, the idea of being shot was almost unimaginable-- how could it have happened to such a good friend?

    After a while I went to bed. I knew the others would carry on talking and drinking until the early hours, but I wanted a good night's sleep as I had to get up early in the morning to catch the train home.

I was asleep in the spare room when screams woke me. It took me a few seconds to realize that they were Mo's. At that moment she burst into my room: "Cyn, John's been shot. Ringo's on the phone- he wants to talk to you."

    I don't remember getting out of bed and going down the stairs to the phone. But Ringo's words, the sound of his tearful voice crackling over the transatlantic line, is crystal clear: "Cyn, I'm so sorry, John's dead."

    The shock engulfed me like a wave. I heard a raw, tearing sob and, with that strange detachment that sudden shock can trigger, realized I was making the noise. Mo took the phone, said good-bye to Ringo, then put her arms around me. "I'm so sorry, Cyn," she sobbed.

...By the time I was dressed and had gathered my things, Mo had organized a car and a driver to take me to Wales. She insisted on coming too, with Zak. "I'll bring Julian back to stay with us if he needs to get away from the press," she promised.

...We reached Ruthin by mid-morning, and as we rounded the corner into what was normally a sleepy little town, my heart sank.

...Amazingly we managed to park a few streets away and slip in through the back door, without being spotted by the crowd at the front.

...Mo had busied herself making tea, while Zak sat quietly nearby, not knowing what to say or do. While we drank the tea, we were talking about what to do. Maureen offered to take Julian back to London, but he said, "I want to go to New York, Mum. I wanted to be where Dad was." Although the idea alarmed me, I understood. Maureen and Zak hugged us and left, then Julian and I went up to the bedroom to ring Yoko...

 

    Ringo's new girlfriend, Maureen Cox, had already discovered that some fans hated any girl who got involved with the Beatles. Maureen had been a fan herself, though never an avid one. She was a trainee hairdresser who went to the Cavern with her friends whenever the Beatles were playing. She'd kissed Paul for a dare but really fancied Ringo and was thrilled when he asked her to dance a couple of weeks later. When Ringo started dating Maureen, she had to pretend she wasn't seeing him. One night, she was waiting for him in the car outside a gig when a girl came up, put her hand through the windo and scratched her face. She managed to lock the doors and wind up the window before the girl could do anything worse, but it shook her.

 

[First US tour, 1964]

    The fans had accepted me so Brian was in no position to object. He agreed, and I was thrilled. I was the only girl to go with them- Paul's girlfriend Jane was working, Ringo's Maureen was still in Liverpool and was too young at seventeen, and George hadn't got a steady girlfriend.

 

    Not long after we moved to Kenwood, George and Patti bought a house in Esher, a few minutes down the road, followed by Ringo and Maureen, who took Sunny Heights, just five minutes away on the same estate as us. Ringo and Maureen had continued to see each other, even though she was in Liverpool and he was in London. We all knew that Ringo had had the odd fling with other girls, but his heart belonged to Maureen. In the summer of 1964, Maureen had gone on holiday with RIngo, Paul, and Jane without telling her parents. How she thought she could holiday unnoticed with a Beatle I can't imagine. Of course, within a couple of days her picture was splashed all over the newspapers. When reporters knocked on her parents' door, her dad said, generously, that he would have let her go if he'd known about it.

In early December, Ringo collapsed and became very ill with tonsillitis, and Maureen rushed from Liverpool to be with him...

 

    In January Maureen found she was pregnant and their wedding was hastily arranged for February 11, 1966*, at London's Caxton Hall. It was a carbon copy of the situation in which John and I had found ourselves, except that this time the world's press was waiting to capture all the details. Once again, Brian did all the arranging. Maureen's pregnancy was kept secret, and to avoid publicity the register agreed to perform the ceremony at eight a.m. Paul and Jane were on holiday in Tunisia, but George and Patti*, John and I went, with Maureen's mother and Ringo's mother and stepfather. Once again, Brian was best man, and after a touching ceremony we all went back to Brian's house in Belgravia for a celebration breakfast. The newlyweds went on honeymoon to Hove, near Brighton, for three days, then Ringo had to get back to work.   

    Maureen had just turned eighteen and, to the press, appeared shy and unsophisticated. Like me, she preferred to stay in the background and give few interviews. In a brief meeting with journalists during their honeymoon she held Ringo's hand tightly and said little. One article said that one of the world's best-known bridegrooms had married one of the lease-known brides. But that was the way Ringo and Maureen wanted it. Like John, Ringo believed his family should be kept out of the limelight. He wanted to protect and shelter them and that was the best way he knew of doing it.

Far from being a shy little thing, Maureen was talkative, full of laughter and great fun: we all liked her enormously and thought she was good for Ringo. John and I were delighted when they came to live close by. Initially they'd live in Ringo's one-bedroom flat in Montagu Square, close to London's Hyde Park but, like us, they needed more space and greater privacy. All the Beatles' women got on with each other, but Maureen, who was one of the most down-to-eath, honest people I ever knew, became my closest friend. After their son Zak was born in September, seven months after the wedding, she and I used to go up to Knightsbridge to shop. Anthony [the Lennons' chauffer] would drop us off and we'd do the rounds of Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and the designer shops in between, then stop for lunch in a smart little bistro. We'd buy cute little outfits for our sons and we were always on the lookout for something different of special for the men. We loved to surprise them with a psychedelic shirt, a piece of ethnic jewelry, or I would buy John a new plectrum for his guitar...

    Much as Maureen and I enjoyed our outings, she always made sure she was home for Ringo when he came in. Such was her devotion to him that she would stay up sometimes until four in the morning to greet him with a home-cooked meal. She wanted him to feel loved and care for and, like me, she had been brought up in a family where women did the caring and nurturing while men provided.

We often went over to their house and hung out with them; it was always party time at the Starkeys'. Ringo was gregarious and fun loving, a clown and a joker with an infectious laugh. Together, he and Maureen made an irresistible double act, both extroverted and uninhibited. Ringo had installed a replica pub in the front room, which he called the Flying Cow. It had a counter and till, tankards, mirrored walls and even a pool table. He'd nip behind the bar to serve us all drinks while Maureen supplied us with endless plates of food. It was a cozy, comfortable house with what felt like the ultimate luxury at hte time: a TV- usually switched on- in every room. They had large grounds, in which Ringo had built in a go-cart track. He and John would race the go-carts or play pool while Maureen and I chatted over a cup of tea or took Zak and Julian for a walk. Ringo's other passion was making his own short films. He had lots of equipment and loved to experiment, so after the nanny had taken over Zak and Julian we'd watched his latest movie. One was a fifteen minutes study of Maureen's face. Innovative, perhaps, but not the most riveting entertainment.

 

[Partying in London clubs]

    After a long night of partying, we'd head home at dawn, usually with George and Patti or Ringo and Maureen...

 

[Life after touring, 1966]

...For Ringo i twas an opportunity to spend more time with his family. In those days he was always the most family-oriented of the boys, and liked nothing better than chilling out at home with his wife and baby.

 

[Ringo and Maureen joined John and Cynthia in Spain while John filmed 'How I Won the War', 1966]

    When Maureen and Ringo flew out to join us for a holiday it was an excuse we needed to find somewhere better. We searched out a vast villa with its own pool- we were told it had once been a convent. No sooner had we moved in than we discovered the place was haunted. Light would keep going off, objects would move mysteriously and we all felt a strange presence. We planned a party to cheer the place up. As thunder and lightning raged outside, we lit dozen of candles in the huge main room. In the flickering candlelight the atmosphere softened and someone began to sing. Everyone joined in and the most beautiful, melodious sound filled the air. It was as though we were totally in harmony, musically and spiritually. After half an hour the lights suddenly came back on and the spell was broken, but it was easy to believe that we had been guided in our son by the spirits of the nuns who had once lived there.

 

[Trip to Greece in boat, 1967]

    Ringo decided at the last minute that he'd come too. Maureen had just given birth to their second son, Jason, and was still in the hospital...

 

[Planning to travel to India, 1967]

...Paul, Jane, Ringo, and Maureen were less convinced about the joys of mediation but decided to join us. The trip was planned for February 1968 and we would stay for two or three months.

 

[In India, 1968]

    Four days later, Paul, Jane, Ringo, and Maureen arrived to join us, looking forward to a peaceful break. Ringo, wary of the spicy Indian food he was certain would be served in the communal dining-hall and determined to take no chances, had brought a crate of baked beans and another of eggs. In fact, some of the center's food was surprisingly ordinary: for breakfast, which was taken at long trestle tables out in the open and often shared with brazen monkeys, we had corn flakes, toast, and coffee...

...But Ringo and Maureen weren't happy: they missed their children, Ringo was soon tired of eggs and beans, and Maureen had a phobia about flies, which were inescapable in India. After ten days they announced they'd had enough and were going home. "That Maharishi's a nice man," Ringo said, 'but he's not for me."

 

[John and Cynthia's separation and divorce, 1968]

    Apart from Paul, I heard from no one. Ringo, Maureen, George, Pattie, and all the Beatles' friends and followers kept away. They didn't want to bring John's fury on themselves and probably didn't know what to say to me anyway, shocked and embarrassed by what had happened. In time, their marriages would unravel too, but ours was the first to go, and it must have shocked everyone.

 

    Roberto was a kind, loving man and I was sure that any problems we had could be sorted out. We married on July 31, 1970 at Kensingston register office. We invited our families, plus a few close friends, including Ringo and Maureen, and Twiggy, with her manager-boyfriend Justin de Villeneuve.

...A couple of months after the wedding we had a party at home, as a belated housewarming...Maureen and Ringo were also at the party, with Twiggy, Justin, Lulu, and her new husband Maurice Gibb, Roger Moore and his wife Luisa.

 

[The Beatles' break up; Yoko being at John's side during the Beatles' recording sessions 1968-1970]

...From the beginning there had been an unwritten agreement that wives and girlfriends would never be allowed to interfere with the Beatles' work. We often turned up at the end of recording sessions to hear the finished version but we knew the boys worked best when they were left to get on with it. It was the way they'd always preferred things.

 

    I've kept many of the friends John and I had in our Liverpool days and mourned others. Maureen, Ringo's ex-wife and a dear friend to the end, died of leukemia when she was only forty-seven. Only a few years earlier, we had been at her wedding to Isaac Tigrett, owner of the Hard Rock Cafe. Both Isaac and RIngo were at her bedside when she died, with her three children by RIngo and Alexandra**, the daughter she had with Isaac.