|You have spent quite considerable sums on buying back your father's
former possessions, like his Afghan coat and velvet cape, when they've
come up for sale.
"I've tried to secure some material possessions
of Dad's not only to pass down to my children so they will know
their history and their heritage, but also again for the rest of
the family in England. I think they deserve something of him and
While your dad was alive you made the occasional visit to New
York. How were you received?
"It was a little cold, a little odd and tense
to say the least. It was very interesting in that it was almost
like a good cop, bad cop. Yoko Ono would play the good person when
Dad was moody or just not in the mood. She'd try to keep things
smooth but we never really got close, Dad and I. She and I chatted
a lot and there were times we got on OK. But that was at a point,
again, when to a certain degree I felt I had to be nice."
Since John grew up without a father of his own, is it possible
that he just didn't know how to be a dad to you?
"Quite possibly. I think it was all too much
for him. And The Beatles' success was too much too soon in many
respects. What happened career-wise was an explosive moment in his
life. Then finding out what it meant to have a wife and kids as
well...I don't think he could deal with the responsibility. He wanted
to have fun, is what he would say."
CYNTHIA: "I think it was that he didn't have
the time more than wanting fun. I understood that he came home from
touring shattered. I also understood that he had a son who needed
his Daddy and a wife who needed her husband. But because you love
a person you acquiesce to the situation."
Julian, how have you managed to get over the anger of that disappointing
relationship with John?
"I still feel angered by it, but I understand
to a certain degree why he was the way he was."
What can you say about your half-brother Sean, his son by Yoko
"Only that I love him dearly. I did do a bit
of babysitting in the old days. After Dad's death Yoko couldn't
deal with telling Sea. I flew over as soon as I heard that Dad had
died. I was 17 but she was asking me, 'How do I tell him?' I gave
what advice I could I was there to try to help as best as possible."
CYNTHIA: "I met Sean once, at John's Aunt Mimi's
funeral. Yoko was there with him. After the service, which was very
fraught, we all went on to a hotel for a buffet. As a teenager with
his cigarette and his wine, Sean was having a ball with his newfound
"Yoko sat next to me lighting one long brown
Sherman cigarette after the other, which she'd puff on and instantly
put out. She said to me, 'You've done such a wonderful job with
Julian. How do you do it? What am I going to do with Sean?'
"I said, 'But, Yoko, it's all about love, it's
about companionship and nurturing. It's simple.'"
Julian, does the lack of a good role model in John worry you when
you think about being a father yourself?
"Not at all, because the one thing he did teach
me was how not to be a father. I've learned from his mistakes, and
through the years from friends and the people around me as I've
grown up. I've witnessed what does and does not destroy relationships.
I've made sure I understand that against the time when, one day,
I may wish to have a family."
CYNTHIA: "I think that Julian is the son who
would, had John lived, have ended up teaching the father. And it's
very sad that he isn't here. On the other hand, if he had still
been here it may be - and this is a terrible thing to say - that
John would have ended up overshadowing Julian."
JULIAN: "I know what you mean. It would have
been very weird, just knowing roughly what Dad is like in his work,
and knowing his insecurities, I think he might not have liked me
doing well. That was one of his problems."
What do the Beatles mean to you?
JULIAN: "I would have to say, not with bias,
but from an artist's viewpoint, that they were one of the best if
not the best in the world at what they did. I haven't listened to
them for years because everybody else plays it a lot, you even get
the elevator version of their songs.
"It used to happen a lot in America that I'd
walk into a bar or restaurant and they'd put The Beatles on expressly
just to see if I was who they thought I was. I learned pretty quickly
to remain stone-faced so they didn't have a clue."
It's hard to imagine just how it feels to live in such an all-eclipsing
shadow of a famous father.
"Which is why the seven-year hiatus I've had
has been very much a time of reshaping and rethinking my life. After
I decided to quite the business - whether forever or for a while
I wasn't sure at the time - I decided I wasn't a happy camper, and
that I needed to sit down and resolve the many problems I had, both
professional and emotional.
"That means a lot of thinking, sifting through
all my experience and recognizing what I did and did not want in
my life. I had to unbottle and get a lot out of my system. It was
a task I had to do almost entirely alone. A lot of my present resolve
has come from writing down in black and white the positives and
negatives in my life and literally striking out what I was never
going to do again. It was a bit like putting your life through a
sieve and letting the bad bits drop away."
And in the end, it seems you found that your name doesn't have
to be your destiny?
CYNTHIA: "Not anymore it doesn't. By strange
synchronicity I was going through the same processes as Julian at
the very same time."
JULIAN: "I refuse to be what other people want
me to be. I've got to follow my own heart and my own destiny. I've
finally made the decision to do that and be happy. I think in the
end it was as simply as deciding to be so."
What do you think the future holds?
CYNTHIA: "The future is tomorrow, tonight,
you never know what's around the corner. But I'd like to have the
best of both worlds, the culture and the art and the buzz of England
as well as the tranquility of France. And I would love to be painting,
talking, enjoying friends - the simple life is all that's necessary
now, because everything else has been so complicated. But it's taken
many years to find out just how simple the good life is."
JULIAN: "For my part, I'm going to follow through
with the drama I've promised myself: the house in Italy, a stable
life. Music's still incredibly important to me, but not at the expense
of love, friendship and creativity. There will be a cookbook and
painting and sculpture and maybe a book of photograph with poetry.
But it will all be done along with enjoying the non-materialistic
aspects of life, like being surrounded by friends, walking in the
countryside or along a beach.
"One of the great things is that I'm now not
afraid anymore. If life is a game, then I'm playing it by my rules
at last. And I'm holding the best possible cards."
© 1999 Hello Magazine