He's no sour Lennon
 John's 'other' son Julian is just fine, thank you

By JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun 18 March 1999

Photograph Smile

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Julian Lennon, in town to promote his first album, Photograph Smile, after a seven year absence from the music biz, appears to have survived the "absent famous father" thing miraculously well. 

There were a few years of being in a booze-and-cocaine haze while releasing four records between 1984 and 1991 -- most memorably Lennon's debut Valotte. But he says he's now matured into a "balanced and content" man despite the dysfunctional family ties revolving around his late dad John. 

"I live for today and now and the future," said Lennon, relaxing on a hotel room couch yesterday. "I don't wish to live in the past -- too many other people live in the past." 

Dropping out apparently helped Lennon, who is looking forward to launching a theatre tour to benefit charities later this year. A Massey Hall date is expected. 

"I didn't like the way my career was going," said the 35-year-old Liverpool native of taking time off to travel, cook, take photos and write. "So for me, after 10 years on the treadmill, it was time to get out. I felt, not only on a personal level, but professionally, that I needed to resolve many matters in order to figure out who the hell I was outside of the industry." 

Lennon now resides in Northern Italy, where he spent some time growing up under the care of his mother's late ex-husband Roberto Bassanini -- "the only father figure," he said -- to whom Photograph Smile is dedicated. The album cover is a photo of Lennon on a beach in Italy as a child. 

"At that point was the first time that I felt, as a kid, that I was in a family with my stepfather, with my mother," he explained. "And this album was dealing with all the crap that I went through in between." 

Lennon is, in many respects, the forgotten offspring. He was only five when his parents divorced -- his mother Cynthia Twist was John's first wife, hidden during the height of Beatlemania -- and then his father relocated to New York City to be with Yoko Ono, eventually John's second wife and the mother of their son Sean. 

Adding to the estranged factor and John's tragic murder in 1980 was Ono's closed-fisted approach to his father's multi-million-dollar estate, which Lennon only recently saw a small portion of; Sean stands to inherit the bulk. 

The British press tried to make the most out of the strained relations -- Lennon says his relationship with Ono is "non-existent" -- when both Photograph Smile and Sean's debut, Into The Sun, were released in the same week in England. 

"In the media there was the battle of the brothers," sighed Lennon. "Probably more often than not, we'd be having a cup of tea. I had to find out from friends who called up or the newspaper the next day saying, 'The Lennon Feud,' just to sell a couple of papers." 

Lennon does think, however, that Ono has meddled in his and Sean's relationship in the past. 

"I certainly think she's tried to keep some distance between us, some kind of wedge," he said. "I just know that when we have spent time together and then separate, and we say we're going to keep in contact with each other, and I do make phone calls, that he never gets the messages." 

Further fanning the flames of Lennon's outsider status is that he got only two guitars and a coat when his father died. He's now using some of his inheritance money to buy back some of his dad's belongings, among them the Afghan coat from I Am The Walrus, one of his capes from Help!, and the world's largest collection of Beatles gold albums. 

"Ono gets pissed off, to say the least, that I'm buying his stuff back with his money," says Lennon, who is negotiating with the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame to display some of the items. 

In fact, Lennon just attended this week's Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in New York, where his father's former songwriting partner, Paul McCartney, was inducted as a solo artist, alongside famed Beatles producer Sir George Martin. 

Lennon has maintained a good relationship with McCartney, who wrote Hey Jude for him when his parents broke up, but the two of them have never sat down to discuss his father. 

"It's distant, but it's always friendly, always warm," he said.