Watchful eye on Lennon glasses

ALL he needs is love — and someone to keep an eye on his glasses.

Ever since thieves twice swiped the iconic round-rimmed spectacles from Havana’s John Lennon statue eight years ago, four retirees have rotated 12-hour, round-the-clock shifts to ensure they don’t go missing again.

“You have to be here every day because the day you aren’t, there the glasses go,” said watchman Juan Gonzalez, an 89-year -old retired filing clerk, who smokes up to seven cigars a day guarding the bronze statue from a nearby bench.

In fact, the guards are so worried about another theft that they hold onto the glasses in shirt pockets or rags, restoring them to Lennon’s face only when tourists want to take pictures.

Lennon’s likeness sits cross-legged in a small park bearing his name, a place casually known as Rockers Park because amateur musicians and Beatles fans gathered there in the days when the group was banned. The Imagine lyric, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” is engraved in Spanish.

Cuba inaugurated the statue on December 8, 2000 to mark the 20th anniversary of Lennon’s slaying. Fidel Castro once labelled the Beatles subversive and symbols of selfish consumerism. But he made a surprise appearance at the unveiling and lamented never having met Lennon.

The statue was a way to make up for the repression of the past, Castro said, though he stopped short of apologising for it.

Within weeks, its snazzy bronze spectacles — which were made for the statue and never belonged to Lennon — had been stolen, and someone made off with a replacement pair a short time later.

Other Lennon statues have suffered similar fates and in November someone stole the glasses off his statue in his home town of Liverpool.

But many visitors wonder why Lennon — who never visited or sang about Cuba — has a statue there. “You don’t expect a British band in Cuba,” said Theresa McDermott, a 62-year-old tourist from Kildare. “And why don’t they have the rest of the Beatles?”


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