John Lennon Statue in Havana, Cuba - Dec. 8, 2000 Jun 8, 2008 0:40:23 GMT -5
Post by yerblues1968 on Jun 8, 2008 0:40:23 GMT -5
HAVANA - ALL HE NEEDS IS LOVE -- AND
SOMEONE TO KEEP AN EYE ON HIS GLASSES
By WILL WEISSERT,
Associated Press Writer
Sat Jun 7, 7:14 AM ET
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.
John Lennon statue in Lennon Park, Havana, Cuba with missing eye glasses.
"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.
John Lennon statue wearing a new set of eye glasses.
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 at his feet.
Cuba inaugurated the statue on Dec. 8, 2000, to mark the 20th anniversary of Lennon's slaying. Fidel Castro once labeled the Beatles subversive and symbols of selfish consumerism. But he made a surprise appearance at the unveiling and lamented never meeting Lennon.
The statue was a way to make up for the repression of the past, Castro said, though he stopped short of apologizing 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 more generic replacement pair a short time later.
Other Lennon statues have suffered similar fates — in November, someone stole the glasses off his statue in his hometown of Liverpool, England.
The Havana thieves were never caught, and officials began discussing ways to more firmly affix a third set of glasses, made from a plain, golden-brown colored alloy, to Lennon's nose. But they decided instead to recruit watchmen. Gonzalez, who lives nearby, was a natural choice.
He said he likes the job, despite the stinging black ants that inundate the park. He can spend time chatting with his neighbors. But he's no Beatles fan.
"I like all kinds of music," Gonzalez said, mockingly dancing in place and bobbing his head. "But not that."
Today, the Beatles are everywhere. State television airs video of their concerts, musicians pay homage to them with tribute bands and children use their music in school plays.
But many visitors still wonder why Lennon — who never visited or sang about Cuba — has a statue here.
Beatles record producer, Sir George Martin sits with John Lennon statue.
"You don't expect a British band in Cuba," said Theresa McDermott, a 62-year-old tourist from Kildare, Ireland. "And why don't they have the rest of the Beatles?"
The glasses-on-request system works fine — except at meal time.
Gonzalez and the glasses had left for a bite to eat when Pedro Martinez, deputy director of Radio Havana, visited the park on a recent afternoon. He complained the statue looked naked without its spectacles and held out his own pair, which were gold-colored but had larger, square frames.
"I'll lend mine," he laughed. "No one will want to steal them."
A Tribute from Havana to John Lennon and The Sixties
Fidel Castro Regrets Cuba's Ban on The Beatles