Lena Hilda Zavaroni was born on 4 November 1963 in Rankin Memorial Hospital, Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland, United Kingdom to Victor Zavaroni (1939) and Hilda Catherine (Jordan) Zavaroni (c1940-1989).
Archive Photo of the Rankin Memorial Hospital
Early Life: Lena grew up in the small town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
Her parents owned a fish and chip shop called Zavaroni’s.
One of three Restaurants named Zavaroni’s
Lena Zavaroni as a toddler
Her sister Carla was born on 22 March 1966.
She was married to Peter Wiltshire on the 30 September 1989 in St Mary’s Church, Finchley, Greater London, England, United Kingdom. It only lasted 18 months.
She died on the 1 October 1999 in University Hospital of Wales , Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom of Pneumonia.
It was during the summer of 1973 that the Lena Zavaroni success story really began. Record producer Tommy Scott happened to be on vacation in Rothesay and heard Lena singing in the “Athletic Bar” with the Zavaroni Family Band. Tommy’s old buddy; 60’s impresario Phil Solomon takes up the story.
I was looking for a girl singer at the time. Tommy rang me up and said he’d found a sensational little girl up in Scotland, so we flew up to Glasgow and took a ferryboat to the Isle of Bute. On the boat, Tommy suddenly turned to me and said, ‘Oh, incidentally, the girl’s only nine!’ I could have killed him. He knew I’d dealt with kids in the past and had vowed never to work with them again because they are too much trouble. Anyway, Tommy kept insisting that this child was different, but I was in a dark mood by the time we got to Rothesay. We picked this little girl up and went to a deserted dance hall called “The Pavilion” to see her act. Her uncle and father accompanied her and suddenly I heard this incredible voice singing the theme from “The Godfather.” It took only eight bars, and I knew this was a fantastic talent.
From this moment, under the management of Dorothy Solomon, Phil Solomon’s partner, Lena enjoyed outstanding success.
I knew this was a fantastic talent
- I hope This is a misquote.
- This is not a nice thing to call a human being.
- This could explain the lack of care show towards Lena Zavaroni by her management team.
- This lack of care can’t be justified by claiming I was only Lena Zavaroni’s manager, not when you had a 10 year-old living in your home.
One Life Two Paths
The start of the two paths her life would take One to Stardom the other to Anorexia and Depression.
Lena moved to London to stay with her managers Dorothy and Phil Solomon.
Dorothy and Phil Solomon
She had to adapt to a new way of life; such as discovering lifts, and traffic lights and learning about napkins for the first time.
One of the first things Lena’s agent did for Lena was to put her on a diet.
SHE set out on the path to fame as a healthy, happy 10-year-old with a voice to die for and everything to live for.
But by the time the world had woken up to Scottish singer Lena Zavaroni’s talent, her agent had put her on a diet.
Lena’s new eating regime was meant to be a healthy and nutritious diet.
But it sowed the seeds in the mind of the young star and put her on a roller-coaster ride that would lead to her tragic death at the age of
The Free Library, 15 February 2000
What is unclear about the situation with Lena living in London with her managers is who was taking parental responsibility. One would think it would still be her mother and father, but if that’s the case did her managers ask for permission to put Lena on a diet?
The article from The Free Library goes on to say…
She was on a crash course to self-destruction and she still wasn’t even old enough to leave primary school. Now, for the first time since the anorexic star’s death last October, her family have spoken about the agony of watching Bute-born Lena starve herself.
They have recalled how the happy little 10-year-old singer was suddenly put on a diet after moving from her Rothesay home to stay with her London agent, Dorothy Solomon. The Free Library, 15 February 2000
If the media is correct in their comments then they are implying that Lena Zavaroni’s family are only showing retrospective concern, as back in 1974 they made the choice to let their daughter go and stay with her agent.
Saying it’s what Lena Zavaroni wanted is no justification for letting her go. Parental control is about saying no to some things after all Dorothy Solomon was a stranger to them all at that time. The media comments seem to implied they had given up their Parental responsibilities as they took no action to prevent Lena Zavaroni from being put on a diet in 1974 but in 2000 claim that they had not agree to the diet.
On Monday 7 January 1974 Lena would make her debut TV appearance on Opportunity Knocks.
Lena was currently our hottest act, having just completed a five-week run on the TV talent show OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS and now with the charting single and album, “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me”. Time goes by and Lena’s new record album is overdue for delivery and we are in danger of not having the income included in our quarterly sales. AJ and I discuss the situation and I am instructed to inform Phil that he is in breach of contract and that we will take the legal action to have delivery of the recording.
John McCready - The Wrath Of Solomon - 11 December 2009
It Was Considered Acceptable To Comment On A Minor’s Weight And Size
The comments did not just go on behind the scenes some interviewers also seemed to find it acceptable to question a minor about her weight and nobody seemed to be challenging the treatment of Lena behind the scenes.
When they tried to fit me into those costumes, they would talk about my weight. I kept wondering how they expected me to fit into these dresses. I was a plump little girl and I was also developing into a woman. I wanted to be just right for them but I had to go to all these breakfasts, dinners and lunches.” She added: “I only became fanatical about not eating when the pressure became too much. I just wanted to have a nice shape.
Lena Zavaroni via Internet Debris
I’ve got to wear all these silly costumes and try and get into them and be with it for the TV.
The comments made by Lena Zavaroni and the continuing questioning of her weight in interviews created the myth that because of her size the TV Companies and/or her management team could not find cloths to fit her (the reality was more likely a way of saving money).
Unlike any other star the young Lena Zavaroni was to be seen wearing the same cloths again and again and so unsurprisingly when we look back she had become anorexic, yet the person(s) responsible for her physical and emotional abuse have never been charged or investigated.
As well as being anorexic Lena Zavaroni had to deal with depression that also lasted the rest of her life.
She underwent a number of treatments non of which worked.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Lena had to travel to Canada for the Electroconvulsive Therapy.
More details to be added if and when they becomes available.
University Hospital of Wales
On the 7 September 1999 Lena Zavaroni underwent Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder (NMD) (aka Psychosurgery) the type she was treated with was Anterior Capsulotomy which is one of the 4 types of stereotactic psychosurgery available.
The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff allowed this surgery even though Lena Zavaroni was seriously weakened by her anorexia. In the first days after the operation she appeared to slowly recover and seemed less unhappy; she even asked a doctor if it would be possible to resume her career.
But she would never leave the hospital. Within three weeks, on October 1, 1999 she died from a Pneumonia infection. She was just 35. At the time of her death she weighed only five stone (70 lb, 32 kg).
Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder (NMD)
Surgeons at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff have conducted 56 NMD operations in the past decade. It was there that the former child singing star Lena Zavaroni, who suffered from anorexia, underwent such surgery in 1999 for severe depression. Though the operation seemed to have been a success, she died of Pneumonia less than a month later. According to Brian Simpson, consultant neurosurgeon at Cardiff, the operations his team have conducted have led to a “marked improvement” in roughly half of those being treated for severe depression and OCD. “NMD is not a panacea,” Simpson agrees. “It is carefully regulated and only offered to patients for whom all other treatments have failed But in the patients for whom it works well, whose suffering has been indescribable, it transforms their lives.”
Extract from The Observer, Elizabeth Day, 13 January 2008
Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder (Modern stereotactic psychosurgery)
Has four types of procedures:
- anterior cingulotomy
- subcaudate tractotomy
- limbic leucotomy (aka lobotomy)
- anterior capsulotomy
The procedure carried out on Lena Zavaroni was anterior capsulotomy
It is not unreasonable for us laypeople to beleive that Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder is a lobotomy by another name after all the suffix ‘-otomy’ is derived from the Greek suffix τόμος, -tómos, “meaning cutting, sharp, or separate” so Lobotomy, anterior cingulotomy, subcaudate tractotomy, limbic leucotomy and anterior capsulotomy are basically the same procedure done on different parts of the brain with the prefix indicating the part of the brain that is given a cut to seperate it from another part.
Just because modern Psychosurgery uses electricity to create the cuts in the brain instead of a Hammer & Orbitoclast does not mean they are not the same after all the expected outcome is still the same.
Mental Health Act 1984 - England and Wales
Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder is covered by section 57 of the Mental Health Act 1983, which covers all patients, whether voluntary or detained under another section of the Act (sectioned). Under section 57, neurosurgery can be given only if all three of the following requirements are met:
- You consent to the treatment.
- second opinion appointed doctor (SOAD) and two other people appointed by the Care Quality Commission in England or the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales certify that you have the capacity to consent and have done so.
- The SOAD also certifies that it is appropriate for you to receive the treatment.
This section of the Mental Health Act seems flawed How can an individual with severe mental heath problems make an informed chose if they are capable of making such a chose then I would argue that they don’t need the surgical procedure.
Campaign For Truth
The famous British child star had been struggling with anorexia for 22 years. In September 1999, after years of psychotherapy, anti-depressants and electroshock treatment had failed, she was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales at Cardiff for a lobotomy. In spite of warnings that the discredited operation could destroy her intellect, erase parts of her memory and change her character, Lena and her family persuaded themselves that it was for the best. After all, Britain’s most skilled ‘brain surgeons’ would be presiding. Bob Burrows, a spokesman for the hospital, pointed out to the London Times that the operation was performed using the latest cutting-edge technology: “We are one of the UK’s premier teaching hospitals and at the leading edge of research and medical technology. Miss Zavaroni came to Cardiff because we are one of the few centres in the world that carry out this operation.” Lena died of a chest infection two weeks after the operation. She weighed just 49 lbs.
Extract from Phillip Day’s, Campaign For Truth, 24 March 2011
- There are many different types of bacteria and viruses that can lead to Pneumonia.
- Good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent Pneumonia.
Pneumonia can lead to complications, some of which can be fatal, depending on the health and age of the patient. These include:
- Respiratory failure (when the lungs cannot take in enough oxygen) due to the air sacs filling with fluid.
- lung abscesses.
- blood poisoning (septicaemia).
Sadly we know her lifestyle was less then healthy and people with anorexia nervosa are more likely to get Pneumonia , but Lena Zavaroni was in a hospital that should have had very good hygiene.
It is stated by the media that Lena die of Pneumonia, but not how the hospital was treating the Pneumonia and how when Lena was in hospital she came to get Pneumonia in the first place.
The death of Lena Zavaroni shows that the Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder she underwent should not have been preformed as she was not of significant weight or health for her body’s immune response to cope with any possible postoperative complications.
The inquest as far as we can tell did not take that into account.
Prior to her death Lena was admitted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for a psychosurgical operation that was described as “pioneering” and “keyhole surgery to partially interrupt the nerve pathways that control emotions”.
The operation took place on 7 September 1999. After the operation she contracted Pneumonia and her weight drop to less than five stone (70 lb, 32 kg), just three weeks later she was dead.
On Lena’s death certificate it states she died from Bronchopneumonia on 1 October 1999.
But the reality of her death is not as straightforward as her death certificate implies. The description of her death as one of natural causes is as far from reality as you could get.
Reports of Lena Zavaroni’s death, described as one of natural causes, is littered with failures and nebulous explanations about the treatment she received during the years leading up to her death. Many give mere justifications why the treatments did not work and emphasise the “huge problems faced in attempting to treat her illness.”
Citizens Commission on Human Rights
Lena Zavaroni’s Funeral - Friday, 15 October 1999
The service took place at The Roman Catholic Church of St Augustine, Presbytery, High Street, Hoddesdon, Herts, EN11 8DS.
The Roman Catholic Church of St Augustine, Presbytery, High Street, Hoddesdon, Herts EN11 8DS
Hoddesdon Cemetery, Lena Zavaroni’s Grave
Hoddesdon Cemetery, Lena Zavaroni’s Grave
Inquest: A judicial inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to an incident, such as a death
Zavaroni Operation Was Not A New Technique
The hospital where tragic former childhood star Lena Zavaroni died following brain surgery has rejected claims she had undergone pioneering treatment.
Miss Zavaroni, 35, died on Friday from an infection after experts at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff carried out delicate neurosurgery to try to cure her mental illness.
Caring Online, 4 October 1999
All we can say is there is a lot of unknowns:
- How did Lena Zavaroni contract Bronchopneumonia while in a hospital?
- How was the hospital treating the Bronchopneumonia .
- Did the coroner ask way the surgical procedure Neurosurgery for Mental Disorder (NMD) was done considering the weight of Lena Zavaroni?
- Did the coroner ask if the hospital considered what if any were the dangers of post-operative infection and how they planed to deal with such an outcome?
- Did the coroner request an autopsy?
- Did the coroner look at her brain and see where the holes and cuts were made for the NMD or did the coroner just look into the effects of the Bronchopneumonia on her lungs.
- How independent was the coroner from the staff at the hospital?
- How much focus was given to the long term mental health of Lena Zavaroni and the effects of the abuse she had received throughout her live.
- Why has there never been a full investigation into the life and death of Lena Zavaroni?