May Pang investigated in Tribeca documentary over affair with John Lennon

May Fung Lee Pang turns 72 in October, but was barely in her teens when she boldly walked into Apple’s New York offices, lied that she could type, and landed a job at the Beatles’ multimedia company. She soon became famous for having a much more intimate bond with the group than they did, as her very public 18-month affair with John Lennon in the mid-’70s is still a subject of great intrigue to his fans, 50 years later.

“Music was my passion,” said the Spanish Harlem-born author and subject of upcoming documentary The Lost Weekend: A Love Story, which will premiere June 10 before a sold-out show at the Tribeca Film Festival. “It was something I loved. I didn’t really have any skills,” she admits when she started at Apple, “but answering the phone was easy enough. My mother always said to me: “You have a mouth. You speak English. Do it.'”

She’s still at it with her involvement in the new documentary, which captures the tumultuous affair between 22-year-old Pang and John Lennon, which began when Yoko Ono tried to get them together during a time of turbulent marriage. The pair made their way to Los Angeles for what became known as “The Lost Weekend,” known for the former Beatles’ drunken antics with friends Alice Cooper, Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Micky Dolenz together as the Hollywood Vampires, their hangout up at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Blvd. next to the Roxy.

Pang, who was picked up from that Apple job by Ono herself to serve as her and Lennon’s personal assistant prior to May’s affair with Lennon, insists the phrase “Lost Weekend” doesn’t do justice to the couple’s year-and-a-half affair.

“Yeah, Yoko approached me and I thought it was crazy,” she says of being Lennon’s mistress. “I told her I wasn’t interested at all. They had problems in their marriage; they didn’t actually talk to each other. But John spontaneously decided to go to LA alone and asked me to go with him. Yoko wasn’t even aware we left until we left.”

Though May has written two books about her relationship with Lennon — including 1983’s Loving John: The Untold Story and 2008’s Instamatic Karma: Photographs by John Lennon — she has so far been reluctant to participate in a documentary and eventually agreed to work starring a trio of producers and directors in Eve Brandstein (known as the casting director for “This Is Spinal Tap”), Richard Kaufman (“Real Life: The Musical”) and Stuart Samuels (Bob Marley and Midnight Movies docs).

“People took my story and talked about my life as if they knew everything about me, but they didn’t,” she explains. “I decided it was time to reclaim my own story. It’s my version. I figured if there was going to be a movie about my life, I should be in it. Who better to tell the story than me? I lived it These are my memories Nobody has experienced it like I have. Why would I let anyone else talk about my time with John? He understood better than anyone. He always said to me, “May, it’s your opinion. It is your life. Just be aware that people will be talking about you. And they will lie about it.’”

Pang was born to a hardworking mother who opened her own business, OK Laundry, on the corner of 124th Street and Amsterdam, not far from where she lives before being forced to sell her rental homes for the newly built George Washington projects on 97th Street and exit Third Ave. Her mother sent her to the Catholic school in nearby St. Francis, where James Cagney once served as an altar boy. The film follows her and Lennon decades later at an AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony in Los Angeles honoring Cagney, where the former Beatle and Mick Jagger join Hollywood icons like John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Mae West, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, then Governor Ronald Reagan and George Burns.

“At one point George turned to me and said, ‘May, this is the third party we’ve been to this week… People are going to start talking about us.’ He was such a lovely man. John loved movie stars. He grew up watching American films.”

Dismissed from her strict father, who fancied himself still the “king of the shack” in China, May found herself subservient to the ancient cultural tradition that sons were superior to daughters. But with encouragement from her mother, who basically supported the family with her cleaning business, Pang got a job at the Beatles company.

“I was definitely an innocent guy,” says Pang, who looks wide-eyed and more than a little naïve in the footage. “I was just doing work then. I happened to be working with a famous rock star. But I was eager to learn the music business. Music got me where I was. I used to study the liner notes to learn more about the songwriters and producers. The lyrics moved me. I once told Dick Clark that “American Bandstand” helped me get through growing up as a girl in a Chinese family, which wasn’t particularly welcome. The music took me to the next level.”

Like the rest of her Boomer generation, Pang fell in love with The Beatles when she saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show, but her favorite fab wasn’t initially John but Ringo. “His blue eyes,” she laughs. As someone who grew up a fan of the Philadelphia sound – she cites singers like Bobby Rydell and Fabian – as well as the Beach Boys, she says the shock of seeing these British moptops has given way to pure affection.

“When they started singing ‘She Loves You,’ I was blown away,” says Pang.

The romance between the two began shortly before they left for Los Angeles in 1972.

“Yoko kept pushing, but I waited for John to make the first move,” May says. “It wasn’t something I wanted. After that I would say to him: ‘Where is this going?’ And he would say, ‘I don’t know. I’m just tired of being pushed around. And you know what? I’ll just try.’ He wasn’t happy in his marriage and that made life miserable for everyone who worked around them.”

May has defended herself in the past against reporters asking if she took advantage of her brief fling with Lennon, and she admits she wasn’t proud to be the other woman.

“I felt terrible, and I told John that,” she says. “Yoko called 10-15 times a day to see what was going on. I didn’t know that she was cheating on him at the same time. I had no idea, and neither did John. We found out together.

“I just wanted to treat him like a normal person. I didn’t want to be his mother, but I was his secretary, his personal assistant. I would answer the phones for him. When we got together, I stopped working for him. But I wanted to help him with everyday things. I wanted it to be just me and him.”

The film’s story is told in part through animation and a historical soundtrack – compiled by veteran music supervisor Howard Paar – with the imagery resembling Lennon’s own ornate flourishes appearing on a series of handwritten notes from him to May who also appear in the film.

“I thought the animation was brilliant, just so clever,” says Pang. “I was also surprised by some of the recordings that were found of me. When people asked for my autograph, I would tell them, ‘You don’t want mine…you do his.’ One star is enough for every family.”

Pang insists the famous troubadour incidents – in which John was kicked out of the legendary Hollywood club for molesting the Smothers Brothers and then putting a bandage on his head – were anomalies in Lennon’s stay in Los Angeles, where he Harry Nilsson in particular.

“John was drinking, but looking back it was overkill,” says Pang. “The press keeps repeating the same stories.”

May admits she eventually fell in love with Lennon. When asked if he’s a good lover, she smiles a Cheshire cat grin. “What do you think?”

The couple had to return to New York in February 1974 so that Lennon could meet with attorneys about his US immigration status

“Yoko told John she wanted a divorce and ordered him to go to her law office to sign the papers. When John came home he claimed, ‘I’ll be a free man in six months.’”

Ono had told Lennon she knew a way to hypnotize him to quit smoking. Pang recalls visiting her and promising to return to her apartment on E. 52nd Street and take her out to dinner. She and Lennon planned to meet up with Paul and Linda McCartney in New Orleans, where the couple was recording a new album.

“I had a weird feeling, a premonition that something wasn’t going in the right direction,” May said. Lennon never returned that night, instead ending up with Ono at her Dakota apartment where they spent five years of housekeeping and their raised son Sean until his assassination in December 1980.

“I knew in that moment if John and I had gone to meet Paul and Linda there would have been new music. He asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to write with Paul again. What do you think I said?”

After splitting from Lennon, Pang was married to David Bowie producer Tony Visconti from 1989 to 2000 and has two children who are now in their early 30s. Daughter Lana is Design Director for Nest fragrances and candles while son Sebastian is a consultant.

With her mop of purple hair, May Pang looks the same now as she did then, and looking back she remembers “the lost weekend” as anything but lost. She’s proud of the reunion of John with his son Julian – who beams as he speaks of May in his on-camera interviews – and his ex-wife Cynthia, who died in 2015. She also remembers the good times for Lennon in terms of his career. He had his first #1 solo single with “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” a collaboration with Elton John; She recalls that John was inspired for the title by a sermon by eccentric TV evangelist Reverend Ike. This hit single fueled Lennon’s chart-topping album Walls & Bridges, and Lennon appeared at a live concert at Madison Square Garden for the first time in years to perform the new song with his friend and co-writer.

“Let’s put it this way. My time with John might have been brief, but everything during it was monumental,” she says. “I was there when he last jammed with Paul… I played tambourines with Mal Evans. We played together seen UFOs.”

Looking back on Lennon’s death 42 years ago, May believes Lennon, who would now be 81, would still be “writing songs at that age if he had lived. He couldn’t stop. He was such a great writer. It just flowed out of him on that level. He would have been very vocal about what he was up to in the world. Everything to him was ‘Bullshit… What’s up with everyone?’ I miss those conversations.”

And what does she do with all the memorabilia Lennon left behind, the doodles, drawings and photographs?

“They’re all in a locker and they’re very valuable to me,” says Pang. “Maybe nobody else. I might pass them on to my kids, but I cherish them all. The first guy I ever lived with was John Lennon… Imagine that.” May Pang investigated in Tribeca documentary over affair with John Lennon

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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