"Brief and to The Point" reproduces Sunday Edition of Daily Mail - Feb. 10th, 2008
Extracted from Instamatic Karma - May Pang's book to be released on Mar 4th, 2008
By MAY PANG - Last updated at 23:44pm on 9th February 2008
Most people have come to know the time that John Lennon and I spent together as The Lost Weekend. I am always surprised by how many people are under the impression that our time together lasted only a single weekend.
John and I were together "officially" for 18 months, but our relationship actually spanned ten years - from December 1970 to December 1980.
My association with the Lennons began as a working relationship. For three years, I had a dream job: personal assistant and production co-ordinator for John and Yoko.
A typical day would consist of the mundane (such as brewing the morning coffee), to calling the likes of Jackie Onassis or Andy Warhol, to co-ordinating recording sessions. Each day would hold a surprise.
But the biggest surprise of all came in the summer of 1973 as I was organising media coverage for Yoko's new album Feeling The Space and sessions for John's upcoming album Mind Games.
One morning, Yoko came to my office in their apartment at the Dakota building, New York, and told me that she and John were not "getting along", which wasn't exactly surprising news to those of us who worked alongside them.
Yoko said John would start seeing someone new and she wanted it to be "someone who would treat John well". I now sensed a bombshell coming. I was thinking: "If they split, who will I be working for?"
Yoko continued: "You don't have a boyfriend." I dropped my pad and pen. Did I just hear right?
I assured her I wasn't interested in John, if that's what she was thinking, but Yoko didn't stop there: "I think you should go out with him."
John Lennon loved being on both sides of the camera
I was dumbfounded and kept telling her no, but apparently her mind was made up. "If John asks you out, you should go!" Yoko announced, making it sound a little stronger than a suggestion.
For the next two weeks, all was quiet. Recording was put on hold and I assumed John and Yoko had worked out their differences.
When John resumed recording Mind Games, I prepared to accompany him to the studio. The moment we got into the lift at the Dakota, my world changed.
John grabbed me and kissed me and said: "I've been waiting to do that all f****** day."
As we drove to the studio, I sat in silence while John kept assuring me that "it's OK, don't be frightened, everything will be all right".
After the recording session, John told me he was coming home with me. I just couldn't deal with it, so I ordered the car to take him to the Dakota.
After a couple of nights of trying to come home with me and getting rebuffed, he sent the car away during a session without my knowledge.
May Pang had and 18-month relationship with Lennon
"We're getting a cab and I'm coming home with you," he declared. I wasn't going to argue on the streets of New York at 2am. And so our relationship began.
Shortly after Mind Games was completed, Yoko flew to Chicago for a feminist seminar. On the spur of the moment John decided we should go to Los Angeles with his lawyer, Harold Seider.
I hardly had time to pack and tell my mother. I threw a few things together and grabbed my Nikkormat 35mm camera.
John later bought me a new Polaroid SX-70 for my birthday (as well as my first cool car, a 1968 Barracuda).
In LA, we saw old friends and made new ones. We also began taking road trips because John wanted to experience America. He encouraged me to capture our times together.
Photography had always been a hobby for me, so this was natural. He "really liked my eye for taking pictures" and felt I captured him in ways that no one else had because of his comfort level with me. Of course, I was flattered.
Christmas 1974 in West Palm Beach, Florida with John's son Julian who brought him windscreen-wiper glasses
In those days, nobody thought of taking photos all the time - we always thought there would be tomorrow.
Many of what are now considered historic events, such as John and Paul McCartney's only jam session after The Beatles split up, weren't photographed. I'm surprised I captured as many moments as I did.
There were times I was a bit reticent in taking out my camera, particularly when friends stopped by. I didn't want to intrude on these moments, but John insisted.
For years, only my closest friends got to see these photos, which I kept in a shoe box in my closet. They were surprised these images did not convey the John portrayed in the Press during our time together. In fact, the photos showed a side of John seldom seen.
Every photograph holds a special memory for me, especially the ones I took of John with his then ten-year-old son, Julian. When John laid eyes on him for the first time in four years, he was shocked to see "a little man" and not the small child he remembered.
Julian (standing) and John were both good swimmers and loved taking a dip at Long Island SOund
They spent a lot of time getting reacquainted as father and son, playing the guitar and making music. They were both good swimmers, which I was not, enabling me to capture some rare moments of togetherness.
As I started going through my photos, memories of our time together came back, opening up a floodgate of emotions - from happiness to sadness and back to happiness.
The best part is that I feel these images bring John back to life. Here, I share with you John Lennon . . . through my eyes.
THE BEACH HOUSE
Although some people are under the impression that John and I spent our entire year-and-a-half together in LA, we spent only about seven months there, from September 1973, with many long breaks back in New York.
The most infamous place we called home in LA was a rented beach house in Santa Monica. It was built by film producer Louis B. Mayer, was quite "Hollywood" in design and had been a hotspot for movie royalty.
Ringo Starr was a vistor at our rented Santa Monica beach house
It was later owned by the actor Peter Lawford, who continued the tradition by hosting fellow Hollywood luminaries as well as his brothers-in-law, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, on many occasions. Allegedly, Marilyn Monroe had been a frequent visitor, which greatly piqued John's interest.
When John decided to produce Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats album, he thought it would be a great idea to have everyone who was working on it living under one roof.
John and I took the master bedroom. When we first saw it, he said: "So, this is where they did it," referring to John F. Kennedy and Monroe. The other five bedrooms were occupied by Keith Moon, Harry, Hilary Gerrard [Ringo Starr's business manager] and Klaus Voormann, the artist who had designed the cover for The Beatles' album Revolver.
The library, complete with official portrait of President Kennedy on the wall, was converted into a bedroom for Ringo.
Although we could still see remnants of the home's historic splendour, the new owners obviously didn't feel the need to preserve the original decor.
They had sealed up the huge projection screen installed by Mayer and covered expensive parquet floors with a hideous Seventies shag carpet.
Paul McCartney also dropped by the beach house
IN THE DESERT
In early October 1973, John and I went to Las Vegas for a few days. We flew there from Los Angeles on a shuttle booked by our friend Elliot Mintz, who came with us.
Our seats were in the middle of the aircraft. Everybody was going nuts over John, who looked at Elliot and said: "Why are we back here in the middle of all this?"
When Elliot explained there was no first-class section, John snapped: "Please think before putting me in this situation again!"
Once we'd had enough of Vegas, we drove back to LA. On the way, we came across an abandoned mining town called Calico, a real slice of Americana, right out of a history book or a Western.
In my pictures of John in Calico, you can see embroidery on his jeans - that's because they were mine. One morning, John woke me up by saying: "I'm wearing your jeans!"
"So I see," I said. "Why?"
"Because they fit. I love them!" He never gave them back. I thought it wise to remove the butterflies and flowers I had sewn on them - remember, this was the Seventies.
As we wandered around Calico, John kept eyeing a Harley trike, so finally I said: "Just go over to it and I'll take a picture."
I took only a single shot which, fortunately, came out pretty well. After I took the photo, John joked in a Bogey-esque drawl: "Hop on, kid, let's blow this joint."
Lennon missed the meeting that was meant to bring The Beatles to an end, so he signed the papers at our Disney hotel - my photo of him doing so has been valued at £1.2m
MAJOR AND MINOR
One day while John was recording, the studio receptionist brought in a litter of kittens. John knew what I was thinking. "No, we can't, we're travelling too much," he said.
I picked up a black one and put him over my shoulder. John rolled his eyes and said: "Now you've done it!" I had a moment of doubt but when John came over, he started stroking the kitten and said: "Well, I guess we have to have a cat."
At the end of the day when we were leaving the studio, John asked if there were any left. Only one remained - a white one that no one wanted because she was so loud - so we took them both home.
John called them Major and Minor and said they reminded him of his days with Aunt Mimi, whom he playfully referred to as the Cat Woman.
FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST
John had a voracious appetite. We had a tradition every Sunday: at 11am I'd fetch the New York Times, some of the British papers, and coffee (John gave up tea in America because it was decidedly British).
I would then make a big English breakfast of bacon and eggs, beans, toast, tomatoes, chips and sometimes black pudding, after I discovered a local Irish butcher who sold it.
I didn't know how to cook it at first, so I asked John, who said: "Just fry it up." The pudding really made the kitchen stink but he loved it.
John also loved Chinese food, especially my mum's. When we were home in New York, she would bring over her speciality: fried rice and spare ribs.
As unconventional as John was, he was also old-fashioned. Because of the nature of our relationship, John felt uneasy and never met my mum, which he later regretted. He would hide behind the door until she left.
THE FINAL CONTRACT
At the end of 1974, after three years of court battles and acrimony, the final dissolution of The Beatles was about to happen.
The meeting was scheduled for December 19 at New York's Plaza Hotel - ironically, this was the first place the group stayed in America in 1964.
George Harrison was in New York on his Dark Horse tour. Paul and Linda McCartney came in, and of course John and I were already in the city. Only Ringo was missing, but he had signed the documents in England.
Julian was with us for the Christmas holiday and all was calm, all was bright. John was even planning to join George on stage during his concert at Madison Square Garden.
Gathered around a huge table were George, his lawyer and business manager; the McCartneys, with Paul's in-laws and lawyers; Ringo's lawyer and business manager; Neil Aspinall, of Apple, with two sets of company lawyers (one for America and one for Britain); and John's lawyer Harold Seider and his team.
Harold told me that after a while, George said out loud what everyone was thinking: "Where's John?"
"Good question," replied Harold. Harold left the room to call John, who wouldn't come to the phone.
I was with John and it was up to me to tell Harold he had decided not to attend the meeting. Although John was concerned with shouldering a major tax burden because he lived in the United States, I could sense there was a bit more on his mind. His official reason for not showing was 'the stars aren't right'.
George, already in a dour mood because his tour was getting poor reviews, went ballistic. He started yelling at Harold, as did all the other lawyers in the room.
Then George picked up the phone and called John. I answered and asked if he wanted John, but he barked, "No! Just tell him whatever his problem is, I started this tour on my own and I'll end it on my own!" before slamming down the receiver. John was listening over my shoulder.
George's rage didn't last long. Julian went to George's concert the next day and returned home with a message saying: "All's forgiven, George loves you and he wants you to come to his party tonight."
We did go to the party at the Hippopotamus Club, where George, John, and Paul all hugged.
John, Julian and I left New York the following day to spend Christmas in Florida. On December 29, 1974, the voluminous documents were brought down to John in Florida by one of Apple's lawyers.
"Take out your camera," he joked to me. Then he called Harold to go over some final points.
When John hung up the phone, he looked wistfully out the window. I could almost see him replaying the entire Beatles experience in his mind.
He finally picked up his pen and, in the unlikely backdrop of the Polynesian Village Hotel at Disney World, ended the greatest rock 'n' roll band in history by simply scrawling John Lennon at the bottom of the page.Text and Photographs May Pang 2008.
Photographs Of John Lennon by May Pang to be published in the United States by St Martin's Press on March 4. A limited signed edition will be available in the UK later this year - for details visit www.instamatickarma.co.uk.
Brief and to the Point:
Comments and Questions:
- The Beatles were officially separated at Disney World in the company of Julian. Many things are to get a new perspective when analyzing Lennon's reality with Yoko under May Pang's stupefying side of the untold story.
- Lennon could have spent more time with Julian if Yoko had not been such a brutal controller of Lennon's every move, thus causing Julian to have bitter-sweet memories of his father.
- The Beatles might probably have had more friendly encounters if Yoko had not been around, since it is a fact that she was the one who did not allow Paul McCartney to meet John Lennon in New York.
- Lennon enjoyed peace by Pang's side.
The questions for which “Brief and to the Point” has not found an answer yet:
- Didn’t “Sir” Elton John notice Lennon’s happiness enough to keep Yoko Ono away from the Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974?
- Should this reconciliation not have taken place at all, would John Lennon still be alive?
- Was Lennon's Happiness such a Warm Gun for Yoko?
- And last but not to be the least: “Is Yoko Ono going to be able “to delete” this bombastic book as she did with May Pang’s backing vocals on Dream#9?