AUGUST 2005 ISSUE

 Interview with May Pang (8-1-05)
      By Ronnie

       Intro: 
      Those well versed in Beatles-lore are familiar with the name May Pang, who 
      had an 18-month relationship with John Lennon in the mid-'70s. However, 
      she was a far cry from a "mistress" and the true story is far different 
      from the official (and Yoko sanctioned) story of "lost weekend", which 
      tries to portray John as a drunken lout who went on a mid-life crisis 
      binge before returning to Yoko in 1975. While there have been many books 
      about John Lennon's "househusband" years between 1975-1980, there was only 
      one book that seemed to capture John's notoriously-misnamed "lost 
      weekend", and that was May Pang's "Loving John: The Untold Story". 
      Although the book originally came out in 1983, it has been unfortunately 
      out of print (seeing a brief reissue in 1992). The book's M.I.A. status 
      leaves a whole segment of Lennon's life "conveniently" out of the picture, 
      to be unchallenged and open for manipulation by those wish to "rewrite" 
      the Lennon legacy. "Convenient" for the creators behind "Lennon the 
      Musical", which leaves out key moments in the life of John Lennon in a 
      project which is supposed to be a "musical biography". 
      I talked to May Pang recently about these attempts to "rewrite" John's 
      life. While our January, 2002 interview had been via e-mail, this time I 
      talked to May by telephone. On the phone May was friendly, completely 
      frank and totally open to any questions I posed to her. In fact, our phone 
      conversation felt like I was talking to an old friend about The Beatles 
      and before I knew it - I realized we had been on the phone an hour. While 
      we also talked about Mal Evans, Phil Spector, Julian Lennon and Pete Ham - 
      I'm mainly going to concentrate on the John Lennon. 
      Also, thanks to May's publicist David Salidor for arranging the interview! 

      E.C.: Thanks for agreeing to do another interview. 
      May Pang: (laughs) Thanks for having me. 
      E.C.: It's great to talk to you this time because our last interview was 
      via e-mail… 
      May Pang: God, that was a long time ago… 
      E.C.: About 3 years ago… 
      May Pang: Has it been that long? 
      E.C.: I'll try to cover some questions that I didn't ask during our last 
      interview so we don't repeat ourselves…and questions I'm sure you've heard 
      a million times like, "What was John Like?" And if anybody has read your 
      book (LOVING JOHN), they already know that! 
      May Pang: Yes! There's not too much more to say about it on that level: 
      "What was he like". He is, you know, a very funny witty man. He also was a 
      very intelligent man - his thirst for knowledge was always there. 
      E.C.: It seems that you always have to defend yourself in what has been 
      called "the lost weekend"… 
      May Pang: I know. 
      E.C.: Even though he had one of his most creative periods, with his first 
      number one album and single, collaborations with Elton John and Bowie, 
      etc. Does it weigh on you, always having to defend this time in John's 
      life against the "lost weekend" mentality? 
      May Pang: It's true, it does. But after a while, too, you almost half 
      expect it. You know, people say, "John said it was this or that" but there 
      were a lot of reasons for him saying certain things. He couldn't very well 
      say, "I had the time of my life." People fail to understand the "behind 
      the scenes" situation - they just know what was said - and had to be said 
      - publicly. 
      People have sent me comments from different chat rooms, and they want to 
      believe what they want to believe. Only John and I know what was going on 
      - and a few friends that were around knew what was happening. But if 
      people really did their homework, really knew anything about John - they 
      would know that it wasn't a "weekend". I've actually had people say, "Why 
      are you talking about it if it was only a weekend with him?" That's when 
      you know they really don't know. 
      You're talking about his most creative and prolific period of his solo 
      career. When people see the picture of John in his New York City t-shirt - 
      it was taken on our terrace, our rooftop. People don't have a clue about 
      that time frame. They think he was just down-and-out drunk all the time. 
      The press is at fault as are other people who like to perpetuate that myth 
      - and even John himself for saying certain things he had to say. 
      E.C.: But he wouldn't have been able to make such a great album (WALLS AND 
      BRIDGES) if he had been soused all the time? 
      May Pang: Oh absolutely! Yes, we went out a couple of times - and when 
      you're hanging out with Harry Nilsson or Jesse Ed Davis it could become a 
      difficult situation. They were very strong figures and they loved drinking 
      and doing other things. The newspaper is not going to sell as well with 
      Harry Nilsson, especially when you've got John Lennon sitting next to you! 
      You know, we've gone out, John and myself, and had a couple of glasses of 
      wine - but you don't hear about that because nothing happened. It's when 
      he hung out with the guys on only two occasions when it got a bit rowdy. 
      But they take those two incidents and make it appear that this was John 
      for the whole time. 
      E.C.: When reading your book, I noticed a fact that a lot of people seem 
      to ignore - that Yoko was in constant contact calling on the phone all the 
      time! 
      May Pang: Right. There wasn't a day that didn't go by that she didn't stay 
      in contact. She called us all the time. It wasn't like she never talked to 
      him - she was always calling. 
      E.C.: Aren't you glad that this was before the advent of cell phones?! 
      Then it really would have been all the time. 
      May Pang: Oh my… (laughs) You know, you're right. Or e-mails. I know that 
      John would have loved e-mail and the internet. 
      The phone never stopped ringing. And that was even before the answering 
      machine. It was constant - once she got us, she knew we were there usually 
      in the morning. 
      E.C.: That must have been maddening, because in your book there are some 
      days when she would call multiple times? 
      May Pang: If it happened to be something that she [Yoko] wanted to know - 
      it would be like we would hang up, and seconds later it was again. Or she 
      forgot something and would call again. And after awhile John felt guilty 
      if he didn't answer it. 
      E.C.: Your book LOVING JOHN has been out of print for a while. Is there 
      any chance of a new, "updated" edition, with some of the stories that were 
      left out? 
      May Pang: Very possible…very possible. I'm actually working on another 
      one, which will be a coffee table book… 
      E.C.: Yes, the last time we talked you mentioned compiling a Lennon photo 
      book using your own personal photos. 
      May Pang: Since that time a lot of different things have sidetracked me, 
      and now its time to finally bring it out. I always believed that God works 
      in mysterious ways - and certain things don't happen at the time you want 
      them to. But they happen when they're meant to happen. 
      E.C.: I had also read another interview you did in which you mention that 
      you hadn't talked to Yoko since the '70s? 
      May Pang: That's true. 
      E.C.: I was just curious about the IMAGINE film from 1988 that you were 
      in. Who contacted you? 
      May Pang: That would be the producer himself, Andrew Solt. He called me 
      up. 
      E.C.: Because I always thought that that film (IMAGINE) was a Yoko-led 
      project, to counteract the spin of the Goldman book? [Albert Goldman-THE 
      LIVES OF JOHN LENNON] 
      May Pang: Right, but I think Andrew Solt also knew that when you have 
      everybody from Cynthia [Lennon-John's first wife] - you had to put in 
      everyone. He probably said, 'You can't do one without the other'. 
      E.C.: Unlike the Lennon Musical? 
      May Pang: (laughs) I find it…very interesting. 
      E.C.: I mean it [Lennon the Musical] has almost been universally panned by 
      the critics and they keep saying that they're making more changes, making 
      more changes. Maybe someone needs to realize that they have a bad product! 

      May Pang: I went to see it with Roger Friedman from Fox news, who invited 
      me. I said 'You know what? I've heard so much about it, I want to see it.' 
      I wanted to see how John was portrayed; to see what John was about. 
      And…it's supposed to be his biography. I found it -- from my own personal 
      view - kind of confusing. Everyone on stage was saying their lines in 
      split seconds. I didn't see Julian, I didn't see George, we were going 
      through those early years very quickly. The only thing I saw about Ringo 
      was that he couldn't handle the food in India [1968 Beatles visit to see 
      the Maharishi in India]. When Paul finally arrives on the scene, he's a 
      black man. I was confused at the beginning when all these people were 
      saying lines about John - before realizing they were actual quotes from 
      John. I hear some of those things and even though John might have said it, 
      it's out of context. 
      The song MIND GAMES was not sung in the right time period - it was not 
      where it's supposed to be in the timeline. The two songs that represented 
      The Beatles were "Money" and "Twist and Shout" - both non Lennon/McCartney 
      tunes. They need a good, strong representation of the Beatles, which led 
      to John to becoming a soloist; you have to show the place he started from. 
      And his starting point was The Beatles, it was his band. Whether or not he 
      left them later on, those were his formative years. Anyone who doesn't 
      really know who The Beatles were, a young person, wouldn't understand the 
      significance and impact of that band. [In Lennon the Musical] you know 
      they were a popular band. I never got the feeling that The Beatles were 
      important; that they changed the face of music. 

      E.C.: And that's what bugs me about the play - I don't like any kind of 
      revisionalism, where they tried to change how things actually happened. 
      And the importance of certain events. 
      May Pang: Right…again, I'm not in the play and that's fine, but at the 
      same time you have just revised history. If it's supposed to be accurate, 
      even with artistic license, I should be in it! Or at least George should 
      be, even for a casual mention. (laughs) 
      E.C.: Another writer from EAR CANDY is doing an article on Darin Murphy, 
      who is an understudy in The Lennon Musical. When asked why certain things 
      were left out of the play…well, here's a quote from that article: 
        "References to John's first wife Cynthia, and their son Julian are 
        downplayed. Also, John's short-term mistress May Pang is omitted from 
        the play…He [Darin] obviously didn't want to give away any of the 
        specific details of the show. He did, however, say that any revisions to 
        be made would help to clarify the show without "dumbing it down." 
      So that's how they are trying to justify omissions from the history of 
      John Lennon. 
      May Pang: Well…that's interesting. Talk about spin doctoring. 
      It makes me laugh because I had a 10-year relationship with John, which a 
      lot of people don't realize. I worked at ABKCO in 1969 and it was December 
      of 1970 when John walked in and hired me. And of course he died in 
      December of 1980, so that's ten years. So, in that time we were together 
      as employer and employee for a bit - and then obviously something else. We 
      remained close until the time he died. 
      But the two years that I was with him also represented a very creative 
      time and an extensive body of work. MIND GAMES, ROCK AND ROLL, WALLS AND 
      BRIDGES, and PUSSYCATS…and, as you said, collaborations with David Bowie, 
      Elton John, Ringo Starr, jamming with Jagger, jamming with Paul. So I 
      think he did a lot during our time together. People can discount certain 
      things if they want to, but he didn't sit around and do nothing and the 
      evidence of his work speaks for itself. Oh, I forgot George Harrison. 
      (laughs) We were with each one of those guys [The Beatles] and we hung out 
      with them. 
      E.C.: Have you read Tony Bramwell's Beatles book [MAGICAL MYSTERY TOURS]? 
      May Pang: No I haven't. 
      E.C.: Because I found an interesting parallel between his book and your 
      book. 
      May Pang: Oh really? 
      E.C.: In his book, Tony mentions that when Yoko Ono first came on the 
      scene, between 1968-70, there were many who thought that John had somehow 
      been "hypnotized" by Yoko. In your book [LOVING JOHN], when he went back 
      for the so called "smoking cure" that Yoko offered - you also mention that 
      John seemed "hypnotized" afterwards. Some might call this far fetched, but 
      here you have two different books, which mention "hypnotism" at different 
      times. 
      May Pang: I know that he drank some "tea", and whatever might have been in 
      that tea I don't know. I only know what he's telling me and how I saw him 
      after. 
      I haven't spoken to Tony Bramwell in I guess many years now! I knew he had 
      a book out, but I haven't read it yet. 
      E.C.: I also recently interviewed Micky Dolenz, and in his book he relates 
      a story of hanging out with John, Harry Nilsson, and Brian Wilson at a 
      Malibu Beach house. Was Brian Wilson a regular with this group? 
      May Pang: I don't remember Brian hanging out with us that much. Brian, we 
      saw a couple of times. We saw him once at this birthday party…in fact, 
      that was the first time that we had seen him. I think it was for Ricky 
      Martin - I'm talking about Dean Martin's son - it was like his 18th 
      birthday or something. I remember seeing this guy - and this was at a time 
      when he was really heavy - and I saw him coming towards us and went, "Oh 
      my god". And I whispered under my breath, as I did quite often with John, 
      "The man that's about to come over to us is Brian Wilson. Remember, we saw 
      Dennis Wilson, his brother, the other day? This is Brian…Beach Boy". And 
      John turned around and he was like, "Ohhh". Just as Brian was about to 
      speak, John spun around and said, "Hi Brian". And you could see this look 
      in Brian's eyes as he said, "Hey man, you have any reds?" John looked at 
      him and said, "Don't do that stuff, sorry man". And he walked away. That's 
      where Brian was at that moment in time. 
      It was an interesting evening. And Elton came with us to that party. Our 
      main purpose was to meet Elizabeth Taylor. And at that same party was when 
      we met David Bowie. We were actually introduced to Bowie by Elizabeth 
      Taylor. 
      E.C.: When it comes to people's knowledge about the "lost weekend", what 
      facts would you most want to set straight about this period? 
      May Pang: Ooh, there's a lot. 
      E.C.: I mean, we've talked about some of them: John wasn't drunk all the 
      time; he was very productive in the recording studio… May: There were only 
      two incidences that the press keeps bringing up and she [Yo
      May Pang: ko] put those two of those instances in the show to represent 
      the whole time period. 
      E.C.: Wait? So they do portray the "lost weekend" in the play, but you're 
      still not in it? 
      May Pang: I'm not in it. The only thing that they portray is the part 
      where John gets drunk at the Troubadour. And what it is - it was two 
      incidences that actually happened at the Troubadour, but she combined them 
      into one. But that's the only portrayal from our time, which I think is 
      very unfair. Like I said before - what about all the other stuff that he 
      had done? 
      And the other thing is that Yoko and John reunited at Elton John gig on 
      Thanksgiving, 1974. 
      E.C.: And the "official" story is that John didn't know that Yoko was 
      there? 
      May Pang: Not only did we know she was coming, we arranged tickets for her 
      and her date. John and I were together another three months. 
      And one other thing, I hate when people say "mistress". When you use the 
      word "mistress" it sounds like I'm hiding. 
      E.C.: It was very public… 
      May Pang: Yeah, it was very public. And they were separated. John and I 
      lived together in our own apartment. I would normally be referred to as a 
      "girlfriend" or "companion". "Mistress" and all its connotations doesn't 
      really apply here. 
      Let see, what other "facts" about the "lost weekend" can I clarify? John 
      and Paul talked all the time. John and Ringo, obviously, he lived with us 
      in Los Angeles. And George and John were close as well. He was really with 
      all of them. Mick [Jagger] was a frequent visitor to our house. I'm trying 
      to remember all the myths because there are so many. Can you remember any 
      of them? 
      E.C.: I think we've touched on several. Just by calling that period the 
      "lost weekend", a lot of people just think that is was just a short period 
      of time. 
      May Pang: Oh, when she [Yoko] says, "I sent them both to LA". It really 
      didn't happen that way. John's lawyer was at the apartment [The Dakota] 
      and John asked him, "When are you going back to LA?" And he goes, "I'm 
      going back this evening." John said, "You know what? I think we're going 
      to go with you. May and I are just going to go to LA with you." It was on 
      the spur of the moment and we called Yoko once we were out there. 
      E.C.: That's why I feel that there is a need to have your book [LOVING 
      JOHN] reprinted, if for no other reason than to counter some of these 
      myths. 
      May Pang: Perhaps someday. I'd like to clarify all the timelines. John did 
      not return to the Dakota until February 1975. After the show with Elton in 
      1974, we took Julian to Disneyland. So, if somebody was a real fan they 
      would realize that the timing is off. We hung out with Bowie, and they 
      collaborated on "Fame" in January 1975. 
      When we parted it wasn't something that we had planned on. When he came 
      back to tell me, he said it would help his immigration problems - Yoko had 
      convinced him that that was the best way to do it. She also told him that 
      he could still see me. 
      E.C.: She had more control over him that way… 
      May Pang: Yes. And slowly, I wasn't supposed to be around anymore. 
      E.C.: Another little known fact was that he did hang out with Paul again… 
      May Pang: He wanted to write with Paul again. He asked me if I thought it 
      was a good idea. I told him I thought it was a great idea, "because you 
      two want to do it. There are no contracts, no pressure. Just the most 
      amazing songwriting team ever getting together to create some musical 
      magic." Solo they were great, but together they were unbeatable. He 
      thought about it and he said, "You know what? Let's go down and visit Paul 
      and Linda. 
      E.C.: In New Orleans? [During the making of VENUS AND MARS] 
      May Pang: Yes, in New Orleans. Later that week on a Friday afternoon, Yoko 
      called John to say, "today was the day, the stars are right. Gotta come 
      today, we've gotta do this 'cure' to get you to quit smoking." My gut 
      feeling was telling me he shouldn't go. It didn't sit well with me. John 
      saw that I was really upset. He goes, "Let's not fight about it - I'll be 
      home for dinner. Whatever place you wanna go for dinner. And then let's 
      make the plans to go down to New Orleans." And I knew…when he walked out. 
      You know you have a gut feeling? I knew something was going to change. 
      I told Paul - about 15 years later when I had a chance to see him in 
      England. I said to him, "Listen, for what it's worth, I just want you to 
      know that John really loved you." He said, "Oh, I know that." Then I said, 
      "You know, we were going to come down to New Orleans because he wanted to 
      write with you again." He looked at me and said, "Oh yeah…that would have 
      been great." Now I know he didn't even want to entertain that thought. 
      Coming down to New Orleans? I could tell that he thought I was just being 
      nice. 
      A year had gone by and I get a call from Paul's office to invite me to his 
      annual Buddy Holly party in New York. So I went and I waved as they came 
      in - and Paul rushed over and said, "Linda, tell her, tell her!" I said, 
      "Tell me what?" "You know how Derek Taylor always sells memorabilia? Well, 
      we got one of his postcards from John." And I said, "What was it?" On the 
      postcard, John wrote "thinking of visiting the Macs in New Orleans". It 
      was then that Paul believed it. 
      E.C.: So the postcard proved it to Paul? 
      May Pang: Right! And I didn't even know the postcard existed. And Paul got 
      it. John had written to Derek, he always used to write notes and letters 
      to his friends. Wouldn't that have been great? 

        Poscript: One can only wonder "what if" John had made it to New Orleans 
        to record with Paul in 1975! I've always wondered about a line of lyrics 
        from the song "Venus and Mars" [the title track of Paul's album started 
        at the New Orleans sessions, recorded in 1975]. Is the "good friend of 
        mine" who "follows the stars" about John? 
        "Venus and Mars" - Paul McCartney 1975 
        Sitting in the stand of the sports arena 
        Waiting for the show to begin 
        Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine, 
        A good friend of mine, follows the stars, 
        Venus and mars 
        Are alright tonight.