May Pang, now 72, was a teenage college dropout when she bluffed her way into a job at the Beatles’ Apple Records, then as personal assistant to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In 1973, Ono banished Lennon from their home and instructed Pang, at 23, to have an affair with him. After the Lennons reunited and made their 1980 Double Fantasy album just before he died, he referred to his 18 months living with Pang in L.A. as his “lost weekend,” a reference to the 1945 film about alcoholics.
“It was god-awful,” he said in his last interview, with Playboy. “I drank too much. … I was out of control, and nobody was looking after me and I needed somebody to love me and there was nobody there to support me, and I just fell apart.”
This was not strictly true, Pang testifies in the documentary The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. Here are some insights into this often overlooked chapter in the late Beatle’s life.
Pang was an effective assistant, not just eye candy
She was a pro. Pang coordinated a 1971 Ono art exhibition, and for Ono’s 1970 film Fly, she managed to find hundreds of live flies in December in New York (by going to Chinese restaurants). She handled wardrobe for Lennon and Ono’s music video “Imagine.”
“I made them look good,” she says in the film. She worked on Lennon’s Mind Games album and sometimes sang backup with him. She and Lennon were reluctant to become lovers as Ono decreed, but after Ono ordered him out, Pang says, “John Lennon charmed the pants off me.”
All three of them were processing childhood trauma
Pang’s parents had an arranged, unhappy marriage, and her father had scant interest in her. Lennon was abandoned by both parents and raised by his bossy, doting aunt Mimi, and soon after his mother came back into his life in his teens, she died. Ono’s father lived apart from her family while her upscale, social-butterfly mother ignored her. Asked about her artistic bond with Lennon, Ono said, “It was rooted in the childhood fear of being alone.”
Ono had some reasons to want Lennon out of the house
In a joint 1980 interview with Lennon, Ono explained her reasons for the separation: “The pressure from the public, being the one who broke up the Beatles and who made it impossible for them to get back together. My artwork suffered, too. I thought I wanted to be free from being Mrs. Lennon, so I thought it would be a good idea for him to go to L.A. and leave me alone for a while. I had put up with it for many years.” Pang says she thinks Ono wanted to have an affair after Lennon had one (at least).