May Pang recalls 18 months with John Lennon

click to enlarge May Pang recalls 18 months with John Lennon
A photographic exhibition and sale entitled “The Lost Weekend: The Photography of May Pang” features candid photos of John Lennon and friends. It coincides with the digital release of the feature film documentary on May Pang and John Lennon’s relationship “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story.” (May Pang/Submitted)

When May Pang and John Lennon spent the “Lost Weekend” together, she didn’t — and couldn’t — know they were making history.

She captured the 18-month period through her camera lens.

She’ll share those photos with fans during a two-day, free exhibition, “The Lost Weekend: The Photography of May Pang,” at Anticus in Scottsdale from Friday, Nov. 3, to Sunday, Nov. 5; and Arizona Picture & Frame in Tucson on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and Wednesday, Nov. 8. All works will be available for sale.

“I’ve had the photos under my bed. I moved them along and put them in a book many years ago,” Pang said via telephone about 2008’s “Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon.”

“The book didn’t reach certain places. A lot of people didn’t know I had a book out. Now, they’re out of print. Now, it’s 2023, which I can’t believe.”

She said she was “prodded” by Scott Segelbaum, the owner of Rock Art Show, to show her photos. With the release of Pang’s documentary, “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” the timing was impeccable.

Out October 13 — the week of John Lennon’s birthday — the movie tells of her relationship with the singer, when she was age 23 and working as his assistant. It captures the affair, amid drug use, that shaped a prolific period for Lennon post-Beatles. She also orchestrated the reunion of Lennon and Yoko Ono.

During the “Lost Weekend,” with May’s help, Lennon produced “Mind Games,” and “Walls and Bridges.” Pang can also be heard on the song “#9 Dream,” where she whispers Lennon’s name in the song. “Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)” was written about Pang.

The 18 months led to a reunion with McCartney and a jam session between the two Beatles. Pang arranged for Julian Lennon to visit his father for the first time in almost three years. One of Pang’s photographs of Julian graces the cover of Julian’s latest album entitled “Jude.”

Lennon went into the studio with friend Harry Nilsson during this time and produced his album “Pussy Cats.”

Pang rented a house in Santa Monica and moved in with Lennon and fellow partiers Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson.

Several photos from this time also appear in the exhibition. Other highlights of the exhibition include the only photograph that exists of Lennon signing the contract to dissolve the Beatles, as well as the last known photograph of Lennon and McCartney together from March 29, 1974. Both photographs haven’t previously been available to the public.

During this time for Lennon, Pang took candid photos of Lennon in a comfortable, relaxed environment.

When patrons peruse the exhibit, Pang hopes they “see the John I saw; the guy that I knew; the guy I was with 24-7 for a while.”

“I knew him differently in many different stages,” she added. “I worked for him in the early days. The documentary helps move that along. When they see that I’ve worked with him three years prior, they understand I saw different sides of him.

“There’s the side where he’s your boss. He was always good with me. We had a connection over time. We talked. He would get angry at times, but he was never one to hold grudges.”

When Lennon was making “Mind Games,” Pang was the only one allowed in the studio, she says.

“He didn’t trust many of the others in the house,” she said. “He didn’t want anybody else there. He told this to Yoko, too. John could be in the middle of recording, and he would make these stupid mistakes. I would encourage him. I wanted him to be relaxed.

“He got a chance to hook back up with Paul, went to see George (Harrison) on the ‘Dark Horse’ tour, and saw Ringo a lot. We shared hotel suites and a house. It was just different.”

In Scottsdale and Tucson, Pang will meet customers and tell stories behind these limited-edition photographs of Lennon.

“I didn’t think of the photos as iconic,” Pang said.

“They were in the moment. John says, ‘Take a photograph of me.’ I thought it looked good. I never thought, ‘This is an iconic moment.’ When he was signing the paperwork for the breakup of the Beatles, I didn’t have a light meter.

“I was doing everything manually in a dark room. I didn’t know what I had in my hand.”

“Lost Weekend: The Photography of May Pang”

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, to Sunday, Nov. 5

WHERE: Anticus, 3922 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

COST: Free admission

INFO: 480-483-5663,

WHEN: 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, and 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8

WHERE: Arizona Picture & Frame, 4523 E. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson

COST: Free admission

INFO: 520-323-7711,