Yoko Ono picked a young beauty to be John Lennon‘s new lover… then bitterly regretted it.
May Pang was the couple’s 22-year-old PA who describes in a new documentary how she gave the Beatle the happiest time of his life.
May Pang was clearly up to a challenge. Fresh out of school at 19, she had talked her way into a coveted job at the New York offices of The Beatles’ music company Apple Records.
She was outgoing and rebellious but also amenable, and John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono liked her so much they soon asked her to become their personal assistant.
The rock ‘n’ roll-mad daughter of Chinese immigrants from Spanish Harlem enjoyed every minute of her time with the couple — the union many believed broke up the Fab Four.
Pang was soon helping them in the recording studio, accompanying them to the UK and their country mansion at Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, and proving so engaging and photogenic that David Bailey shot her as part of a Lennon-Ono album cover.
Pang bought John and Yoko’s groceries and answered the phone — and she also supplied backing vocals on some of their songs including the 1971 hit single Happy Christmas (War Is Over). Then, one morning in 1973, when she turned up for work at their home in Manhattan’s Dakota building, it suddenly became a little more complicated.
‘Yoko walked into my office and said: ‘John and I are not getting along and I know he’s going to start seeing other people. And I want you to go out with him as I think he needs someone nice like you’,’ says Pang in a new documentary film. Of course, it was the bed-hopping 1970s but Pang rapidly realised she was in way over her head.
Still only 22 — Lennon was 10 years older and Ono seven years older than him — she was, she says, ‘a naive kid . . . very, very young’.
She knew Ono ‘had some very weird ideas’ but she was still stunned — and refused.
But Lennon had told his wife he found their pretty, leggy assistant sexually attractive, and Ono waved away the girl’s objections.
‘She said: ‘It’s OK. You should do it.’ She thought it was the best thing since I didn’t have a boyfriend,’ recalls Pang.
The strong-willed Ono was confident she could control the much younger woman.
Lennon would later disparagingly refer to this part of his life as his ‘Lost Weekend’ (a reference to the 1945 film in which Ray Milland plays a writer struggling with alcoholism). But by then he was back with Ono, so he had to be diplomatic.
And Ono, as keeper of the eternal Lennon flame, has done her best to keep herself near the centre. She hasn’t denied John’s affair with Pang was her idea, saying she realised she and her husband needed ‘a rest’ and that Pang was a ‘very intelligent, attractive woman and extremely efficient’.
However, The Lost Weekend: A Love Story — which just had its premier at this year’s Tribeca Festival — gives Pang’s version of events. She insists that she and Lennon fell in love and that Ono, discovering she’d made a serious misjudgment, had to fight hard to win him back.
The documentary, which Pang narrates, features contributions from others close to Lennon including his son Julian, who say the Beatle never seemed more happy than in the months he spent with Pang.