May Pang talks about her book, “Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon”

by Shelley Germeaux

Note: This article was originally published in February/March 2008 on Daytrippin’s website.

(Copyright 2008 by Dayrippin’;
Any or all parts of this interview may not be reprinted or reposted without the consent of Daytrippin’)

[All photos copyright 2008 by May Pang]

I recently had the opportunity to interview May Pang about the upcoming release of her new book, Instamatic Karma, for Daytrippin’. It showcases the many photos she took during her intimate relationship with John Lennon, from the summer of 1973 till early 1975, during John’s separation from Yoko Ono.

Her first book, Loving John, was published in 1983, then republished under the title John Lennon: The Lost Weekend in 1992 and dealt with the story of their relationship. Instamatic Karma, a photo book, will be a vital addition to any Lennon fan’s collection.

May was a skilled amateur photographer who used a 35mm camera in many of her shots, so the pictures are excellent. May’s artful lens captured a happy, relaxed John Lennon in candid settings that will joyfully surprise fans.

Due out March 4, 2008 by St. Martin’s Press, it’s being released in hard cover, approximately 7 by 9 1/4″, 140 pages, including roughly 150 pictures, both b&w and color. May will be appearing on Good Morning America that day as well.

Our phone interview was conducted December 29, 2007. May talked about many aspects of her relationship with John, from the type of camera she used and John’s opinions of her photographs, to the work she did on John’s albums and films, and exactly how their relationship grew to be more intimate. This was a very enjoyable interview with the woman who interrupted John and Yoko’s marriage, and she is now ready to share her personal photographs with the world.

May reminds us of the long forgotten original Imagine film produced in England in 1971, and discloses many photos she took of John that she never got credit for. She shatters long established myths, disclosing that John did not return to Yoko after the Elton John concert, as is believed, but that in fact she and John were looking at a house to buy after that concert. She talked about Phil Spector’s influence on the disastrous Rock-n-Roll sessions, the awful night at the Troubadour Club in LA, and her happiest memories of being with John, including their apartment in New York.

Shelley Germeaux: I’ve seen some prints of your pictures, May, and they’re very good. Did you take photography classes? Were you trained?

May Pang: No, but I did get tips from people who were real enthusiasts and photographers. Some did this on weekends; I’d see them in Central Park. They’d get together and take pictures, and I was so into it, that when I got my camera, they would give me tips. But I didn’t get any formal training at all.

SG: What kind of camera did you use?

May Pang: I used a Nikkormat, a Nikon. 35mm. But there are also some Polaroids in there.

SG: What did John think of your pictures?

May Pang: He loved them. He was constantly encouraging me to take more. He said, “I like what I see. I like your eye —take more.”  In fact, when EMI released “Imagine” as a single in England in October 1975, they used the photo I took of him in his Irish cable knit sweater because he loved it so much.  Although they used it as black and white.

SG: Oh really? That was your photo? Did you get credit for that?

May Pang: They were supposed to, but, does EMI give me credit?  It depends! (laughs).

SG: How is the book organized, by chronology or theme?

May Pang: By theme. It starts out with At Home, then At Play, At Work, and Away–whatever we called home at that time — either LA or New York; people don’t realize we did live in New York for the majority of our time together.  At Play was like, out swimming, or day trips to Disneyland; At Work, a few pictures running around town promoting Walls and Bridges, when he was working with the horn players, or rehearsing for the Rock n Roll album, and Away is like going away to Las Vegas, and to Disneyworld at Christmas with Julian.

SG: You’ve said there are still people out there who don’t know who you are, or remember the role you played with John and Yoko. So to summarize the story of how and when you met him…

May Pang: …in late ’70. I started working at ABCKO in New York in September of ’69.  The first Beatle I met was Ringo in February 1970, and then George. I met George and Patti when he brought over his All Things Must Pass tapes to be mastered in New York. Then, finally, I met John and Yoko in December of ’70.

SG: You worked for them at first for a couple of years.

May Pang: It was on and off, when they’d come in from England, they’d need someone to do things for them in NY. My phone would ring and they’d say “You’ve gotta do this now! ” They kept going back and forth, and then I went to England in June or July of ’71 and spent some time working for them there.

You can see me in the original Imagine (film), because a lot of that was done in England when I was there.  I was there when they filmed the Imagine (song) video, when he was sitting at that piano. Someone joked when I was on the Sirius radio program being interviewed by Andrew Oldham (who used to be the Stone’s manager and producer), that I was the “Forrest Gump” of the music business, because you mention a place and time, and I was there! (laughs)

When a radio disc jockey said “Paul is dead”, and we talked to someone at Apple (in New York) who couldn’t confirm it,they spoke to me! I never put two and two together, until I was reading about it, and I said, “wait a second, the person they talked to was me!” Or when John was holding the pig’s ears, that photo shoot. All these things that I was there for–with George Harrison when he was on Dick Cavett. (May was in the audience during George Harrison’s appearance, and was the only one who answered a Beatles trivia question correctly. She was also on the Dick Cavett show with John and Yoko on September 11, 1971 and was one of the people inside a black bag. You can hear John saying, “you’re looking nice, May.”  He also says when she first walks on stage, “How come your legs are showing, May?” referring to the fact that she was still pulling the bag down over herself.)

SG: Do you have pictures of those earlier times?

May Pang: I have photos of George and myself, and I have a lot of photos of the people I worked with at Apple when I was in England. But the book only relates to my time with John–when we were together.

SG: Oh so it only covers the time from 1973-1975. The time period when you were “dating”?

May Pang: Yeah.

SG: You got together with John on a more intimate level around June of ’73?

May Pang: Yeah, around July of ’73. We had been working; it was a slow process.

SG: John and Yoko weren’t getting along, and Yoko had set you up with him.

May Pang: They weren’t getting along and it was very evident to people around the house, (May had just helped them move into the Dakota in New York) but nobody talked about it. It wasn’t comfortable for anyone working there. They weren’t communicating. I would be talking to John in my office and then he’d walk out. Then Yoko would appear in my doorway, of my office, just after John left, and she’d say “Have you seen John?” and I’d say, “He just left! You missed him?? How could you have missed him? He was just here!” There would be a sigh from her, like “oh ok, I missed him”, and she went off and did her thing; but they weren’t talking–you just carried on during the day.

There were a few of us around the house who worked there. There was a person who took care of the groceries, and the laundry, and things around the house, and there was John Hendricks, an artist who worked for Yoko, taking care of a lot of things for her. And then there was me, I took care of the copyrights and their personal PR and things like that. I took care of both of them. Whoever needed me more at the time, that’s who I worked for.

SG: You worked on their albums, in the studio, too, right? You worked on Mind Games by that point?

May Pang: Yes, I worked on their albums, I worked on the Happy Xmas single, I’m on the picture sleeve. And of all the people to be hanging off my arm is Phil Spector, I find that kind of funny now. And then I worked on Yoko’s Fly album. That’s when I met Fred Astaire, when we were all staying at the St. Regis in NY. It was great! We were working on the movie, Imagine; not the one that’s out now by Andrew Solt, but the original one, that I had mentioned before, which was based on their records–the Fly album and Imagine. They were creating all these vignettes for it.

SG: Right. That’s not even out anymore.

May Pang: Right. You can’t even get that anymore. It’s very confusing when someone says “I saw the Imagine film” and I say “which one? Is it the documentary?” And they say yeah, so then I know which one they mean (the Andrew Solt version.) But you’re right, it’s not available anymore.

SG: Yeah, people forget. I forgot too until–

May Pang: (laughs) Until I reminded you!

SG: Yeah, I had to go dig it out, and then I said “Oh yeah, now I remember this.”

May Pang: That’s what they used to make “Gimme Some Truth”– some of it.

SG: Gimme Some Truth was just about the Imagine sessions.

May Pang: Right–which was part of the original Imagine–they took away so much footage. In the original footage of Imagine, they threw in the walk, the activists, you know, the activists with John when he had the megaphone?  (this became the video for the single, Power to the People) Also in the original footage, you see them doing the Imagine song, that later became the music video for it. I have a copy of it on VHS–talk about old—you can see all of us that worked for them (in the first film), both in New York and England; we’re all in the film. It was nice to see. I think I was the only one from NY in the UK filming, everyone else is from England…all that property, where John lived in Tittenhurst Park, it was really beautiful–and I got lost, it was over 80 acres. I wandered off one day and I went, “which way is it now, how do I get out of here?” (laughs)

SG: Oh no!

May Pang: Oh yeah‚ there were a lot of trees that hadn’t been taken down, you basically walked into the “forest”. You didn’t know which way you were going, you could get lost. (There was) that little caravan on the bottom of the house on the property and John said to me, he goes, “What do you think of the lake?” I said, “It’s beautiful!” He said, “It’s almost real except for the rubber bottom!” (laughs) He had that dug up, he wanted a lake, he wanted to sit by water. That’s how much he always loved the water. So where we lived in New York, he could come out on the balcony and look out over the East River. He always enjoyed that. He would bring out the chair and sit there and just look out. It reminded him of Liverpool– HOME. He liked it much more than being at the Dakota, because even though you see Central Park, the water was much more a reminder of home. (Author’s note: the rooftop of the apartment May refers to is where John and May lived in 1974, and where the famous “New York City” photos of John were taken by Bob Gruen. This is also where they saw the UFO in August of 1974. There is rarely any reference to the fact that John and May were living together at that time and that this was their home.)

SG: So 1973 rolls around, and you get together, and you move to Los Angeles.

May Pang: It ended up that way, it wasn’t really meant to be that way. John found out that his lawyer, Harold Seider, was leaving that night to go to LA, and John thought we needed to spend some time together. So he told Harold “We’re getting on the plane with you.” No one knew we were together at that point. So Harold thought that was very strange. So we hopped on a plane. One of the first myths is that Yoko sent us out there (to LA), but that’s not true, it was John’s decision, and it was spur of the moment where we just left.

Harold had one of his people who worked for him, Norma, and her boyfriend Peter Jameson (a guitarist who played with Spencer Davis) pick us up. He said, “When you pick me up you’ll be picking up some friends traveling with me too.”  Norma says to me later, that she thought, “Oh I see Harold–oh my god, that’s John Lennon next to him!” He gave us his apartment that night and he went someplace else. The next day we went to Norma’s house and she made us a lovely brunch. That’s where it all started.

We went to NY several times in between, but the reason we were in LA so much, was that John was on such a high after the Mind Games album. The first thing he came up with was, to do songs that had inspired him when he was growing up. Of course later on this became the Rock n Roll album. He said, “Let’s call Phil!” I thought, oh my god, but he would be the perfect person because Phil was from that time period.

Phil was always a co-producer, and he was manageable. But the mistake here was, letting him be in control. We had no idea that he was so nuts. When John did sessions, he was a lot more controlled. He didn’t like partying. You can party after. If he calls for a 7:00 session, he expects you to be there and be ready to roll. One of the musicians was late one day and I had to track him down. He had overslept, and even though he apologized to John, John said, “Don’t let it happen again.” You could hear it in his voice. He meant it. It wasn’t ok.

SG: Things were so wild in LA at that time. They probably figured that John was that way too.

May Pang: With Phil, it was his way of control. He wouldn’t even come to the sessions on time. And John was not used to that. Since we gave him control, it was his call. We would be standing around, and John was getting upset many of the times. And all of a sudden people would be bringing in bottles of drink. We didn’t have that in our sessions before that.

SG: John got hammered during a couple of those sessions!

May Pang: What happened was, Phil would be late. It wasn’t just him (John) drinking. It was everyone on the session! When you’re sitting around doing nothing, and you’re waiting for the leader to come in, everyone just started drinking! Except me.  And some people drank more than others. There were a few we were concerned about, a few musicians. John knew he had to stay somewhat sober so he could sing.

SG: (chuckle) Have you heard those tapes?

May Pang: Oh yes (groan) ..but I didn’t need to hear them, I was there!

SG: (laughs)

May Pang: There were constant interruptions. There was no concentration. One of the reasons we got kicked out of A&M, was that one of the musicians poured a bottle down the console. Not John–sometimes there’d be people hanging around after. We didn’t even know that happened till later on the next day.

SG: This was when Phil fired the gun off, right?

May Pang: No, Phil fired the gun at The Record Plant Studio West ..not A & M studios.

SG: You got to talk about the gun incident during the Phil Spector trials, but not as a witness, right?

May Pang: The judge only allowed testimony going so far back. The only thing I could have offered was being a character witness. Again, a lot of people thought that Yoko was the one (who was there). They kept saying that on the air, Beth Karas kept saying “Yoko was there when Phil fired off the gun,” but she wasn’t, it was me. In fact when she was asked recently about it, she just fluffed it off like it was no big deal. But it was because she wasn’t there so she doesn’t know what happened.

I’ll never forget that day. When Phil shot that gun off, I came running into the room and I see Mal (Evans) taking the gun out of his hand, and me being the little mother in this case, scolding kids, saying “What is going on?” and Mal is saying Phil was getting a little testy. “He kept hitting me.” Phil was hurting Mal, his nose, and Mal kept asking him to stop. Phil didn’t like being told what to do, and he stood back and pulled out the gun, and it went off.

SG: It went right by John’s head, right?

May Pang: As it was going off, anyone standing close by would have gotten it. He was in close range of Phil; so yes, he could have hit John, but it went off into the ceiling, and it was so loud because we were in an enclosed room. We thought they were blanks. That happened in ’73, one of the last sessions right before the Christmas break, during the Rock n Roll sessions.

SG: John wasn’t happy with the reviews on that album. There was so much that happened with those tapes.

May Pang: Yes, it disturbed John. Phil would drink a bottle of Courvoisier cognac a night, and some more. I hated it. I would come through the door and I’d go “Oh my god.” We constantly had interruptions, like Cher, David Geffen, Warren Beatty would pop in. Joni Mitchell would constantly bring people in as she was recording in the next studio from us, and it was disturbing. It was all new to John, because in New York we never had that. We would go in, do the songs, till John was happy, and we went home. In LA it was like “It’s party time,” and John was the new kid on the block.

SG: So it was the LA atmosphere, then, not just Phil?

May Pang: Well yeah, but it WAS the way Phil operated out there. But he couldn’t have pulled off all that in New York.

SG: Oh, ok, so it was a bad combination.

May Pang: Yes.

SG: When did you start working on Walls and Bridges?

May Pang: June of 1974.

SG: John re-united with his former bandmates Paul and Ringo while you were in L.A and George was around, too then. That’s something that wouldn’t have happened in NY.

May Pang: No it wouldn’t have at that time, and we had Julian (John’s son with first wife Cynthia) too! We picked his son up, with Cynthia, we took them to Disneyland. I was becoming the “activities director” taking them around. Some of those photos are in there. There are a couple of Paul and Ringo. I didn’t have any of George, and I’m sorry I didn’t take any of him when we were in New York; but I do have them of the other two.

SG: What are your happiest memories, when you look at your pictures?

May Pang: There are many pockets of it.I enjoyed coming back through the desert, you know we went through Las Vegas for the first time. Here is another myth: Elliott Mintz had put out a story about how he and John went to Las Vegas, and according to his story, it was only the two of them together.

SG: That’s in the Memories book. (25th anniversary tribute book called Memories of John Lennon, edited by Yoko Ono, 2005, Harper Entertainment)

May Pang: Yeah. But he left out some facts. One, that I was there. And two, he left us. He didn’t stay with us the whole trip. Tony King (Gen. Mgr. of Apple in the UK and Michael Hazlewood (songwriter) joined us.  They drove out and we went back with them. You’ll see a picture of John and me at Caesar’s Palace, you know how they come around and take pictures of you? I have a picture of that in the book, in its original holder. John with his very short hair.  He had decided to cut his hair off during the Mind Games album and his hair was just beginning to grow. You can always tell the time frame by looking at John’s hair.

SG: Loving John, your first book, was published in 1983. How many pictures from that book are reproduced in this new book?

May Pang: A few, but they’re printed in black and white.

SG: Oh, but not all of them, huh?

May Pang: No.

SG: So you have a lot more pictures that we haven’t seen then!

May Pang: Right. There are at least a hundred more pictures that you haven’t seen. There’s one that’s a big surprise. John putting his signature on one of the documents that he had to sign, for the dissolution of the Beatles.  So I had the last photo, because the other guys had already signed it.

SG: Actually signing the dissolution of the Beatles?!

May Pang: Pen in hand as he’s signing his signature. Prior to that you’ll see pictures of him reviewing the contract.

SG: And you thought to take a picture…?

May Pang: John wanted me to take the picture. In fact he joked about it, saying “C’mon Linda, take the picture!”

SG: (laughs)

May Pang: Originally when they were supposed to sign it in December (of ’74), before Christmas, it was that time period of George’s Dark Horse tour; at the last minute John didn’t want to sign it because there was one clause he felt uncomfortable with and he wouldn’t come to the meeting.

SG: Which clause?

May Pang: Since he was the only one of the group living in America that he would be the one responsible for the taxes. It would be over a million dollars. He did not want to shoulder that burden.  So he wouldn’t come out to sign it. Paul and Linda had already set up cameras to take photos of everyone signing it, and George was there because of the show, and Ringo had signed it previously in England but was on the telephone to confirm his signature. All the legal counsels for the individuals as well as legal counsels for Apple both in the US and the UK were there waiting.  As time went on, poor Harold Seider bore the brunt of everyone at the hotel asking “Where’s John?”  He called John and me at home and I said, “He’s not coming.” And Harold said, “What?” and I said, “He doesn’t want to shoulder this tax burden.”  Harold knew that they were gonna come down on him. And John was going, “Tell them the stars aren’t right, tell them anything, I’m not doing this.”

So… when Harold hung up the phone, he had to face the crowd, and you had to know there was a big crowd in there, over thirty people. He said to them, “The stars aren’t right, John’s not coming to sign the agreement.” George called us immediately, and I said “Do you want to speak to John?” and he said “No, but you can give him a message from me. I started this tour on my own and I’ll end it on my own.”  If I could tell you that we could hear George screaming through the rooftops… The next day Paul and Linda came over and they said, “What’s wrong? Let’s see if we can work this out.”

SG: and..?

May Pang: Paul and Linda dropped by and John explained the situation to them.  Then we went off to see Paul’s father-in-law Lee Eastman to sort it out, and in the end we came out with satisfaction.  At the meeting Lee kept saying to John, “George will never forgive you,” and Julian called at exactly the same moment and said to me, “George just told me to tell dad and to say ‘all is forgiven, and please come to the party after the show'” and I said ok, and walked back into the room. Lee was telling John off the whole time I was on the phone, as well as Neil Aspinall who accompanied us, going on about how George was never going to forgive him. So I repeated Julian’s message out loud, that all was forgiven, and it couldn’t have been a better set up. So then John said, “Well! Looks like we have a change in plans then. We’re outta here.” And if you could see the look on Lee’s face, that I had just upstaged him.

SG: So did they work out the tax thing?

May Pang: Of course… It was worked out within the week. It was signed at the Polynesian Hotel at Disneyworld in Florida if you can believe that.

SG: So this was at the end of 1974, and you were working on Walls and Bridges?

May Pang: We had finished it at that point… “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” had hit #1 and John had appeared already at the Garden with Elton.  He had already resumed working on Rock n Roll by then.

SG: Tell us how you were I guess, sort of the designer of the pictures that are on the Walls and Bridges album, and how Bob Gruen ended up doing them and getting the credit.

May Pang: OK. The original idea came from Capitol’s art director for Walls and Bridges.  I was to get a series of photographs of John, of him making faces and stuff. When I took the original photos, which John wanted me to do, Capitol took them from me to review, it ended up they wanted a 2 x 2 format; a square, to make it on the album. I didn’t have that format with my camera.  So in the end, John said, “OK let’s get Gruen, he’s harmless enough.” So the photos I did for this originally, when people see them, they think they are Gruen’s. But I know which ones are mine and which are Bob’s.

SG: So yours will be in the book for us to see.

May Pang: Yes.  When Capitol took the photos from me for review, they made copies of them and then they disappeared. I do have my original negatives, but I’ve since learned that back then people made copies without my knowledge or permission.

SG: Now you get to reinstate those credits.

May Pang: Yeah. Walls and Bridges. Because it was his only number one album with a number one single from his solo work in John’s lifetime.

SG: And that’s on your watch!

May Pang: Yes that’s on my watch.

SG: It’s been over 25 years since John died, what inspired you to write this book at this particular time?

May Pang: It’s been a long time. I truly believe that whatever angels were guiding me, this was the time. I could have tried before, but it wasn’t the right time. It’s so weird, I told my friend Mario, who helped me put this together, that when the time was right, things would fall into place. And things will go so fast, we won’t know what hit us. That’s just what happened.  Things just fell into place this year. Like getting the publisher– that almost didn’t happen. It was one of those things that started steamrolling and we couldn’t stop. It was just there.

It’s time for people to see the John that I knew, not what the press portrayed.  Like the thing at the Troubadour, where people say, “Look at him, he’s drunk, he looks wild, he’s attacking people, etc”  What people fail to understand is, at the Troubadour, when he was shown the door as it were, I was standing behind him, and he lost his glasses.  Hundreds of photographers were snapping away, and he couldn’t see a damn thing.  He was totally disoriented.  He was so vulnerable, thinking people were attacking him. He was defending himself. He had no idea where he was.

SG: Did you know he’d lost his glasses?

May Pang: No, I didn’t know until later.

SG: Did you get them back?

May Pang: I don’t think so… I think Tommy Smothers’ wife picked them up… and I think they kept them.

SG: That was a bad night. But your book is going to show that the relationship you had with him, was a lot more than that bad night in LA.

May Pang: He said it was a “lost weekend.” It was easier for him to say it that way, he would always make blanket statements like that; he had to call it something.

SG: In fact there are so many persistent myths, as we’ve talked about before, about your so called “lost weekend” that have gotten commercialized, that stuck over the years, based on what Yoko wants everyone to see. What other myths can you put to rest through these photos and this book? Do you think your book will help change people’s perceptions?

May Pang: When people see the photos, they see a John that they haven’t seen before, a much happier John. The pictures tell a story, you can see it on his face. Somebody from Julian’s business office said, “Oh, he doesn’t look grumpy! He looks happy! He’s always smiling!” Pictures tell a thousand words. You can see for yourself. There are many myths. One of them is that John went back to Yoko after the Elton John concert. But if we spent Christmas and New Years in Disneyworld in Florida with Julian, he hadn’t gone back yet, had he?

SG: Right, because Elton John was Thanksgiving of 1974, (Madison Square Garden show where John went on stage to sing “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” with Elton which had gone to number one, satisfying a bet John and Elton had made) and the way it’s been told is that Yoko was there, and they saw each other back stage, and that was it.

May Pang: We didn’t see her back stage. She actually came with a date…

SG: A date?

May Pang: Yes, a guy named Gary Lejeski who owned an art gallery, and also Peter Boyle and his future wife, Loraine Alterman.  She wanted tickets to the show after I told her that John was to appear, so we got her four tickets. We saw her at the reception, at the Pierre Hotel afterwards.

SG: Did John see her in the audience? Because I thought I read that.

May Pang: No, you couldn’t tell where she was. You can’t see anyone in the audience from the stage! I was standing next to the amp when John got on the stage, and you can’t see anyone. In fact Bob Gruen took some pictures that were full-blown, where John is singing and you can see Elton; and if you look you can see me off to the left side of the stage. All I remember is when you look out, you can’t see a damn thing with the cameras and the lights flashing in your face. You really can’t see anything.

SG: So it’s not like they had some major eye contact after the show, and he went home with her.

May Pang: No.

SG: But that’s what everyone thinks, that story has been repeated over and over, and in fact she (Yoko) has said that. But the fact is, you went home with him that night, and then you spent Christmas vacation with him and Julian. (and May photographed John signing the dissolution of the Beatles at that time, as mentioned previously.)

May Pang: Right. And then we came back (from Disneyworld) and we spent time with Mick (Jagger), and went out to the Hamptons, and Montauk where we picked out that house, and we saw the McCartneys, and David Bowie…

SG: …and those pictures will be in there too, right?

May Pang: I have one photo of Bowie coming to our apartment and I was there when they wrote “Fame“. I even have one of Morris Levy… we spent Christmas at his house in Florida that year. Here is the guy from Roulette Records, we spent time with him and borrowed his apartment. There’s a picture of Morris with Julian and his son Adam.

SG: It will be obvious when those pictures were taken.

May Pang: Well yes, you can tell because we didn’t know Morris until then, late summer of 74.

SG: I am very anxious to see your book and everyone else will be too. You put your story out there before, but now to see these beautiful pictures will be great.

May Pang: Even though some of the photos are not crystal clear, what you’re getting is what it felt like to be in my shoes. Some were low lighting, but I think they are cute to put in. For example, pictures of John lying in bed with his cats all over him, Major and Minor. Pictures of he and Julian, looking at each other playing guitar, relaxing at home. You are looking at him through my eyes.

SG: Yeah, this will be a whole other side. Like we said there are pictures from your first book but they are smaller, they’re black and white, grainy, etc.

May Pang: Yeah, and now most of them are in color.

SG: So this time will we be able to tell that those little necklaces are gold instead of silver? (laughs) (this refers to the necklace that is around John’s neck in the picture of John with the New York City shirt on. Since the picture is black and white, everyone assumes that necklace is silver. May had a matching necklace, and they are actually in gold.)

May Pang: (laughs) I hope so. Like I said to you before, I found my little gold record that also hung on the necklace that says “Happy Birthday May, from the Doctor.” which is what John often called himself as Dr. Winston O’Boogie.

SG: Do you think this book will help people fill the gap of that time period? Will it make a big enough splash that they will really get it this time?

May Pang: I hope so; hopefully they will be more open. They might be more inquisitive this time, about the time period. Before it was like, “Yoko said it was this; slam dunk, closed book.” Now they will have to open their eyes to see that’s not what happened.

SG: Now they’re going to have to see that there is a different history. I see you as trying to reinstate what actually happened, to correct the rewritten history. Your memories serve a big purpose for John’s fans.

May Pang: When you see him, you’ll see a side of John that most people don’t see; because I’m not a hired photographer. This is me chronicling my life with my boyfriend who happens to be John Lennon.

SG: Right. Which is a big difference between your book and say, Allen Tannenbaum’s book which just came out, “John and Yoko: a New York Love Story” (2007).

May Pang: Or even Bob Gruen’s.

SG: Right.

May Pang: Because (with those books), you know someone is following you to take photos.

SG: Yeah because they’ve got backdrops and things and it’s all set up. Yours are candid and happening during the event. They’re more real.

May Pang: We were laughing and just having a good time. It’s just John mugging for me, not thinking it’s going into a book. It wasn’t a hired session.

SG: What are your book signing plans for your tour?

May Pang: I’m doing a book signing at the Barnes and Noble on March 13 at Lincoln Center location; and Good Morning America is coming up March 4th, the actual pub date; and there will be more surprises later.


Update: In 2022, a documentary about May Pang and John Lennon was released called The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. More info on May’s website at


Shelley previously interviewed May for Daytrippin’ in the fall of 2004. That interview can be read by ordering the back issue of Daytrippin’ #28.


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