The world lost a bright light when beloved singer and former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down in front of his Dakota apartment on December 8th, 1980. He left us profound music which inspired us in our quest for happiness. But there were some elements of John Lennon’s life that have been still shrouded in mystery — one being his affair with May Pang (who had been John and Yoko Ono’s personal assistant).
Even though Pang had written two books, 1983’s “Loving John: The Untold Story” and 2008’s “Instamatic Karma: Photographs by John Lennon,” she had been hesitant about participating in a documentary until now. That doc, “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” which take us into the window of an incredible love affair and one of rock mythology, revealing so much more than what was covered in the tabloids at the time. As Lennon once recalled of this period, “It was one of my happiest times.” He also left us with some of his finest music.
At the center of the attention was a second-generation Chinese American named May Pang who grew up in New York’s Spanish Harlem, where she was a minority among a minority. While her neighbors were glued to the radio listening to Tito Puente, Joe Cuba and James Brown, she was hooked on rock and roll, especially those four guys from Liverpool.
After this Catholic school girl dropped out of college, Pang jumped on the subway in search of a job in Times Square. There she saw the sign of Apple Records. That one glance led her to a life-changing experience working for Allen Klein who was John Lennon’s manager at the time. Not only did she land a plum job which only required typing, filing and answering the phone, it also offered her a chance to hang out on the set of Yoko’s films “Up Your Legs Forever” and “Fly.” Every day was a new adventure for May.
During this busy period, Yoko took an interest in May’s personality and asked her to become their full-time assistant. But what she didn’t know was that she took on responsibilities that went far beyond her imagination.
After John and Yoko married in 1969, they seemed inseparable soulmates throughout their career, but that didn’t last long. When Yoko saw John having a sex with another woman, Yoko suggested that May take up with her husband in order to save her marriage of fleeting relationship, … “John and I were not getting along, I know he started to see other people. I want you to go out with him, he needs someone nice like you.” Yoko’s unimaginable comments took May by surprise, who snapped back, saying, “Excuse Me”?
Yoko knew she could reel Lennon back anytime she wanted to, but a real love affair blossomed at the lost weekend in L.A. May and Lennon bonded over their mutual love of music. For the first time, this former Beatles member let his hair down and began to enjoy the more relaxed, fun-loving circumstances provided by Harry Nilsson, Alice Cooper, Bernie Taupin, Mickey Dolenz, who became known as the Hollywood Vampires. May had a radiant smile and an easy-going personality that captured the heart of Lennon but also reunited him with his estranged son Julian.
The film, directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman, and Stuart Samuels, is told entirely from May’s point of view. “The Lost Weekend” slowly plays out their emotional journey. It offers a fascinating look of a poignant and whirlwind relationship that lasted only 18 months. But their affair is rooted in a genuine affection for each other. Throughout the film, it captivates us with archival materials that gives you an intimate sense of what Lennon was like away from the limelight. It even gets into his dark side when he drinks. It’s no coincidence that he reconciled with Paul during this period — we see them bury the hatchet and rediscover their friendship. During his stay, Lennon tried to find himself in a world where he had never fully been himself.
But this exhilarating period came to an end, when Yoko met Lennon to talk about using hypnosis to stop him smoking, after which he’d planned to take Pang to dinner — but instead he went home with Yoko and they rekindled their marriage. Pang said that the sudden change of direction meant a planned dinner date with McCartney and his wife Linda never took place.
At the end, people might take this short affair with May as something to dismiss as just fling, but Lennon revitalized his music career, reconnected with ex-wife Cynthia and their son Julian, and even took part in what would be his final studio session with McCartney. It was a different experience for May, who said, “My time with John might have been short, but everything during it was monumental.”