May Pang's name is well known to music fans as the woman John Lennon was romantically involved with in the early 1970s.

In the 1980s, Pang wrote a book, "Loving John," and now she's telling of her time with Lennon in the documentary "The Lost Weekend: A Love Story."

The movie, directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels, takes it title from the 1945 Ray Milland film Lennon used to refer to the time he and Pang spent in Los Angeles. Their drunken escapades with Harry Nilsson and Alice Cooper made headlines.

The story the movie tells, though, is of a loving relationship during a mostly sober, productive period in Lennon's solo career.

Pang, who grew up the daughter of Chinese immigrants in New York's Spanish Harlem, worked for Apple Records as Lennon and Ono's assistant, starting in 1970. After three years, Pang says Ono approached her to suggest she begin a relationship with her husband, reasoning that if Lennon was going to have an affair, it should be with someone she knew. (Ono hasn't denied the story.)

Pang, 72, spoke from her home in New York. This conversation has been edited.

Q: Why did you want to make this movie now?

A: Only because I let it go for many years. You have all these storylines, the things that are being said, and they're not the truth. And it just gets to you. You want to stop people saying, "I know everything about you." I said, "No, you don't. You read about it, but that doesn't mean it's true."

Q: What's got under your skin?

A: That Yoko sent us to Los Angeles. She had no idea that John and I went to Los Angeles. Another one was that when John performed with Elton John in New York that he went back to the Dakota the next day. No, we spent time together. We had Julian [Lennon's son from his marriage to his first wife Cynthia] and we went down to Florida. He signed the paperwork that marked the dissolution of the Beatles in Florida. I took the only photograph [of that].

I'm part of the last jam session that John and Paul did together ... and also John's only number one hit single. I'm also the one who's whispering "John" in "#9 Dream."

Another one was that he was drunk all the time, which isn't true.

Q: The movie makes the case that it was a significant love story. Why was it important to you now?

A: It becomes important because everybody thought it was a fling, or it was only a weekend. A lot of people didn't realize we continued to be friends and close, and stayed in touch, until the time that he died.

Q: Julian speaks of you tenderly in the movie. What's your relationship like?

A: I'm very protective of him. His mother and I became very close. [She and John] didn't have closure when they split up. So here I am in the middle of this and I said to John, "You have to work it out." And they did, and it made Julian's life easier. That was important to me.

Q: I knew you were John and Yoko's assistant but had never heard that the affair was her idea. Were you weirded out?

A: Are you kidding? Of course it was weird. I couldn't believe what she was asking. I had been there for three years. I never thought about John that way. I was really happy just to work. Because I was so interested in the business of music and so happy to be in the studio. She said, "But you don't have a boyfriend." Well there's a reason why: I'm working!

Q: You come off as the grown up in the room. But you were in your early 20s. How did you become that person?

A: It's my mom. She gave me the courage to be on my own and instilled a lot of confidence in me. And the other thing is I wasn't a drinker, I didn't take drugs. It didn't entice me.

Q: Are you concerned people will think you're being petty, portraying Yoko as manipulative?

A: I know what you're saying. I don't know whether her actions were manipulative or not. Those were her actions. I'm not making a commentary on it. I'm just telling the story of what went on in my life at that moment.

Q: How aware are you of the women in Mae Pang, the 1990s Philadelphia garage rock band?

A: First off, it made me chuckle. And then I was very honored, I was flattered.

Q: You were working for John and Yoko in 1972 when they came to Philly to do "The Mike Douglas Show." Were you also there in 1975, when John came and did the weather segment on an Action News broadcast with his friend Larry Kane?

A: No, that was later. He took the train down there on his own. He told Larry, "I may have been the happiest I've ever been" when he was with me. Larry said, "Well then why aren't you with her?" And he said, "It's complicated."

Q: Was John the great love of your life?

A: I would consider him the great love of my life. Never mind that it was John Lennon — he was the first person that I lived with who opened up a lot of doors for me to explore things together. We had a magnificent time.


"The Lost Weekend: the Photography of May Pang." Free. 1 p.m., April 15 and 16, City Winery Philadelphia, 990 Filbert St.,


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