Documentary Review: Remembering “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” with John Lennon and “the Other Woman,” May Pang

I did not expect to like May Pang’s latest remembrance of her time with her former employer, then lover, John Lennon.

The question tossed at her in some of her many TV interviews over the years, asking if she feels guilty about “capitalizing” on her brief flirtation with fame, “making money off John Lennon” still resonates.

When Pang, once the “personal assistant” of the Lennons, talks of how she “dressed” Lennon and Yoko Ono for the iconic music video for “Imagine” — “I made them look good!” — she comes off as needy, craving inclusion, determined to hang on to her part of his story and ensure she’s part of the telling the tale of the life of the beloved rock star, ex-Beatle, activist and promiment member of Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

Seeing her come up and hug Lennon’s musician son, Julian Lennon, the biggest name and only “Big” name to appear on camera for “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” doesn’t dissipate that opportunistic hanger-on cloud that hangs over Pang.

She can say “I don’t want other people to write my story” is her reason for making this film, but the generous collection of TV chat show interviews she’s given sampled here demonstrates she’s always been the one telling it, pretty much the only one — for decades — save for Yoko Ono, who is somewhat more dismissive.

But Pang wasn’t just a part of Lennon’s two year-long “Lost Weekend” in the post-Beatle early ’70s. She was a witness, a photographer, someone who held onto his letters and his doodle art and a big reason for what she claims were his “most productive years,” his most “public” period during their 18 months as a couple.

“Everybody saw John when he was with May,” Apple Records exec Tony King remembers.

He partied with The Hollywood Vampires (Alice Cooper, Mickey Dolenz, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson et al), jammed with everybody from Jagger to Ringo and Paul, and recorded Nilsson, sang with Elton and others, and turned-out a couple of his own records.

The most glorious post-fame “candid” photographs of Lennon came from this period, some by the famous photographer Bob Gruen, more than a few of them taken with Pang and some even taken by Pang.

Ten years younger than her world famous lover, she looks giddy in almost every shot with him, and who wouldn’t be?

Lennon gave his last live performance, of “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” on stage with Elton John in 1974. May Pang was there, and at home with him watching TV the night he caught a little of hustling TV preacher Reverend Ike’s program, which inspired the song.

“From inspiration to creation to collaboration, I was proud to be a part of the journey.”

Pull all that together, with Pang voice-over narrating and recalling anecdotes that are illustrated here with animation in a sort of Lennon pen-and-ink style, and you’ve got maybe the most intimate portrait of Lennon, who remains a fascinating figure to many over 40 years after his murder.

She takes a lot of the credit for reuniting John with his son from his first marriage, Julian, and being the personal assistant/production assistant to Lennon’s life, she created father-and-son outings from Disneyland to Disney World. Ono? She was trying to keep John and Julian apart, it’s implied.

The affair, “controlled” and stage-managed by Ono according to Pang’s account, was messy and all very adult. And there’s little doubt that yes, Pang is doing something no one else who knew him from this pivotal interlude is doing. She’s exploiting it. You can tell from all the famous folks named here who declined to sit for fresh interviews for this film.

Pang, who narrates the entire story, with a few other figures from their lives during this time also only heard in audio recordings, makes a delayed appearance on camera in the third act to document the break-up of the affair, and doesn’t let us forget — with good reason — how young and naive she was, and how ill-used she felt back then.

But like Ono, who has been just as determined to exploit her connection to Lennon, Pang is a keeper of the Lennon flame and perhaps the best witness to Phil Spector ending his involvement with the sessions recording “Rock ‘N’ Roll” with pistol fire, to that famous reunion with Paul and the less famous one, animated here — Lennon and May Pang in a New York cab spying Paul and Linda McCartney in an adjacent cab, the two Beatles reaching out to shake hands and shout out plans in Manhattan traffic for a meet-up that never happened.

Her memories, and the footage gathered here — include a funny bit where Lennon promoted his latest record by showing up and doing the weather at a journalist/friend’s Philadelphia TV station — “I had a touch of Scranton when I was 16, but got a shot and cured it.” — reconstruct what’s widely regarded as Lennon’s “happy drunk” years. He’d return to Ono, sober up, father and raise another son with her, retire, unretire and then be murdered outside of their New York apartment just as another “comeback” was about to break.

The film, which also details Pang’s Chinese immigrant upbringing and mentions her subsequent life and career in and around the music business, joins other building block documentaries like “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” in performing two services — keeping his memory alive, and wholly charting the many currents of the life of this singular figure in global pop culture history.

And good on Pang for making it, whatever her motives.

Rating: unrated, profanity, genital doodling

Cast: Narrated by May Pang, with Julian Lennon, Alice Cooper, Tony King, Jim Keltner, Chris O’Dell, and with archival footage of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Elton John, Paul McCartney and May Pang.

Credits: Directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels, scripted by May Pang. An Iconic release.

Running time: 1:35


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Documentary Review: Remembering “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” with John Lennon and “the Other Woman,” May Pang

  1. Debra Bjorklunf says:

    I really loved the film. Leaves the unanswered question, why did he go back to YO? He usually looked miserable with her and smiling happy with MP.

  2. Tom Harrington says:

    I thinking that the unfair depiction of MP as some sort of “Hanger on” to the Lennon Story is just that. Unfair. You think, “18 month affair” in the fleeting life of John Lennon is significant. His life was was condensed into 10 years post Beatle 1970-1980. The 1974 “Walls and Bridges ” album released during the “Lost Weekend” period, kind of adds credence to the fact that this was an extremely productive time in his life. He maintained his relationship with May Pang even after returning to Yoko Ono in 1975 ! May Pang was so much more than a “hanger on”.

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