The Lost Weekend: A Love Story

In 1973, Yoko Ono was taken by surprise to overhear her husband, John Lennon, making love to another woman.  The marriage had gotten rocky and hoping to control the situation, Ono directed their 21 year-old personal assistant, May Pang, to ‘go out’ with John.  Pang refused, but when John himself suddenly began to court her she fell in love.  Fifty years later, May Pang sets the record straight about just what happened in “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story.”

Laura's Review: B

Anyone who regards Pang as a footnote in Beatles history as his companion during drunken carousing in L.A. with Harry Nilsson is in for a surprise.  Producer/directors Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and "Visions of Light's" Stuart Samuels combine the present day reflections of Pang and the son, Julian, she helped reconnect with his dad, with her trove of photographs and home movies, many seen for the first time, as well as animation, archival material and Lennon’s own drawings to illustrate what was actually a deep and lasting romance.  According to Pang, she was still receiving phone calls from her former lover months before his death in 1980.

At first it seems odd connecting the somewhat deep, distinctly New York accented voice to the young May Pang we see in pictures, first shown with her immigrant parents.  The first generation American recounts how tough her parents had it, minorities within the minorities of Spanish Harlem where her mother, who never really learned the language, opened OK Laundry while her father adopted a boy and largely ignored his daughter.  She is amused telling us that while he was an atheist and her mother a Buddhist, they ‘had no problem’ sending her to a Catholic school, but the rock ‘n roll lover rebelled, dropping out of college.  Most of this early history is relayed via collage cutouts.

On her first attempt to find a job, May took the train to Times Square only to have another young woman inform her that Apple Records had offices in one of its buildings.  May went up, lied through her teeth about her qualifications and was hired.  When John Lennon and Yoko Ono arrived in New York to shoot a couple of avant-garde films, May become their production assistant.  Before long she was flown to their English estate, Tittenhurst, where she delighted in playing with Julian and thrilled to hearing ‘Imagine’ for the first time.  When the couple moved to New York, they made her their personal assistant.

May made note of Yoko’s manipulations before she was asked to become her boss’s boyfriend, his second wife screening incoming calls and denying Julian access to his father without John’s knowledge.  But after Lennon swept her off her feet, then off to L.A., for eighteen months May believed they were in it for the long haul, Lennon, having sobered up after his time with the ‘Hollywood Vampires,’ drawing pictures of them in their senior years, the two even planning on buying a house mere weeks before Ono ‘agreed to take him back.’ (This after convincing him to go into hypnotherapy to quit smoking.)

Obviously, these events are told from Pang’s point of view, but the adult Julian, who clearly is extremely fond of her, is there to back a lot of her recollections up.  May became a Zelig-like figure in rock ‘n roll history, there for the recording of three solo albums, the collaboration with Elton John which resulted in his only #1 hit single (‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night’), his last jam with Paul and frequent visits from the likes of David Bowie (Pang would go on to marry Bowie’s record producer, Tony Visconti, in 1989).  She was with John on their balcony that night in August when they saw a UFO.  John attended public events with her where Yoko was also present, and others, like an AFI tribute to Jimmy Cagney, where she was not.  But while we hear that John seemed happy and ‘lighter’ when he was with Pang, she has no answers as to why he returned to Yoko other than to say he loved them both.

Much of what is told in “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” will be known to Beatlemaniacs, if not the casual fan, but even so, it is a fascinating piece of history to revisit and much of Pang’s archive, like footage of a Long Island Sound sailing trip with John and Julian, is shared treasure. 

Robin's Review: B-

Iconic Events opens "The Lost Weekend: A Love Story" in theaters on 4/14/23.