LENNONYC premiere in NY- May Pang says "I'll re-write my book to correct this."
by Shelley Germeaux
September 27th, 2010
May Pang promises to re-write her book about the time she spent with
John Lennon after seeing the premiere of "LENNONYC" at the New York
Film Festival Saturday night.
LENNONYC, the PBS film for American Masters that has been widely
promoted (showing on PBS November 22) is a documentary about John
Lennon's New York years, where he lived from 1971until his murder in 1980.
Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, has strongly promoted the documentary; and
the film's director, Michael Epstein, conceded that while she did not
technically have "editorial control", she was "there" while he made
the film---which might explain what we've heard.
LENNONYC premiered at the New York Film Festival Saturday night, and
it was a gala affair attended by the full gamut of rock and roll as
well as "Lennon" royalty: Yoko Ono was guest of honor of course, and
also present were May Pang, Stevie Van Zandt, Josh Groban, David Peel
("The Pope Smokes Dope"), immigration attorney Leon Wildes, members
of Elephants Memory, Hugh McCracken, renown Beatle artist Shannon,
Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas, photographer Bob Gruen, and many more.
The film consists of many interviews of people who knew John and Yoko
during those incredibly eventful New York years. Consider what
occurred..John's radical period erupted here when he met the likes of
Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and David Peel. He took up with Elephant's
Memory and began singing the protest songs that landed on "Some Time
In New York City", a double album that bombed the charts in 1972.
Deportation proceedings were begun against John, technically because
of his England drug bust, but it was pretty clear that Nixon's people
wanted him out of the U.S. The "Lost Weekend" of 1973-74 came next,
when John ran off with his cute and trustworthy assistant May Pang
and went to LA. He went on some benders with notorious partying L.A.
rock stars but produced some of the best solo material of his life
and reunited with his son Julian, at Pang's behest. When that all
came to an end and John went back home to Yoko, they had a son, Sean
on John's 35th birthday in 1975, after which he hung up his guitar
and became a househusband. In 1980 he and Yoko put out Double
Fantasy, his last album. And then he was gone--just as he was making
his big comeback, with promises of touring.
Yoko Ono is featured heavily throughout the film, I'm told, with
photographer Bob Gruen (who took the famous NYC t-shirt photo)
running a close second. Oddly enough, close confidant Elliott Mintz
(who did the radio program "The Lost Lennon Tapes" way back when)
only gets a couple of minutes. He comes in last place pretty much,
with May Pang's little segment where she talks about grocery shopping
with John and eating caviar. Other heavy-hitters in the film include
Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas, and drummer Jim Keltner.
May Pang talks about LENNONYC
May's reaction (see Roger Friedman's report also) basically dashes
any hopes that this contains much new material or new slant on
Lennon's life…think back to the Lennon Musical, the Imagine film, and
The U.S. vs. John Lennon. One person was overheard afterwards saying
"Isn't it supposed to be about LENNON? It's all about Yoko."
If you've read Pang's prior books, Loving John, Instamatic Karma, and
her many interviews (see some of ours here), you won't be surprised
to hear that she was very unhappy when she came out of the film. The
whole ordeal was upsetting enough to cause her to say, "I'm going to
do a complete re-write of my book again. Completely. I need to set
Pang was invited to the premier (after all, she's in the film), but
was not invited onto the "red carpet" for photos, as that would not
have been cool. As John Lennon's girlfriend during 1973-74 during
John's separation from Yoko, she and Yoko are not exactly best friends.
The first words out of her mouth after the show were bristling:
"Lies", she said, "so much of it is the same old lie. No matter that
I have published my book (Instamatic Karma) with photos, proving that
things happened differently. It's the same old spin."
Ironically, May was seated next to photographer Bob Gruen, who took
the famous photos of John with the New York City T-shirt on her roof.
(see more below) "So many times during the film," she said, "I turned
to look at Bob and said out loud, 'that's a lie…that's a lie.' And
Bob looked straight ahead and ignored me. In fact, so many people are
buying into the same old stories. The people featured in the
interviews all have jumped on the Yoko Ono bandwagon."
What's the fuss about?
Pang contests the way that the "Lost Weekend", the time period she
was with John, is being portrayed (1973-74) in LENNONYC. Since the
publication of her books, which contain enough photographic evidence
to prove what she's saying, she perhaps hoped that the documentary
might reflect her story a little better. But, she says, "nothing's
changed." Here's a short list:
"Lost Weekend" is overblown: The documentary continues the legend
about how drunk John was "all the time" in L.A. and that he was
always begging Yoko to come home, but Yoko would reply "You're not
ready." May says, "Paul (McCartney) revealed in Many Years From Now
that Yoko went to London to ask him to come out to L.A. and talk John
into coming back to her. And nohe was not always hollering her
name. They spoke on the phone all the time. And he wasn't always kind either."
The Phil Spector sessions were also brought up, and Lennon is
portrayed as the one who came to the studio with a huge bottle of
vodka every night. "It was Phil carrying guns and liquor, not
John! Bob Gruen was never in L.A. and we only saw Jack Douglas there
once or twice, and that was it. They are not experts about that time period."
May points out how productive he was musically, producing Walls &
Bridges, which included the #1 hit, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night".
Date of John & Yoko's reunion:
"Elton John says that John and Yoko got back together after the
performance at the Madison Square Garden show (November 28, 1974),"
May said. "He said he couldn't remember how Yoko got the tickets.
John and I got her the tickets ourselves. He knew that." (Elton John
is Sean Lennon's godfather.)
While John and Yoko did chat back stage together and have a nice
reunion of sorts, May recalls, "John and Yoko did not 'get back
together' that night. John and I continued to live together until
February of 1975. We took Julian to Disneyworld over Christmas break.
That's all in my book."
In the film, Yoko sent John and May out to L.A.
May: "No she didn't. John made that decision on his own. She didn't
even know we were going."
The famous NYC photo session and t-shirt
In the film, Bob Gruen says he went to "John's apartment to take
pictures" with no reference to the fact that May was living there
too. (He is referring to John and May's apartment that they got
together.) May clarifies, "Those pictures were taken on our roof.
This was where we saw the UFO that summer."
Gruen then says he asked John, "Do you still have that shirt I gave
you?" (referring to the iconic NYC shirt) According to Bob, John went
straight into the apartment to retrieve it.
May remembers otherwise: "Bob took that shirt out of his bag! When
we went to L.A. we took very little with us, and John didn't have it.
When we came back, we went straight to a hotel and then to my
apartment. So there's no way the shirt could have been there. Only
after that photo session did John wear the shirt a few times (most
notably on Ringo's Goodnight Vienna album photos)."
John assured her that "the truth would come out."
Wistfully, May recalls a time after their breakup, when John came to
see her. He said "Don't worry, May, the truth will come out about us
one day." "Because at the time," May acquiesced, "I understood that
John had to 'stick to the story' that he and Yoko had agreed upon. I
thought after his death" she continued, "none of this pettiness would
matter, but it only got worse."
This is the third time in less than two weeks that May has been in
the same company as Yoko Ono. First for Julian's photography exhibit,
"Timeless", secondly for the "Nowhere Boy" premiere along with the
Quarrymen, and now for this premiere as well.
Pang will be in New York on October 9thLennon's 70th birthdayfor
the big free outdoor screening of "LennonNYC" at Central Park
Summerstage for 5000 people. Ono will be in Iceland.
May Pang comments on Nowhere Boy premiere with Quarrymen - "fantastic job"
by Shelley Germeaux
September 27th, 2010
Nowhere Boy, the film about John Lennon's youth, premiered in New
York Friday night at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. (Watch
trailer here) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6Km9L1Sqd0
The original Quarrymen, the band that John formed during that time
period, also performed a few of the old skiffle numbers that they did
with Lennon. (Read our review of Nowhere Boy here)
Nowhere Boy, written by Sam Taylor-Woods, starring Aaron Johnson,
focuses on the relationship between the two women who fought over him
while he grew up--his mum Julia, and his aunt Aunt Mimi, who forced
Julia to hand little John over to her. During the film, while this
battle is going on, we watch as John gets in continual trouble at
school over his antics, and meets the boys who would feature in his
first band. His meeting with Paul McCartney changes everything, and
the Beatles are born. Julia is killed by a drunk driver as she leaves
Mimi's house, and John's world is shattered. His band gives him a
place to put his pent up anger and creative talent.
The original members of the Quarrymen are doing several gigs in the
U.S. to honor John's 70th birthday and are helping to kick-off the
premiere of the movie that features their beginnings. Guitarist Rod
Davis, guitarist and vocalist Len Garry, and drummer Colin Hanton are
pictured at left with May Pang. It was the first time they've met.
May Pang has been busy this last week, attending events honoring
Lennon: Julian Lennon's Timeless art exhibition, the New York Film
Festival's premiere of LENNONYC, and this one.
May reported that this premiere of Nowhere Boy was definitely yet
another "who's who" event. She saw Harvey Weinstein, Billy J Kramer,
Willie Niles, Stevie Van Zandt, Ken Dashow, and Mark Hudson. "There
were about 800 people in attendance", she said, "it was quite packed."
What was her impression of the film?
"I had some concerns, but overall, they did a fabulous job telling
the story." Her concerns had to do with the fact that Cynthia Powell,
John's first wife and mother of Julian, was not even featured at all.
And she was very prominent in John's life after 1957, from art school days.
Her impression of Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas): "a little too unlike
her….she was much stronger than what was portrayed. Consider for
example that she refused to go to John and Cynthia's wedding because
she was so angry at them for it. Uncle George on the other hand, well
John was very fond of him."
What about Julia (Ann Marie-Duff)? "From what I understand about her,
she was not nearly as flighty as the way she's portrayed here. I mean
I'm watching this and saying, wow, they've made her so flighty it's
like she needs a net thrown over her! And the scene where she and
Mimi are sitting in the chair having tea and everything's A-OK?
Right! I don't believe it. It couldn't have happened that way."
May relayed an interesting memory of receiving a guitar lesson from
John in 1974. She said, "John said, 'I wanna teach you Ain't That A
Shame. (Fats Domino). It was the first song mum taught me on banjo.'
And in the movie, it was a different song she taught him. They never
even played Fats Domino in the movie! But that's what he told me."