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Photo exhibition uncovers John Lennon's lost weekend

by Katie Hickox, reporting for Beatles News in San Francisco

May Pang was the special guest of honor at the Hotel Zetta reception in San Francisco on Monday, July 14, to kick off an exhibition of unusual photographs. A very relaxed and happy John Lennon can be seen in the photos, taken by his then girlfriend May during the nearly two years they spent together from 1973 to 1975 during the commonly misnamed "Lost Weekend" when Lennon was living apart from his wife Yoko Ono.

The rare photographs, taken by May with Nikon Nikomat 35mm and Kodak Polaroid cameras, bring back a slice of Lennon's life in the early 70s that is largely unknown to most Beatles fans, because Pang kept these personal photographs hidden for over 30 years until she finally published them in her 2008 book, "Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon." The book (now out of print but fans can still find new copies available for sale online) includes over 40 photographs of a different side of John Lennon relaxing at home, and also photos of his famous friends such as Paul McCartney who visited him along with many other celebrities.

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May Pang's photos on exhibit at the Hotel Zetta

May spoke to the large crowd at the exhibition opening, and told the story behind each of the seven photographs on display, starting with how John loved having his photograph taken with the motorcycle that he saw and wanted but didn't buy, to the photos of John swimming alongside the boat they were in during a summer vacation.

May shared how the photo titled "The Piano Man" of Paul McCartney sitting at the piano was taken when his then very young five year old daughter Mary asked him, presumably for the very first time, "Dad are you some kind of a rock star?" Paul looked at his daughter with a puzzled expression as he was caught off guard for the right answer as May took the photo. On that day, McCartney was visiting John at the Santa Monica beach house rented by Harry Nilsson, which had been a favorite of Peter Lawford, Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities.

Another landmark photo, "Walk in the Wilderness," was taken by May of John wearing a white sweater as he was taking a friend's dog for a walk while they were staying in a small town near Woodstock one lovely autumn day. May saw him from a distance and called to him, and Lennon had just turned around as she snapped the photo. John liked it so much he used it for the European cover of the "Imagine" album.

Kevin Casey performs at May Pang photo exhibit opening

May Pang's longtime friend, Audrey Joseph, along with Jocelyn Kane, were the event organizers for Monday's night special reception. Joseph arranged for performing rock artist Kevin Casey (of the San Francisco rock band RubberSideDown) to play Beatles and John Lennon solo songs at the event. Audrey worked together with Hotel Zetta Sales and Marketing Director Greg Bell to make possible the display of these photos in the hotel's lobby. Audrey said, "The seven photographs currently on display are all that are left of the 30 original photographs that had been produced a few years ago on a limited edition."

Joseph, who met May Pang when they worked together at Island Records in New York City, after Pang worked at Apple Records' affiliated ABKCO Records in the early 70s, says she was inspired to help May with setting up this display and exhibition because of her longtime friendship. She announced at the event that all proceeds from the sale of the photographs would go to a non-profit production company, Site and Sound, which produced the May Pang special reception, and promotes and supports music and the arts and the creation of their content. She said, "Site and Sound was created, to stimulate greater public interest in, understanding of and participation in all forms of performing arts including but not limited to music, art, dance, spoken word and visual arts."

May's rare photos of John Lennon will be on display through the end of August in the Hotel Zetta lobby which is located on Fifth Street near Market Street, across from the old San Francisco Mint on Fifth Street.

Published July 16, 2014

This article is Copyright © 2014, Katie Hickox, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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