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Exclusive: May Pang, in S.F. Monday, recalls past visit to city with John Lennon

The cover of May Pang's book "Instamatic Karma."
The cover of May Pang's book "Instamatic Karma."
Macmillan - used by permission.

May Pang doesn't make many trips out to the West Coast, but she'll be at the Hotel Zetta in San Francisco at 6 p.m. July 14 making a special appearance to talk about her photos and memories of John Lennon that were featured in her book “Instamatic Karma.”

“To me, it's like a mini-exhibition because they have my photos," she told Beatles Examiner in a phone interview. When my book first came out and when I started doing exhibitions with Nancy Lee Andrews, we never really hit the West Coast. A lot of people still don't know I had a book of photographs," she said.

“My friend, Audrey Joseph, who is the entertainment commissioner for San Francisco, said, 'I put your photos at the Hotel Zetta. They love it and would love to have you come and make an appearance and talk about it.' And so that's what's happening and I'm thrilled that year's later it's still going. I'll be discussing the photos and do a little talk and if there's any questions, I'll be happy to answer. I love doing that because there have been a lot of misconceptions over the years. I'd like to change some of the myths.”

She pointed out that while 2014 is a big Beatles year because of the 50th anniversary of their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a very significant John Lennon event should also be celebrated this year.

“Do you realize that it's the 40th anniversary of John's only number 1 hit single with his number 1 album?," she said. 'It's 'Whatever Gets You Through the Night.'” The single debuted on the Billboard charts on Sept. 28, 1974. It hit Number 1 on Nov. 16 after jumping three spaces from the previous week. The “Walls and Bridges” album from which it was taken, debuted on Billboard Oct. 12, 1974. The album also hit number 1 on Nov. 16, six weeks after its debut.

San Francisco holds some memories for her and her relationship with Lennon. She says they visited the city when they were together. “We came up and had an interview with (disc jockey) Tom Donahue and we were up there for a couple of days. We stayed at the Hyatt in Union Square. I think I still have the keys,” she says with a laugh.

“We used to collect items from the hotel. I used to collect ashtrays and keys and he collected note paper. That was his thing. He loved to take note papers from different hotels and write on them and send notes out. I had gotten a birthday note written on stationary from the Virgin Islands when he went there two years earlier.” She says they also took a boat trip around the city's famous Alcatraz Prison, a big tourist attraction, while they were in San Francisco.

Pang has helped debunk some false stories about items being auctioned that are supposedly connected to Lennon. She talked about one recent example.

“There was an item being sold at Sotheby's. It was a picture and it was the last one of George with John and Yoko said to be before Bangladesh. And I looked and I said, 'That's not Bangladesh. They never saw each other there. I know. I'm there. At that point, I was working, but I was there. John wasn't there. I looked at the room and I knew. It was a much later time.”

She says she has plans to update “Loving John,” her previous book on her life with John Lennon. “It's going to encompass that whole time period, but there's more to it. It's more my memoirs than anything else. There's so much more to what's actually gone on. I actually had a relationship with him personally and businesswise for 10 years, so it's not a short thing. And there's more to it beyond that because nobody realized I was in the music business.”

The hotel is located at 55 Fifth St. in San Francisco. A spokesman said the exhibition of Pang's photos will run through Aug. 1.

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