We've heard a lot about Paul McCartney possibly visiting John Lennon in the early '70s. In fact, there was a lame TV movie called Two of Us in which the writer pursued this fantasy.
But Beatle eyewitness May Pang told me the real story on Saturday during a break from the charity taping of "We Are Family." Pang, you may recall, was Yoko Ono's assistant, and the woman Yoko authorized Lennon to have an affair with in 1974. Lennon left Ono's iron grip and took off with Pang for a magical mystery adventure. This included an 18-month "lost weekend" during which Lennon hung out with singer Harry Nilsson, recorded an album called Pussy Cats, and made general mayhem.
Pang told me the following story: Lennon was making plans to see Paul and Linda McCartney right before Ono pulled her string and brought him home to the Dakota in Manhattan. "Paul and Linda were going to New Orleans to record the Venus and Mars album," May recalled. "And John found out they would be there. He made plans to surprise them down there. He was in a great mood and he really missed Paul."
Just as Lennon was making this plan, he was also trying to quit smoking. Enter Ono. "She told him she had a method for quitting and he should come over and she'd show him. I had a feeling this was a bad idea. She hadn't seen him in a while, and I felt something was wrong. John told me not to worry, but I did."
Indeed, Pang was correct, since Lennon did not return to her. Pang can only surmise that Lennon shared his plans with Ono, who feared a reunion with the McCartneys would spur Lennon to leave her forever. Paul McCartney was, and is, Yoko Ono's prime rival and arch enemy. Case in point: When Linda McCartney died in 1998, Paul didn't invite Yoko to the memorial service in New York. He did invite May Pang, and she attended. "Linda was wonderful," she said.
At first when Pang told people about Lennon's plans — after he'd left her — no one believed it. "But then something happened," she said. "Derek Taylor, the Beatles' publicist, showed me a postcard he'd gotten from John in England. It said, 'Going to New Orleans to see Paul.' And that was it. That was the proof."
Pang, who's separated from her husband, record producer Tony Visconti, lives in upstate New York with her two small kids these days. She hasn't forgotten about John Lennon. In fact, she keeps in touch with Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, who's in the process of moving to Spain. And on October 9th, she'll host a class at New York's Learning Annex called "Living with Lennon." It should be standing room only.
It seems like all of New York is suddenly distracted by talk of Rudy Giuliani running for mayor again. We'll do anything not to listen to more reports about the horror of the World Trade Center. So why not speculate?
The reason not to bother is, it ain't gonna happen. Mayor Giuliani has done a superlative job during New York's crisis. It's no wonder his approval rating is at 95 percent. And his interview with Tim Russert on NBC was mesmerizing. Rudy running from the rubble, setting up temporary command posts, speaking to friends moments before they died — the whole thing should earn him some medal from all New Yorkers.
But term-limits, voted in by New Yorkers, will prevent him from having a third term, or even an extra year. But those legalities aren't the only things keeping us from another year of Mayor Giuliani.
At the end of his administration stands a pot of gold, and Giuliani has certainly earned it. A public servant all his life, Giuliani will pick up $3 million from Talk/Miramax books for his two volumes of memoirs and advice. The memoir, which would have ended with a recounting of his bitter divorce, will now conclude triumphantly as he recalls the World Trade Center tragedy and how he managed it. You couldn't ask for a better ending.
On the lecture circuit and in corporate America, the mayor also is poised to reap the benefits of these emotionally-charged days. This doesn't even include the top law firm that will marquee his name for a tidy sum. And of course, there are numerous media opportunities.
Mayor Giuliani's exit on January 1st will be tough for all New Yorkers, but it's good for him. After eight years he'd be a fool not to cash out. If he remained mayor for one more minute, the chances would slip by. And who knows what horrors await the next mayor of New York? It's better for Rudy that he witness them from afar.
Bob Jamieson, the otherwise understated president of BMG Music Group, part of Bertelsmann, is having a meltdown. He recently sent a memo to his staff complaining about press leaks and their negative effect on the company.
In the memo, presented below, he makes no direct references. But certainly the ongoing troubles at Arista Records, not to mention the closing of RCA Records' black music division, has irked Jamieson. On the upside, J Records — established just one year ago — has the company's biggest hit in years. Of course, Clive Davis owns 50 percent of J, so it's a bittersweet moment for BMG.
When Davis was president of Arista, he had no ownership. Jamieson has his work cut for him, especially since Bertelsmann is growing disenchanted with the music business. In addition to staff problems and poor sales, BMG invested in Napster, only to see it tank. Ironically, former BMG Music head Strauss Zelnick argued against this investment, then was shown the door. Worldwide the money-losing BMG has laid off hundreds of people in the last few months.
Here's the memo:
Sept. 21, 2001
To BMG North America executives and employees:
I want to alert you to the serious matter of leaks coming from within BMG North America to the press. In recent days, detailed information about sensitive operations at BMG appeared in key publications. The resulting stories blind-sided the company in a highly prejudicial and unfair manner.
Based on proprietary information, the stories did nothing but damage people's careers and reputations. These reports are counter-productive for BMG Entertainment and the work we are attempting to do here.
You should know exactly where I stand on this issue: leaking information to the press or industry sources is grounds for immediate dismissal for cause. Such behavior is unprofessional, benefits no one and is ultimately destructive. I simply won't stand for it.
Your conversations with press and industry sources are important and vital. I know that and am not interested in hindering those.
However, on what are clearly sensitive issues that could materially affect the performance of BMG, we must take a disciplined approach. Now and in the future, only designated executives should be talking to the press on matters of corporate policy, acquisitions or divestitures, and other confidential information. If there is any confusion about where I stand on this issue, please contact me directly. Thank you for your cooperation on this important matter.
Robert B. Jamieson
President and Chief Executive Officer