A rare drawing by John Lennon which sold Friday in a celebrity auction brings to mind a hair-raising story of when the ex-Beatle took a ride on the famous Palm Springs aerial tramway in California. The ballpoint pen drawing shows Lennon, girlfriend May Pang and Harry Nilsson sitting on a tramcar thousands of feet off the ground in midair.
This rare drawing was auctioned off along with several other John Lennon sketches from the 1970s on Friday March 21 by CooperOwen Auctions in London. The drawings were given to guitarist Jesse Ed Davis from Lennon. Davis was a session musician who played lead guitar on Lennon’s albums “Walls and Bridges” and “Rock and Roll”.
In March of 1974, John Lennon was in the midst of his “Lost Weekend” with girlfriend, May Pang, on the West Coast. He had temporarily split from wife, Yoko Ono, and was partying and carousing with friends like Harry Nilsson in Los Angeles.
Having the tram stop in midair dangling over the mountainous cliffs would be a harrowing experience for anyone, and that’s exactly what happened when John Lennon was on the tram.
“When dinner was over, we caught the last tram down, along with the other happy campers who closed down the place. I was just thinking what a pleasant, innocuous evening it had been when the power failed, leaving us suspended in midair with forty drunken strangers. All of a sudden, the tram car became the setting for something of a Fellini movie; people making out, hands everywhere, everyone groping. I was freaking out, but John, who had grown accustomed to that kind of craziness, basically told me to relax, since there was nothing we could do dangling in the middle of the sky.”
May’s story ends there, but obviously, the tram soon regained power and delivered the passengers safely to the floor of the Coachella Valley. Since 1963, nearly 18 million people have taken a ride on the Palm Springs tramway, but only a countless few have actually been stuck on the tram, and now we know the fascinating coincidence that John Lennon was one of them.