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John Lennon drawing recalls frightening Palm Springs tram ride

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.


Courtesy CooperOwen Auctions

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.

On a weekend getaway, Lennon, Pang, Nilsson and his girlfriend, along with former Beatles’ roadie, Mal Evans, drove to Palm Springs from L.A. May Pang recounts the trip in her book “Instamatic Karma” showcasing pictures she took of John and Harry sitting outside on the grass in Palm Springs.
It was Harry’s idea to go to Palm Springs, the desert retreat once known as the “Playground of the Stars,” and he suggested that they all go to a restaurant and bar which just happened to be at the top of the tramway.
The amazing 10-minute tram ride has to be seen to be believed. The tram, located at the northern end of Palm Springs, follows an extremely steep route traveling 2.5 miles up the side of the San Jacinto mountains. The tram ride begins at the bottom of the cliffs of Chino Canyon at elevation 2,643 feet and ends at elevation 8,516 feet.

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.

In her book, May Pang describes in detail the ride she and Lennon took on the Palm Springs tram back in March 1974:
“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.”

View from the top of the Palm Springs aerial tramway
Photo: Trina Yannicos

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.

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May Pang, Nancy Lee Andrews and Shannon come together for Beatles art exhibit

By Shelley Germeaux

The National Arts Club in New York City announced on January 24 that May Pang, Shannon, and Nancy Lee Andrews will hold a fine art exhibition and book signing dedicated to the Beatles from February 8 – 15.

Called All You Need is Love, this is a Valentines Day art theme honoring the love Pang had for John Lennon, and Nancy Lee Andrews had for Ringo Starr, with never-before-seen photos of all four Beatles. Shannon, the well-renowned Beatles artist, will have an impressive display of her photo-realistic paintings.

Ringo Starr and Nancy Lee Andrews
[Photo courtesy Nancy Lee Andrews]

An artists’ reception will be held February 8 from 6-8PM by invitation only, and the exhibit is open to the public at 8pm.

Marina Deco, curator of the exhibit, said, “May, Nancy and Shannon each offer a unique view of the Beatles from the eyes of a woman in love to the artist’s creative insight. The old world atmosphere (of the National Arts Club) offers romance and history as a perfect backdrop for their work.”

Nancy Lee Andrews, photographer and model, met Ringo Starr in 1974 through John Lennon. Her photos of Ringo were featured in her book, A Dose of Rock n Roll.

May Pang grew up with music all around her and was determined to work in the industry. She met John and Yoko in 1969 while working for Apple and became their personal assistant. In 1973 during John’s separation from Yoko, she became John’s lover and companion. She has published two books about that time period, and will be signing copies of her photographic tribute to her time with John, Instamatic Karma.

Shannon is regarded as the “World’s Greatest Beatles Artist,” a name bestowed upon her by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1998. Her photographic paintings grace the walls of the Hard Day’s Night Hotel in Liverpool. Her most recent piece, John Lennon at 70, will be unveiled at this exhibition.

The National Arts Club is located at 15 Gramercy Park South in New York City.


According to the press release, the hours for the week long exhibition are as follows:

Tuesday Feb 8 – press reception 6-8pm, open to the public at 8pm.

Wed – Fri (9th, 10th, 11th) – 11am – 5pm

Sat-Sun (12th – 13th) – please call ahead (609-865-8721)

Mon (14th) – 11-5pm

Tues (15th) – 10am – 12 noon; 3 – 5pm

Note: This article was originally published on the John Lennon Examiner column on


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