DEBORAH CROMBIE: On Sunday night, September 25th, a new series, Pan Am, premieres on ABC. Set in 1963, it stars Christina Ricci, and "follows the lives of stewardesses circa 1963 and their bouts with passion, jealousy and espionage at 30,000 feet." (I'm quoting the show's Facebook page.) "Stewardesses," mind you, not "flight attendants." Remember them? If you don't, the show will bring it all back, especially those adorable sky-blue uniforms and the little pill-box hats. And girdles. They had to wear girdles!
It all sounds like complete fluff--super soapy Mad Men in the Sky--but the show is directed by Thomas Schlamme of The West Wing, and written by Jack Orman of ER. Not only that, but for all you former ER fans, this season will feature a four-episode guest arc with Goran Visnjic (Dr. Luka Kovak). Be still my heart.
But pitter-patter aside, all this retro-sixties air travel glamor started me thinking about the way we used to dress for plane flights. Can you imagine that we used to actually "dress up" to get on a plane? (My first plane flight, for the record, was circa 1966--a Dallas to Houston hop on a prop plane for my brother's wedding, on which I disgraced myself by having to use the sick bag. Remember those? These days I am, fortunately, a much better flyer.) Even in the mid-seventies, when I made a number of trips to Europe with my parents, we took our in-flight ensembles very seriously. My mother was horrified at the thought of not being well-turned out on a plane.
These days, I'd wear pajamas on a transatlantic flight if I could get away with it.
I'll have to watch the first episode of Pan Am a few weeks after the premiere, as on Sunday night I will be boarding an American Airlines 767 flight to London. Ten hours of scrunched up economy, bad food, and circulating viruses. Glamor, indeed. I'll take my own blanket as I'm not sure AA is still giving them out in Economy even on transatlantic flights. (Business Class is my idea of heaven...)
What about you, Jungle Reds? Do you miss the days of glamor in the skies, when air travel was an adventure rather than a trial?
JAN BROGAN: I still can't believe I used to smoke cigarettes on an airplane. But while I miss leg room - and will pay extra for it -have to point out that air travel is also way more affordable. No matter how much glamor there may or may not have been (wasn't most of it in our heads anyway, because the experience was rare?,) you were always cooped up on an airplane for an ungodly amount of time. At least now it costs less.
But of course, I suffered from a really bad plane phobia for a long time and now I don't. So for me, personally, there's been a lot of progress in air travel.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, it used to be such fun! My sister and I would fly to see my father (When I was maybe, 10? And Nina 7), and instantly scoop up all the little salt and pepper shakers from the dinner tray. Remember? They had real food! And we thought those little bottles of alcohol were SO exotic. We dressed up, of course.
And I adored the flight attendants, and wanted to be a "stewardess" for such a long time. I mean--they were gorgeous, had those cool uniforms, and were so worldly, and seemed to be in charge.
Now I make sure I have a shawl and flat shoes and non-smelly food. And I still am impressed by the flight attendants. They are so patient, and so brave.
RHYS BOWEN: I remember the first time I flew to Australia the plane made about six stops along the way and at each one we had to get out and go into a lounge. And every segment they served another meal and more alcohol. My husband John was an airline sales manager so we got to travel first class everywhere, but had to dress accordingly--me in suit and high heels, the kids as if going to church. I liked getting dressed up. I liked the glamor of flying. I liked the linen table cloths and the caviar (sigh). And friends coming up to the plane door to see us off and my kids sitting up with the pilot and helping to fly the plane. When John was laid off reality struck and the kids stared in horror. "You mean we have to fly economy?" they asked. It's been going downhill ever since.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, that makes me laugh. "You mean we have to fly economy?" And also helps put in perspective my nostalgia for flying in the pre-deregulation days. Yes, it WAS nicer, and people did dress up instead of wearing pajama pants and flip-flops, and you actually looked forward to the "jet set" experience...but I wasn't the one paying for the tickets back then.
Hank, my mother had a whole collection of those china salt-and-pepper shakers! When I think of the glamor of air travel, I think of my mom back then - a slim, stylish officer's wife in a miniskirt and long red hair. (I quickly add she's still slim and stylish.) Even back in a time when there were porters and skycaps all over, my mother perfected the art of packing for a week in a single Samsonite Fashionaire.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: We didn't fly anywhere when I was a kid - it was more like piling into the Chevy and driving to upstate NY. How glamorous you all were! Don't remember my first flights - probably Freddie Laker to Europe. Anyone remember him? I'm sure I wore jeans and wanted to look adventurous. Nowadays i try for Kate Moss chic - black, denim, shawl, slipons, large carryon. I think it works, although I suppose there's always the chance I think I look like Kate Moss and I really look like a bag lady.
In the 80s I didn't pinch the salt and pepper shakers but I had a pretty large collection of those cloth napkins with the hole in them (so men could attach them to their shirt buttons.)
It is nice to fly first class or business - and I upgrade whenever I can - but I'm a pretty good traveler and don't really care, particularly if my husband is with me. What I do confess to loving is Priority Access. Not having to wait in line is such a good thing!
LUCY BURDETTE: Ha, ha, you girls make me laugh. Hank, you'd be the best stewardess ever. And Ro, you couldn't look like a bag lady if you tried! We didn't fly when I was young either, we drove everywhere in a station wagon with no AC, two German shepherds, and a pop-up trailer towed behind. The only flight I can remember really loving was an accidental upgrade to first class years ago from Hawaii to New York. It was one of those planes where the seats reclined completely into a real bed. Heaven. We took a bike trip in Hungary this summer and I lobbied hard for an upgrade--told my sister-in-law we were doing that so she could pile on.
"I'm not that big," she said. "I don't need that much room."
I'm not that big either, and I'm here to say that has nothing to do with it! Being treated like a reasonable human is what I crave. And I DO look like a bag lady when I travel--it's all about comfort and as close to PJ's as I can get:).
DEBS: I lost my Priority Access this last year--missed it by 500 miles. Didn't have immediate trips planned so didn't want to pay the ridiculous fee to re-up. I am SO regretting that . . .
What about you, readers? Do you still like flying the friendly skies?
Oh, and be sure to come back, as we have a great week! We have the multi-talented Crescent Dragonwagon to tell us about Fearless Writing, and cooking; thriller writer Sophie Hannah; and on Friday, Louise Penny!