Pam Ann: Dangerous at Any Altitude
BY Matthew Breen
May 10 2013 1:47 PM ET
Being accosted verbally by Pam Ann isn’t a source of shame for her global audiences. The abuse hurled by the world’s most glamorous flight attendant, alter ego of Australian comedian Caroline Reid, is one of the reasons they keep coming back.
The savage wit of the stuck-in-the-’60s air hostess from hell is some sort of innoculation against the cruelty we suffer in pursuit of air travel.
As an international verbal terrorist, Pam Ann’s comedy knows no borders. At a show in Edinburgh, she mercilessly derided British Airways flight attendants as horse-faced killjoys, and American Airlines flight attendants as loud, lumbering centenarians. At a show in Toronto, the French-Canadians of Montreal were, nice, lovely (“I got fingered walking through your city”), while the actual French were “Cunt French.” “You hate me right now, don’t you?” she asks, getting into the face of a paying ticketholder from France.
“But when I go Paris, the French love me,” Reid says on the phone Tuesday from New York as she preps for the tour that launches tonight in Palm Springs, Calif. Though she says she doesn’t utter a word in French in her act, the audiences eat it up; even if she’s forced to ask the same people, once she’s offstage and un-wigged, “Why don’t you fucking understand me on the street then?”
Since 2009 Reid has lived in New York City, but she’s originally from suburban Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. “Travel was always a dream for someone like me,” says Reid. “London was 26 hours away! I hadn’t really traveled, even in 1996 when I started Pam Ann. It was early days — not a lot of low-cost carriers, and travel was something not available to a lot of us.”
The travel aspect of Pam Ann’s persona was a product of the isolation of Australia coupled with a fascination for fashion, including the Emilio Pucci-designed flight attendant uniforms for Braniff in the mid-1960s. And the name? “In the ’60s James Bond always flew Pan Am in his movies,” she says, then as if she’s not sure that it’s true, “I don’t know where I got that idea.”
But Pam Ann is big-time now, and she’s traveled the world over. She has been featured in an advertising campaign and promotions for British Airways, KLM/Air France, JetBLue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and SAS, and British carrier EasyJet uses her videos in their training. She’s on the in-flight programming for Qantas and is the face of London’s Heathrow SkyTeam Terminal. Between sellout tours around the globe she performed on the first JetBlue JetPride flight, was hired for a private flight for Elton John, and toured with Cher as the opening act on her 2004 farewell tour. (The Sonny and Cher Show—specifically Cher’s five-plus costume changes each episode — provided the inspiration for Pam Ann’s Australian TV talker, The Pam Ann Show on the national Foxtel comedy channel.)