All Aboard the Pink Flight

Advocate film critic Kyle Buchanan braves the Kathy Griffin–hosted Pink Flight on Air New Zealand and lives to tell a few tales.




In the morning,
as the drag queens roam the aisles to begin a portion of
the flight titled "Party Party Wake-up," we all smell a bit
ripe from the last several hours of close quarters.
Cameron applies a cologne that attracts the attention
of Buckwheat. "Are you sure you want some?" Cameron
asks. "It's a bit manly." Buckwheat thinks it over.
"Give it to Ribena, then," she says. Venus is the next drag
queen to pass us, and Cameron tells her that she looks
stressed. She is horrified. You do not tell a drag
queen she looks stressed -- it implies some misapplied

Eventually roused
from her business class slumber, Kathy Griffin walks
down the aisle, literally tossing out breakfast omelettes
wrapped in aluminum foil. "You can use my fake
eyelashes as a flotation device," she says in the
responsible manner of a flight attendant. Behind me,
Mark loudly asks, "Doesn't she look like Miley Cyrus?"
To me, that's as cruel a slam as telling a drag queen she
looks stressed, but Kathy rises to the occasion. "I
look like Miley Cyrus's little sister," she says.

I talk a bit to
Alan and Christopher, a happily partnered Palm Springs
couple who are celebrating their 32nd year together. "We've
never done an Atlantis cruise or an RSVP cruise
before, although we've always thought about it," says
Alan. "So we thought this might be an interesting way
to go such a long distance and endure 15 to 18 hours of
travel." When the flight crew finds out that it's the
couple's anniversary, they present both men with a
complimentary bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Though we
barely know each other, Cameron and I attempt to
convince Buckwheat that it's our anniversary too. It works,
and I tuck a free bottle of champagne into my pink
bowling bag.

In front of me is
another couple, Jen and Mik, who hail from San
Francisco (though Mik is a native Australian). Mik's been to
Sydney Mardi Gras several times. "It's like the
biggest rush ever to be walking up the street and
having hundreds of thousands of people cheering you on for
being who you are," he says. Since women are a rare sighting
on the Pink Flight, I tentatively ask Mik what his
relationship is to Jen. "We're primary partners," he
begins, "but we have other partners too," she says.
"Yeah, we both like it both ways, preferably at the
same time," he says. It is so cute when
partner-swapping bi couples finish each other's thoughts
like that.

Approaching Touchdown

It's in the
waning hours of the flight, and the passengers are roaming
around the plane, making conversation. Everyone has some
interesting stories to tell, whether it's the
18-year-old straight girl who tells me about her work
as a thoroughbred horse jumper in Canada, or Jason
Bellini, who recalls hitchhiking across Australia as a
teenager. Did he see any kangaroos, I ask? He did:
They would hop across the road and splatter on truck
drivers' windshields. That's one way to do it, I guess.

Buckwheat gets on
the intercom and announces that it's time for the "Hot
Body Contest." It's a midnight staple of sleazy gay
bars everywhere, but I'm not quite ready to see it done on
an intercontinental flight at 7 in the morning. A
dozen brave passengers doff their shirts and march
down the aisles to applause. Even Kathy gets in on the
act, stripping down to her bra. Sadly, she loses to a
hard-bodied man from Wisconsin, who also goes on to win the
"Draw a Drag Queen" art contest. Suspicious -- I
thought I drew a pretty great Buckwheat. I guess I
don't have the abs of a winner. After my defeat,
Cameron shakes his head and chuckles. "Our lives on the
Z-list, huh?" he says. "At least the Z-list gets the best

Later in Sydney,
when I'm reading about the Pink Flight on the gay blog
Towleroad, I will notice all the comments slamming the idea
as a clichéd embarrassment. It's the same sort of
thing I hear about gay pride parades, and while I'm
not usually into those (too many Abercrombie shirts
and fanny packs), the Pink Flight has been far more
idiosyncratic than its stereotypical trappings might
suggest. If it were reduced to a one-minute clip on
the Fox News Channel, I might have groaned. Good thing
I flew on it instead.

For now, though,
it's time to put the wheels down on the plane, and that
means it's the end of our entertainment. Buckwheat walks
past me and sighs. "I need a shave," she says.

For extensive
photos of the flight go to AdvocateInsider

Tags: Travel