It was a glamorous era to travel the globe as a stewardess-back when flying was a civilized, dressy affair. They were single and beautiful, and these young women also had to be slender-two pounds extra meant payroll suspension. Plus, they were smart. A college degree was required, plus fluency in one or more foreign languages.
Four Columbus-area women, all stewardesses for Pan Am orTWAin the halcyon days of the airline industry in the 1970s and '80s, recently met for a reunion, sparked in large part by the debut of ABC's retro series "Pan Am."
Stopping by Jennifer Joseph's posh Miranova place, with its aerial view, were Deb Zuhars, who now flies for Delta; Pat Laudick, an owner of Leo Alfred Jewelers, and Susan Brown, a federal appeals court judge (the loneTWAattendant). They traded stories nonstop while sipping wine, snacking on finger sandwiches and poring over yellowed newspaper clippings and long-forgotten photos.
"I'm prouder of my years at Pan Am than anything else," says Joseph, an attorney and principal at Joseph & Joseph law offices. "Only one out of every 10,000 women got the job."
They spoke of exotic times. Weeklong layovers in first-class hotels. An invitation to Omar Sharif's party in a Paris hotel room. A chance encounter with John Travolta. White House press charters with Sam Donaldson. Dining on the world's finest steaks in Buenos Aires. Schussing down the slopes of Tehran's ski resort. Unparalleled shopping in the crowded markets of Delhi-"Moti Lal had the best jewelry," says Laudick, flashing the sparkly ring she still wears.
Laudick holds up her uniform, the iconic pale blue Evan Picone dress, jacket and bowler hat. "We had to wear white gloves with this."
"And false eyelashes," Zuhars says with a laugh. "They showed you how to put them on."
Stewardesses cooked all meals to order in the galley kitchen. Laudick sifts through a stack of menus-some from first class, several from coach. "Alaskan salmon in champagne sauce," she reads. "Coq au vin. Caviar."
"Beluga was all I knew," says Joseph, laughing.
There were historic flights (hauling refugees out of Saigon) and goodwill missions (transporting terminally ill patients to Lourdes). There were tense times. Recalling an emergency landing after losing hydraulic power, Brown says, "It taught us to be calm, never show fear."
Frequent terrorist threats-especially after a Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988-were unnerving. Flight attendants searched the plane for wires and checked the bathrooms. With hijackers, recalls Brown incredulously, "The airlines would say, 'Talk them down. They're on drugs.' "
So is ABC getting it right with "Pan Am"?
"Yes," says Joseph. "Except for those young pilots. Ours were ex-military. Handsome, but older."