Pam Ann Touches Down
By Joseph Hassan
Don't let the fact that Caroline Reid is a straight woman fool you. Brought up under the collective wing of some of Australia's most notorious drag queens, her kitschy, sharp-tongued airhostess alter-ego Pam Ann (a play on the moniker of the now-defunct Pan American Airways) is as crass, acerbic and gleefully gay as you could hope for. Known for her brazenly blunt critique of all things trolley dolly, Pam Ann resonates not only with the jilted pillow-less sojourner, but also with the first-class, private-jet contingent. She counts Madonna and Elton John among her celebrity fans and has opened for Cher at Wembley Stadium. Fresh on the heels of her first (and sold-out) European tour, Pam Ann (along with a slew of characters that poke fun at every airline worth ridiculing) kicks off her inaugural U.S. tour on October 10, 2009 in Boston. Out sat down with Reid to get the real deal on how her kitsch-diva persona was born -- and her plans for taking over America.
Out: Before we get too serious, what's your favorite airline?
Caroline Reid: Pam Ann Airlines, the world's most experienced airline! The fact is that we don't make the same mistake more than three times' maybe four.
[Laughs] Okay, so tell us a little about how the Pam Ann character was born.
She was born out of a birthday party. I dressed up as a [Pan American Airlines] airhostess and I woke up and thought someone had slurred 'Pam Ann' and I thought, 'I like that.' I like all the jet set, the logos, the style, the posters -- and the whole airline thing. I loved the theme of it. That was 10 years ago.
And the rest is history?
Well, a lot of people thought it would be a one hit wonder '- I mean, how long could an airhostess last? But with all the changes in travel, there's so much material. No one was really prepared for that. [Laughs]
One of the real appeals of the show, especially to your gay fans, is the drag component.
I didn't go to the school of dramatic arts, darling, I went to the school of drag-atic arts. All the drag queens and trannies that I worked with when I was doing the bars in Melbourne and Sydney, they're all my sisters. They're the ones that showed me the ropes. They took me under their wing.
The outfits in your show are amazing. Some of them are vintage, right?
I've got two original uniforms from Braniff [the U.S. airline that went under in 1982]. The Braniff Pucci' I've got the original Pucci tights and the top and another one -- the one with the umbrella, the Pucci umbrella. It was on Ebay and my brother emailed me and said, 'You've got to check this out -- it's amazing.' So I bought it off this woman in Argentina and she saw my email address and she said, 'Are you Pam Ann?' She said, 'My brother said he'd pay for the FedEx to get it to you because he's a big fan.'
Are you a bit of an airline buff?
It comes with the job now that I've been doing it for ten years. I've become a little addicted to it.
So it came as a result of the job or vice versa?
I always liked the jet-set era and the whole graphics and the whole style. But the other stuff -- you know, knowing things like [London Heathrow's] T-5 is built on a swamp -- you do get a bit enthralled by it. I love all the statistics.
And you got a private tour of T-5 when it opened?
I did. CNN and Google -- and me. I think the British Airways marketing department was a bit concerned. I was heading off here and there and everywhere trying to figure out what they were all up to.
Your show has brought you all over the world. Do you have a favorite spot that you've been to?
I liked Iceland. I had a really good time in Reykjavik, believe it or not. That was wild. That was really a great experience. Really nice people. It was one of those experiences that's unexpected'I went out on stage kind of Bj'rk-like and asked them to turn the lights up. I wanted to know what an Icelandic person looked like.
They looked kind of Danish. A bit Scandinavian, but not as hot, I guess. Don't tell Icelandic people that! [laughs] But a lot of them on Iceland Air are ex-beauty queens so there are some very beautiful people there. And, now that I think of it, I think it was Wallpaper magazine that did a survey and the hottest route was New York to Iceland on Iceland Air -- the hottest crew and passengers.
Any other hot spots?
In Phuket [Thailand], we were at a bar that Kate Moss turned up at. She's hot. She was great. My friend passed out at the bar and she and her boyfriend were helping him. My friend said, 'I'm so sorry about this drama' and she said, 'That's not drama; I'm drama.' [Laughs]