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LONDON — She welcomes you aboard with a sneer: Come fly the bitchy skies.
Air hostess Pam Ann — the Pucci-clad invention of London-based comedienne Caroline Reid — could do for stewardesses what Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine (“One ringy-dingy…”) did for telephone operators. Reid makes a laughingstock of the trolley-dolly, rightly or wrongly the object of scorn from economy travelers everywhere.
“I think Pam needs to sit down and take a really good look at herself,” says Reid, a friendly Aussie, as she sips a gin and tonic in the West End. “She’s delusional.”
At the very least, the bouffant brunette tends to stray from the FAA’s standard safety demonstrations.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the case of emergency,” intones Pam Ann during her lecture on illuminated aisle lighting, “SCREAM!”
Remember, too, that all luggage must be placed securely in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing — as Pam demonstrates with a screaming enfant. And finally, as all frequent flyers know, in the unlikely event of the loss of cabin pressure, “a karaoke microphone will fall from the unit above your head.”
“Pull down firmly and let yourself go wild,” advises Pam.
All of this — plus noninflatable Chanel life jackets — have kept “flights” with Pam Ann overbooked. A sold-out run at the SoHo Theatre in February led to this week’s gigs, from Wednesday through Saturday, and a two-week engagement in July. In June, she’ll land in New York for a performance at Le Marquis.
Reid also does the occasional special performance for private clients. On board a 737 jet chartered by Sir Elton John to fly between London and Venice last fall, Pam flung clammy “hot” towels at guests including Tim Jeffries, and later distributed glassine envelopes of white powder. (For the record, it was sugar.)
Whatever the venue, Pam Ann passengers would be advised to dress their spiffiest.
“I upgrade or downgrade audience members based on the label they wear,” warns Reid. “If it’s not a good label, I send them to the back of the plane.”
Pam Ann wasn’t always such a bully. In fact, when Reid invented her seven years ago in Melbourne, Pam was just a nice girl fascinated with the costumes of the coffee-tea-or-me set.
“Initially, she was a suburban girl,” explains Reid, “growing up and wanting to explore the world — well, wanting to get out of Australia, really.”
A lot like Reid, in a sense. But Reid and Pam have both changed while working London clubs for the past three years. Reid discovered that boozy audiences needed to be checked by a stronger character, and Pam developed into the pushy broad she is today.
Inevitably, some of Pam’s gags treat the darker side of travel. The safety card she hands out — just like the one “in the seat pocket in front of you” — shows a series of horrifyingly funny plane crashes. One icon shows a jet’s engines falling from the wings, their descent indicated, as in a textbook, by a confident downward arrow.
And then there are terrorists.
Asked how Pam would respond to a terrorist, Reid — who improvises in every performance — shoots back, “She’d grab the Clinique skin toner off the Duty Free trolley and throw it in his eyes — that’s so Pam.”