Vault takes a closer look at the evolution of the women who once dominated the skies
The so-called Golden age of flying coincided with the packaging of female flight attendants as sex symbols. Then called stewardesses, they were meant to coax and predominantly male passengers at that time into flying the airline they represented.
This was evident as early as 1955, when United Airlines stewardess Barbara Cameron posed as Playboy magazine’s Miss December. She re-appeared in 1958 as “The Girl Next Door” and was named one of the magazine’s most popular “playmates.”
A 1965 article in the Des Moines Register said that male passengers expected stewardesses “to look like a Las Vegas showgirl, and are angry when she doesn’t.”
And in 1967, the bestseller Coffee, Tea or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Flight Stewardesses revealed the in-flight exploits of stewardesses and their “bad boy” passengers, and listed the celebrities with whom the girls allegedly had had romantic dalliances. The veracity of the accounts has since been challenged and the book is now listed as “adult fiction.”
The in-flight innuendo reached its peak in the 1970s, when National Airlines put out an ad showing a pixie-faced flight attendant with the copy, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.” Other Mad Men-type gimmicks included Braniff’s “Air Strip,” where “air hostesses” peeled off layers of clothing during the flight; paper dresses for TWA stewardesses (soon junked when male passengers made a habit of burning cigarette holes in them for “fun”—yes, smoking on board was allowed back then); and Eastern Airlines’ little black book giveaway, which was meant to encourage male passengers to get the phone numbers of flight attendants.
This is an excerpt only. The full article is featured in the Travel Issue of Vault Magazine, (June-July 2012). Vault Magazine is available in the Philippines at all Fully Booked, Powerbooks, and National Bookstore branches. For more details, visit Vault‘s Facebook page HERE.