As a young lad my only career ambition was to be a comedian…to head off to California and ‘do stand-up’.
I managed the former, by driving out to L.A. on the old Route 66 with high school buddy Mike Sokolowski in his rust-bucket MGA, but failed miserably at the latter: The captive audience (I fear they were all on ‘work release’) at the Blue Sky Café, a salubrious Hollywood dive, found me less than amusing and sadly my stint as a professional comic lasted for one set. But the act that followed me had great success (Teddy Neely. He ended up playing the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar). And so began my journey of a continual stream of new and then abandoned careers that would culminate in my printed résumé stretching to almost 6 pages (well, 6 ½ if I included the excitingly short stint in Hollywood as ‘parking lot attendant to the stars’. My stint came to a crashing end when I gave the keys of a brand new Mercedes convertible to the wrong drunken patron.)
I crewed on yachts on the French Riviera, taught skiing in Austria, looked after horses in Normandy, wrote news copy at a radio station in L.A…cleaned toilets in Key West. Was a tuxedoed Maitre’ D in Aspen, a union painter in San Francisco. Worked for the famous global polluters Union Carbide – picking out used staples from the plush office carpets. Nope, not kidding. These were fun, inspiring and broadened my horizons, such as they were but never expanded my wallet.
But those of you that know me, know that money has never been my underlying goal. I once moved to Hawaii to get a job teaching Spanish & German, to two children, but ended up becoming a mental health babysitter for their drug-induced psychotic mother.
Many of my jobs were doomed for various reasons. I thought I had landed a great job painting those house numbers on curbs in Los Angeles, it was going great until Charles Manson struck and scared the bejesus out of the residents of Bel-Air and Beverly Hills so much that no-one would open their doors to pay us once we had finished the job.
I am extremely proud that I wrote for TV in Hollywood (Trapper John, M.D.) but even that modicum of success would not last when the series I was writing for (already in its 8th season) was dumped by the network.
The job that I have always looked back on with heartfelt joy and was the ultimate way to incorporate my two driving forces—languages and travel—was working for Pan Am.
I was hired as a flight attendant with no prior airline-industry experience other than as a jet-lagged passenger. (Remind me to tell you the tale about flying from Austin, Texas to Burbank, California with no ticket but 5 stops along the say.) However, my peregrinations around Europe with odd jobs had allowed my language skills to blossom and the rest I learned by suffering through four soul-destroying weeks of nail-biting, green egg producing Training School in Miami.
None of my jobs either before or since has had such a profound effect on my life as my time with Pan Am. I was no longer just bouncing around the world, I was part of a family and a prestigious family at that.
Born from these Pan Am years is my latest Non Fiction offering – PAN AM: No Sex Please, We’re Flight Attendants.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living it.
|Now available in eBook|