Out of nearly 250 flight attendants who flew around the same time as me in the 1980s for Flying Tiger Lines, approximately 170 keep track of each other on a private website. We maintain decades-old friendships sharing old photos, and reminisce about being young, healthy and carefree at a time when we were spoiled rotten from the abundance of free travel and hotels.
Flying Tiger Lines, started by Bob Prescott and nine other WWII AVG pilots in 1945, gained historical prominence by forming an original task force of surplus aircraft into a multi-million dollar fleet of DC-8’s and Boeing 747s.
Eventually, up to three passenger 747’s were leased and additional flight attendants were hired to fly military and their dependents, tourists and boat people around the world.
Every year the various Flying Tiger Line employee groups hold action-packed reunions for pilots, flight attendants and other employees across the nation. The events are always well attended with hundreds from around the world turning out.
The theme for this year's pilot and flight attendant reunion at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach was “Sock Hop.”
In keeping with the ‘50s motif, I asked one of my former flying partners Michele Rizza-Coggs if she’d help host a Tiger-themed “Flight Attendant Pajama Party” brunch at my house.
She sweetly obliged. We immediately started conjuring up games, shopping for contest prizes and hiring a caterer.
I called Jean Cordero, owner of the wildly popular Entertaining Friends catering company and told her about the party. Right away Jean matched my enthusiasm to create a unique experience for our Tigers friends, and we locked her in on the May 2 date.
My husband Jim and Michele’s husband Tandy Coggs, a FedEx MD11 captain were rather cajoled into the fray, but we were grateful for their support and muscle.
Ultimately, there were about 30 fun-loving flight attendants and a few other Tigers who attended, all clad in a variety of nighties and lounging outfits.
Retired FTL pilot Eliot Shulman stopped by to take pictures of the ballyhoo. Flying Tiger Pilots Association President John Dickson and his wife Jeanne also dropped in to add a dash of esprit to the fracas.
Games included the “Toilet Paper and Scotch Tape” contest where four couples made and modeled wild animals using only those two accoutrements. Another was the “Hidden Tiger” game (like Disneyland’s Hidden Mickey hunt) where little tiger pictures were planted all over the house and patio.
Winners for the best pajama contest each received a gift basket. Randy Almadova from Atlanta donned a flannel Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger pajama —complete with an operable back fly.
Cathy Schinhofen from Phelan wore a hand-painted, Tiger nightgown and housecoat, while Marilyn Breen from San Francisco, totally out of her serious, senior flight attendant persona, arrived in hair rollers wearing a thick, chenille house coat with a big floppy-eared dog on the back. Rancho Palos Verdes resident Pam Hunter received an honorable mention bottle of wine and decorative stopper for her stunning embroidered lounger.
The most popular game by far was the “Flight Attendant Bingo Game.”
Michele and I spent hours coming up with questions and answers about our flying days that only a Tiger would know.
I made bingo cards with little Tiger faces for the free zone, while Michele wrote answers in all the spaces. For markers we used sparkly fake gems.
But there were more surprises.
First, the food was jaw dropping. Jean and her helpers made little Monte Christo sandwiches, Eggs Benedict, fruit crepes and omelettes to order. She served, mmmm, scrumptious cheesy scones, ham, bacon and sausages and fruit all arranged professionally with a panache.
My niece Rebecca and sister-in law Pam baked and hand-painted more than four dozen tiger-face shortbread cookies for all to take home.
After brunch, I asked everyone to come in the living room.
A few months before the party, KTLA 5 news did a piece on the Santa Susanna High School Abbe Roads A Capella group who were trying to raise money to compete in a contest back east.
I contacted instructor Bevin Abbe and asked if her group would sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but insert “Tiger” instead lion.
As everyone gathered around the TV, I made the announcement that this song was dedicated (sniff) to them and all our Flying Tiger fellows around the world. “The Tiger Sleeps Tonight” sung perfectly by the students is now on youtube at: https://youtu.be/jgV8FSlEPqs.
To the surprise of our guests, Producer Liz Brown-Swanson and videography Carlos Rivera from RPV-tv arrived at the beginning of the party. They really got into the Tiger spirit of the brunch as they interviewed folks throughout the day.
Swanson said the video, once edited will start airing daily on RPVtv’s monthly program, “STUDIO RPV.”
That night, long after the pajama party brunch, I donned my tiger print flannels again, kicked off my tiger paw slippers and slept 10 hours straight -- like a wild tiger after a good kill.