Caution - Celebrity Onboard
There are many rewarding aspects to being a flight attendant, including
discount travel benefits, scheduling flexibility, and the ability to see
the world. But one of the most intriguing aspects of the job for me has
been the chance to serve celebrities.
Celebrities need to travel, just like everyone else. Although some have their own private
jets, the majority resort to transportation via regularly scheduled flights.
A popular misconception is that celebrities, especially sports teams,
will often charter an entire airplane for purposes of maintaining their
privacy. Although this is sometimes the case, it is the exception rather
than the rule. Sports teams and rock bands generally fly with the traveling
public, and many times they can be found sitting in coach class!
With over 23 years
of flying experience, I have had the opportunity to meet countless celebrities
traveling on my flights. Some have been good experiences, some bad, and
some downright ugly. Just a few of the celebrities I have met include:
the Boston Celtics basketball team, the Washington Bullets (now Wizards)
basketball team, the Boston Bruins hockey team, the New England Patriots
football team, the Texas Rangers baseball team, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld,
Dan Rather, Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes), Billy Ray Cyrus, Three Dog Night
(band), David Carradine (Kung Fu), Mike Tyson, Frank Guiford, Regis Philbin,
General William Westmoreland, Ted Kennedy, and the list goes on and on.
I have memories of
many celebrities who were very polite and understanding of my job as a
crewmember. If the celebrity is assigned a seat in first class, we usually
know ahead of time, either from the passenger list or we get a warning
from the passenger service agent. Not all celebrities are recognizable
either. Oftentimes they look very different in person than they do on
the silver screen or on your television. They usually are dressed down
so as not to attract attention, and they very often want to be left alone
after they board.
Part of my job is
to ensure that celebrities onboard are not harassed by autograph hounds
or people who just want to talk because they feel a certain celebrity
is their best friend.
Who is Larry Bird Anyway?
One of the more memorable
occasions of serving celebrities happened during the 1986 Lakers-Celtics
NBA Finals. The entire Boston Celtics basketball team was traveling back
to Los Angeles and I, not being a sports fan of any type, had no idea
who the players were. The captain called me up to the cockpit and asked
if I could get an autograph of Larry Bird for his son. I told him that
I did not know of Larry Bird, which he found incomprehensible. He told
me to go back and ask another flight attendant to point him out. I went
back to the cabin and thought it would be more efficient to make an announcement.
I nervously picked up the PA and said, "Would Larry Bird please identify
himself by ringing the Flight Attendant call button on the overhead."
At that point, the entire team, other flight attendants and all the other
passengers onboard broke into laughter and applause. I was totally embarrassed,
because it was obvious that everyone but me knew who Larry Bird was. As
it turns out, he was so amused, he ended up signing the autograph and
sending it up to the captain!
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
experience involved Jay Leno. Jay had boarded our flight early because
he was sitting in first class. The "C" flight Attendant was helping me
with the boarding duties when Jay came onboard. He caught her by surprise
and she immediately began screaming, "I canít believe itís really you!
My boyfriend absolutely worships you! He watches you every night!" Mr.
Leno, seemingly caught off-guard looked at his watch and said, "Where
is he now? Do we have time to call him?" She and Jay Leno then rushed
off the aircraft to find a phone (this happened during the pre-cell phone
era). Apparently the boyfriend wasnít home so Mr. Leno politely left a
message about flying on his girlfriendís flight and how happy he was that
her boyfriend was such a fan.
My Achy Breaky Heart
Iím not a real country
music fan, but I will listen to it occasionally. But the day that Billy
Ray Cyrus came onboard, I was converted. It seemed that Mr. Cyrus (of
"Achy, Breaky Heart" fame) was traveling with his entourage to Foxwoods
Casino in Connecticut. He boarded our flight in Nashville, sat in first
class, and was extremely courteous.
During the first-class
service, I asked him where he was heading and he said, "Weíre doing a
concert at the biggest Casino in the world." Since I was based in Boston,
I was quite familiar with Foxwoods, having been there several times. I
responded, "Thatís Foxwoods. I donít live too far from there." Mr. Cyrus
then asked me if I would like to go to the concert. Of course, I took
him up on it and he took my name and asked how many tickets I would need.
The next night, I ended up taking my parents, brother and husband (5 of
us) to the Billy Ray Cyrus concert. The complimentary seats he had reserved
for us were at the "will-call" booth and were located in the front row.
It was a great night!
My Celebrity Wall
is a very rewarding experience. Since I usually carry a camera with me,
I now have a special wall in my home, which I call my "celebrity wall."
There are many photographs of me at work alongside many celebrities, most
of whom I never would have had a chance to meet if I weren't for this
job. Those of you who elect to pursue a flight attendant career will also
get to enjoy this seldom discussed aspect of the profession--and build
your own celebrity wall.
Written by Stephanie Shaw, a flight attendant with over 25 years experience with a major airline
and a staff writer for AirlineCareer.com.
more information on a flight attendant career, visit AirlineCareer.com.