Preview: Pam Ann Around The World

Gary Ryan gets buckled up and ensures his tray table is upright when speaking to comic air hostess Pam Ann

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When The Big Issue In The North encounters the Australian comic actor Caroline Reid, she’s in the middle of washing her delicates.

“I’ve just crushed a Daz tablet all over the floor so it looks like I’ve been hoovering up cocaine,” she laughs. “But unfortunately doll, those hedonistic days are long gone.”

These days, the lady is not for gurning. However, the same cannot be said for her flight attendant alter ego. Inspired by a drunken spoonerism at a fancy-dress party in the 1990s, Pam Ann regales her “passengers” – the audience – with tales of drink, drugs and promiscuity (she puts the “easy” in “EasyJet”), bitches about other airlines and turns her coke-filled nose up at those not seated in first class.

Her trolly-dolly parody has proved globally popular. She supported her hero Cher on her 2004 farewell tour, Madonna is a fan, she was once hired by Elton John to crew the flight to his partner David Furnish’s 40th birthday celebrations in Venice and yesterday she returned from playing a gay cruise in the Caribbean.

“Those gigs can be tough,” she says. “Because it’s not a crowd paying to watch just you – those people are ready to complain. ‘I didn’t like that,’ they’ll say. Or ‘I asked for a cabin with a sea view – and all I can see is the car park!’

“But I’ve been asked back for 10 years now so I must be doing something right. Look, if I put on a Chanel shoe, f*ck the show. It doesn’t really matter, does it? The gays are only looking to see if there’s a designer label and if I’ve lost weight.

“So I’ve flown over to start the UK tour in Southend-on-Sea, which I suppose is the British Caribbean.”

With a camp, vicious tongue that invites comparisons to fellow Antipodean Dame Edna Everage and a routine incubated in the clubs of East London, it’s perhaps easy to see why gay men have taken Pam Ann under their wing.

“Well, people think I’m a man,” she admits mirthfully. “There are drag queens who do a Beyoncé and mime over the audio from my DVDs. It’s hilarious. They’ve embraced the character. Whereas I’ve turned up to play a gig in Dubai in front of a load of straight rugby players dressed in an air hostess uniform and they’ve assumed I’m there to strip.”

Considering the insults lavished on them, cabin crews and airlines have unexpectedly emerged as some of Pam Ann’s biggest fans. Despite her calling British Airways staff “horsey”, the company nonetheless signed Reid up (in the guise of her grumpy BA character Mona) to front a viral ad campaign and she is also the face of London Heathrow Sky Team’s Terminal 4.

“Nobody ever gets offended,” she notes. “Although I heard a rumour that Emirates were p*ssed off that I call them ‘service over safety’. They ply you with champagne and behave like ‘Get the plane off the ground – it doesn’t matter if the wing is about to fall off.’ I’m hoping to end up with a cease and desist order. Better still, a fatwa.”

A decade that has witnessed airport expansion, the revived fear of terrorism and, in particular, budget flights have all proved invaluable fodder for Reid – whose attire harks back to the days when flying was associated with exotic luxury.

“I usually have a go at Ryanair, but for this tour I’m embracing them. I want them to buy an Airbus 8380 and offer low-cost flights to Sydney. Of course, they’ll charge £5,000 per bag.”
Currently, Reid is in the process of penning a screenplay for a Pam Ann movie. “I can’t say anything or else David Walliams and Matt Lucas will steal my ideas again like they did with their last production [2010 airport sketch show Come Fly With Me].”

Before then, patrons in the north can catch her at a layover at Manchester’s Opera House.
“I always think Manchester is like San Francisco,” she beams. “And when I was there, I played for two and a half hours. They couldn’t get me off the stage. It became like a hijack situation.”
Pam Ann Around The World 2013 Tour, Opera House, Manchester, 1-2 March

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