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Lynne Champlin

Lynne Champlin

If you are getting upset or troubled by all the negative news on television, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we all go to the movies every night in our own homes ?

I was walking the dogs in Fuller Park and met a long-time friend and her acquaintance who were walking their dogs. We were talking about the strain everyone is under these days.

My friend told us what she does every night to get away from it all. Instead of the news, which gives her a headache, she turns to The Ted Turner Movie site channel with a sigh of relief.

You could pick an old classic for the night, put your jammies on, make a big bowl of popcorn covered with real butter, put your feet up on the couch and relax. Let your mind go blank and enjoy the show. You would probably have a restful evening and even sleep better

This idea led to a fun conversation about our favorite old movies and Hollywood stars. She was a big fan of Tallulah Bankhead and always looked for her movies. I had to stop her in her tracks when she mentioned this familiar name. I laughingly said, “I had Tallulah Bankhead on a flight one afternoon when I was a stewardess for Western Airlines.” She wanted to hear all about her.

I told her I didn’t recognize her at first. The #1 Stewardess came back to the coach section and showed me her name on the airline passenger list. Tallulah always wanted to be seated in the back row just in front of the rear galley. She felt she had more privacy there. She was mine to take care of for this flight to Los Angeles.

She wasn’t much work. She was a very quiet passenger who just ordered a soft drink. I expected her sparkling personality but maybe the red hair took its place. It was fun to see her as I remembered her on a local TV show.

Having Tallulah on my plane opened up our conversation. They asked me if I ever had other movie stars on my flights when I was with Western Airlines. I was excited to tell them of my surprise when Cary Grant and his wife, Dyan Cannon, suddenly appeared in the coach section and found their seats. What were they doing back here in coach with me? I had noticed a little confusion in first class when we started boarding passengers in Las Vegas.

I later learned that Frank Sinatra had given Rosalind Russell a huge birthday party the night before at a casino in Las Vegas. Western Airlines had overbooked first class and the only seats available for Mr. and Mrs. Cary Grant were in the back with me and my flying partner. Unlucky for them but lucky for us.

When the plane started rolling toward the runway for takeoff, I went to the front of the coach section to do my seat belt demonstration. I was standing there waiting for the first stewardess to start her announcement on the PA System. Cary Grant, who was sitting in the front aisle seat of this section, asked me to hand him a magazine from the magazine rack on the wall. He mentioned he had hurt his back. I was happy to give him one to read for the flight. He gave me his Hollywood Star Smile and I gave him my Western Airlines Stewardess Smile back in return.

Of course I would smile at Cary Grant, as I would smile at anyone. Especially in those days as we were constantly being tested by the passengers as Western was advertising the “Flub Stub” program. We handed them out like candy. It was easier than discussing whether or not we had followed the “Smiling” rules with the passengers. They always smiled like children when we gave them a Flub Stub.

After we reached the correct altitude for our flight to Los Angeles, we prepared our cart to serve drinks. We pushed it up to the front and started our service. I served Cary Grant first as he was sitting in the front row and his wife was behind him on the aisle. Cary Grant heard her order and turned in his seat to face her. He asked why she ordered a glass of tonic water and her answer was that she had “never had tonic before.” I was standing there serving other passengers and heard this cute, little, flirty, conversation.

They were everything you might expect. They were well-dressed, extremely polite and seemed to have a great relationship. Yes, he was as handsome as he appeared in the movies. And she was very pretty with the body of a model and with very long legs. I had to be careful moving the cart in the aisle to avoid hitting her. It was fun having them on board. And of course, I just had to tell my family and friends about them on my flight.

The other lady at Fuller Park then mentioned how she went to Hawaii with her family and saw the best show ever with Don Ho. She talked about how much fun it was to see him.

I just had to say to her, “Well, guess what?” Don Ho was on my plane once too. But it was a different kind of experience.

This time, I was the #2 stewardess in first class. I was making an announcement about the “No Smoking” sign coming on and a man came up to me and with a sly smile took the microphone out of my hands. He started singing a song, “Tiny Bubbles.”

I was so surprised that a passenger would do this and didn’t know what to do for a few minutes. I finally told him that he had to stop singing on our PA system as the captain might have an emergency. With a sad face, he quietly handed it back to me.

A few minutes later, a man came up to me and asked if I knew the man who had just sung for the passengers. I said no, I didn’t know him. He told me he was Don Ho. I said, “Well, who is Don Ho?” I cannot remember what he said in return but it was probably something about his being the most famous singer in Hawaii. He did make me feel badly about stopping him. I probably could have let him entertain the passengers for a few more minutes. Don Ho was a gentlemen and probably a nice person.

This was why I wanted to be a stewardess. I had hardly been out of Pleasanton, California, much less visit Hawaii. I wanted to see the world. In fact, my very first airplane trip was to Fort Worth,Texas, the home of American Airlines Stewardess College. I was happy that I enjoyed my first airplane ride. I knew I had picked the right profession. I later changed companies and flew for Western Airlines out of San Francisco.

As we were still standing around in Fuller Park, I could have told them a few more funny stories. Like, how I had to stop a pillow fight in first class with Shirley Temple’s first husband, John Agar, by requesting the captain come to the cabin. Or when I helped jockey Willie Schoemaker’s 80-year-old mother enjoy her first airplane ride. She was a bit nervous but a little brandy in a first-class crystal glass made her relax. She got to see her son win the Kentucky Derby riding Candy Spots.

We enjoyed our time in the park but it was time to go home. We had lots of stories, giggles and smiles. I thought watching movies at night was a great plan and having popcorn sprinkled with lots of garlic, butter, and paprika made it even better.

Watch out, Philip, I am coming home with a fun suggestion tonight. Let’s change the channel and find an old movie. Maybe we can find one with Tallulah Bankhead or Cary Grant.

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