She is not a waitress in the sky: Jani hôtesse de l’air and some words on the presence of female flight attendants in popular culture

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Jani Moreau, female flight attendant as imagined by Québec artist Nicole Lapointe. Anon., “Un nouvel illustré: Jani hôtesse de l’air.” Claire, 15 September 1960, cover.

Hail, my reading friend. How are you on this day?

If I may be permitted a quick introduction, do you like comics? Better yet, are you interested in the history of comics? I see ... It’s a shame because the topic of the week of our blog / bulletin / thingee is closely linked to this question.

Did you know that the roman catholic church played a significant role in the history of Canadian / Québec aeronautical comics? That’s surprising, isn’t it? The publications of said church were intended to thwart the influence, deemed harmful, of American comics.

Jeunesse étudiante catholique de Montréal Incorporée of Montréal, Québec, launched Claire, an illustrated bimonthly for teenage girls, in September 1957 to complement François, an illustrated bimonthly for teenage boys, launched in 1935 as an illustrated supplement to the magazine Le JEC des jeunes, a supplement which had become independent in 1943.

One of Claire’s main original comic strips was entitled Jani hôtesse de l’air. Published between September 1960 and May 1962, it told the story of the adventures and misadventures of Jani Moreau, a young and pretty Canadian / Québec flight attendant. This story seemed to be called “Janie chez les Romains” – not to be confused with the Québécois yayyay group César et les Romains, well known for its sandals and short skirts, and very popular during its brief (1965-68) existence.

The artist who produced the drawings (and scenario?), Nicole Lapointe, rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a popular singer. Her stage name was… Isabelle Pierre.

Born in Rouyn, Québec, today’s city of Rouyn-Noranda, in June 1944, Lapointe moved to Valleyfield, Québec, with her family, before the end of the 1940s. Relatives (parents? teachers?) discovered the drawing abilities of this somewhat unruly young person at the dawn of her adolescence.

Indeed, Lapointe took visual art classes at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, in Montréal, Québec, in the early 1960s. At the time, she delivered drawings to Québec youth magazines such as Vie étudiante, François and, of course, Claire. For example, Lapointe illustrated the lives of saints for François. Let us be brutal, Lapointe gradually became François and Claire’s main Québec artist.

The young woman also illustrated some of the many tales published by Yves Thériault, a recognised, very talented but somewhat forgotten announcer / author / boxer / truck driver / journalist / salesperson / screenwriter / western singer / trapper from Québec. Released in 1962, for example, Si la bombe m’était contée may well be the first collection of science fiction short stories published in Québec.

This being said (typed?), Thériault was / is mainly known for his novel Agaguk, published in 1958, translated into many (7? 10 ?? 20 ???) languages ​​and adapted to the cinema, in 1992, by a Franco-Canadian team which worked in English. This novel, which took place on the edge of an Inuit community, may not have aged very well, but I digress.

One of Lapointe’s classmates who had heard her sing encouraged her to audition. Impressed by her dazzling voice, singer and actress Louise Darios, born Daria Luisa Pacheco de Céspedes, agreed to take her as a pupil in her school. Lapointe worked hard at it.

No later than 1963, Lapointe began participating in amateur contests and singing in song bars in Montréal, including hotspots of Québec song of the time like Chez Clairette and La butte à Mathieu. Known from then on by her stage name, Isabelle Pierre, the young singer won at least one competition. She performed French and Québec works, by Claude Léveillée and Jean-Pierre Ferland as well as by Léo Ferré and Georges Brassens – serious works if there were one. And if you don’t know these gentlemen, you don’t know what you’re missing.

François and Claire having ceased to appear in 1964, Lapointe / Pierre lost her main source of income.

While it is true that Pierre’s first record, released in 1965, had little impact, the fact was / is that it only contained works, unrecorded or still little known, by Québec composers who were / are among the greats. One of these was songwriter / producer / composer Stéphane Venne, a character mentioned in a July 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

Pierre gave up singing a little between 1968 and 1970 to co-host the radio program Samedi Jeunesse of the Canadian state-owned radio television broadcaster, the Société Radio-Canada. Venne apparently composed the theme music for the show at her request.

Isabelle Pierre in the comfort of her home. Solange Gagnon, “Isabelle Pierre a décidé de devenir une chanteuse de classe internationale.” Photo-Journal, 12 to 19 April 1970, 54.

Isabelle Pierre in the comfort of her home. Solange Gagnon, “Isabelle Pierre a décidé de devenir une chanteuse de classe internationale.” Photo-Journal, 12 to 19 April 1970, 54.

Pierre’s version of the hit song Cent milles chansons in 1969 was a turning point. The general public discovered her. The career of this sweet, spontaneous, sensitive, sarcastic, professional, intelligent, egocentric, distinguished, clownish, ambitious and aggressive singer took off. Two songs created for Pierre by Venne, Les enfants de l’avenir and Le temps est bon, became 2 of the great hits of the years 1970s and 1971.

Venne wrote several songs for Pierre between 1970 and 1973, some of which were among the great hits of Québec music of the 1970s.

In 1971, however, wishing to go beyond the popular songs which worked well in the Age of Aquarius, Pierre performed the successful song Évangeline by Michel Conte – a vibrant denunciation of the ethnic cleansing imposed on the Acadian people by the United Kingdom from 1755 onward.

The records released in 1972 and 1973 having been very successful, Pierre changed the deal in 1974. A more personal album produced without Venne, J’m’appelle Nicole Lapointe, was not very successful, partly because of a lack of promotion. (Hello, SB, EP and EG!)

Pierre / Lapointe gave up singing in 1974. She has lived a quiet life since then.

Along with Renée Claude and Emmanuelle, born Marie Suzy Renée Bélanger and Ginette Filion, this great artist was / is one of the leading figures of an era full of hope and freedom, an era during which Québec experienced a great cultural development.

And that’s it for today, my reading… What are you saying? Does the title of this article suggest that it must contain some words on the presence of female flight attendants in popular culture? Sigh. Hoisted by own title...

Would you believe that Lapointe’s drawing featured at the beginning of this article shows the tail of a Boeing Model 707 airliner from a fictional airline? Yes, yes, a Model 707. The horizontal antenna at the top of the fin was / is characteristic of this excellent aircraft which entered service in August 1958, and… The word Boeing is written on the aircraft, you say (type?), ohh.

Anyway, said entry into service gave birth to a play which was a huge success – the most performed French play in history, it is said. The premiere of Boeing Boeing was held in Paris in December 1960. This comedy chronicled the misadventures of 3 stewardesses / flight attendants in love with the same cad. The entry into service of the Model 707 changed their schedules and turned their lives upside down.

The American feature film Boeing Boeing, released in theatres in December 1965, also filled said theatres. This film was not the only film adaptation of the French play, however. An Egyptian version hit theatres in 1968 and no less than 4 Indian versions did the same between 1985 and 2008.

One wonders if the success of Boeing Boeing, the play of course, inspired the American-British team which produces the feature film Come Fly With Me, released in theatres in March 1963. Indeed, this comedy recounted the story of the love affairs of 3 flight attendants, but I digress.

A British counterpart to Jani hôtesse de l’air began in 1958, in the illustrated weekly Girl, a sister publication launched in November 1951 of the very popular illustrated weekly Eagle, launched in April 1950. Well-known Australian author Betty Roland, born Mary Isobel Maclean, wrote the scripts for the comic strip Angela, Air Hostess. A character which could not be more feminine and respectable, Angela disappeared in 1961.

If truth be told, both Girl and Eagle were educational publications whose Christian values ​​were a little moralising at times.

If I may be permitted a comment, Eagle was a very well-known publication. (Hello, CJT!) Dare I say that its content and presentation revolutionised the world of teenage publishing in the United Kingdom? It was in the pages of Eagle that scores of female and male readers discovered the adventures of astronaut Daniel McGregor “Dan” Dare between 1950 and 1967 in a comic strip entitled Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.

A French version of this excellent comic strip, Dan Dair, appeared between April 1962 and March 1963 – a rather limited duration which suggests that young French speaking audiences may not have liked this product very much.

The contribution of flight attendants to popular culture obviously went / goes far beyond Jani hôtesse de l’air and Angela, Air Hostess.

Ann of the Airlanes was / is one of the first, if not the first radio soap opera with a heroine as the main character. Somewhat inspired by Amelia Mary Earhart, arguably the most famous aviatrix of all time, Ann Burton was a nurse who aspired to be a flight attendant. The young woman also worked more or less informally for the United States Secret Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Treasury which chased counterfeiters, among other things, just like her boyfriend, an airline pilot. Oddly, none of the episodes of the radio soap opera put Burton on an airliner. First aired in 1934, Ann of the Airlanes was seemingly broadcasted until around 1955.

Earhart was obviously mentioned in September 2018, May 2019 and July 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

As you probably know, many people believed / believe / will believe (?) that, at the time of their disappearance in July 1937, during their flight around the world, Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Joseph “Fred” Noonan, were cooperating with the United States Navy (USN) as part of a spy mission aimed at taking aerial photographs of bases of the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun, in other words the imperial Japanese navy, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Ironically, this hypothesis probably owed / owes a lot to an American feature film which had its premiere in April 1943. Indeed, Flight for Freedom told the story of a famous fictitious aviatrix, Tonie Carter, who cooperated with the USN on a spy mission aimed at taking aerial photographs of bases of the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but back to our story.

The growing importance of flight attendants, or stewardesses in the bad old days, was also capturing the attention of American film studios. Two American feature films released in 1936, Flying Hostess and Without Orders, were the first feature films devoted to this subject. The second one was particularly interesting. A flight attendant took the controls of an airliner abandoned in mid-flight by its pilot, a true and true bad hombre. (Hello, EG!)

Also in the United States, Patricia O’Malley produced 3 books in the Carol Rogers series between 1941 and 1946. The young heroine, the daughter of a deceased diplomat, began her career as a flight attendant before becoming the assistant of the president of a small airline. O’Malley was a well-known public relations expert who worked for the major airline Transcontinental and Western Air Incorporated, having spent a few years at the Civil Aeronautics Authority, now the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency responsible for civil aviation in the United States mentioned in some issues of our you know what since June 2018. She devoted 2 other books to a friend of Rogers. Released in 1944 and 1946, the Coddy Palmer series touched upon public relations in the airline industry.

After the Second World War, a few people offered novel series that featured flight attendants to teenage girls. One only needs to think of the 16 volumes of the American series Vicki Barr Flying Stewardess, published between 1947 and 1964. These adventures took place mainly on the ground, however. Two then well-known authors, Helen Wells and Julie Campbell Tatham, wrote virtually all of these works. Walter Brown Gibson, however, wrote the last book in the series. This magician was the creator of the Shadow, one of the most famous fictional heroes of the 1930s and 1940s; he wrote those stories under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant.

The adventures of Victoria “Vicki” Barr were translated into French (Vicky Barr), Norwegian and Swedish.

Obsessed as you are by the Canadian content of our you know what, you will be delighted to hear (read?) that one of the volumes in this series was set in Canada’s North. An excellent private pilot, Barr transported a former classmate who wanted to take care of her injured brother. The 2 young women soon ran into mink fur traffickers.

An author and teacher, Margaret Hill, got much closer to the life of a flight attendant with the 3 books in the Beth Dean series, published between 1953 and 1958.

The British equivalent of all these books was / is the Shirley Flight Air Hostess series, the 16 titles of which appeared between 1958 and 1961. The name of the author of many of these books, Judith Dale, was a pseudonym which hid a man, Ernest Reginald Home-Gall. Indeed, some wonder if this author did not write the last works, officially written by a certain Trudi Arlen. Interestingly, the last adventure of Shirley Flight took place in Canada, when the young woman briefly worked for Trans-Canada Air Lines, today’s Air Canada Incorporated, an air carrier mentioned many times in our you know what since August 2017, with old friends, both male and female. Another of her adventures took place aboard an airliner, perhaps a flying boat, en route to Canada with a large cargo of gold in the hold.

Translated only in French, it seems, the Shirley Flight Air Hostess series was / is far more thrilling than the aforementioned American series Vicki Barr Flying Stewardess.

The French-speaking counterpart of these paper heroines is Sylvie, hôtesse de l’air, a character from the Mademoiselle collection launched in 1955 by a Belgian publishing house as a female counterpart to the much better known and far more adventurous Robert “Bob” Morane. René Philippe, whose real name is René Philippe Fouya, wrote 98 books in this series between 1955 and 1975. The popularity of the Sylvie character was such that the young flight attendant became the only character in the Mademoiselle collection in 1968.

Would you believe that one of the 207 adventures of Morane written between 1953 and 2012 by Henri Verne, born Charles Henri Jean Dewisme, took place in Québec? Would I lie to you? Very, very popular in Québec, among a male teenage readership, Verne visited Québec in March and April 1964. In fact, he visited a dam, near-mythical in the 1960s and 1970s, Manic-5, later renamed the Daniel-Johnson dam. Verne was then the host of the Commission hydroélectrique de Québec, today’s Hydro-Québec, and of the Québec minister of natural resources, René Lévesque, a gentleman mentioned in September 2018, November 2018 and July 2020 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

Did you know that the launch of the Morane adventure that concerns us here, Terreur à la Manicouagan, took place in 1965 at the head office of the Commission hydroélectrique de Québec?

A digression if I may. The aircraft manufacturer Canadair Limited of Cartierville, Québec, designed and manufactured a rather unusual vehicle in 1965. At the time, the Commission hydroélectrique de Québec needed a cable car which would allow its staff to install spacers on the 735 000 volt transmission line between the Manicouagan / Outardes complex and Montréal. This gondola apparently gave complete satisfaction. Do I need to remind you that Canadair was a subsidiary of the American defence giant, General Dynamics Corporation, 2 firms mentioned… Very good. So I won’t.

Having spoken (typed?) of comic strips, films, novels, plays and radios soap operas, why not drift a little further, into the small world of television?

As far as television was concerned, say I, the first soap opera devoted more or less directly to our subject of today seemed / seems to be The Jeannie Carson Show, a summer gap filler it seems, broadcasted in 1959. The British actress Jeannie Carson, born Jeannie Shufflebottom, played a flight attendant named… Jeannie Carson who lived in an apartment with her female supervisor.

Let us also mention Amour, Délices et cie. This Québec / Canadian musical soap opera mentioned in great detail in a June 2019 issue of our you know what looked at the lives of flight attendants and pilots of a fictitious airline. Télé Métropole Incorporée, a private Montréal-based broadcaster mentioned in some issues of our you still know what since October 2017, broadcasted 13 episodes of Amour, Délices et cie between June and September 1969.

The 16 episodes of a third soap opera set in the small world of flight attendants, From a Bird’s Eye View, aired between September 1970 and April 1971. This British production originally commissioned by the American network National Broadcasting Corporation aired in the United States between April and August 1971.

Would you believe that the actresses who played the main characters, a savvy American and a scatterbrain Briton, obviously, after all who was paying for this project, took the training given to flight attendant of British European Airways Corporation, a state-owned company mentioned in several issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee since August 2017?

One of the rare new aeronautical comic strips born during the last 60 years and the first in which the main character was a woman appeared in 1970 in the Belgian illustrated weekly Spirou. This character was / is not necessarily intended for a female audience, however. Imagined by the Belgian artist and scriptwriter François Walthéry, very talented but not always concerned about deadlines, Natacha was / is a flight attendant who worked for a fictitious airline. Originally very proper, this feminist, intelligent and young die-hard bachelorette became sexier and sexier as her adventures came out. Working together with a dozen cartoonists and a dozen screenwriters, Walthéry completed 23 adventures of Natacha between 1970 and 2018. These no longer appeared in Spirou from 1989. About 4 million copies of the series’ graphic novels were published in 8 (?) languages, but not in English.

The most important French-language daily in North America, La Presse of Montréal, launched the publication of the album entitled Instantanés de Caltech in November 1983. This ended the following month when the management of the newspaper ended production of its weekly comic strip section.

A single graphic novel containing an erotic parody of Natacha’s adventures, Nathalie la petite hôtesse, drawn by Walthéry, was published in France in 1985.

This was not the first time, however, that eroticism has entered the small world of air travel. Just think of 3 films, 3 erotic comedies, The Stewardesses, Fly Me and The Naughty Stewardesses, which premiered in 1969, 1973 and 1973.

Did you know that Roger William Corman, an American actor, director and film producer, was involved in the production of Fly Me, which was an American-Filipino feature film by the way? I am busting your chops with this detail because this Pope of Pop Cinema, this King of Movie Schlock, as he was / is sometimes / often called, was mentioned in a September 2019 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee, but I digress.

Launched through an American television movie, Flying High was about the adventures and misadventures of 3 young flight attendants. First aired in August 1978, this non erotic television series ceased in January 1979 due to poor ratings.

The American television series Pan Am, set in the early 1960s aboard the jet airliners of Pan American World Airways Incorporated, an iconic airline if there was one, was no more successful. It told the story of 4 young flight attendants, including one of French origin, whose parents, of Jewish religion, perished in a concentration camp, played by Québec / Canadian actress Karine Vanasse. The ratings being a little disappointing, the first and last episodes of Pan Am aired in English between September 2011 and February 2012 respectively. Belgian, Canadian and French viewers discovered it afterwards.

In conclusion, let me stress the importance of the role played by generations of flight attendants since the first flight performed by the first of them, the American Ellen Church, in 1930. Many persons owe their lives to their bravery.

Did you know that the song Waitress in the Sky, you do remember the title of this article, don’t you, released in 1985 by American alternative rock group The Replacements, was not a denunciation of the poor performance of a flight attendant? Nay. Inspired by the horror stories told by Julie Westerberg, one of the sisters of singer and musician Paul Westerberg, it actually denounced the behaviour of the creeps and sleazebags which haunt(ed) and clutter(ed) so many airliners.

Ohh, poor, poor little sir, I wonder how those 5 spoonfuls of wasabi ended up in your guacamole... But I have a nice serrano-infused beer to make it all go down.

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Rénald Fortier