Available June 3, 2014 from Ballatine Books
In October, 1958, Pan American World Airways began making regularly scheduled flights between New York and Paris, courtesy of its newly minted wonder jet, the Boeing 707. Almost overnight, the moneyed celebrities of the era made Europe their playground. At the same time, the dream of international travel came true for thousands of ordinary Americans who longed to emulate the “jet set” lifestyle.
Bestselling author and Vanity Fair contributor William Stadiem brings that Jet Age dream to life again in the first-ever book about the glamorous decade when Americans took to the skies in massive numbers as never before, with the rich and famous elbowing their way to the front of the line. Dishy anecdotes and finely rendered character sketches re-create the world of luxurious airplanes, exclusive destinations, and beautiful, wealthy trendsetters who turned transatlantic travel into an inalienable right. It was the age of Camelot and “Come Fly with Me,” Grace Kelly at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, and Mary Quant miniskirts on the streets of Swinging London. Men still wore hats, stewardesses showed plenty of leg, and the beach at St. Tropez was just a seven-hour flight away.
Jet Set reads like a who’s who of the fabulous and well connected, from the swashbuckling “skycoons” who launched the jet fleet to the playboys, moguls, and financiers who kept it flying. Among the bold-faced names on the passenger manifest: Juan Trippe, the Yale-educated WASP with the Spanish-sounding name who parlayed his fraternity contacts into a tiny airmail route that became the world’s largest airline, Pan Am; couturier to the stars Oleg Cassini, the Kennedy administration’s “Secretary of Style,” and his social climbing brother Igor, who became the most powerful gossip columnist in America—then lost it all in one of the scandals of the century; Temple Fielding, the high-rolling high priest of travel guides, and his budget-conscious rival Arthur Frommer; Conrad Hilton, the New Mexico cowboy who built the most powerful luxury hotel chain on earth; and Mary Wells Lawrence, the queen bee of Madison Avenue whose suggestive ads for Braniff and other airlines brought sex appeal to the skies.
Like a superfueled episode of Mad Men, Jet Set evokes a time long gone but still vibrant in American memory. This is a rollicking, sexy romp through the ring-a-ding glory years of air travel, when escape was the ultimate aphrodisiac and the smiles were as wide as the aisles.
Huffington Post – April 3, 2014
“The passenger jet was, and still is, one of the wonders of the world, a world whose other wonders the jet makes accessible.” So writes William Stadiem.
I keep telling people that the family in place at the Monaco Palace was Johnny-come-lately among many European titles. The press always refers to them as “Royalty,” but they were about as royal as Royal Crown Cola.
If they were anything, they were mere Serene Highnesses, as my then boss, Igor Cassini, always told me. His brother, movie costume designer, Oleg, had almost married Grace Kelly himself. The Cassinis knew history and titles. Both brothers spent a lot of time helping to further the glamour of Monaco and Igor feathered his own nest as an international columnist for the then powerful Hearst newspapers. (I was just a ghost writer for him.)
You can read all about these realities in the coming June book titled The Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour and the Romance in Aviation’s Glory Years. William Stadiem’s work is comprehensive, all about when folks began to really fly around in a hurry. This booming air era facilitated both advertising and publicity and everybody began to worship The Jet Set and tried to become a part of it.
Included in this coming book are par examples of the then successful man, the aforesaid Igor Cassini, who used the nom de plume of Cholly Knickerbocker. He created and helped popularize “The Jet Set” phrase. This book shows us how society changed with the coming of rapid air travel and as the “social” or “society” world began to lose its polish, events took on the false glamour of “celebrity.” That is exemplified in today’s world where push, shove and getting attention hold sway.
What a book Mr. Stadiem has written for Ballantine! The Kennedys, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra himself and early financiers like Eddie Gilbert are dealt with in depth. It was a beginning for the sort of frenetic desperate world we now seem to be living in.
If you think yesterday’s glamour and appeal was for people trying to be rich and famous, well, that wasn’t a patch on now. I lived intimately through it all in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90s and I am yet to find a mistake in author Stadiem’s amazing book. Order it now. All the players are here, Bobby Kennedy as a menace to much of the fun…Joe Kennedy, his father, having young ladies procured for him…lawyers making millions getting “socialites” out of hot water…the creation of disco and rock and roll… the rise of Great Britain’s popular music and fashion appeal…and on and on…plus New York as the so-called “400” became the 4 million.
Read the review on HuffingtonPost.com.
Publisher’s Weekly – March 17, 2014
Aviation during its glory years represented opportunities, wealth, and glamour—and not just for the wealthy. While the media followed celebrities on passenger jets all over the world—Frank Sinatra (whose song “Come Fly with Me” was the theme song for Pan Am) and society writer Igor Cassini, for example—the middle classes also took to the skies, living their own versions of glamorous lives in Paris, Rome, and elsewhere abroad. The glory years of aviation, as Stadiem (Moneywood) explains, were intimately tied to marketing, positive thinking, and myth—as well as gossip fueled by the society pages. Touching on the lives of many celebrities and business tycoons, Stadiem covers the mid–19th-century to the early 21st, including the decline of “the Jet Set,” the youth of the 1960s lamenting their parents’ “conspicuous-consumption,” and the age of “airport anxiety.” Although at times jumbled, with too many timelines and stories competing with one another, the book is an interesting, entertaining read, full of colorful characters and the author’s thoughtful contemplation of the world of aviation.
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