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 Saint-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-face 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 juiciest 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.
Praise for Jet Set “Aeronautics history, high times from the 1950s and ’60s, incredibly versatile name-dropping (from Mrs. John Jacob Astor to Christine Keeler of the Profumo scandal) and Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly With Me’ as a kind of theme song [all] connected to the glamorous days of air travel.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times “What a book William Stadium has written. . . . The Kennedys, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, and early financiers like Eddie Gilbert are dealt with in depth. . . . I lived intimately through it all in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and I am yet to find a mistake in author Stadiem’s amazing book. Order it now. All the players are here.”—Liz Smith, syndicated columnist “William Stadiem sexes up the glory days of aviation in Jet Set. Fly me!”—Vanity Fair “William Stadiem’s Jet Set takes you where no modern airliner can: to a time . . . when the means of travel was as exotic as the destination, and sometimes more so.”—Town & Country
About the Author
William Stadiem is the author of such bestsellers as Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe Confidential, and Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, as well as such acclaimed works of social history as Too Rich: The High Life and Tragic Death of King Farouk. He writes for Vanity Fair and has been the Hollywood columnist for Andy Warhol’s Interview and the restaurant critic for Los AngelesMagazine. A Harvard JD-MBA and former Wall Street–based international lawyer, Stadiem is also a screenwriter whose credits include Elizabeth Taylor’s last starring vehicle, Franco Zeffirelli’s Young Toscanini, and the television series L.A. Law.
“Aeronautics history, high times from the 1950s and ’60s, incredibly versatile name-dropping (from Mrs. John Jacob Astor to Christine Keeler of the Profumo scandal) and Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly With Me’ as a kind of theme song [all] connected to the glamorous days of air travel.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times “What a book William Stadium has written. . . . The Kennedys, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, and early financiers like Eddie Gilbert are dealt with in depth. . . . I lived intimately through it all in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and I am yet to find a mistake in author Stadiem’s amazing book. Order it now. All the players are here.”—Liz Smith, syndicated columnist “William Stadiem sexes up the glory days of aviation in Jet Set. Fly me!”—Vanity Fair “William Stadiem’s Jet Set takes you where no modern airliner can: to a time . . . when the means of travel was as exotic as the destination, and sometimes more so. The aerodynamic Kennedys were in the White House, Braniff stewardesses wore uniforms designed by Emilio Pucci . . . and no tourist made a move without consulting Fielding’s Travel Guide to Europe, a 900-page compendium of the continent’s finest restaurants and most companionable ‘hostesses.’”—Town & Country
“An interesting, entertaining read, full of colorful characters and the author’s thoughtful contemplation of the world of aviation.”—Publishers Weekly
“An intoxicating spin through an era of supreme elegance and dazzling innovation, Jet Set more than lives up to its turbocharged title. With a sharp eye for detail and a knack for sparkling prose, William Stadiem re-creates the heady days when artists, tycoons, and viscounts sipped Canadian Club and dined on lobster thermidor while zooming across a new frontier. In doing so, he pays homage to the true American visionaries who made that luxurious travel possible—the engineers and entrepreneurs who understood just how much the long-range airplane could transform our world.”—Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us
“The only thing more delicious than the idea for this book is William Stadiem’s execution. Rich in incident, set among the glitterati of America’s most glamorous era, Jet Set is first-rate history that reads like a novel.”—Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose “Jet Set is a fast-paced, jauntily written excursion back to a more glamorous era, when people dressed up for airplane flights and onboard meals might include fois gras and champagne—the historical moment when Americans first began to think of themselves as citizen-travelers. William Stadiem provides a knowing account of the pioneering airline executives who built the planes that made luxury affordable, and high-flying gossip-column staples like Frank Sinatra, Ian Fleming, and Jackie Kennedy. You’ll never look at air travel the same way again.”—Matthew Goodman, author of Eighty Days “Jet Set is a fascinating social history of the glory days of the boldface-names crowd in Europe and the United States since World War II. William Stadiem’s engrossing story is elegantly propelled by the engines of an equally interesting parallel account of how the innovations of modern aviation forever changed the tone and texture of tourism (think ‘mass over class’). Political intrigue, spy stories, Hollywood hijinks, and wryly chronicled bed-hopping make this the rare page-turner that’s also witty and very well written.”—Alexander Lobrano, author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France
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