A couple years ago, you may remember that I put together an evening of dinner and drinks on Anthony Toth’s Pan Am 747 mockup. It was a test run to see if Anthony could do something like this regularly, and it proved successful. Now, Anthony has moved his 747 to Air Hollywood’s property and the Pan Am Experience was born. Anthony invited me and my wife to come take part in September, and it was a great night. Apparently it’s doing well, and the Hollywood crowd has even taken notice. On the night I was there, Hollywood’s king airline dork himself, John Travolta, was dining with his family.
It’s a somewhat strange experience arriving at the location. Tucked into a semi-seedy corner of Pacoima (is there a non-seedy corner of Pacoima?) in the San Fernando Valley, the building looks non-descript from the outside. But there is a red carpet welcoming you to the First and Clipper Class terminal. Once inside, it opens into a big stage with a bunch of Pan Am memorabilia in display cases in the center. At one end is the ticket counter where you check in and receive your boarding pass. At the other, there is a giant printed screen showing a Pan Am 747, the one which we’d be boarding through the main door.
But first, it was time to socialize in the lounge. There are several old seats scattered around the area as well as a bar that appears to be made out of an engine cowling. My wife and I got a drink and had a look around.
Soon, the crew was ready to board. Anthony is the Captain, but everyone else was found through casting calls. This job is like any other acting role in Hollywood, it’s just something of a unique setting.
Once boarding was called, we were told that the first few minutes would be open for everyone to just wander and mingle. The Captain and flight attendants greeted us as we walked on board. We would be dining downstairs in the nose section (that’s $295, though we didn’t have to pay this time). Upstairs it costs $60 more.
I didn’t count, but I believe there were about 30 passengers onboard. It was completely full except for one party that had to cancel at the last minute because one of them went into labor. Good reason not to fly, I’d say.
The mix of passengers was certainly interesting. Across from me and my wife were a couple who seemed to be there because of a love for vintage stuff. They weren’t airline people at all, but they still loved the experience. Then behind us was John Travolta and 7 of his family members including his wife, his mother (it was for her birthday), and his daughter. They were all extremely friendly and interacted with everyone. I actually really enjoyed talking shop with him. He’s a true airline dork who could put many of us to shame.
Talking to John, I learned something terrible. He has grounded his 707 because it was getting too expensive. (I think that’s maintenance-related, not fuel, but I don’t know.) What awful news.
Back in our seats, the flight attendants performed the safety briefing and then began service. The food, which is still prepared by an airline caterer, was actually very good. The menus were handed out and orders placed. We started with the appetizer. I had the shrimp while my wife had tomato and mozzarella.
The main course was outstanding. The flight attendants came through with a cart of chateaubriand and sliced it at each seat.
As dinner went on, there were a couple of fashion shows, where flight attendants displayed different uniforms from different eras. Then there were a couple quizzes. First was the Pan Am history quiz. I only got 9 out of 10. John Travolta, however, got them all. (See, told you he could put some of us to shame.) Then there was a 3-letter code quiz, which I aced.
To keep with the early 1970s theme, Anthony came by with some prop cigarettes for everyone to play with. Ah yes, smoking on an airplane. What a terrible idea. (This is where you all yell at me for daring to take a photo with a fake cigarette.)
After dinner, the cheese and fruit cart came through followed by the dessert cart. The flight attendants had certainly done a decent job, but it was clear they were actors and not actual flight attendants. There was something missing from their performance, though it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly.
At the end of the evening, it was time to say goodbye. Then it got a little weird. The flight attendants sang “Downtown” by Petula Clark and then did a conga line. I’d say they should scrap that part. We were done at 10:30 and headed home after a quick walk around the lot.
Overall, this was fantastic. Apparently Air Hollywood likes this so much that it’s looking to build one in New York as well. But it’s hard to replicate the love, sweat, and blood that Anthony has put into making this incredible 747 come to life. I’d highly recommend it. And in fact, maybe we’ll do an event next year when this blog turns 10 years old.