November 21, 2009

The great “Coffee, Tea or Me?” hoax

Back in the 1960s, when air travel was more pleasant and our culture was less politically correct, airline stewardesses were hot – at least in terms of their cultural image.

Most stewardesses were young and single. In the media, they were often portrayed as both desirable and attainable – as women who liked to party at the stops along their routes and fool around with pilots and lucky travelers.

The airlines themselves helped promote this image in the mid-Sixties with ads that featured beautiful stewardesses and taglines like “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.”

Then, on November 21, 1967, the book Coffee, Tea or Me? was published.

Subtitled The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses, this book solidified and further popularized the stereotypical image of fun-loving, sexually promiscuous stewardesses.

It also made the sexually provocative phrase “Coffee, Tea or Me?” a common, humorous saying.

Authorship of the book was credited to two stewardesses named Rachel Jones and Trudy Baker. When it was published, two young women using those names went on a heavily-covered media tour to promote it.

Soon, Coffee, Tea or Me? became a national and international best seller. Millions of copies were sold. Three sequels were published. In 1973, Coffee, Tea or Me? was made into a TV movie in 1973, starring Karen Valentine and Louise Lasser.

Years later, it was revealed that the book had actually been written by the prolific veteran author and ghostwriter, Donald Bain.

“Trudy Baker” and “Rachel Jones” did not exist. The women who went on the book tour were two former stewardesses hired by the publisher’s publicity agent to pose as Trudy and Rachel.

It was a supremely great hoax that generated a lot of money for Bain and a memorable phrase that’s still quoted today.

If you’re intrigued by this story, I encourage you to read Bain’s own account, by clicking this link.

It’s a real hoot. (Or, should I say, unreal?)

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