November 21, 2018

“Coffee, Tea or Me?” – the catchphrase popularized by a hoax based on a joke...

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 popular image.

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

The airlines tried to cash in on and 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 Bantam paperback edition of the book Coffee, Tea or Me? was published, about a month after the hardcover edition had been released by Bartholomew House.

Subtitled The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses, this widely-distributed, wildly successful paperback further popularized the stereotypical image of fun-loving, promiscuous stewardesses.

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

The book was portrayed as a humorous but fact-based memoir co-written by two stewardesses named Rachel Jones and Trudy Baker.

When it was published, two young women using those names went on a media tour to promote it.

Soon, Coffee, Tea or Me? became a national best seller, then an international best seller. 

Three sequels were published and credited to Rachel and Trudy.

In 1973, Coffee, Tea or Me? was even made into a TV movie starring Karen Valentine and Louise Lasser.

Decades later, it was revealed that the real author of the Coffee, Tea or Me? books was Donald Bain.

Bain was working as a public relations man for American Airlines when he wrote Coffee, Tea or Me?  

Thanks to its success, he went on to become a prolific full-time novelist and ghostwriter who has since penned dozens of popular books (including many of the Murder She Wrote novels).

“Trudy Baker” and “Rachel Jones” never existed.

The women who went on the book tour were two actual Eastern Airlines stewardesses, but they were hired by the publisher’s publicity agent to pose as Trudy and Rachel.

It was a supremely well-executed hoax that generated a ton of money for Bain and a memorable phrase that’s still used and lampooned today.

In the introduction to later reprints of the book, Bain wrote that the title Coffee, Tea or Me? came to him halfway through writing it after he heard someone recite an old airline joke that used the phrase.

If you’re old enough, you might remember the joke: A stewardess enters the cockpit of a commercial airplane and asks the pilot, “Coffee, tea or me?” The pilot says, “Whichever is easier to make.”

Bain says in his intro:

"Little did I know in 1967 that the book I was writing with a title lifted from a lame old joke would go on, along with its three sequels, to sell more than five million copies, be translated into a dozen languages, cause anxious mothers to forbid their daughters from becoming stewardesses, spawn airline protest groups, have its title inducted into the public vocabulary and be republished thirty-six years later, branding me the oldest, tallest, bearded airline stewardess."

Speaking of lame jokes, there’s a funny coincidence about the illustrations used on the covers and interior pages of the Coffee, Tea or Me? series. They were drawn by Bill Wenzel, one of the greatest of all adult cartoon artists.

Cartoons featuring Wenzel’s bosomy, airheaded babes, typically accompanied by classically lame and sexist captions, appeared in countless men’s girlie and humor magazines from the late 1940s into the early 1980s. He also did many paperback covers.

You can read more about Wenzel in the excellent book about him that was published in 2000 and in the authoritative posts done about him by vintage paperback and magazine maven Lynn Munroe. You can also see scores of his cartoons in this Google image search.

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November 16, 2018

“To crush your enemies...”

For readers of this website who may not know about my other quotation site,, here’s a post that will give you an idea of what you’ll find there. Basically, each post on features background information on a famous quotation followed by a set of quotes that are interesting or humorous uses, variations and take-offs on the main quotation. It’s easier to show you what that means than explain it, so below is an example based on a famous movie quote. If you like this post, click here to see more. If want to subscribe to future posts, click on one of the subscription options at the top of the right sidebar. Cheers! 

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Conan The Barbarian, What is best in life quote QC wm


Barbarian General (actor Akio Mitamura): “Conan, what is best in life?”
Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger): “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

       From the film Conan the Barbarian (released in the US on May 14, 1982)
       Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “crush your enemies” line in Conan the Barbarian became the first of his many famous movie quotations as an actor. It’s also the first line he speaks in the film after a full twenty minutes of backstory recounting how Conan was captured as a boy by brutal barbarian raiders, used as a slave, then trained to be a vicious pit fighter and a warrior for his captors. Here’s the dialog from that scene (which you can watch on YouTube):             
         Barbarian General: “We won again. This is good! But what is best in life?”
         Warrior: “The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, wind in your hair!”
         General: “Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?”
         Conan (Arnold): “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”
         Barbarian General: “That is good.”

      Conan’s last seven words are sometimes quoted as “to hear the lamentation of the women,” because Arnold’s Austrian accent makes the word “their” sound like “deh.” But I’m pretty sure it’s “their women” given the inspiration for the movie quote.
      John Milius, who directed Conan the Barbarian and co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone, didn’t create Arnold’s famed catchphrase from whole cloth. It’s not in the Conan stories written by the creator of the character, Robert Howard. But it’s based on a passage in a book by one of Howard’s favorite writers, Harold Lamb.             
       In Lamb’s classic 1927 biography, Genghis Kahn: the Emperor of All Men, he gives his version of a legendary quotation by the great conqueror at the end of Chapter 11. Lamb wrote:             
          One day in the pavilion at Karakorum he asked an officer of the Mongol guard what, in all the world, could bring the greatest happiness.             
          “The open steppe, a clear day, and a swift horse under you,” responded the officer after a little thought, “and a falcon on your wrist to start up hares.”             
          “Nay,” responded the Khan, “to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet—to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best.”

       The version of Khan’s words crafted by Milius (and/or Stone) for Conan the Barbarian became a popular catchphrase that has since been cited and adapted many times. Some of my favorite examples are below...

Conan cartoon, Peter Kuper, New Yorker


“I said, ‘Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women,’ but the media took that totally out of context.”
       Peter Kuper
       American illustrator and cartoonist               
       His caption for a cartoon spoofing Conan and the frequent lament of politicians, published in The New Yorker, January 2017

Portrait of Cohen the Barbarian by Paul Kidby


[Nomad]: “What is it that a man may call the greatest things in life?”
[Cohen the Barbarian] “Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”
       From the Discworld novel The Light Fantastic (1986) by Terry Pratchett            
       This quote by the Cohen character (aka Ghenghiz Cohen) is a is a favorite of Discworld fans. Cohen is an aging, toothless barbarian who speaks with a lisp when he’s not wearing the special dentures he has made from the diamond teeth of the troll Old Grandad.
       (Portrait of Cohen with his diamond dentures by Paul Kidby.)

John Ortberg


“The heroic figure in Conan the Barbarian was actually paraphrasing Genghis Khan when he gave his famous answer to the question ‘What is best in life?'... An alternative idea came from Galilee: What is best in life is to love your enemies and see them reconciled to you.”
       John Ortberg
       Evangelical Christian author, speaker, and senior pastor of the ECO Presbyterian Menlo Church in Menlo Park, California
       In his book Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus (2012)

Internet troll Conan meme


       An internet meme seen on            

Boo Cocky Robot Chicken Conan


[Conan singing]: “What is best in life? That is hard to say, for each man is unique in his own way.
As a boy, I liked gumdrops and puppies, sailboats and frogs, and my best friend little Ricky Maebius!
But when I became a young man, what was best in life began to change just like my body.
I liked pretty Stacy Lyon with her long blonde hair and eyes that were blue as the ocean!
But now that I’m grown, my thoughts have changed, and it’s pretty clear to me.
The answer to the question, ‘What is best in life?’ is plain enough for all to see.
Crush your enemies! Crush your enemies! And see them driven before you!
Crush your enemies! Crush your enemies! And see them driven before you!
And hear the lamentations of the women!”

       A hilarious parody song sung by an animated Conan action figure in the “Boo Cocky” episode of the Comedy Channel’s “Adult Swim” cartoon series Robot Chicken (Season 3, Episode 16; first aired September 7, 2008)

Crush my enemies Christmas t-shirt


“All I want for Christmas is

       Slogan printed on t-shirts and other clothes sold by            

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