THE bitch is back. Australia’s most feared air hostess, Pam Ann, will be dishing out a dose of cabin fever at The Soho Theatre this month, upgrading and degrading the audience in direct response to their outfits, and flashing a gruesomely false smile.
“I’m playing three new characters, broken into sections divided up by video footage,” comedienne Caroline Reid tells us with unfaltering good cheer. “I can do Pam for five hours, but now I’m opening up with her, then moving into a kleptomaniac Chinese character called Lily. We shot some footage of her down in Chinatown last week and the Chinese loved her. Then you have Donna from EasyJet, who’s very chav, and Susan from British Airways, who’s a psychic. BA always get a real roasting. They don’t care about passengers. They treat you like you’re in a bucket.”
Is this perhaps also a useful tool to chide British audiences? “Of course!” she says sweetly.
While Pam Ann is an established crowd pleaser, this summer Caroline also premiered her stand-up show, I Always Wanted To Be An Olympic Figure-Skater, which she plans to resurrect later this year. It’s a retro feast that’s going down well with lonesome expats and local audiences alike.
“The Brits think Australia’s so wonderful, so I’ve painted a nice picture of suburbia for them,” she says indulgently. “I grew up in the Neighbours area of Melbourne in the ’70s and ’80s, so ABBA was very big for me, as well as ice-skating and the way my mum was dressed.”
“My mum’s going to become a huge star in her own right, because I was painting a picture of how everyone dressed and looked; everyone had a rockery and pampas grass,” she added. “I talk about divorce, because it was so fashionable in the ’70s. Kramer vs. Kramer came out and then all of a sudden everyone got divorced. My dad would kill me if he heard some of the things I was saying!”
After leaving the suburban bubble of Vermont, Caroline worked in retail in the city. “I was so addicted to fashion in my early twenties, and I did shop displays — I’m so gay! I worked at Scanlon & Theodore and did acting on the side.”
“I saw Sandra Bernhardt’s one-woman show, Without You I’m Nothing, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of here and try that’. I think when you get to 26 and you hit that Saturn Return thing, everything has to change. At first I was sick before shows. I used to think, ‘If I get my eyeliner wrong, the show’s going to be bad’.”
“Little mind games like that. I’d write my shows a week beforehand, spending all my time on the posters instead. I never wrote any jokes and I’ve always been reviewed as ‘style over substance’, but somehow ten years later I’m still going.” Balls to ’em? “Yeah, exactly!”
Caroline has now lived in England for eight years, and she’s clearly fond of the place, even though she’ll never stop pining for dim sims from Melbourne’s finest fish and chip shops.
She’s made some rather special expat friends here, most prominently Dannii Minogue (“she’s gorgeous, really cheeky!”) and chick lit author Kathy Lette (who could forget her teenage debut, Puberty Blues?).
“Kathy’s going to throw an Australian barbecue,” Caroline says. “She’s friends with Barry Humphries, who I idolise, and Rolf Harris. Could you imagine? Everyone would be so over-the-top camp.”
Still, their campness can’t hold a candle to Cher, who invited Pam Ann to open her UK shows, or Elton John, who booked her to entertain his guests on a chartered jet to Venice.
“It was gale force winds and the whole plane was shit-faced — Damien Hirst was rolling drunk,” she remembers fondly. “The captain came out as gay, Isabella Blow was there with her hat on, Philip Treacy, socialites like Cornelia Guest, Victoria Beckham, all this money, all going mental: ‘Pam, Pam, Pam!’ And I’d be going, ‘Fuck off! Carry your own bags, you bitches!’”
In Bed With Pam Ann and Friends will be showing at Soho Theatre (21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE) until 26 Aug 2006; 10pm. Tickets are £15/£12.50 (Mon-Wed) and £17/50/£15 (Thu-Sat) and can be bought from www.sohotheatre.com or 0870 429 6883.