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Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years Hardcover – June 3, 2014

3.5 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

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 Angeles Magazine. 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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1St Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345536959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345536952
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Kirkfield VINE VOICE on May 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jet Set is a seemingly unedited and nearly endless romp through the gossip mill of the 1960s. Comprised almost entirely of who-slept-with-whom scoresheets, the book provides very little analysis about this important socio-economic era.

I began the book while strapped into the cattle car of a Delta flight two weeks ago, a far cry from the "sky party" of the burgeoning jet age. I hoped this juxtaposition of time and space would engender a yearning for aviation's glory years. After reading more than three hundred pages, what I needed was a double vodka.

New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin said of Stadiem's previous book, Moneywood: "Without a specific focus, Mr. Stadiem lurches perplexingly all over." Stadiem's writing has not improved in the last year. His run-on sentences are intolerable, his limited vocabulary embarrassing; I counted at least five instances of "distaff" here. His desperation to connect people is overwhelming and makes for poor prose.

More than anything, Jet Set is is an (unadvertised) biography of, and an homage to, gossip columnist Igor Cassini. Not until the penultimate page does Stadiem offer some perspective on air travel: "The planes are no faster than they were fifty years ago, but the flying experience, regardless of class, has devolved from the journey of a lifetime to a Dantean descent into aviation hell." With that sentiment I agree. As for the rest of this literary hell, skip it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Many animals throughout history have engaged in mass migrations, almost always in pursuit of food. The human animal has also engaged in mass migration, graduating from the quest for food to the quest for booty and ultimately opportunity.

While the rich throughout the 19th Century traveled widely for pleasure, the ordinary person stayed closer to home – until an October day in 1958 when the first Boeing 707 jet airliner, dressed in the colors of the now long gone Pan American Airways, lifted off the tarmac opening a new era in travel, gossip, media, aircraft design, airline marketing, social structure and a whole lot more.

The caveat: the aviation enthusiast looking for the story of the 707 and its contemporaries and competitors will be sorely disappointed, as will the serious student of sociology. This is not a serious look at anything: it is a book of social observation – a 300+ page gossip column really.

There was a period of perhaps 30 years or so from when flying was the almost exclusive province of the rich to today when flying is a commonplace, uncomfortable and often unpleasant experience. Prior to the Boeing 707, the queen of the skies was the Howard Hughes inspired, if not designed, Lockheed Constellation, one of the most beautiful aircraft (in my opinion) to have ever flown. It carried 66 passengers who could afford it across the Atlantic in 16 hours. The 707 carried twice as many just as far in eight hours and cost less to operate. The gates to international travel had been thrown wide open. Within just a few years, the trans-oceanic steamship would be history and millions of Americans would now be boring their friends and neighbors with slides of their European vacations.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read quite a few books on the history of the commercial aviation business, from many different perspectives: airline histories, technical descriptions of specific airliners, supporting operations like air traffic control, corporate branding and style, the economics of aviation, and memoirs of everyone from airline CEOs to pilots and flight attendants. And so I was looking forward to a book which promised to explore the relationship between the commercial and the social angles.

Oh dear.

First, the writing is awful. A long run-on sentence with a twist in the tail can be a useful journalistic device: it's colloquial, intimate, and draws you in. But page after page of them is simply annoying.

Second, the potentially interesting arc - the first phase of international jet travel, from the hype in the mid-50s to the trauma of hijackings in 1970 - is lost among the relentless, gossipy, name-dropping. And as other reviewers have noted, the gossipy stuff gets pretty tedious pretty quickly.

It's possible that a forceful editor can fix some of this. (I was reading an Advance Uncorrected Proof.) But I doubt it.
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Format: Hardcover
Jet Set: The People, the Planes, and the Romance in Aviation's Glroy Years tells us exactly that, and in that order or importance. It's mostly about the people: from Frank Sinatra and his anthem "Come Fly With Me" to Juan Trippe of Pan Am, to the gossip rags, movie stars, and socialites of Atlanta and New York. This isn't a coffee table picture book or a technical manual of airplanes from the 1960s; this is a fully researched look at the era, people first.

The book is comprehensive and well researched and I greatly enjoyed the writing and tone of the author. What cold have been a drone of facts and technical instead becomes a conversationally friendly recount of everything about the jet age. It's like having an Uncle who lived through the period giving his memories - sure, they deviate and side track a lot but that ends up making it much more personal and endearing as a result.

The book follows a tight arc: from Sinatra and the introduction of the 707, to the downfall of the Cassini brothers in the 1970s and introduction of the 747. At heart are the Cassini brothers (Igor Cassini is credited with coining the phrase Jet Set) and that workhorse of the era, the 707. They were the center of the Jet Set universe and so many others revolved around them, using them, and then often falling victim to modern times.

I typically have a lot of questions raised when reading an informative book like this. But with Jet Set, the only thing I used Google for was to see the pictures of the interesting people, places, and of course planes.

As the title suggests, this really is mostly about the people first. The planes, the glamour, and the romance are products of the incredible personalities of the time (from airplane engineers to the new tourist).
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