Preview: Welcome Aboard with Phillip Keene

Pan Am uniform. Photo: Christine Kim

“To you, it’s the world. To us, it’s home.”

For former Pan Am flight attendants like actor Phillip Keene (The Closer, Major Crimes), the collapse of the international airline was a sudden and devastating loss.

“It was December 4, 1991,” Keene recalls. “I woke up that morning and learned that I didn’t have a job anymore.”

Pan Am - Philip Keene newspaper ad. Photo: Christine Kim/Secret Agent PR

Long before he was on the silver screen, Keene was bit by the travel bug when he flew to Nicaragua on one of Pan Am’s Boeing 747 jets as a child. While working at an El Torito in California, he discovered a newspaper ad for Pan Am flight attendants and applied for the position. His career took flight and from 1987 to 1991, Keene and his colleagues became global ambassadors on the “World’s Most Experienced Airline.”

Pan Am reached its peak during the Jet Age of the 1960s, and although Keene was employed during the “ragged ends of the glory days,” the luxury airline maintained its style and signature service. “[Pan Am] has a history of elegance, innovation, and a pioneering spirit,” Keene says. “It showed a level of service that was rare. There’s an art to being comfortable – you can be comfortable, but you don’t have to be sloppy.”

Pan Am - Philip Keene. Photo: Christine Kim

Keene started collecting Pan Am memorabilia in 1992 – just one year after the company declared bankruptcy. His first piece was a Pan Am magazine ad, and he quickly began to acquire hats, ashtrays, dinnerware, uniforms, and even pieces from actual planes. EtsyeBay, antique stores, and generous friends all contributed to his cause, resulting in an impressive personal collection that will be on display at The Saguaro during Palm Springs Modernism Week.

The nostalgia of these objects brings Keene a unique joy that he hopes guests will also take away from the collection. “There’s an innocence to travel that’s lost now,” Keene says. “People used to get excited, but now it’s a hassle. [This collection] is a reminder of how things used to be.”

For a preview of items to be displayed during Modernism Week, see the gallery below or click here.

Welcome Aboard – The Pan Am Experience will be on show at the Saguaro Hotel in the California Poppy Room from 10:30am to 4:30pm from February 15 through February 24. Admission is $10. More info here.

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