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Flashback Fridays--Early Star Power on Southwest Airlines

Aviator C

I thought I would “mine” the back issues of Southwest Airlines Magazine one more time because as I was researching last week’s post, I kept running across photos of “unusual people” who were flying our first flights.  I mean unusual in the best possible sense as referring to those folks who are either famous or wearing costumes of some sort.  As you can see from the photos below, my findings run the gamut from one of the biggest Hollywood stars ever to clowns and apes.

At least according to the magazine’s pages it took a few years after our June 1971 inaugural for the weird and famous to start showing up on our aircraft.  In particular 1974 was a banner year.  In the August 1974 issue, we have Ronald McDonald (above) on one of our flights.  This was actually the year the first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia, and although it predates our association with the charity, it shows our roots go back a long way.

As seen in the photo above from the next month’s edition, not all clowns are as docile as Ronald.  Here we see “the world’s tallest clown” next to one of our aircraft.  The caption states that he conducted onboard “balloon clinics” and handed out circus tickets.

One of the most recognizable men from the early days of broadcasting, Art Linkletter, had flown with us earlier that year, and in the picture above from the January 1974 issue, he is speaking with two of our original Pilots.

There’s no really good way to transition to the photo above from the December issue.  A San Antonio magician and makeup artist who worked on the Planet of the Apes meets one of our Flight Attendants.

Not all of the characters who preferred to travel in costume had as much national recognition as the ape.  Above we see the “Old Prospector” from Dallas’s National Bank of Commerce surrounded by our Flight Attendants in this photo from the April 1975 issue.

If you are talking about star power, Kirk Douglas defines that term.  From Spartacus to Lust for Life, his roles transcended the big screen.  And the accomplished actor didn’t need a costume to fly Southwest. The photo above shows Mr. Douglas with Lamar and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem George Allen at Love Field in the July 1975 photo.


That same month, a bear and his friends had to commute to the house at Pooh Corner, and they flew Southwest Airlines to Dallas.  Remember, this was the 1970s so don’t judge the eyes of Pooh’s friends too harshly.

All kidding aside, I think these photos show that Southwest was starting to appeal to travelers (and bears!) from all kinds of backgrounds.  Even today, you could be seated next to the biggest pop culture icon, a former president, or the neighbor next door.