This is the story of not only a place nor merely an airline but that of an entire era—of a dream from the past for the future of today!
Founded by Yale graduate and visionary entrepreneur Juan Terry Trippe, Pan American World Airways operates its very first flight. Leaving from Key West, Florida, the Fairchild FC-2 floatplane lands in Havana, Cuba on October 19th. The crew is quickly escorted upon landing to the famed El Floridita bar, where the influence of rum, pineapple daiquiris and cigars lead to a three-day celebration of the historic event.
Berlin is yet a place of flourishing cultural and intellectual life—the decadent city where anything goes. Whether the birthplace of Club Dada, German Expressionism, avant-garde cinema or gaudy cabaret, Berlin has spawned some of the century's most astounding artistic developments to date. Walter Ruttmann releases his milestone film Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis, thereby documenting a day in the life of one of the world's most vibrant and modern urban centers.
Pan American Airlines becomes the first airline to cross the Pacific Ocean and launches the very first passenger service to Europe using the Boeing 314 Yankee Clipper—the so-called 'flying boat'.
Police in Berlin put down a Socialist May-Day protest with the aid of machine guns. The last remaining Jewish owned enterprises are seized by the National Socialist Party. Nazi Germany invadessssszzzshhhchhhckckckchssshhh———for the continued convenience and well-being of our cherished passengers, we have omitted any further elucidation of events that are too ghastly to mention within the present context.
(War is declared against Nazi Germany by the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Australia, Nepal, South Africa and Canada.)
Pan Am valiantly serves the Allied Forces in a multitude of precarious wartime missions to secure freedom across the globe. The airline's renowned Treasure Island operations headquarter in the San Francisco Bay is transformed into a US Naval Base, and its crews fly over 90 million miles in support of military operations worldwide. Whether evacuating wounded soldiers and thousands of civilians from dangerous front lines, transporting military cargo or rescuing stranded companies, all of Pan American World Airways' 9,000 employees are personally involved, often risking their lives, in the heroic fight to protect the world's nations from tyranny.1947
Freedom has been restored throughout Western Europe and a new future full of promise, and heretofore undreamed of possibilities, begins to unfold ...
Pan American Airways becomes the first airline to introduce scheduled round-the-world service!
In the words of Juan Trippe, "Pan American Airways will have an important role to play in the peace to come—in the task of building a better world. By speeding the interchange of commerce, by promoting scientific progress and cultural cooperation, international air transport will make a very real contribution to the future welfare of the United States and to all nations."
Pan American Airways answers the call of duty once more and assists the US Airforce and its allies in carrying out the celebrated Berlin airlift. Through transporting over 4,700 tons of food, clothing and fuel to the western sector of Berlin each day in over 200,000 flights a year, the airlift eventually succeeds in preventing a planned Soviet takeover of the former German capital.
What is now West Berlin's most central square and would later become the virtual front yard to the Eden House highrise and The Pan Am Lounge, the Breitscheidplatz is still a rather desolate place. Once home to the famed Eden Hotel (where early communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht had spent their last moments in captivity before being murdered by state-sponsored militias in 1919, and what later became a prewar haunt for high society guests such as Marlene Dietrich, Heinrich Mann, Berthold Brecht or Otto Dix), the now vacant field at Budapester Strasse 43 (and subsequent site of the Eden House highrise) would appear to offer but little promise. The empty lots that ring the square are riddled with shabby food-stands, rats and cinemas of the more disreputable kind. Nikita Khrushchev has just become Premier of the Soviet Union and Elvis Presley has been drafted into the army. The state of affairs in post-war West Berlin is clearly a rather dubious one. Yet, this is a year of breaking promise and a new light is on the horizon!
Through the fearless feats of Juan Terry Trippe, Pan American Airlines has just introduced the dawning of a new era—the Jet Age! Having purchased—for dizzying sums, in an ingenious stroke of entrepreneurship—twenty Boeing 707s and twenty-five Douglas DC-8s while they were yet nothing but blueprints, Pan Am is now the undisputed worldwide leader of the airways. The first historic Jet Clipper America flight takes place on October 26th, reaching London from New York in just six and a half hours! Stewardess Hope Ryden is among the lucky to be on board.
The rocket propulsion technology designed for weapons by the Germans during WWII has thereby been democratized. The propeller has finally been replaced by the jet engine to send still greater numbers of business people, holiday goers and dream seekers faster across the great oceans than ever before in the history of mankind—and that is only the beginning.
German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun appears on the cover of Time magazine as America's number one Missile Man, and NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is formed to gain speed in the race to space. The microchip is invented, and the US Military announces that it will be possible, in just a few years time, to send satellites into orbit for making detailed maps from space. Bobby Fischer wins the United States Chess Championship, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents becomes a television phenomenon across America.
Meanwhile, back in Berlin ...
The city's new mayor Willy Brandt has become the Regional Chairman of the SPD (German labor party), and things are starting to look up at the Breitscheidplatz. Plans have been settled for allowing the ruins of the bombed-out cathedral known as the Kaiser Willhelm Gedächtnis Kirche to stand as a memorial, attesting to the horrors of war. Architect Egon Eiermann has been selected to design a new Cathedral for the remainder of the square. The basis has been set for a subsequent decade of healing, growth and optimism.
The GDR closes the borders between East and West Germany literally overnight. Germans living in what was the Eastern sector wake up to find themselves entrapped by barbed wire. Construction begins on the Berlin Wall.
Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.
After his inauguration as President, John F. Kennedy asks Congress for $531 million to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. He establishes the Peace Corps and advises American citizens to start building bomb shelters.
Pan Am pilot Robert D. Fordyce and flight attendant Kenlynn Williams are soon to carry out the airlines 100,000th transatlantic Jet Clipper flight, and plans are begun to meet the growing need for international accommodation for the airline's growing numbers of devoted employees. The subsequent establishment of what is yet to become The Pan Am Lounge is now but a matter of course!
Things at the Breitscheidplatz are developing rapidly. With the help of Mayor Willi Brandt, entrepreneur, architect and investor Karl Heinz Pepper has secured funding for a visionary building project that is to reshape the still struggling area between the Gedächtnickirche, Kurfürstendamm, Tauentzien Strasse and Budapester Strasse. Referred to in Berlin as "Pepper's Manhattan," the Europa Center—with its 22 floor skyscraper, post-modern shopping paradise and adjacent residential highrises—is to be completed in record time (just 2 years) to present the other side with a daunting thumb of the nose. The message is clear: The West is the best!
Always up on all the latest, Pan Am gets wind of the exciting news and reserves an entire highrise in advance: the ultra-modern Eden House—to be built at number 43 in Budapester Strasse (the lot once occupied by the Eden Hotel). Berlin is coming back up to speed and can finally provide the international concern with a representative headquarters.
John F. Kennedy gives his famous speech in front of the Schöneberg City Hall, in which he declares his unshakeable solidarity in upholding the freedom of West Berliners with his famously moving words: "Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'[...] Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. [...] All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!'"
The people of West Berlin are launched into a state of ecstasy upon the release of Franco Indovina's film The Three Faces—the cinematic debut of none other than Berlin's own Princess, Soraya of Persia! Born to Iranian Ambassador Khalil Esfandiary and his German wife Eva Karland in 1932, Soraya Esfandiary was raised in Berlin before being married to the last Shah of Iran and becoming Queen of Persia in 1951.
She became deeply anchored in the hearts of West Germans when she decided in 1958, with a broken heart, to divorce the Shah and move back to Germany after he had suggested taking on a second wife. Forever shaped by the sense of rough dignity that had marked her upbringing in Berlin, she renounced her title and returned home as a mere princess to be celebrated by her compatriots for decades to come.
Construction on the Eden House residential highrise is completed, and Pan Am begins to inhabit its new, informal Berliner address. A penthouse is established for the amusement of the crews who live there and any insiders who might be passing through. News spreads quickly and a host of post-war personalities begins to flock toward the new hub of West Berlin's revitalized, high-society night life.
Renowned American Forces Network Disc Jockey Mark White takes residence in the building among fellow countrymen and women—a taste of home at freedom's outpost. Whether dropping by for a night-cap or extending the day's interview with Gregory Peck, Louis Armstrong, Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, Soraya or Marlene Dietrich there, White is always a welcome face at the already legendary Pan Am Lounge.
It is not long before all of Kurfürstendamm is whispering about the notoriously rumored Fireside Room meeting between Willi Brandt and cigar smoking Chancellor Ludwig Erhard (architect of the German economic miracle), in which numerous glasses of brandy and a handshake aid in sealing future plans across party lines for eventually moving the capital back to Berlin.
The Summer of Love sees the release of the Beatles' classic album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 1968 witnesses student uprisings across Europe. Worldwide protests and the unparalleled resolve of the Liberation Army eventually lead to the end of the Vietnam War. Pan Am evacuates the last American soldiers and civilians from Saigon and continues to dominate the Cold War skies as the world's most experienced and innovative airline. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachyov becomes the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985 and introduces the concept of glasnost, or open governance, that eventually leads to the break up of the USSR and, therewith, the inevitable fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After nearly three decades of division that has separated parents from children and destroyed innumerable lives and families, Berlin is finally a free and united city once more.
Soaring fuel prices caused by the first Persian Gulf War, a sluggish world economy and the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (known as the Lockerbie Bombing) have been wreaking havoc for a number of years. Pan Am is forced to file bankruptcy on January 8th.
The last flight on December 4th is from Barbados to Miami—the birthplace of the pioneer airline. The B-727 Clipper Goodwill is flown by Captain Mark S. Pyle. The last Pan Am pilot to grace the airways, Pyle is aware that not only an airline but an entire era has come to an end: "Pulling up and turning downwind for final approach and landing, I looked at the beautiful Miami Airport and the city it serves. We all realized this would be the last time. Again, the finality of the moment slammed my senses. Our wheels touched for the last time in a Pan American aircraft—the last time for a scheduled revenue flight of any kind for this historic airline. [...] Pan Am had not been just a part of history, it had made history for all of its 64 years."
Back at the Breitscheidplatz, a solemn toast is made on the 10th floor of the Eden House. The mood is heartfelt but not downtrodden. Indeed, living in Berlin for the past decades has taught the pilots and crew-members here one thing—that life is full of changes. The party lasts until the wee hours of the morning, and a handful of pilots are seen still reminiscing over a bottle of scotch the next day at noon. Some will move on to fly under new flags. Others will retire and move back to the homeland. Many, however, will keep the dream alive, staying in the place that has long become their celebrated home—the Eden House highrise at Budapester Strasse 43, West Berlin.
Invited by a friend to a small get-together in the nearly forgotten Eden House penthouse, Natascha Bonnermann is overwhelmed with delight upon entering the establishment. It is as though she has been transported into another time zone—into the Pan Am era. Everything down to the ashtrays has been perfectly conserved. The spirit of optimism that once served to shape history is still palpable in each immaculate detail. After a long chat with Mark White, she becomes aware of the pressing need to preserve this precious jewel of Berlin's more recent history. That night, White and Bonnermann form a warm friendship based on mutual respect.
After some deliberation, and remembering the words of entrepreneur Karl Heinz Pepper concerning his courageous investments in West Berlin—"One has to take one's heart by the hand"—Natascha Bonnermann knew what she had to do. Against her better judgment, she would invest all she had to ensure that the Pan Am Lounge would continue to flourish, thereby safeguarding an important piece of her beloved city's history, allowing the dream to endure and getting the party started. Needless to say, Mark White was appreciative and retained his own private key to the Pan Am Lounge until his passing in his flat in Eden House on the day after Christmas in 2013.
The initial fascination for the East side of Berlin that followed the reunification of Germany has long since petered out. The long-standing elegance of Kurfürstendamm and hard-won prestige of West Berliner institutions such as the newly restored Bikini Haus, renowned Paris Bar or the legendary Pan Am Lounge have proven steadfast. The starving-artist lifestyle has lost its nostalgic appeal. Optimism and opulence are now the cat's meow.
Host for nearly a decade to a plethora of elegant jet-set galas and wildly fabulous fêtes in celebration of the city's finest, The Pan Am Lounge has become the address for selective guests across the globe who are looking for the perfect place to celebrate private parties and special occasions in Berlin. The Breitscheidplatz is yet more glamorous, and the old flare of West Berlin still more extravagant, than ever before.
Pilots Robert D. Fordyce and Mark S. Pyle; Stewerdesses Kenlynn Williams and Hope Ryden; Brilliant Visionary Juan Terry Trippe; German Rocket Scientist Wernher von Braun; Berlin Mayor and German Chancellor Willy Brandt; Investor Karl Heinz Pepper; Her Imperial Highness Princess Soraya of Iran; Accomplished Actress, City Preservationist and Host Par Excellence Natascha Bonnermann; and Renowned American Forces Network Disc Jockey Mark White all toss a knowing glance over the edge of one of the 10th floor Pan Am Lounge penthouse's panorama patios down towards the Tiergarten, across the entrance of the Berlin Zoo and up to the pinnacle of the Gedächtniskirche before breaking out into uncontrollable laughter after having attempted with all their might to suppress an unstoppable smirk and giggle while managing to burst out the word Prost! in unison with a twinkle in their eyes for the simple fact that they have known it all along: The West is—indeed and still—the best!