Braniff International and the end of the plain plane...
posted by Richard Green on 15/11/2018

Braniff's 'End of the plain plane' campaign began in the early 60s and led to its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Even via grainy old photos, Braniff's 'end of the plain plane' livery remains eye-catching half a century after its launch. It was part of a bold turnaround plan put in place by the airline's then boss, flambouyant Texan Harding Lawrence, and saw the airline adopt a cutting edge approach to its design, uniforms and cabins. And all this at a time when airline colour schemes - such as they were - left the fuselage as silver metal, or painted a stripe or two (called cheatlines) along the row of windows, complimented by drab interiors and dowdy uniforms.

The innovative Braniff branding introduced seven vivid colours to the airline's fleet - including Lemon Yellow, Chocolate Brown and Metallic Purple, and there were flambouyant cabins to match, imported Latin American furniture for its lounges, and avant-garde guard crew uniforms created by Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci.

Emilio Pucci designed Braniff uniforms. Note the 'raindomes' being sported by two of the women

These days hardly a week goes by without an airline announces a new celebtrity designed uniform or a designer endorsed 'look' - think Virgin Atlantic and Vivienne Westwood designed crew uniforms, Finnair and Marimekko designed tablewear, or Air France and it's tie up for its Paris Charles De Gaulle lounges and Alain Ducasse. But Braniff's approach was truly groundbreaking in its day.

Pucci created six complete uniform collections for Braniff between 1965 and 1974 and even designed a bizarre plastic helmet dubbed a 'rain dome'. It was in the days of very few jetties, and so the idea was for hostesses to sport the space-age helmet on the walk between the terminal and the aircraft to avoid wind and rain messing up their big 60s hairdos. But the helmets cracked, were surely impractical, and were quietly dropped. There were even a range of Barbie dolls sporting Braniff uniforms - rain domes included - and Ken was kitted out as a Braniff pilot.

Braniff BAC 1-11s and a Boeing 707 in its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Getting back to the livery, I'd always understood that it was the idea of Braniff's CEO's wife. The story always repeated to me as though she'd made a casual comment during a BBQ, but the real story isn't quite as folksy as it sounds. You see, the airline's CEO Harding Lawrence married Mary Wells, chairman of the Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency in New York. At the time she was at the top of her game as an advertising guru and one of the best paid women in the US.

Incidentally, Braniff started life as Braniff Airways Inc. It was founded in 1930 by airline entrepreneur Paul Revere Braniff, who later sold it to his brother Tom. Tom died in a flying boat crash in 1954, and his brother of cancer six months later. Lawrence Harding was vice president of Continental Airlines before being appointed as the Braniff CEO. By this time Braniff International Airways was already flying across the US Midwest, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Harding set about growing it from America's 11th largest airline, to its would-be market leader.

A brace of Braniff Boeing 727s

The Braniff makeover that Harding initiated had real substance, and leading architect Alexander Girard was taken on to zhoosh up its materials. Eventually, Girard created some 17,000 Braniff-specific items), and the lounge and ticket office furniture was so desirable that some of the range went on sale in 1967.

Braniff also invested hugely in its 'Terminal of the Future' in its home base airport of Dallas Love Field. The space age terminal was connected to the parking areas by a futuristic 'Jetrail' monorail. The 10 gondolas were slung under rails and ran from the new Braniff terminal to the 'Braniff Remote Parking Terminal'. The system was shut down in 1974, some time after Braniff had relocated to Dallas Fort Worth Airport, and had a last lease of life as a disco, until it was dismantled in 1978.

A mock up of what a Braniff liveried Concorde might have looked like

Braniff even operated Concordes for a time in the late 70s, though the fact that the airline never actually owned a Concorde and that the plane couldn't fly supersonically over US air space, meant that the route from Washington to Dallas was more a gimmick than anything. However, the airline did order three Concorde's in 1966, though the order was cancelled a few years later.

The Big Orange, Braniff 747 takes to the skies, perhaps to the Big Apple

Braniff flew Jumbo Jets to and from London's Gatwick Airport. The route was generally operated by one of the company's orange 747's, and I think I recall adversing along the lines of 'Fly the Big Orange to the Big Apple'.

Crazily vivid interior of a Braniff 'Big Orange'

In case the Big Orange and the other Braniff planes weren't colour overloads in themselves, the airline's cabins echoed the end of the plain plane concept. There were at least seven matching cabin colours.

Braniff approcahed the modern artist Alexander Calder to produce the world's first and largest flying artwork. In fact Calder was comissioned to create three new one-off liveries. The first was painted onto a Douglas DC-8 and called the 'Flying Colorsof South America' in 1973, and this was followed in the USA's centenerry year 1976 by a Boeing 727-200 that Calder patriotically rendered into a red, white and blue 'Flying Colors of the United States'. Somewhat remarkably all Braniff markings - including even the name on the tailplane - were removed from the plane. Calder didn't get the opportunity of finishing the third plane, called the 'Spirit of Mexico', as the artist died in 1976.

Braniff DC-8 sporting its Alexander Calder 'Flying Colors of South America' livery

Braniff had an advert strap line and jingle in 1980 that proclaimed 'We better be better, We're Braniff'. Bold livery excepted, the airline was in some trouble by this time, caused by low load factors, high oil prices, a controversial boss, and an over ambitious expansion. It may sound childish, but then again I was a child at this time - when we played with it at the school bus stop in tones to imply that they were so utterly hopeless that they had 'better be better'.

The company went under on May 12th 1982, after which the ad line was changed at the school bus stop to 'We better be better, we're bankrupt'. But in a world of ever blander livieries - witness the recent unveiling of Lufthansa's new monumentally mediochre livery - pioneering and maverick Braniff made a bold and creative attempt to position the airline at the forefront of deisgn, fashion and art.


Thanks to its revolutionary style and arty execution, Braniff has its followers, even so long after its demise. For some more detailed history on the airline, see Braniff Pages. And for Braniff branded goods - from throws to Christmas tree baubles - yes really, see Braniff Boutique.

Mother Russia, Christ the Redeemer and Mr Patel: the world's biggest statues...
posted by Richard Green on 18/10/2018

England played Tunisia in the World Cup back in June, in the Russian city of Volgograd - in the shadow of the mother of all motherland statues. It was built to commemorate World War II's Battle of Stalingrad, as Volgograd was then known - is 16 times the height of Michaelangelo's David and weilds a sword as long as Rio's Christ the Reedemer is tall.

Below is a look at the where,when and why of this giant figure, with nine other of the world's other biggest statues.

The Motherland Calls

Vital statistics: this sweeping beauty - Socialist Realism on steriods - is 85m tall and weighs over 8,000 tonnes. Also in the memorial complex is an eternal flame, the Memory Museum, and a cyclorama depicting the battle as it might have been seen from the top of the mound.

Where/when? The statue is on the outskirts of Volgograd, known as Stalingrad between 1925 and 1961, and as Tsaritsyn before that. The huge Mother Russia was unveiled in 1967 and stands on the top of an infamous mound called Hill 102 during the batttle, where fighting raged four months in 1942.

Why oh why? Nobody did war memorials quite like the Soviet Union, which erected hundreds of often massive and musular statues to commemorate the country's victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Unsurprisingly then that the Battle Of Stalingrad, a turning point in the conflict that engulfed the city for six long months and cost the lives of perhaps two million people, would host the pinacle of Soviet statuary.

Criticism & controversy: any dissent about the suitability of the staue would have been swiftly snuffed out back in the Soviet day, but the esteem in which the 11 Hero Cities - of which Volgograd is one - are held in Russia, would have meant that the vast majority of the city's population were behind the statue and memorial complex. The sword did need a bit of a rethink though - as the stainless steel and its titanium cladding proved to be too wobbly in high winds. In 1972 the blade was replaced by something lighter, and with the addition of holes in the sword's upper part to reduce wind resistance.  

Visiting: take the tram to Mamaev Kurgan. Volgograd International Airport has flights to Moscow with Aeroflot, Nordwind Airlines, and S7. Other cities served include Rostov-on-Don with Azimuth, Kazan, Krasnodar and Sochi with Utair, and Chelyabinsk with Yamal Airlines.

Related My Bathroom Wall posts include Cycloramas, Moscow's controversial Peter the Great statue, and the Brest Fortress war memorials.

African Renaissance Monument

Vital statistics: undeniably powerful, this oddly Soviet styled ensemble stands 49 metres high. It is Africa's tallest statue and cost £16.6m.

Where/when? The stylised family group faces the Atlantic Ocean on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital Dakar, with the bronze tip of the toddler's left hand the highest point. It was finished in 2010 to mark 50 years of Senegal's independence from France.

Why oh why? Nineteen African heads of state attended the opening ceremony of this powerful work, which depicts an African man, woman and child emerging from a volcano and pointing westwards. The concept is home grown, floated by President Abdoulaye Wade and designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. However, it was built by the Mansudae Overseas Projects company of North Korea, which has handiwork in Namibia, Benin, Botswana and others. 

Criticism & controversy: the £16.6m price tag proved so crippling that land was ceded to North Korea to pay for it, and controvery rages on. Is it venerating machismo and sexism as some think? And it's irked many that there is a strange lack of African-ness in the facial features, and (in this predominantly Muslim country) accusations of idolatry and immodesty. And guess what? President Wade claims the intellectual propertty rights and wants 35% of the revenue raised from visitors.

Visiting: there's an observation level inside the big man's head. Alas Senegal doesn't have a significant airline of its own, but there are flights to Dakar from across Africa and Europe, with Brussels Airlines flying to Brussels, Air France to Paris,  Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, Arik Air to Lagos, and Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.

Guan Yu

Vital statistics: squaring up for righteous combat, this swiry-robed warrior stands 58 metres tall, weighs 1,320 tonnes and is clad with 4,000 glued-on stripos of copper.

Where/when? the statue stands in Jingzhou, on the banks of the Yangtse River in central China's Hubei Province, and was completed in 2016.

Why oh why? the middle reaches of the great Yangtse River have been strategically important for centuries, and the statue commemorates the great Chinese god-general Guan Yu, who was a heroic leader in the Three Kingdoms period. Guan Yu is revered, even worshipped, and is seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteusness. He has statues galore dedicated to him, not least the 61 metre tall statue in his home town of Chang Ping.

This statue sees him standing proud on the would-be prow of a stylised ancient warship - which actually houses a museum. It was designed by Han Meilin - who designed the cutesy Beijing Olympic mascot. The double-ended spear-like weapon is the Green Dragon Crescent Blade and weighs 136 tonnes. 

Criticism & controversy: the statue seems to have gone down fairly well with locals and visitors, unlike the 30m Guan Yu statue in East Java, Indonesia, which was re-veiled with a vast white sheet soon after it was unveiled, thanks to a social media storm. In this predominantly Muslim country local authorities were accused of idolatry, and of pandering to China.

Visiting: there are trains to Jingzhou from Wuhan and Shanghai, and from Yichang airport (110 kilometres away), flights across China with China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines and others.  

Motherland Monument

Vital statistics: this stainless steel statue is 62m tall, weighs 560 tons, sports a held-aloft sword 16 metres long and a hammer and cycle emblem of the Soviet Union on the 13m shield.

Where/when? the statue dominates the skyline of central Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and was completed in 1981, a decade before the country's independence from the Soviet Union. More livid than Liberty, it glowers in the centre of Kiev and is part of the Great Patriotic War Museum, which includes memorials and tanks.


Why oh why? This monolithic Motherland statue was unveiled by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and commemorates the Soviet victory of Nazi Germany. As a local guidebook has it - ‘the huge statue has impudently intruded onto Kiev’s historic panorama, but there is nothing to be done now’. Inside the base of the statue is the museum, which is well worth a visit for the astonishing wall of sepia photographs inside one of its many galleries. 

Criticism & controversy: it's bad enough that the Soviet union built a gigantic statue to 'the Motherland', but  my 1985 Intourist guide referred to the statue as 'Mother Russia', which is contentious. The orthodox church didn't want another point in the city being closer to God than its tallest spire, on the Kiev Pechersk Lavra in the upper part of the city. So to placate the primate the sword's tip was clipped by three metres. Incidentally, a 2015 law passed by the Ukrainian parliament bans Soviet and Communist symbols - and since independence around 5,000 Lenins have been toppled. World War II monuments are excepted though. The most recent cerfuffle flared up when the statue was illumiated in Visa branding for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest held in Kiev.

Visiting: the museum in the plinth is surprisingly good. Most people are content with seeing the statue from afar, but there are two viewing platforms insude the statue - one at 36.6 meters at the top of the plinth reached by a lift set at a rakish 75 degree angle, and another cage-like area between the left hand and the shield reached by demanding staircases and ladders at the top of the shield - which is closed during cold and rainy weather. See the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

See Visit Kiev. There are flights to Kiev's Boryspil Airport from across Europe and beyond - airlines include Ukraine International Airlines, Windrose Airlines, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways

Spring Temple Buddha

Vital statistics: the world's largest statue is 128 metres tall and weighs over 1,000 tonnes - it's clad with 108kg of gold, 3,300 tonnes copper, 15,000 tonnes steel and cost USD $55 million.

Where/when? the statue is in a remote remote part of China's Henan Province, at the Fondushan Scenic Area, and was built in 2008.

Why oh why? work on the colossus began not long after the Afghan Taliban destroyed the stone-carved Bamiyan Buddhas. This location is auspicious, being by the Tianrui hot spring and the Foquan Temple, with its 116 ton Bell of Good Luck - the heaviest functionaing bell on the planet. The statue is joins a spate of large statues erected across China, largely to boost local tourism, but with more than a nod to China's growing cultural assertiveness and confidence.

Criticism & controversy: to say that the area around the statue is ciommercialised is an understatement, with mountain of tourist tat on offer. A movement by local monks to establish control over the site so as to admist visitors for free has thus far not come to anything.

Visiting: as there is no viewing gallery in the head , you'll have to content youself with 365 stpes and for a selfie with the world's biggest big toe, - as the viewing level is at the top of the pedistal. the Buddha's big toe is the highest viewpoint, which is 365 steps (or a lift) to the top of the 7-story pedestal. Get to Lushan by train, from where it's a two-hour bus ride to the statue. 

Christ the Redeemer

Vital statistics: Latin America's most famous statue by far, this 38 metres tall Jesus is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and weighs 635 tons, made from concrete clad in a mosiac of small soapstone triangles.

Where/when? pedistals don't get any more impressive than the 700 metre high Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, on which the staue is located and can be seen from most places in the city. It was completed 1931. 

Why oh why? the open-armed savoir statue was paid for by donations by a catholic community that in the 1920s was fearful of a moral decay, and beat off concepts of Jesus holding a globe or Jesus on the cross.

Photo Santuario Cristo Redentor

Criticism & controversy; not especially controversial, but since 2006 the statue has been consecrated, allowing local catholics to hold baptisms and weddings here. Batterings by strong winds and lightning trikes are common, and several times fingers and parts of the head have been damaged - in 2008 strikes caused damage to the head, eyebrows and fingers.

Visiting: See Christ the Redeemer.

Gengis Khan Equestrian Statue

Vital statistics: sat atop a rather twee pavillion is a giant 40 metre tall, 250 tons stainless steel statue of Gengis Khan on his horse. It costs USD $4.1m, paid for by the Genco Tour Bureau

Where/when? the statue is located in a remote site on the Mongolian Steppe by the Tuul River is a place called Tsonjin Boldog, 54 kilometres east of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. It is here that Gengis Khan was said to have found a goden whip when he was fifteen, which was taken as an omen of coming greatness. It was unveiled in 2008 to mark the 800th anniversary of the Mongolian Empire.  

Why oh why? Gengis Khan may be a byword for wanton brutality in much of the world, but not so in his native Mongolia, It is hard to underestimate the local reverence for Khan, who laid the foundations to what was to become the largest contiguous empire in history. Since Mongolian shed Communism in 1989, it has forged a new identity, and many mouments to the founder of the Khan dynasty have been built - this one in 2008. Ghengis Khan is also on bank notes, vodka bottles, cigarrette packets, and the capital city's airport was renamed Chinggis Khaan International Airport. The 36 columns around the base represent the 36 Khans - from Gengis, through Kubla to Ligdan the last Khan.

Criticism & controversy; the Genghis mania in Mongolia these days means that criticism of the statue is hard to find.

Visiting: there's a lift and three flights of steps leading to a viewing gallery on top of the horses head, and inside the base is an archelogical museum, restaurant (horse meat and potatoes predominate), souvenir shop, post office and a yurt camp. The best way to visit the world's largest statue of a man on a horse. The statue is about an hour's drive on a decent paved road from Ulaan Baatar.

Laykyun Setkyar Buddha

Vital statistics: the 116 metre statue took 12 years to build. There is also an 89 metre reclining Buddha in front of it - the world's largest - and a third Buddha lying on his back is in the pipeline. Around the statues are a reputed 9,000 tress and 10,000 Buddha images.

Where/when? the giant statue is at Khatakan Taung, near Monywa, in Myanmar, and was unveiled in 2008. 

Photo Patrick M. Loeff/Flickr

Why oh why? This is a place of worship and was built by the local monk, The Most Venerable Mahabodi Tahtaung Sayadaw Bhaddanta Narada. It's painted yellow, which signifies wisdom in Buddhism and was funded from local donations, hence the slow construction.

Visiting: the statue is a three-hour drive from Mandalay and is only for the intrepid, thanks to the remote location and lack of local infrastructure. inside are steps up its 31 floors - referencing the 31 planes of existance in the Theravada? theology - or a lift reaches the 27th floor. Inside are many gruesome art works - morality tales really, depicting impalements, boiling in oil, and being crushed by a giant spiked metal roller.

Statue of Liberty

Vital statistics: the World's largest Neoclassical monument is clad in copper, stands 38 metres tall and weighs 635 tons. The sculpter was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and Gustave Eiffel designed the clever 'curtain wall' framework that ensures the skin of the statue isn't load bearing.

Where/when? Liberty stands on Bedloe Island - renamed Liberty Island - in New York Harbor, and was unveiled in 1886. The statue was famously constructed in France, while the Americans were responsible for the pedestal.

Why oh why? First muted in the 1865, what became known as The Statue of Liberty, was the dream of Edouard de Laboulaye, who floated that any momument to US independence should involve France, which was allied with the US during its revolution of 1765.  

Criticism & controversy: sculpter Bartholdi pitched his lady with the lamp idea to Egypt as a lighthouse at the entrance of the suez Canal, but when turned down moved on to America. After flirting with Philidelphia and Boston as host cities, Bartholdi plumped for New York. Fundraising for the statue on the American side was slow going and took some 15 years, and the Suffragettes weighed in at the unveiling ceremony by hiring a boat and protesting a statue of a woman called 'liberty' at a time when women couldn't vote. More recently, Trump's 

Visiting:  You'll neeed an advanced booking to visit the viewing gallery inside the crown, and booking ahead is recommended for the grounds and pedestal too. See Statue of Liberty

Statue Of Unity

Vital statistics: the bald head of an old man who is unknown outside of India is set to crown the tallest statue in the world. This un-muscular, unthreatening and unheroic figure will be 240 metres tall, weigh 1,600 tonnes and cost around £227m.

Where/when? The gigantic figure stands on a remodelled islet three kilometres from the Narmada Dam in the Indian state of Gujarat. Work began in 2013 and it should be unveiled on October 31st - Patel's birth date.

Why oh why? Sardar Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950) was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India and is venerated for his role in the independence movement. He was born in Gujarat and went on to become a lawyer, activist and leader of the Congress Party. His stamp on India's independance was to organise peasant protests against British rule and to integrate the 500 or so British controlled princely states into a united India.

Photo Turner Construction

Criticism & controversy: several mega statues are sprouting in India, all closely associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in tune with its nationalist tendencies. Local opposition to the gigantic Patel galvanises around the fact that the cost and grandeur is at odds with Patel's personality and that some of the steel and expertise may be coming from - heaven forbod - China. It adds insult to injury after the huge Sardar Sarovar Dam's rocky 60-year journey to realisiation.

The dam was conceived by Patel, signed off by Nehru and opened by Modhi. ALong the way the dam suffered schlerotic deliberations on downstream water sharing, the loss of World Bank funding over concerns for displaced peasants and farmers, and increases in the dam's height from 80 metres to 163 metres.

Visiting: the nearest airport is at Vododara, 97 kilometres away, with flights from Delhi with Air India and with IndiGo to Delhi and Mumbai. Jet Airways is starting services to Begalaru, Indore and Udaipur later this year. Keep up to date on the satue's progress at Statue of Unity

Oceania at the Royal Academy: the first major exhibition of Oceanic art in ther UK
posted by Richard Green on 10/10/2018

Gruesomely carved mid-20th centruy canoe from West Papua. Photo My Bathroom Wall

Oceania covers roughly a third of the earth's surface, yet exclude the land masses of Australia, New Zealand and Papua, and its galaxy of pin-prick islands combine to make a territory a little larger than Iceland, with a poppulation of just two million.

Despite this challenging geography, the RA's exhibition shows that the region's artistic legacy is remarkably coherent. As Captain Cook discovered on his seminal voyage in the Endeavour, the islands were already interconnected by the phenominal seafaring and navigational skills of the locals.

Originating in the islands of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, the artefacts on display are beautiful and poignant - made primarily of wood, bark and fabric, and embelished further with human hair, feathers, shark teeth.

Not the Tiki Room, but a Tiki room for sure. Photo My Bathroom Wall

It's imposible to speak of Pacific history without reference to Captain Jame Cook (1728-1779), who's journey in the Endevour was largely responsible for mapping the islands, and putting them into the conciousness of his contemporaries. On display are several artifacts collected by Cook.

Of all the world's cultures, I find it's those of the Pacific Islands that can't be guessed at without actually visiting and experiencing them. And so anyone wandering the exhibition who has been to the region, or has a dream to, may be a little disappointed.

But as well as the brochure paradise pushing, the islands have contributed extreme skill at navigating and sailing - the wooden objects are where Tiki came from, and the Samoan word and practice of Tatu is where tattooing came from. 

The 200-year-old Hawaiian god Ku (or island snatcher): Photo My Bathroom Wall

The exhibition contains all the elements of the elemental cultures that you'd expect; rude nudes, angry gods and outrigger canoes. Some of the startling imagery was8 plundered by modernists, including operhaps Picasso and his Les Demoiselles and the like, but a more flippant evolution of the style emerged as Tiki. The 2.7m tall breadfruit Tree carving of Hawaii's god Ku can be seen in faxcimilie today in Tiki bars from Moscow, Muscat and Manchester.

This show makes a great change of pace at a large panoramic film by New Zealand artist, Lisa Reihana called 'in Pursuit of Venus [infected]'. It depicts the interaction of indigenous peoples with the arriving explorers and traders - from relatively harmless trading, to cataclysm of sexually transmitted diseases. The population of the Hawaiian Islands stood at around 250,000 in 1778, but thanks to Cook's and susequent crews fell to just 37,500 by 1900.

The show is a fascinating glimpse into the early cultures of Oceania, with xxx.

Lisa Reihana's constantly moving panoramic film. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The Oceania exhibition continues at the Royal Academy until 10th December; entry is £18 (concessions £15). If it piques your interest to visit the Pacific Islands, see My Bathroom Wall, and for a look at contemporary Tiki culture see My Bathroom Wall.

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  • "The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth"
    Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer, poet and aviator