Milton Bass: I want to know who is on board



In the late 1980s I was flying from New York to London on one of Boeing’s new super-jumbo jets that had everything except a miniature golf course.

The behemoth was a beautiful plane and it was quite thrilling to walk in the main cabin which displayed all kinds of fancy doodads. For some reason British Airways had upped me into first class and my flight attendant informed me that if I ascended the grand staircase I would find on the upper level a comfortable lounge with soft chairs and trays of goodies.

She had not exaggerated and I sat down in a big easy chair that was close to tables covered with nuts and silver trays loaded with cheeses, varied crackers and cut-up fruit and vegetables. Free drinks were also available on request. I saw a whole new world and was more than ready to be part of it.


Just before takeoff six seedy-looking young men entered with big bags under their arms. They were accompanied by six scrawny girls, each attached to one of the men.

Let’s get it straight. These were definitely not young women -- they were scrawny girls, none wearing makeup, none with any vestige of beauty. What they were was scrawny young women.

They didn’t sit down or order a drink or nibble at the goodies. What they were doing was sizing up the place. Finally they spread out and lay down their bundles which turned out to be oversized sleeping bags. The bags were unrolled and spread out. Some people had to move their feet in order to accommodate bag corners and small carry-on bags.

Finally, everything seemed to be in place. The men slid into the openings quickly followed by the girls. Boom, and they had all disappeared, not even a lock of hair showing. The bag openings disappeared as controls were pulled from the inside. Silence reigned except for the occasional clink of glass against glass or a tray being replaced.

I had been chatting with a young man and glanced at him wordlessly.

"Foreigner," he said.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"The rock group ‘Foreigner,’ " he said. "They travel so much that they seem to have laid out a sleeping routine." I looked around at the bags. Two were bouncing around interestingly. I shifted my attention back to the pickled shrimp.

In the morning, I was downstairs having a sumptuous breakfast at my seat.


Upon landing, the group of 12 walked out the door one at a time, nobody seeming to have washed his face to get the sleepies out of his eyes. I knew nothing and cared little about rock groups in those days so I looked them up.

Foreigner was formed in 1976 by three Brits and three Americans. Over the years the players seemed to include both Brits and Americans and they have sold millions of albums. They are still performing with various personnel.

Their most famous number is "I Want to Know What Love Is" and hardly a day goes by that I don’t listen to it, over and over, for the sheer beauty of its sound. And, also, since then I have been careful to never step on a musician lying on the floor.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle


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