This Cultural Life: Caroline Reid

The comedian created Pam Ann at a James Bond fancy dress party - and that's where she's happiest
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The Independent Online

What was your cultural passion at 14?

I was into ice-skating and figure-skating. I'm doing a show at the moment called "I Always Wanted to be an Olympic Figure-Skater". So that was my dream. I realised that I really wasn't that good at it. Also, I didn't really have the physique. It was a distant dream, but one that I cling on to. I think it was more the drag element that I liked. I liked the outfits.

What do you cling on to from childhood?

I guess I cling on to birthday dress-up parties.That's what led to Pam [Ann]. I had a James Bond-themed dress-up party. I dressed up as a Pan American flight attendant because James Bond flew Pan Am. A girl who was dressed as Ursula in the bikini came screaming across the room and I thought she said "Pam Ann". And I went to bed pissed and thought, "Did she say Pam Ann, because that's a really good name!" That's how it all came about. What a fluke!

Have you bought a book in a fit of enthusiasm and not got round to reading it?

Yeah, I bought - and I started to try and read it yesterday - Peter Kay's The Sound of Laughter. I really get inspired by biographies and I love him because he's so funny, the way he talks about his life. I read the first few lines in the bookshop and thought, oh, that's going to be amazing and then I got home and I haven't looked at it since. I've got Boy George's as well and I get to the 20th page and that's it. I'm terrible. I just can't sit down and read.

Are you a re-reader?

I'm not. One that I do read over and over, though, is Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation by John Lahr. That's an amazing book for any performer because it's backstage with Barry Humphries. It's one book I could read forever. He's such an inspiration to me.

Have you ever met Barry Humphries?

I met him at a wedding once in Melbourne. I was standing next to him, and he's such a prankster. You know when someone taps you on the shoulder and you look around? This happened and I kept looking around, thinking, it can't be him - and it was! He was looking at me with that cheeky look in his eye and I said, "Is that you?" And he said, "That's a nice dress you're wearing". Then I went and snogged his nephew. That's a whole other story.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

The Dreamgirls soundtrack. Love it. I'm such a drag queen. Girly night in, or with the gays. Party, bottle of wine, a few wigs...

What is the least disposable pop song?

"Jump" by Madonna. It's just one of those songs I can listen to before a show to get me all hyped up. I love the album.

What is your ideal alternative job?

Jet-ski instructor in the Caribbean. Have you seen the boys out there?!

And the realistic alternative?

The most realistic, that I've done before, is doing the window displays at Selfridges. I'd love that. Fortnum and Mason... I just think London is such a great place for that.

Do you have a hole in your cultural life?

When I had a boyfriend, we used to go to galleries all the time, so I guess that's such a couples thing to do that I never do on my own. I used to like the Saatchi gallery in St John's Wood - that beautiful space as you walked down the driveway - but it isn't there any more.

Do you have a secret cultural passion?

I'd like to do a children's book. I used to be able to draw. Someone asked me if I'd like to do a Pam Ann book, like an in-flight manual. I love the idea. I never thought about it until a published approached me. The book would have an economy section and the paper would be really rough, and then glossy for the first class. I'll have to get around to that.

Which painting best corresponds with your vision of yourself?

I don't have a painting but My Bed by Tracey Emin. I'm always coming home smashed and there's shit everywhere. When I saw that I went, ooooh! My room isn't like that but I can really relate to her. Damien Hirst's spot painting as well: that's really me. And his shark. It's controversial.

Do you like parties?

Love them. Always at them! The last party was the Asprey party. I ended up with Kelly Hoppen in a Rolls-Royce, going across London. I felt like a Thunderbird. It just happened: Kelly was like, "Get in the car," and I said, "I'm not getting in that shit heap!" The security were laughing their heads off.

What is the most fashionable thing you own?

It would be my Vivienne Westwood suit. It's beautiful. I haven't worn it for a while actually - I'll have to put that on tonight!

And the most uncool?

My chicken suit. A few years ago in Sydney I found this chicken suit in a second-hand shop. It was black, and it had gorilla hands. It was mis-matched. I put it on. There's nothing funnier than walking along the street as a hicken-gorilla, going to your friend's house in Sydney. They thought I was away, and they were all smoking pot, so I knocked on the door then ran in like a bird and they freaked out! Then I ran out again so they couldn't chase me.

Your house is on fire. What do you save first from the flames?

I would save my Pam Ann costume and my perspex bubble helmet. It's Pam Ann's and was designed in Sydney from a design off Buenos Airlines in the Sixties that they actually wore. It was so their hair didn't get messed up.

You die and go to heaven. Who would you like to meet, and what would you ask them?

Andy Warhol. Love him. I'd ask him, "Have you been watching Big Brother?" He'd love it and we'd have the best conversation about that because he created all that reality TV, in a way. He might have liked to have gone to the eviction night. Did you ever see that footage of him with Annie Leibovitz? It's New Year and he's interviewing the stars as they come out the back. He sang Happy Birthday! He got it all wrong! I love that. Really mental.



Caroline Reid, aka Pam Ann, goes on a UK tour from March; for tickets, visit www.pamann.com

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