The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club

The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 7:00pm

Pictured: Florence "Pancho" Barnes

Credit: APT

Pancho Barnes is a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club airs Friday, March 21, 2014 at 7 p.m. on WXXI World. A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot.

Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope.  Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler.  Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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