Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes by Lauren Kessler
Barnes was a force of nature, a woman who lived a big, messy, colorful,
unconventional life. She ran through three fortunes, four husbands, and
countless lovers. She outflew Amelia Earhart, outsmarted Howard Hughes, outdrank
the Mexican Army, and out- maneuvered the U.S. government.
Florence "Pancho" Barnes was a California heiress who
inherited a love of flying from her grandfather, a pioneer balloonist in the
Civil War. Faced with a future of domesticity and upper-crust pretensions, she
ran away from her responsibilities as wife and mother to create her own life.
She cruised South America. She trekked through Mexico astride a burro. She
hitchhiked halfway across the United States. Then, in the late 1920s, she took
to the skies, one of a handful of female pilots.
She was a barnstormer, a racer, a cross-country flier,
and a Hollywood stunt pilot. She was, for a time, "the fastest woman on earth,"
flying the fastest civilian airplane in the world. She was an intimate of movie
stars, a script doctor for the great director Erich von Stroheim, and, later in
life, a drinking buddy of the supersonic jet jockey Chuck Yeager. She ran a wild
and wildly successful desert watering hole known as the Happy Bottom Riding
Club, the raucous bar and grill depicted in The Right Stuff.
In The Happy Bottom Riding Club,
award-winning author Lauren Kessler tells the story of a high-spirited,
headstrong woman who was proud of her successes, unabashed by her failures, and
the architect of her own