An NBC Nightly News report from July 31, 1973 awkwardly segues from an introduction about criminal activity to a story about how Led Zeppelin are so rich that they can afford to rent their own private jet.
Led Zeppelin used to park themselves in big city hotels (New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas) and then would fly in and out of the smaller cities and back that same night, ferried to and fro between hotels, airports and concert halls via a squadron of limousines.
“The Starship,” as the former United Airlines Boeing 720 passenger jet was re-dubbed by its owners (Ward Sylvester and pop singer Bobby Sherman) had been modified at the cost of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, with the intention of renting it out to touring super-groups. Swivel chairs, a bar, and a 3/4” Sony U-matic videocassette player and TV were installed (The plane’s library contained films ranging from Deep Throat to the Marx Brothers), and a bedroom, for “privacy” was built into the back of the plane. Shag carpeting, champagne, the Starship had it all, even President Nixon’s Air Force One didn’t compare. There were two stewardesses on the plane and it cost $2500 an hour to run.
John Bonham was once rumored to have flown the jet from Los Angeles to New York. Legend also has it that he once drunkenly tried to open the jet’s hatch to take a pee while the plane was flying over Kansas City…
Having your own private jet these days, no big deal. Back in 1973, only demi-gods owned them and such a story would make The NBC Nightly News. The reporter doing the voice over seems to be annoyed that young guys in their 20s wearing bell-bottoms would have this much money.
Page and Plant on-board.
Robert Plant and groupie Audrey Hamilton, the inspiration for “Hot Dog.”
Robert Plant and Zeppelin’s notorious tour manager, Richard Cole, enjoy a quiet moment in the Starship’s master bedroom.
Jimmy Page chatting with one of the stewardesses.
John Paul Jones plays the Hammond organ built into the bar, as Atlantic Records head honcho Ahmet Ertegun looks on.
Audrey Hamilton, this time with Jimmy Page. Apparently John Paul Jones loathed her.
The Starship’s exterior.
Above, “Caesar’s Chariot,” the Boeing 707 used only briefly, during their 1977 North American tour, parked at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Photo by Rick Minarik.
Watch the 1973 NBC report from inside Led Zeppelin’s Starship…