17 April 2012
"Bob Hope's an Asshole"
Death and taxes. I was reminded of the phrase last night when I remembered I hadn't done my father's taxes. Dead for two months, the ephemera of his life -- 80 pounds worth, has been distilled to ten pounds - give or take.
In a folder was a story he wrote for me. These were war stories of celebrities and journalists he met in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He barely mentioned them to me and never told any to my friends despite my urging. Here, he finally does:
Bob Hope's popularity was, and still is a myth! Most of us detested him, his silly-assed humor and the female teasers who accompanied him and couldn't be approached. The only way to fill the arena for his (filmed and money-making -- for him when televised) self serving shows was to give the troops the day off. Knowing that fully half the troops would stop at the first bar or whorehouse and go no further. Obviously, I have no regard for Hope and his ilk (Earlier B Hope story posted here).
Anne Margaret visited everywhere and only with one companion. Usually small units. She was charming and a good hugger who willingly posed for photos. Had a cute trick of not wearing panties and when sitting next to a grunt for a photo would raise one leg. These photos must be still be treasured souvenirs.
Most of the entertainers were selfless folks who really cared: Out of sheer boredom, I once went to a USO show in Pleiku. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers. Not at all my kind of entertainment, and I almost didn't go in. But, I was surprised! They were genuinely friendly and informal -- like visiting friends or family. Nothing phony.
Raymond Burr visited the most remote units and just sat around shooting the breeze. He wrote down proper name and family contact of virtually every grunt he ever talked to and called their families (at his expense) when he returned to the U.S.
Billy Casper flew in with his clubs and a giant bag of balls. He'd give lessons and drive balls out into the undergrowth. We wondered if the bad guys thought they were a new kind of cluster bomb.
Martha Raye really was a nurse and when she visited hospitals, she really did jump in and do the dirty bed-pan work. After work, her informal act (while downing a tall glass of straight booze) with groups of SF guys were/still are legendary humor.
Some of the best entertainment was small USO groups of relatively unknown characters. Seldom more than four to six people. Typically a couple of movie/stage hopeful girl singer/dancers taking a gov't-paid break from cattle call auditions and two old vaudeville guys playing instruments and doing their shtick. Ultra-informal and fun.
All of the above (except Hope and similar assholes) usually traveled with no entourage. Many would jump on a helicopter alone or with only one travel companion and just poop around at random.
Ranged from total assholes (e.g., Morley Safer) to sincere people who often became close friends (as with reporter Jim Galloway and the famed Gen Hal Moore). Lou Cioffi (ABC) was our favorite TV guy. Best press photographer was Sam Castan, (Look Magazine- Castan Post here) killed in action at my place. No government stooges monitored us back then. The myth was that all reporters were "Clark Kents and Lois Lanes" -- the typical U.S. citizen know-nothing view, or enemy stooges -- the U.S. authorities view.
I once spent a pleasant afternoon at my Vinh Thanh SF camp with Bill Demarest, then Senior Foreign Editor of Time. I told him just how it was (you can't do that anymore). He was most grateful and asked what favor he could do for me. I casually mentioned my copy of Time always arrived raggedy after everybody along the way read it. Thought no more about it. Surprised me a few weeks later to start receiving Time in a plain brown envelope. This continued for well over a year after my subscription expired and I was back home.
Got a call one day from 1st Air Cav Info Officer wanting to drop two female reporters from Aussie newspaper "Overseas Weekly" (aka Oversexed Weekly) on us. Paper was critical of and in great disfavor with U.S. Gov't though very popular with U. S. troops. 1st Cav Commanding General didn't want them in his camp. My Team got spruced up a bit for female visitors but were dismayed when two middle-aged dumpy gals got off the chopper.
After a couple rounds of beer, dismay turned to hilarity as "girls" told raunchy tales of the REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers) -- both military and press corps -- and did really funny imitations of Westmoreland lying to the press. (I think this was the first time I heard the "light at the end of the tunnel" defined as the "light of the oncoming train.")
It was quite funny done in Aussie accent and done profanely -- and it was so true. High point of their visit (for them) was when they went out to use our screened in latrine and VN from all the over the camp came to see what round-eye females look like up close and personal.
Some of the very best reporters were from small town U.S. Their original intent was family features on home town GIs. When the supposedly innocent GIs told them what things were really like, some of the reporters wrote touching stories much like those of Ernie Pyle in WWII. Too bad so few people ever got to see them.
And that's the way it was....