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:

ENTERTAINERS:
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.

MEDIA FOLKS:
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....

18 comments:

James said...

My grandfather was on the board of directors of a race track once in the 50s. He was guiding Bob Hope around and saw him push a young autograph hunter out of his way. Later he saw an article from the same visit showing Hope hitting golf balls with some local caddies and being Mr Swell Guy(you know when the cameras were on). He never had much use for him after that.

Oyster Guy said...

Thanks for sharing. I am not surprised to hear this about BH... or that about Martha Raye. You had a very cool post about Sam Castan a while back, might want to add that as a label.

I had always felt that hype about Hope was more about keeping Middle America "in line" as opposed to any sort of entertainment. He always had a censorious quality about him, where many other entertainers were hedonists or anarchists.

More Bob Hope than Bob Hope
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gInjrzLJ2To

tintin said...

James- Dad mentioned that about cameras & the press. He mentioned a not very flattering story about Danny Kaye once. Same kind'a thing.

Oyster Guy - A link to the Castan post was added along with an earlier tale of Hope told by Dad. Thanks.

Makaga said...

great piece, Tintin.

Trailer Trad said...

More evidence of where you got your writing talent from.

NCJack said...

My Dad met Marlene Dietrich in WW2, and said what most struck him, besides an actual interest in the troops (she was a Staff Sgt. in the Army, I think) was that she'd go pretty far forward despite the death sentence she had if captured: a former German citizen who'd left Germany after Hitler's rise

Ben said...

Not surprisingly, I enjoyed reading these short bursts of insight on an interesting topic. No doubt your pop was a three-round guy. I'd love to hear more from that folder.

It humbles me that stars like Martha Raye and Raymond Burr were that way for our soldiers. If I were a celebrity, I would hope to do the same thing and behave the same way.

Wallace Stroby said...

That report from the front is pure gold.

Anonymous said...

Great stories. Thanks for putting them up.

stephen said...

As always thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Names and place change, but people never do. What your father saw in Viet Nam, I saw in Afghanistan. Thanks for publishing his stories.

Blessings said...

These stories are awesome and are certainly one of my favourite parts of your blog

GSV JR said...

I am thrilled to hear about Ann Margaret's willingness to expose herself. More beautiful women should follow her example. But I am shocked and dismayed at your hatred for Bob Hope. You sonofabitch.

Paul in NoVA said...

Great stories. I would love you or your Dad's opinion of any Congressional visits. Talk about assholes! The only good one I ever experienced in the Navy was Charlie Wilson. This was well before the book Charlie Wilson's War was written, but our CO warned us that he was pretty powerful and would have a couple of beauties with him. We needed to impress him.

He steps out of the helo and behind him are his male Chief of Staff and three gorgeous staffers. I got lucky enough to spend time with all of them and they were awesome. He was telling sea stories of his Navy time, cussing and laughing and his staffers were smart, sexy and flirty. They had me and my division in the palms of their hands.

The senior gal, a 40ish Texas bombshell, gave me her card and told me to call her when I got to DC if I needed anything at all. I had just gotten engaged and didn't call her. Stupid kid.

After the crew looked forward to the visits. Until Phil Gramm came - another one for the Asshole File - Chickenhawk Division.

Brummagem Joe said...

C'mon Tintin, the notion that in this environment Bob Hope and his entourage of lovelies were going to be just regular guys is a bit naive. The start with the Brass would have been all over them.

tintin said...

Joe,
I don't know who you are. I do know this. When my father wrote this he was not naive. Not at 76 yes old. He did hate assholes who pose for pics with the troops and fob 'em off when the cameras disappear. That's the point here and clearly you missed it.

Brummagem Joe said...

"I don't know who you are."

A realist.

Anonymous said...

I knew Bob Hope for over 30 yrs.(and, his wife too)....he and, his wife of 60 plus years, were Classy, Genuine, people.