Friday, December 21, 2007

Music, Girls, Jokes

The EWOs who went before me said the experience would give me a sense of accomplishment.

They were right. This year, for the first time ever, I got all my Christmas shopping and mailing done early.

For you poor souls who must battle the malls, I feel for you. I honestly would rather be in Iraq than the local Best Buy parking lot.

We’re getting into the Christmas spirit here. We’re having a cold snap this week, and folks are walking around in black watch caps and gloves, with pink noses, drinking Green Beans coffee. This is a tree put up by another unit in my building.

I got this tree in a care package! Same for the stocking.

The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas music flooded the p-way; a sergeant told me that was his tradition -- to break out the Christmas music the Friday after Thanksgiving -- and he wasn’t about to miss it.

The care package flow is up and we’re enjoying each other’s favorite cookies and homemade fudge. Someone even sent baklava.

And, we got treated to a good ol’ fashioned USO show — just like you always hear about!

I have to say I enjoyed every minute of the 3+ hours mega show. Headliners were country stars Keni Thomas, a Ranger-turned-musician, and Darryl Worley, who effectively rhymes “forgotten” and “Bin Laden.”

Keni Thomas belts one out.

They were backed up by the Army Band and vocalists, and spiced up by a small contingent of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Two comedians came out and told off-color jokes, in the tradition of Phyllis Diller. These performers gave it their all! They will miss Christmas with their families to tour Iraq and Afghanistan with the show.

The Army’s rockin’ vocalists brought down the house with “Purple Rain” and “Living in America."

What I found most enjoyable and satisfying was the idea of the continuing tradition of the USO show and its elements: music, girls, jokes. (In the Navy, we find comfort in tradition, and look for it.) I found a few great original photos on the Web, for kind of a “then and now” presentation. Today’s USO performers follow in the shoes of some entertainment greats.

The historical narrative and some of the photos are from the USO website. My thanks to those who posted their personal photos from Viet Nam on various websites.

“During the peak of action in 1945, USO Camp Shows were presenting 700 shows a day, with more than 300,000 performances overseas and in the United States, to an audience totaling more than 173 million. From 1941 to 1947, more than 7,000 performers put on 428,521 shows of all kinds.”
Carol Landis and Martha Tilton in New Guinea.

“Touring Camp Shows were discontinued in 1947 but were revived in 1951 with the approach of the Korean War. Some 126 entertainment units put on more than 5,400 shows in Korea. Stars included Jennifer Jones, Jack Benny, Errol Flynn, Danny Kaye, Robert Merrill, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Maxwell, Paul Douglas, Jan Sterling and Al Jolson. Such stars as Paul Douglas, Ray Milland, Molly Picon, Walter Pidgeon, Jan Sterling and Keenan Wynn also went on tour. Celebrity units drawn from the USO Hollywood Coordinating Committee brought 866 performances to Korea. Among other stars were Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Frances Langford. Stateside visits included such stars as Jayne Mansfield, Jerry Colonna, Bob Hope and Anita Bryant.”

“Bob Hope took his USO Christmas show to Vietnam for the first time in 1964; the shows continued into the next decade. Some 5,559 USO performances took place during the Vietnam years.”

Raquel Welch in Viet Nam, photo taken by a soldier.

Bob Hope and Raquel Welch on stage together.
Ann-Margaret in Vietnam, taken by a soldier.

Soldiers cover a mountain side to watch the show.
Trying to see the show. A Christmas USO show in 1971.
A USO show band rocks some remote area of Viet Nam.

“USO entertainment in the 80s retained its stellar reputation while increasing its range. Superstar rock groups KANSAS, the Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick; jazz legend Louie Bellson; movie stars Kris Kristofferson, Brooke Shields, Chuck Norris; performers Ann Jillian and John Denver; MISS USAs Michelle Royer, Courtney Gibbs and Gretchen Polhemus; rhythm and blues group Atlantic Starr; a host of country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Greenwood, Mickey Gilley, and the Judds; and even Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek became involved with the USO’s celebrity entertainment program.”

And now, in 2007, The USO Christmas Show closes with “Free Bird” and the guitar solo segues into “America the Beautiful.”

Everyone joined in.



Maury said...

What a wonderful blog entry. You are a very talented writer and have a fine sense of humor. Keep up he wonderful work on this blog and also for our country. Thank you for your fine service and a big hug to you.
Best Wishes for a safe and Happy Holiday.
Maury Cralle
63/64 w/Vn 39th Ranger Bn.
68/69 w/ !st Air Cav

Anonymous said...

Play Freebird!