Tag Archives: United States

Bob Hope: The POW Shows

Bob Hope feature image Comedian, movie, and television star Bob Hope will always be remembered as a great patriot for his USO wartime tours to entertain American servicemen. In combat zones covering WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, no one was better known or more appreciated by military service men and women.  Imagine my excitement as a former Army enlisted man when I was asked to meet Bob Hope’s limo at the curb and escort him to the Green Room of the Norfolk Scope Arena where he would host a show honoring just-returned POWs from Vietnam and their families.

Following the Paris Peace Accords of January 1973, in Operation Homecoming, American prisoners of war were released and began to return to the USA during February and April.  On May 24th President Richard Nixon hosted a White House dinner for the POWs, and Bob Hope headlined a gala show that included John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jr., and Les Brown and his band. Suddenly, every major city in the country wanted to honor the POWs and their families, and Bob Hope was expected to host all of these celebratory events.

Bob Hope at the White House

By the time the POW honoring events got to Norfolk, Virginia, one of the major military centers in the nation, the POWs were worn out by the travel, and their attendance was limited. Nevertheless, the Scope Arena was filled with Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines from all the nearby bases, and Bob Hope was there to fulfill his role.

Bob Hope at USO show

I must have gotten my assignment to escort Bob Hope from the street curb to the arena stage because I was well known to the Scope management. I had had a minor role at the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce in bringing the ABA Basketball Virginia Squires to the venue, and then as the editor of Metro Hampton Roads Magazine, I had continued to support Scope at every editorial opportunity.

Norfolk Scope Arena

Norfolk Scope Arena

Bob Hope was yet dapper at age 70 when I greeted him at the curb and announced my role as his temporary aide. Our route into the building to the Green Room was through a wide concourse where more than a dozen photographers followed our progress and took pictures. My head was turned toward Mr. Hope as I informed him of the pre-show arrangements, and although he acknowledged what I was saying, he did not turn to look at me.  Finally, as the photographers persisted, Mr. Hope whispered a word of professional advice to me, “Always keep your eyes on the camera, kid.”

Monty was a 32-year-old working magazine journalist at the time that he met Bob Hope who was then age 70.

Monty was a 32-year-old working magazine journalist at the time that he met Bob Hope who was then age 70.

Throughout my social and professional life ever since, I have never been shy to have my photograph taken because I can still hear Bob Hope whispering to me in my 32nd year, “Always keep your eyes on the camera, kid.”

Bob Hope final image

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Famous People, Memoirs, Military, Music, Writing

New Orleans: Gambling Into The Future

GridCover1200hThere is a reason why New Orleanians are gamblers.  They carry the genetic legacy of disease and flood, and their Mardi Gras affirmations of life will not die even in the aftermath of a Katrina.

I had already spent a lot of time in the Crescent City researching and Insiders Guide to New Orleanswriting The Insiders’ Guide to New Orleans in the 1980s with my co-author Jack DuArte.  Then, in 1983, I married a New Orleanian and became a full-time resident.  My wife Pat was the administrative assistant to the general manager of the New Orleans Hilton, so between us, we had insider connections all over the city.  When I turned to the writing of a third novel, it seemed self-evident that it should be about the newly adopted city.

In writing the guide to New Orleans, I had visited and researched every historic place and read a lot of its great literature.  All the literary bases regarding its legends and traditions seemed covered, so I looked toward a futuristic view where characters native to New Orleans might struggle for existence in a cruelly altered United States.

French Quarter Balcony

My style choice is always realistic so there would be no flying cars or laser guns in my plot.  I chose rather to extrapolate, as an academic futurist might do, on the basis of existing social and governmental trends.  And in New Orleans, any future would still revolve around gambling.

Louisiana Superdome by night

Louisiana Superdome by night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my acquaintances was the general manager of the Superdome, who allowed me full access to this fascinating mega structure.  I envisioned a refurbished Superdome as the site of GRID, a pari-mutuel game played on a 15-story tower.  Amateur and professional games are played in which participants climb the tower to retrieve a leather purse worth as much as half a million barter dollars.  The combat for the prize is vicious.

The romantic drama of the novel is played between the tempestuous Desireé Bazile, Promotions Director of the GRID, whose fashion extravagances make her one of the most recognized figures in a city of legendary excess, and Scott Hartley, a seasonal French Quarter street performer and homesteader in a Zone of Disinterest, who desperately needs to finance his community with a win on the GRID.  Many of the locations and musical sets for their romance were taken from my courtship of Pat.

The Pro, a GRID handicapper and dean of New Orleans gamblers, is loosely based on Pat’s father.  The Pro’s sidekick, an Italian born in the French Quarter, is based (again loosely) on Pat’s stepfather.  I brought the two unique men together for both comic effect and for their attitudes about what New Orleans had become in the year 2032.  GRID contains a unique profile of New Orleans, and it explains why even its futuristic characters continue to act as if they inhabited The City That Care Forgot.

Mardi Gras table

Pat and I relocated to the mountains of North Carolina, but our connection to the city was honored in 1992 when the City Council conferred the title of Honorary Citizen on both of us.  It is our bet that whatever occurs in our country, the uniqueness of New Orleans will endure.  How it endures is the subject of GRID, the novel.  It seems that all of us must gamble on the future.

Read a sample of GRID here

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

An Alliance of Veterans

“First Day at An Khe,” a short story that I wrote 34 years ago, won the fiction prize in a national veterans writing competition sponsored by The Missouri Humanities Council and the Warriors Arts Alliance. The anthology in which the story appears is titled PROUD TO BE: WRITING BY AMERICAN WARRIORS.

Fiction judge William Trent Pancoast introduced my story in this way:

Specialist Four Monty serving with the 91st in 1966.

“First Day at An Khe” is an odyssey of a medic’s first days in Viet Nam: Phil Warren working to exhaustion in triage in the biggest fire fight the base hospital has had to deal with thus far in the war. He was put on duty by the First Sergeant and never logged in, never relieved in triage for over two and a half days because no one even knew he was there.  The story builds tremendous momentum, and in the course of the odyssey, the author compacts the elements of a tour of duty into Phil’s triage experience—battle, religion, life, death, comradeship, service, courage, compassion, anger, duty, humor, and the loss of self.  This is a fine story and I thank the author for the experience of reading it.”

When I was invited to read my prize-winning story at the November book launch in St. Louis, I declined with these words, “Although I have been a platform speaker more than 100 times, I am unable to read “First Day at An Khe” in public or in private without weeping.  Although fiction, the visionary experience of writing the triage scenes made those events real for me.  Perhaps I would also have difficulty reading my poem “Don’t Tell His Mother” (also appearing in the anthology) for the same reason.”

The 91st Evacuation Hospital in the field circa 1966.

“First Day at An Khe” was my second war story to be published within a month.  My story “Jody Got My Girl and Gone” was included in REMEMBRANCES OF WARS PAST: A WAR VETERANS ANTHOLOGY published in October.

War veterans live among us as family members, friends, and neighbors, but seldom do we get insights into the emotional costs of their military service. Yet, we need to know. We need to connect.  And if we are afraid to personally ask about their painful realities, then at least we can read the candid testimonials of warriors like them.  For here lies the gateway to understanding the grounds on which sacrifice stands. Through intimate prose and poetry we have an opportunity to be made whole as a people who recognize deeply the cost of war.

Sacrifice

UPDATE:  Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume I, has won the 2013 Stars and Flags Book Award gold medal for an anthology.  A national contest, the Stars and Flags Book Awards program was established six years ago in order to promote books that have a connection to the military and to support veterans.  The judges are historians, educators, and authors, many of whom are veterans themselves.

7 Comments

Filed under Military, Writing

The Celestine Prophecy Connection

Bart and Monty reviewing music and lyrics for THE AWAKENING OF HUMANITY oratorio

When James Redfield made the concept of synchronicity clear in his novel The Celestine Prophecy, people all over the world began to recognize it in their personal lives.  The ostensibly chance meeting between a classical music composer and me is a great example of synchronicity at work to achieve significant results.  In the summer of 2006 a native North Carolina composer and concert pianist named Edmund Barton (Bart) Bullock, who has lived in France since 1978, was staying in a donated mountain cottage near Boone to practice his piano concerto for scheduled concerts in 2007.

A reader of The Celestine Prophecy, Bart felt a sudden and strong urge to obtain a copy of the film adapted from the book.  A few nights after the viewing the movie, he was at a dinner party where he described the unusual urge to his tablemates.  One of them told Bart that he had recently been on a quiet Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trail when he encountered an acquaintance, Pat Joynes.  In the brief conversation, Pat mentioned that her husband (me) had his book The Celestine Prophecy: The Making of the Movie published. He told Bart that I lived in the area and that an introduction could be made to bring us together.

Telephone conversations led to informal dinner parties where Bart played his Appalachian Concerto privately for us.  Then Pat and I attended a summer concert where Bart performed his own compositions with a chamber group, and we obtained copies of his CDs.  In turn, Bart read my four Booker Series novels and the Celestine movie book.

By early 2007 Bart and I felt that the synchronicity of our meeting should lead to a classical music collaboration.  We decided on the form of an oratorio for four featured soloists, chorus, and symphony orchestra.  I went to the Hayes School of Music library at Appalachian State University to study the libretti of oratorios; and by December 2007, I had written the libretto for The Awakening of Humanity in six movements.

In early 2010 the Western Piedmont Symphony Orchestra and the Hickory Chorale Society became the initial financial supporters for Bart to compose our oratorio.  Public arts agencies and private donors would make up the balance of the commission, and our premiere target date was April 2012.  And then the recession decapitated the arts funding agencies, and all the commissioning support that we anticipated disappeared.  Nevertheless, Bart completed the first two movements of our oratorio, and the music was wonderful.

Bart returned to the US from France twice to work through lyric changes in the second movement, and I had to rewrite entire passages of the poetry to fit Bart’s music.  Trust me, I never felt so inadequate in my writing life; but through Bart’s patience and encouragement, I actually improved on the libretto.  I also learned that poetic meter on the page is not the same as beats in a piece of choral and solo voice music.

With the libretto and the music for the first two movements available to share, Bart’s colleagues in France rallied to support the completion of the oratorio and its ultimate performance.  The Toulouse Conservatory of Music, a center for classical music in France and all of Europe, endorsed our oratorio project and offered an exchange of musicians and singers with an American music school to facilitate its performance.  The emerging possibility is for as many as three performances in France at world-class venues and two performances in the US.  The Franco-American cultural exchange, however, will again depend on financial underwriting by both institutional and private sources so that Bart can complete the composition.  The hope is for a full score by June 2012 with orchestrations soon to follow, and a premiere and subsequent performances in February and March 2013.

Pat and I are among those who consider Bart a musical genius as a composer and as a pianist.  You can see and hear him play his own compositions with symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, and in solo recitals at www.edmundbartonbullock.com.

Monty and Bart resize

Bart and Monty

 

2016 Update

When the funding for The Awakening of Humanity dried up, Bart returned to concert performing and commissioned composing, and I wrote two books that were published in 2014 and 2015. There was, however, interest in the completed score of the first two movements, and they were performed three times (January and July 2015) in France by the Ensemble Vocal Unité under the artistic direction of Christian Nadalet. A professional DVD of one of the concerts was made with subtitles in both English and French. It can be seen and heard here.

Bart continues to be recognized as a significant composer. In 2014, the Danish Royal Family commissioned Bart to compose and perform a song cycle based on the Prince Consort’s poetry. In 2015, Bart completed a Te Deum commissioned by the Catholic Church that will be premiered with an 80-voice choir on April 17, 2016, in the cathedral at Auch, France.

Interest in performing the completed oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, has been expressed in both France and the United States. The orchestras and choruses, however, while willing to underwrite the performances, do not have the resources to commission the final four movements and its orchestrations. Bart and Monty need funding for a six-month period that can be entirely devoted to completing the work. They hope that patron support and participation in 2016 will allow them to complete the oratorio and schedule premiere performances in both the United States and France in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Music, Writing

My Private Hours with Yitzhak Rabin

This is how I remember Rabin

In January 1969, I served as host and aide to the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin during his visit to Norfolk, Virginia to address the World Affairs Council of Greater Hampton Roads.  I was its founding Executive Secretary, and I had also served as the manager of a 1968 U.S. State Department Regional Foreign Policy Conference. I was 27 years old at the time, a U.S. Army veteran, and the father of a baby daughter.

 As I made the Norfolk arrangements, I was amazed that Rabin traveled unescorted on a commercial airline from Washington.  As the three-star general who was the mastermind of the Six Day War, he was a potential terrorist target.  Thus my arrangements included a limousine and two security details of Norfolk Police detectives and Secret Service agents.

 Rabin’s appearance at the World Affairs Council was well received.  The three-car caravan then returned the Ambassador to the Norfolk airport for a scheduled flight back to Washington.  We parked inside the tarmac, posted guards, and I went into the terminal to get the Ambassador’s boarding pass.  Imagine my horror when I was told that his flight had been canceled.  Given the options of having us drive him to Washington, or waiting more than two hours for the next available flight, Rabin generously chose to wait.

 So there I was with Rabin in the back seat of the limousine for two uninterrupted hours.  There were no cell phones or laptops in those days.  A member of our security team passed in cups of coffee as Rabin and I began a conversation about Allied commanders of the Second World War.  We “evaluated” them; me a former enlisted man and amateur historian, and he a general and famed military tactician. 

 The most significant memory and impression I carry from that encounter was that Rabin was a man of great character and sensitivity, a man I would trust with important decisions affecting our world.  Rabin told me that he had planned a career in agricultural economics, but that war had altered his path.  I sensed a longing for peace rather than power.  Since that evening, I followed Rabin’s career with a feeling of personal involvement.  And although I am not Jewish, I realized that none of us will be at peace until all of us are at peace.

 In 1994, I began having persistent dreams about the Middle East peace process.  These dreams carried over into wakeful contemplation, and I felt a strong impulse to convey them to Rabin who was then Prime Minister of Israel.   The “message” was really in the form of a question.  What would occur if the official government policy of Israel toward the Palestinians were FORGIVENESS?  There are theological grounds in both Judaism and Islam for forgiveness between individuals and between nations.

 How can there be peace without forgiveness?  Forgiveness for all that has been done and forgiveness for all that has been imagined?  Revenge has been a policy.  Hate has been a policy. These policies have resulted only in death and chaos.  We can only be forgiven as we forgive.  This is where peace truly occurs.  Offer forgiveness.  Seek forgiveness.  That was the essential message of my letter to Rabin dated June 23, 1994.

 The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin took place on November 4, 1995 at 21:30 at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo Peace Accords at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv. The assassin, Yigal Amir, a far-right-wing religious Zionist, fatally opposed Rabin’s peace initiative and particularly his signing of the Oslo Accords.   Perhaps any real chance of peace in the Middle East died that day as Rabin’s enlightened view was silenced.

 I wept bitter tears when I heard the news.

3 Comments

Filed under Famous People

Walk With the Burros

One of the greatest pleasures about being a writer is that you make lasting friendships with some of your readers.  Out in Chino Valley, Arizona, a man named Wynne Zaugg read the four novels of my Booker Series that are set in the Southwest, and he began to recommend them as “reading for the soul” in his Hacienda de los Milagros (Home of Miracles) newsletter.  When I saw my first copy of the newsletter, Wynne was offering a money-back guarantee if people read any of the Booker novels and were not moved by them.  What support from a stranger!  We had to find out more about him.

 Hacienda de los Milagros is a non-profit teaching and healing animal sanctuary accredited by the American Sanctuary Association.  Basically, Wynne and his board members rescue burros, horses, mules, and hinnies from desperate circumstances and provide lifetime care for them that includes veterinary medical needs, feeding, grooming, and deep affection.  A list of current residents will include about 100 burros, around 25 horses, and a handful of mules and hinnies. 

 When wild burros were dying during a severe drought in Death Valley, Wynne organized a caravan of equine trailers to rescue them.  Some were so stressed that they did not survive, but many were relocated to Chino Valley and nursed back to health.  Some of those burros were pregnant.  Wynne asks each animal to “tell” him their name and their “story,” and when you walk with him in a large corral among a hundred burros, he can name each one.

 Although my wife Pat and I live in North Carolina, our keen interest in Hacienda de los Milagros caused us to travel in December 2006 to Arizona to meet Wynne Zaugg and the animals at the sanctuary.  Every day that we were there, we entered without fear a large corral where nearly 100 burros roamed.  Soon we were surrounded by animals who wanted nothing more than to give and receive affection.  The emotional impact of those primal gifts is never to be forgotten.

 Wynne Zaugg and his supporters are honoring and preserving life itself one beautiful creature at a time.  These are acts worthy of St. Francis in the serving of our common soul.  But at Hacienda de los Milagros the heart’s generosity has sometimes exceeded the limits of stables and corrals.  The cycle of life there demands pure dedication for the feeding, grooming, and the veterinary care that is required.  All this necessitates dawn to dusk service to the rescued animals.

 If you can visit Hacienda de los Milagros and are nuzzled by the burros and horses, the animals themselves will affirm the wonder of their keeping.  If you wish to affirm your own humanity and your respect for the four leggeds who co-habit our planet, your volunteer efforts and your financial support of the House of Miracles will be fulfilling.  Some people who interact with the burros and horses at HDLM have profound communications with them.  Over the last 12 years these “messages” have been collected in a book soon to be available.  For more about HDLM, visit their website http://www.hdlmsanctuary.org/.

 A great Sufi master and poet, Hafiz, who lived in the 14th century, wrote I Have Learned So Much (translated by Daniel Ladinsky).  The words seem to resonate with our experience at the sanctuary.

 I

Have Learned

So much from God

That I can no longer

Call

Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,

A Buddhist, a Jew

The Truth has shared so much of Itself

With Me

That I can no longer call myself

A man, a woman, an angel

Or even pure

Soul

 Love has

Befriended Hafiz so completely

It has turned to ash

And freed

Me

Of every concept and image

My mind has ever known.

15 Comments

Filed under Animal Sanctuary