|Introduction||Chapter One||Chapter Two||Entertaining Vietnam||Chapter Four||Chapter Five||Chapter Six|
Here are two lost pictures--the only color shots I know of taken of me entertaining at Quang Tri, on the DMZ. The year was 1971 and I was pushing 40. When I look back on these shots today, I don't know how I did it.
These pictures are published with the permission of the soldier who shot them at that night's performance, R.J. "Smitty" Smith, E Company 1/11th Infantry, 5th Division. My sincerest thanks to you, Smitty. The memories came rushing back when I saw these photographs. They make me want to go again. If they'd let me, I'd go today to entertain in Iraq.
22 November 1998--KOGO Radio Interview.
I took a break from preparation of the Quang Tri story to do a telephone interview with talk show host Bruce Cook on KOGO in San Diego. During the show I took a call from a man driving in his car who said that he had seen my show when I entertained at Quang Tri. His name, he said, was Danny and his company patch was the Red Devils which you see above.
"Mamie," he said, "you just don't know what seeing you meant to us. We all loved you."
I told him that I had pictures of myself with guys on the tanks and he said, "One of them is probably me!"
Okay, Danny, check out the picture. Which one is you?
Oh, and Danny...you don't know what seeing you then has meant to me. And what hearing from you now means.
Peace and Love.
Remember Me from Quang Tri?
We have helicoptered for the better part of three days from Saigon to the DMZ. The two Hueys that have been temporarily assigned to me by the Army have faithfully growled and chattered their way northward bearing my musicians and me. Even when we are not flying, stopped at some small fire station to refuel, I still feel the vibration of the helicopter.
I get a big reception from the men in Quang Tri. General Hill is enthusiastic about a show to boost his men's morale and has made it possible for many of them to come in off patrol for a short time. A line of tanks with tracks coated in sticky red mud greets me. The youngsters manning the tanks shout and wave as I approach. I want to cross over to the boys on the tanks, but the mud stops me. A young soldier scoops me up in his arms, carries me across the mud, and deposits me on the lead tank. The rest of the soldiers cheer harder. I pose for pictures and sign autographs for the better part of an hour. When I do my show that night, these boys will already be back on patrol.
I try to get some rest before my show that evening. General Hill's spartan trailer is comfortable after days of sleeping wherever I could--on the hard bench seat of the helicopter or on a cot hastily moved into a corner of a hooch at some fire base.
My mind goes back to Perry, my son. Mail from my mother has finally caught up with me. Between the lines I read that Perry is upset with my absence. And why not? Television news is filled with body counts and tales of destruction, and his mother is somewhere in the middle of it. I miss Perry and my mother and father terribly. I begin to cry wishing I were home. I stop myself with the realization that everyone in this place wishes the same thing, and drift away into troubled sleep.
Eventually, I say my goodnights and retreat to my quarters, take a shower, and get ready for bed. As I turn out the light, there is a tentative knock at the door. I open it and find Charlie standing there in the darkness.
"Good evenin', Mamie," he said, still a little drunk.
"Charlie, good evening. Don't you think you ought to get some sleep? You've got a big day tomorrow."
"It's such a beautiful night I thought I'd come see if you wanted to go for a walk."
"Out here near your trailer. I just wanted to talk to you a little. Seems like it's been so long since I talked to a woman--I mean a real lady like you."
We talk outside for several minutes about home and how long it will be before he can go there.
When I look at Charlie in all his youth and his naïve enthusiasm for going home, I suddenly feel very tired. I want to run away from all this wasted youth being spent in the service of a war that is barely understood by the government running it, much less by the boys whose deadly job it is to fight it. My son could be here one day if the war goes on long enough. What will I do then? Let him go? Or send him to a place where he will be safe?
Charlie's voice brings me back to the present.
"Mamie? I don't want you to take this wrong, but could I could I touch your breast? Nothing else, mind you. I just that I haven't touched a woman for so long and I "
I take Charlie's hands in mine and press them to my breast. His breath catches for a moment and I feel the heat from his palms. After a moment he pulls away.
"Thank you, Mamie," he says solemnly.
"It it was a pleasure to be of service."
"Could I give you something to remember me by, Mamie?"
"I'll never forget you, Charlie. You don't have to give me anything."
"Here," he says, reaching into his pocket.
"Take this." He holds out a shiny Zippo cigarette lighter.
"I couldn't, Charlie, really."
"Please take it. See, it's got our motto on it: 'I Walk the Line.' If you take it, I know it'll bring me good luck."
I thumb open the lighter and spin the wheel. The wick catches and a big blue flame illuminates our faces. I kiss Charlie gently on the cheek. He turns and walks away into the night.
Though I never saw Charlie again, I have stubbornly refused in the more than twenty-five ensuing years, to believe that his life ended there on that plateau overlooking no man's land. Instead, I cling to the belief that he survived the next day's dangerous patrol, and, ultimately, the war in Vietnam, and that he is somewhere out there, reasonably well-adjusted, holding down a good job, and raising kids with the girl in that well-worn picture.
I persist in my belief because I owe Charlie.
You see, my son never had to go. Charlie did.
To be continued....
Introduction Chapter One Chapter Two Entertaining Vietnam Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six
Home People Are Talking Mamie Today Mamie's Hollywood Bedtime Stories Autographed Pictures Friends Filmo- graphy Fan Club Vietnam Stories Order Page Video Clips Paper Dolls
Revised February 28, 1999
© Copyright Mamie Van Doren
All Rights Reserved