|Introduction||Chapter One||Chapter Two||Entertaining Vietnam||Chapter Four||Chapter Five||Chapter Six|
Entertaining Vietnam: a documentary
Definition: Independent Producer
An individual or group of individuals who, against all odds and everyone's better judgement, without the financial backing of a major (or minor) film studio or production entity, creates or causes to be created a film or television program.
There is no harder job than being an independent producer, unless it is being an independent producer of a documentary. It is a job that rivals in its thanklessness that of prison guards and dog catchers. I received an email from an ambitious young independent producer named Mara Wallace not long ago about a subject that is near to my heart. Mara wished to interview me for a documentary chronicling those who entertained the troops in Vietnam. Like so many independent productions, it was being financed by the blood, sweat, tears, and Visa cards of its principals. I am asked to do interviews on various subjects fairly often. Usually they want to know about Hollywood during the studio era, or what Marilyn or Rock Hudson was like, or if Howard Hughes asked me to do the nasty. (He pretty much did, even though I was fifteen.) But this was an interview of a different stripe. I said yes to Mara because I wanted to go on record about the war as seen by me and many others who sang and danced and played for the amusement of young men and women who were about to die.
I did not go with Bob Hope's show. I went alone, with a small band of muscians, flying in helicopters from one end of South Vietnam to the other. I'm talking the Delta to the DMZ. I was scared, exhausted, sick, loved, hated, fucked, ignored, romanced, adored, hungry for home cooking, and lonesome for my mother. Just like the troops. Unlike the troops, I could go home, and when I did, I vowed that I would never return but that I would also never forget. I swear to you that a day does not go by that I don't think of being in Vietnam. Just like the troops.
Now, I am aware that there has been entertainment for fighting men in the field since those hard-working girls followed General Hooker's troops around during the Civil War, giving the Union boys a little relaxation and providing the working girl's profession with it's immortal nickname. (After a few months in a war zone, singing and dancing may seem a poor substitute for those ladies' ministrations, but it was the best some of us could do.) It may not seem important for fighting men and women to have some rest and relaxation. Unless you have been there. Then you know that there is nothing more comforting to the troops in harm's way far from home than seeing those dancing girls and hearing those musicians, and yes, hearing Bob Hope's god-awful jokes, even though the son of a bitch flew into Vietnam during the day to do his shows and spent his nights in safety in Thailand and made millions off of the shows by selling them to television when he returned.
I am so glad I participated in this documentary. As an independent producer, Mara must now fight her own lonely war to get her show completed. Mara, when you read this, please know that I wish you all the luck in the world. And the rest of you: please watch for Entertaining Vietnam later this year. It will take Mara a long time to fight her battles and to make her documentary, but when it is done, you will see something you have not seen before, something rare.
Copyright Mamie Van Doren 1999
February 28, 1999
Introduction Chapter One Chapter Two Entertaining Vietnam Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six