Saturday, January 25, 2014

Perry Mason, Bob Hope & the candy stripe

Perry Mason, Bob Hope & Neil Armstrong!

               Perry Mason the war tourist!

While traversing the streets in downtown Saigon I had noticed a gentleman whose face I could not place on several occasions.  I think I even nodded a “hello” on occasion.   
After I returned to the states, I read where actor Raymond Burr was a war “freak” and spent a lot of time hanging out in Saigon.  To bad...I would liked to have lunched with Perry Mason!
  Bob Hope comes to ‘Nam...again
  Hope and troop were in country for his 1969 Christmas Show
for NBC.  
  I got to Cu Chi...home to the US 25th Division, just in time to see the last half of his show and to do some interviews backstage with Neil Armstrong...first man on the Moon...singer Connie Stevens...who flattered me by following me around...and others.  
  After the show I met Bob Hope just outside the big Army hospital at Cu Chi and did a ten minute interview for NBC Radio’s Monitor...our long form news program heard weekends.  He then invited me to follow him into the hospital and I recorded another long segment of Bob chatting with injured soldiers and the medical staffers.  It was quite extraordinary.  
Little did I know that  I would see this portion on almost every special dedicated to Bob Hope.  It obviously became a favorite of the Hope producers...and was used many times over the years since 1969.
Here's the Bob Hope interview I did mor NBC's MONITOR 


The Candy Stripe  
       In early 1970 President Nixon’s “Vietnamazation” program was well underway and New York assigned me to do a bunch and  do mean a bunch of short interviews...about 50 total... on the progress of this campaign. 
      Of course I had to get out of Saigon so I took a two day trip down to the Delta section of the country...home of some of the most beautiful and productive rice fields in Asia and some of the toughest fights...especially near the border with Cambodia.
  When I was interviewing an Army Colonel...the enemy began firing mortar rounds from across the border. Luckily there aim was bad...the officer said it was mostly just a nuisance... but the interview with the background noise was fairly dramatic.
  As I was bidding the Colonel of his officers arrived to ask him if they were going back “across the candy stripe” that night.  Since I was wearing my Army fatigues and had my back to the Captain ..he couldn’t see the “NBC News “ i.d. on the front of my the Colonel was a bit put off by the question in front of a newsman.  Army units weren’t supposed to cross the border into Cambodia!  They both quickly recovered me goodbye...and I moved out to a waiting helicopter knowing one of the military’s biggest secrets about the war.  
Little did I know that the CIA was already plotting a government takeover in Cambodia...and that I would be one of only two american reporters in that country when it happened!

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