Tet and the Forgotten

The Vietnam war exploded into the American consciousness 55 years ago, January 30, 1968.  Known as the Tet offensive, it was a coordinated surprise attack by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces that caught American and South Vietnamese troops by surprise and inflicted serious casualties.  And it opened the eyes of the American public not just to the truths about the Vietnam war, but to the lies they were being told by their leaders.  The politicians and military brass who had cheerfully insisted we were winning the war and that there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” were revealed to be scoundrels and con artists with only their self-interests at heart.  They were willing to sacrifice the best of American youth to a futile and unwinable war for bragging rights that America stopped the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.  We didn’t.

The Tet offensive is largely forgotten today, along with the soldiers who fought and died in it.  This is a great American tragedy.

My friend, John Huddleston, one of the few survivors of those dark days, refuses to allow the Tet offensive and the overall horror of the Vietnam war to flush down the American memory hole.  John was one of 100 Army medics assigned to support Marine troops.  He was the sole surviving medic.  John’s story is one of courage, pain, and sacrifice, fighting hand-to-hand alongside the Marines, and struggling in the aftermath of the battles to patch up the wounded and comfort the dying.  

During my second tour to entertain troops in Vietnam, John and I crossed paths in Pleiku in the central highlands—a dangerous and godforsaken place.  John and his friend Rick saw my show in Pleiku and were, according to John, changed by it.  But that is a story for another time.  John’s story of the war, how he survived and returned, and how he was unable to endure the scorn of his fellow Americans deserves more than this short memorial.  In due time it will be part of my next book.  

For now, remember Tet in 1968 and those who survived or died.  Shed a tear for them and for the loss of innocence the war inflicted upon us.  Vietnamese monk and Buddhist Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, was once asked what terrible karma the Vietnamese people committed to cause the Vietnam war to happen to them.  He replied, “The Vietnam war didn’t happen to the Vietnamese people.  It happened to all of us.” Peace.

mvd

The Dust Has Settled

Now that the dust has settled over the 2022 midterm elections, it’s obvious that the GOP seriously miscalculated the mindset of the American people.  This crop of fascist bullies scares everyone.  The Republicans trotted out candidates who were some of the sorriest, scariest, most ignorant, unprepared, and downright stupid motherfuckers in American politics.  But when the Supremes overturned Roe v Wade, they handed the Dems a ready made issue.  Women will not stand for being told what they can and cannot do with their bodies, and they showed it in this election.  God willing, they will continue to flex their muscles,  Once the new Congress is seated, members like the pedofile, Jim “You boys enjoy the showers” Jordan, and the angry half-wit, Marjorie Taylor Greene, will be on the attack.  We need to be prepared for that.  We’re the minority in the House for now, it’s true, but the GOP’s majority is so slim that Democrats will be able to make their lives miserable every day.  Some of the Republicans can be flipped to our side on certain issues.  Many of them are embarrassed to have supported Trump and are anxious to distance themselves from the stench of treason.

Predictably, Trump proved unable to put the ERECTION back into INSURRECTION, and most of his handpicked candidates were defeated.  Except for the mouth breathers in MAGA, Trump’s whining tirades have worn thin.  He has now become a liability as an endorser of candidates, not to mention sliding more deeply into pathetic caricature.   He’ll keep making noises because his ego won’t allow him to let go, but he’ll quickly devolve into a graceless and strident has been.  Authoritarian clowns come and go.  Trump’ll be lucky to avoid the fate of some of his historical  predecessors.

Programming note:  if you haven’t listened to Rachel Maddow’s new ULTRA podcast, take the time to do it.  It’s an 8-part series about a plot to overthrow the American government in the 1930s.  Before and during WWII, there were many ardent sympathizers to Germany and Adolph Hitler in America.  I grew up seeing it.  Several right-wing groups, including members of the House of Representatives and Senate, abrogated their oaths of office and worked hand-in-hand with Nazi spies to overthrow America’s democracy and constitution to establish an autocratic government in the image of Hitler’s.  Hatred of jews and minorities figured largely in their philosophy, and many espoused their cause loudly and publicly.  The parallels between then and now will make your hair stand up.  Rachel’s keen grasp of history makes it worth listening to.

mvd

Election and Beyond

I put last night’s extra hour to good use: I slept in.  It was a useful antidote to the rising tide of despair over the upcoming election among the liberal media.  Like Smaug, the dragon in the Hobbit said, “A great darkness is coming.”  It’s wise to adjust your expectations in today’s world, but hope springs eternal that grown people, otherwise outwardly competent, will come to their senses and stop believing the hypocrisy, hogwash, and plain old horseshit being shoveled out by the right-wing, former GOP, now fascist Republicans.

And the balls of these geniuses is stunning.  They will stand in front of a working class crowd and actually say out loud that they want to end Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits.  And the dimwits in the crowd nod and applaud; contribute money; debase themselves by swearing fealty to the godhead, Trump; and then vote for the zombies the sonofabitch endorses.  Go figure: there are women out there still wearing those MAGA ball caps, even after being told to their faces that they no longer control their bodies—not medically, not culturally, and not communally.  And they’re being urged to vote for as grotesque a gaggle of bigots, liars, election deniers, holocaust disbelievers, and dictatorship wet dreamers as you’d ever want to see.

Just vote, for God’s sake.  I mean, how much do you want to KEEP the Social Security you have earned?  Vote against these fanatical whack-jobs.  If you have dawdling friends, take them by the arm and escort them to the polls.  And tell them to vote their own self-interests.

mvd

THE CLOSEST THEY GOT

I have PTSD.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know it because you often catch me posting at all hours of the night.  PTSD keeps me awake.  I hear from many of you who are sleepless for the same reason.

I spent months in Vietnam entertaining the troops.  Far from being part of a traditional war zone tour, I hired my own musicians and performed my shows wherever I was wanted.  The Army kindly helicoptered me up and down the country from the Mekong Delta in the south to the DMZ in the north.  Many times my tour took me close to the heart of what war means:  random and senseless destruction, my own death, the deaths of the innocent, the deaths of soldiers, and, perhaps worst of all, the cruel mutilation of the wounded.  The things I saw and felt in those months left a lasting impression on me.  Changed my life.  Sometimes they surface in the form of nightmares.  Strangely, instead of fading with time, they have become more vivid, more terrifying.  You could be a veteran of any war, a victim of a violent crime, a rape victim, or a victim of an accident.  PTSD is likely part of your life too.  The chances are you feel isolated, afraid, angry, and depressed.  Or all of the above.  Others who have not had similar experiences will try to understand, but only a brother or sister in arms can truly fathom the depths of your pain.

A Vietnam vet named John Huddleston recently reached out to me, having spied me prowling around social media in the wee hours of the morning.  John served two tours in Vietnam as a combat medic. You can be sure he saw some really bad shit.  In our back-and-forth messaging, John was reassuring as only someone could be who has walked the walk.  With John’s permission, I am reprinting a portion of one of his posts.

Mamie I can’t express how important your visits were.You stuck your neck out for us and we knew it. I hope you realize you’ve always been more than an entertainer. You also have a social conscience and a good heart. Many who saw you there never came home. You are the closest they got. Mamie, you are the last thing many of them ever saw from home.

I read the last two sentences and couldn’t stop crying.  You are the closest they got.  John, your kind words refocused my thinking.  Being the final link for those brave ones who didn’t return shifts the burden for me.  I don’t think the night terrors will be less, but when the cold sweats dry and the cotton mouth of fear is washed away, I’ll carry on for as long as I can.  They swapped their lives for mine.  I’ll wear their memories on my sleeve.

mvd

The Capitol Records Building

Alan Mercer is a genius.  You’ve probably noticed.  (He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  We’ve been friends for a long time.)  This photo is the latest example of his remarkable work, blending whimsey, history, and hardcore glamor—a freeze-frame from an action-adventure fantasy anchored by an historic photo of me recording in Studio B of the iconic Capitol Records building.  This is just the kind of stuff I love to read and write about.  Settle in for a moment.  This is more than a blog post.  It’s a short history lesson.

Construction was begun on the Capitol Records Building in 1955, when I was a fledgling starlet at Universal International Studios.  The shape of the building, of course, mimicked a stack of 45 rpm records—the overwhelming music delivery of choice in that day.  In April of 1956, one month after my son, Perry, was born, I was recording the music track for Untamed Youth in historic Studio B.  The picture in the glow of those searchlights was taken of me singing Oobala Baby.  The night I recorded I was visited by music biz royalty: Dean Martin, Ray Anthony (husband, Perry’s daddy) and Frank Sinatra.  For them it was a unique experience: they were hearing rock and roll music being made. In its day, the Capitol Building housed recording studios, rehearsal halls, echo chambers, and executive offices.  Then and now, it is the one of the most iconic places in L.A.  Whenever I drive the Hollywood Freeway, I see it and I can see myself at the mic, hovering in the searchlights.

mvd 

Well, would ya?

Hot afternoon at the beach.  Humid.  I’m lying on my chaise lounge on the patio.  The flowered canopy of the lounge is over my head blocking the hot sun.  I’m looking at  my rubber tree and palm trees in the garden downstairs, and the eucalyptus trees across the street.  Crows are quarreling nearby and I hear the zooop-zooop of hummingbirds jockeying for position in the rubber tree.  One’s mind may wander in the heat of the day to, um, inappropriate speculation.

What man, I wonder, would truthfully admit that he’d go to bed with a 91 year-old woman?  When I was young, I preferred to keep company with older men.  Men my own age held little interest for me.  Conversation was halting and the love making clumsy and unsatisfying.  Older men were considerate, mostly gentle, and grateful.

My question on this sultry afternoon, however, is where is the man who would tempt the fates for a nonagenarian tumble?  And you don’t have to be 90-plus to wander into that fantasy, right ladies?  Are you out there boys?  All of us are listening.

When I performed my nightclub act, there was a moment halfway through the show when the music vamped behind me and I spoke directly to the audience.  One night, I leaned toward an elderly couple at ringside and asked the man, “Tell me, honey, if I could grant you two wishes, what would the other one be?”  And so help me, without a moment’s hesitation, the white haired gent chirped loud and clear, “To live through the first one!”  It cracked up the house, including me.  When I get right down to it, that’s my sentiment too.  If I get lucky enough to find a youngish, skillful, and motivated stud, just let me live through it.

mvd

John Dean Reboot

John W. Dean has endured decades of insults.  His role in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent prison sentence have chipped away at his reputation.  The CNN documentary series on Watergate has served to allow John to at last get his story out his way.  The revelations of his testimony before the Watergate select committee brought the full impact of Richard Nixon’s involvement and complicity with the Watergate break-in and coverup front and center to the American people.  Dean’s actions required courage.  He went toe-to-toe with a corrupt POTUS and his henchmen.  He helped bring them to justice, then served his time for his own sins and paid the price with the loss of his law license.  It’s time for a John Dean rehab.  The corruption of Nixon led directly to the malfeasance and nepotism of Trump.  Without the testimony of John Dean, Nixon’s crimes would’ve never come to light, and we would have missed the signposts to Trump’s evil.  Let’s pay attention now and get Trump indicted, convicted, and jailed.  And let’s give John Dean credit for pointing the way.

mvd

Not just predictable. Inevitable

When 19 children and 2 teachers were gunned down by an 18 year-old wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, it was inevitable.  The cowardice of lawmakers in Washington and the criminal indifference of state politicians made the massacres at the Robb Elementary School, the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, and all the rest of the tragic mass shootings in our country INEVITABLE.  Politicians and lobbyists who cling to power by refusing to face down the gun lobby have blood on their hands once again.  There is no reason for mass killings to take place as they do in our country.  The hypocritical reverence for the Second Amendment as an excuse for any nut case to purchase an assault rifle, a military weapon designed to kill human beings as efficiently as possible, is one thing only: greed on the part of gun manufacturers and gun dealers.  (The Second Amendment was only in the Constitution because our young country had no standing army.  Ensuring that citizens had a firearm was wise back then, just in case the Brits came back for seconds.  Its usefulness has expired.)  But we as a nation cannot bring ourselves to do anything about the spreading epidemic of guns—particularly assault weapons.  Draconian abortion laws can be made to prosecute, harass, and harangue women—even send them to jail if they abort their pregnancies.  The same greed head lawmakers in Washington and the states proudly prevent women from obtaining healthcare during pregnancies because they claim to be “pro life.” But where is pro life when the killer throws open the classroom door and starts firing?  Where was pro-life when an 18 year-old ego on the half shell bought not one but two AR-15s and wrote on social media, “I’m going to shoot up an elementary school?”

Changing the archaic mindset about gun possession is hard, there’s no denying it.  But how hard is it if YOU are the next unlucky parent giving DNA to identify the mangled body of your child?  How hard is it to select a coffin small enough for that youngster’s remains?  Can you even imagine such an ordeal?  Certainly Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, or Sen. Ted Cruz have not taken time to imagine that.  They only see money, votes, and power.  And for those three things they will happily sell you, your children, your family—even their own families down the river—with a smile.

Yesterday, Beto O’Rourke confronted them up close and personal at a fundraiser.  As Beto rebuked them for their inaction and callous disregard for the lives of their constituents, you could see the fear in their eyes.  When someone confronted them publicly for their evil passivity and groveling submission to the NRA, their discomfort was palpable.  It was a teaching moment for Abbott, et al.  The fear they felt when Beto called out their contempt for their citizens, is only a trifle compared to what those children and teachers must have felt staring down the muzzle of an AR-15.  Imagine that, Abbott.  Would you shield those children for as long as you could?  Or would you run?  Maybe cry?  Would you beg for your life? 

We need action now.  We need our A game.  We need to set agendas in a hurry.  The right-wing power structure is yellow-bellied and steeped in blood.  God turned His face away from Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, as He did last week in Buffalo.  It is only a matter of time before it happens again.  It could be days.  Or even hours. 

mvd

We know the enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu

It’s time to fight.  The women of America need to emulate the bravery of the Ukrainian people.  Just as surely as the Russians are committing genocide and war crimes by illegally invading the Ukrainian’s territory, so too is our fascist far right—the GOP, the woman-haters, the religious hypocrites—invading the territory of our bodies to create a scenario for femicide.  No woman will carry a pregnancy she does not want to full term.  The efforts of the anti-woman right wing will not eliminate abortion, they will only eliminate SAFE abortion.  Thousands of women will die from self-induced or back alley abortions.  And their deaths will be received by the hateful Republicans with a shrug and a smirk—Oh, well. Told you so.

With a bill in the Louisiana Legislature criminalizing abortion as a homicide, and so-called trigger laws in 26 states outlawing abortion the moment Roe v Wade is overturned, we are all plunged into a desperate battle for women’s freedom.  Men should not make the mistake of ignoring the ground swell of protest that is coming.  State legislatures, Congress, and the Supreme Court should not believe they are immune.  As women, we must be prepared to bring the fight to them.  The determination of the Ukrainians fought off tanks and troops, and made the Russian military look like a bunch of wankers.  We need that determination to protest loud and long, write letters and editorials, speak out, and VOTE.  Vote the lying, venal bastards out of office, and then shame them before the nation.

mvd

Pussy Power

The catastrophe of the SCOTUS draft decision on abortion is reverberating around the country.  It has plunged me into a frenzy of remembering.  I grew up in a world in which abortion was illegal.  I was three years-old when I heard screams—terrible screams—from the woman in the apartment above who had tried to abort her unborn baby.  The screams went on and on until she bled to death.  Even at that early age, I remember the coroner’s van pulling up. 

The situation did not change in the 1940s, the 1950s, or the 1960s.  I’ve written elsewhere about my own illegal abortion—up the dark stairs; the bare, makeshift office; the fear.  In January of 1972, when Roe v Wade became law, it seemed like a new world had opened up, when women were empowered to make their own choices about their bodies.  And now, we’re staring back into that dark abyss of authoritarianism, a man-created zone of control of women.  The Handmaid’s Tale come to life.

But Republicans beware.  See that mirage-like thing on the horizon?  It’s a tsunami.  You’ve had fair warning.  A tidal wave of estrogen is coming to wash away to settle the score of the war men have made on women.  You think you know best what our choices should be, don’t you?  Instead, you have made the disastrous choice of your own: pissing us off.  If women can focus, if they can summon the iron resistance necessary, pussy power will reduce you to political roadkill.  You heard it here first, boys.  Don’t fuck with us.

—mvd