AT BIEN HOA. In a hanger at the huge airbase an audience of Americans and Vietnamese, seated on sandbags, applauds Mary Martin as she makes her entrance into a swirl of singing chefs and dancing waiters.
“An incongruous note of cheer brought in by a remarkable trouper, the ambush of a company of US soldiers by the Viet Cong---that was Vietnam last week. The cover of this issue shows Mary Martin taking her bows at Nha Trang airbase during her tour with Hello, Dolly! At that same moment, during an operation 200 miles away against a Viet Cong bastion called the ‘Iron Triangle,’ the soldiers walked into a trap and were badly mauled. They were part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, at whose base Mary and the Dolly troupe had given their opening show. These performances of the musical had a profound effect on both cast and audience. So moved was Miss Martin---who was nicknamed ‘Foxhole Mary’ by her fellow players---that she couldn’t trust herself to speak to the soldiers at the end of one show. Instead she simply began singing the refrain: “Hello, fellows, it’s so nice to be right here with you.’
Shana Alexander, “Broadway Show In A Theater of War,” page 30.
“Airlifting Mary Martin and the seventy-three members of her Hello, Dolly! troupe around the steaming jungle combat zones of South Vietnam last week at the very height of the war there raised all manner of exotic problems for the show folks, and, I fear, a lot worse ones for the military. I went along too because although I have spent a lot of time around show business, I had certainly never visited a war. Nor until I saw it happen had I ever dreamed that the two enterprises could co-exist, the smaller show trouping around inside the bigger one, kicking up its high heels, packing and unpacking its crates of petticoats and painted scenery, while in the rice paddies all around it artillery rumbled and flights of armed helicopters hovered just above the proscenium. Often as Dolly sashayed her feathers and plumes around the sweltering, make-believe, crimson-and-gold interior of the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, she could watch real MEDEVAC rescue helicopters land their wounded and swiftly take off again right behind her audience’s heads.
|Cast members of "Hello, Dolly!" at Nha Trang, South Vietnam, 9 October 1965.|