Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in October, 2009.
Tuesday, 27
General Patton Redux
Weirdness never wanes around the old Warriors CP. One week it's some aspiring rock group that wants us to stage a kick-ass battle as background for their new music video and the next it's a videogame producer looking for advice on the latest first-person shooter that has soldiers battling alien invaders. Once in a while - but not as often as we'd like in these days of economic fear and loathing - we actually get a call to work on a feature film or TV program. Between times there's a regular cascade of requests for us to attend or assist in various military or veteran activities around the country.
That's likely why it was no earth-shaker when we got a call two weeks ago to attend a military support gig called "Sky Ball VII" in Ft. Worth, Texas. No problem to hop a flight and do some glad-handing or speechifying for a good cause. We love The Lone Star State sufficiently to own a little ranchito down in Lockhart and the cause was definitely within the Warriors wheelhouse. At least we thought it was until American Airlines Captain Jim Palmersheim mentioned what it was he wanted us to do at the seventh iteration of the massive fund-raiser staged annually by the airline.
"It would be really cool," said Palmersheim to the Adjutant who was typically multi-tasking between IPhone apps and computer programs, "if Captain Dye would appear on stage as General Patton and order everyone at the Sky Ball to give us money." The Adjutant stopped multi-tasking.
"You want him to do what?" She was now focused and shifting to palace guard mode.
"You know, re-create the opening monologue from the movie." Palmersheim was making a parallel shift into extravaganza producer mode. "We bring him on stage dressed like George C. Scott doing Patton and he does the speech but we modify it to get people to bid high on our fund-raising auction. It will be a killer third act!"
The Adjutant hung up and strolled into my office wearing her familiar "you're not gonna believe this one" look. In about fifteen minutes my actor ego was sufficiently stimulated and I agreed to attempt what would turn out to be one of the most interesting performances I've ever given before a live audience. That decision launched the Adjutant and other Warriors staffers into a frenzy of historical research and e-bay shopping in attempts to recreate the gaudy uniform worn by Scott doing Patton in the opening dialogue sequence of the 1970 Academy Award winning film. My role in all that involved retiring to a dark corner where I tried to channel George C. Scott from The Great Beyond. Scott was a former Marine so I knew the proper wavelength.
Our research library was dominated throughout the following week by a blow-up photo of Scott as Patton in full splendor while staffers tried to match every bell and whistle on the uniform worn in the famous opening sequence of the film. It was a daunting task. Apparently, the costume designers who worked on the original pulled Patton's military record, made note of every foreign and domestic decoration he received over a very long and illustrious career, and just tacked them all on a set of World War II Army officer's pinks and greens. I took one look and asked the same question that had stumped me when I first saw the film thirty years ago: Where's the electrical cord you plug in to make all that stuff light up?
Weird things began to arrive daily from collectors and attics around the country. The Adjutant mustered a working party to resurrect a pair of ratty knee-high leather cavalry boots with liberal applications of saddle soap and Velcro. Decorations, badges and sashes from esoteric orders like the Grand Heraldic Herd of Sea Turtles were tacked, glued and draped over a green uniform tunic. It was ticking along like a Timex until the military jodhpurs arrived and the Adjutant insisted I try them on for size. It was like trying to shove your calves into a boa constrictor's throat. Those old-time cavalry guys may have been smaller and shorter than modern man but you can't convince me they climbed on and off horses wearing those issue jodhpurs without the help of a Bay City crane. Of course, none of that mattered when I caught a look at my military splendor in a full-length mirror. I gave up on channeling Scott and began sending mystic messages direct to General George Smith Patton, Jr. He provided directions to the electric cord as well as some useful instruction on handling a riding crop.
Staff work on the Patton imagery continued at a frenzied pace while I worked on memorizing the necessary dialogue from the speech. That effort seemed easier when I donned the polished helmet liner bearing four stars and the symbol of the 3rd U.S. Army, Patton's wartime command. I eventually got a solid grip on the posture, prose and attitude after three straight days of annoying rehearsals followed by a fat cigar and a beaker or two of bourbon to give my voice the required gravel. It came as no surprise to me that the channel to both Scott and Patton seemed much clearer at that point in my preparation.
Remember what I said earlier about weirdness? It didn't stop when we finally arrived in Ft. Worth. In short order as we moved toward the massive hangar at American's Alliance Airport complex to do a lighting and sound check, we were introduced to former Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, actor John Ratzenberger (Cliff from "Cheers"), retired Army CWO Mike Duran, the pilot who flew the real Blackhawk Down in Somalia winding up as a POW, and Tony Orlando, the rock singer who became famous with the vet-oriented tune "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree." I wasn't there for Sky Balls I through VI, but clearly VII was going to involve an eclectic mix.
Everyone seemed anxious to keep the Dye-as-Patton deal a surprise and it looked like an easy subterfuge since the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team was in town for a big air show that was tied loosely to the Sky Ball effort. I ran into one of the Blues in the elevator at our hotel and he eyed me suspiciously from behind aviator shades. "You're Dye; right...the guy who's doing the Patton thing at the Sky Ball?" So much for keeping the big finale secret from the three thousand or so party-goers who would fill the hangar that night.
Just before curtain call at around 2200 on the big night I found myself clumping up and down the taxi apron growling my lines at a row of parked aircraft and waiting for a cue. The Patton speech had been modified a bit to urge the audience to be generous at the fund-raising auction rather than simply using an enemy's guts to grease the tracks of their tanks, but I had it all in hand and in mind. And then, just moments before I was scheduled to enter, salute and perform, it occurred to me that I was perhaps groping around way the hell above my paygrade not to mention my talent. At that moment it seemed like the height of hubris to connect any set of dots between me and luminaries like George C. Scott and George S. Patton. Who in hell did I think I was anyway?
Just before I tossed the riding crop and ran screaming across the active runway, that mystic channel opened and I heard a duo of voices, one high-pitched, almost squeaky and the other baritone and full of grit. "It's not about you," those voices seemed to say. "It's about the troops and nothing you try to do for them and their families is misplaced." I marched on and let it rip. And throughout what I'm told was the hit of the show, I was thinking about something else that General George S. Patton once said: "The leader must be an actor."
And after the show when organizers told me they'd raised a huge sum of money that would go to support military families sweating it out here at home while their spouse, son or daughter sweated it out in The Sandbox or The Stan, I reflected on another famous Patton-ism: "You won't have to say...I shoveled shit in Louisiana."

Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:55 PM / Category:General News
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