Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:37:22 -0700
First, I want to echo Nancy P's (Checkmate Blue) and Dorothy's (Othello) reports that Recon was fantastic. And meeting and making such wonderful new friends, well, that made it even more special. I didn't want it to end, and as some of you saw as we were leaving Rick's house, I got a little emotional. I'm sure that we were all feeling that way, but I'm such a wimp. . .
I arrived in LA around noon on Thursday. I decided at the last minute not to go right to the hotel in Simi Valley (about 50 miles northwest of LA), but instead decided to play tourist and rented a car. After several u-turns, I finally found Beverly Hills and Hollywood. After the bus tour of movie star homes (pretty dumb huh?), I headed North on the 405 and got to the hotel just before 8 pm. I checked into my room, then met up with Jo, Marie and Maryann in the lobby and together we headed up to Jo's room to start stuffing the welcome packets. Other volunteers joined us and we had a great time swapping our favorite Combat! memories. A highlight of the evening was Janice's (Red Three) photo book. She has a great collection - especially the near naked pix of Vic (which she later generously copied for those of us who couldn't keep our hands off the picture -- thanks Janice!). We all decided to meet the next morning for breakfast at 8:30.
At breakfast on Friday, we talked about how we were going to spend the day since Recon didn't officially start until that evening, and the volunteers were "off duty" until 5 p.m. or so. Carolyn E. (El Tee), Steve Schultz and I decided to go to Disneyland for a few hours. We had a great time, though we only got on a few rides before we had to leave.
We got back to the hotel at 5 and started setting up the registration and raffle tables. Othello and her volunteers had the room looking like a canteen - and her music really set the mood. I can't begin to describe how great Marty, Dodger, Chuck and the two re-enactors looked in their Army gear. Marty looked just like a taller Kirby (with a mustache!) and Dodger could have fooled anyone into believing he was Braddock. A real kick came when A.D. Flowers came into the room and Marty greeted him with "Hello, A.D. You remember me - Kirby?" and A.D. responded "Sure, how you been?" I didn't know whether A.D. really thought he was Kirby, or whether he was putting Marty on. (As the weekend went on, we all discovered what a great sense of humor A.D. has.)
Dorothy Spangler officially opened Recon by welcoming everyone and then asked the actors and A.D. to say a few words. Rick's comments were [very] uncharacteristically few - he simply wished us welcome - followed by Dick and Tom. A.D. said he was going to do 30 minutes, but after only about five, he decided to cut it short. But, I'm telling you, we could have listened to him for hours; he was a real hoot. It was a great night. The actors were very gracious -- they were at one round table with A.D. and his wife, "V", who is also a joy to talk to. They spoke to everyone and posed for many, many pictures. They stayed until everyone had a chance to meet them. A.D. brought a scrapbook, filled with pictures taken of the special effects he did on Combat! and other shows and movies. He also had old newspaper articles written about his work on Combat!
I really enjoyed talking to the actors Friday night, but I also really liked walking around the room and meeting all the other fans. I'm telling you, there were some great people at the Recon and I'm looking forward to continuing the friendships I started this weekend.
Some of us finished the night by going up to one of the Boardrooms on the second floor to watch videos. I wanted to stay up all night, but, alas, I was exhausted. By the end of the first video I was nodding off, so I said goodnight and headed back to my room. [Continued on next post].
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 00:01:19 -0700
On Saturday, some of us again met for breakfast. Tina Peabody (boy, I love that woman - she's such a sweetheart) joined us, as well. I then set up a registration table in the lobby for those who were joining us for the Franklin Canyon trip and was joined there by Chameleon and her brother, Matthew, the youngest Combat! fans in our squad (company?) The buses arrived and we left for Franklin around 10:30. Dorothy was our guide on the bus trip and she showed a video which contained scenes from Chapel at Abel Five and The Letter which were filmed at the Canyon.
At the Canyon, we split into four groups, each lead by a member of the Lost Patrol - Marty, Dodger, Dorothy and Janice. Tom, Dick and Pierre were there too, but they were being interviewed by Encore! so, they didn't join us for the tour. (More on that later). I was a member of Janice's squad (I think we were "Third Squad"). Janice did a great job taking us to all the areas that had been identified by the Lost Patrol as filming sites for the various episodes. We had a fantastic booklet that was put together by Dodger with pictures of the scenes shot at the various locations in Franklin and we had such great fun matching them up with where we were standing. [A highlight was Nancy P. (Checkmate Blue) hugging a tree that Kirby had used as cover. (Can't wait to see how that picture turns out Nancy!)] We also saw where Opie tossed the rock into the water that was used as the opening scene in The Andy Griffith Show. We were all whistling the theme song as we walked through the "Redwood Room".
Let me back up. Parked at the Franklin parking lot when we arrived was a genuine WWII jeep, which was brought there by its owner - a fellow Combat! fan and Recon attendee, who was dressed in Army gear. I got to sit in the driver's seat and pose for a picture beside him, which was quite a thrill. He had brought the jeep for Dick Peabody's benefit since Dick is now in a wheelchair and can't do much walking. But I think that because of the Encore interview, Dick wasn't able to do a tour (if I'm wrong, somebody, please let me know.) Marty and Dodger again wore their soldier clothes, complete with helmets and backpacks (with shovels). And, Dodger (I don't know about Marty) even had a mess kit which he used at lunch.
As our Squad was heading to the auditorium for lunch, the jeep was driven by. I kiddingly asked for a ride, and he said he would be right back to pick me up. So, a few minutes later, I hopped in, along with Steve Schultz and Chuck. I picked up the M-1 replica that was sitting on the seat and was surprised at how heavy it was. I could hardly hold it up (remember, in my earlier post, I told you I was a wimp!). We drove around and came across Marty's squad. And guess who was with them? Pierre! I handed him the rifle (another highlight for me) and he showed us different ways he used to carry it. You could see the pleasure in his eyes as he explained how he held it. [Oh, by the way; Pierre was wearing his beret from Combat! - though I was surprised it was dark green, not black. He has long white hair, which he had in a ponytail. He looked as slim and fit as he did 30 some years ago.] Pierre handed the rifle back to me and we resumed our drive around the Canyon. When we got back to the auditorium, I can tell you, I was on a real emotional high.
I ate lunch at Tom and Dick's table. [The day kept getting better and better.] Rick arrived and sat down with us. In the midst of his stories about the cast and crew, we realized that Pierre and Marty's Squad hadn't yet arrived at the auditorium. Jo volunteered (with much glee) to "take the jeep and go find them". But, just as she was going out the door, the "Last Patrol" came in. But, not to worry about Jo, she still got her ride in the jeep.
I didn't go back to the hotel on the bus, because earlier I had asked (well, actually begged) Dodger and Marty to stay at Franklin and help me dig up my own casings. We had planned then, on doing that, but somehow it didn't work out. We drove back to the hotel in Marty's rented car, with me in the backseat trying hard to hide my disappointment. We decided that we would try to go back again the next day. I was practically skipping as I headed back to my room.
[More later . . .]
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 01:08:15 -0700
Saturday afternoon, 4:30 pm. Rick Jason's Q&A. (Boy it's hard to get that man to talk -- just kidding!). Rick regaled us with many, many stories and answered all questions posed to him. And, he led us all in singing Happy Birthday to our beloved King Two! We surprised Jo with a cake (complete with candles) and called for a speech. She said that she couldn't think of a better way to spend her birthday than with all her fellow fans and the Combat! actors. Rick then signed autographs and posed for pics, while "Hills are for Heroes" was shown on a big screen in the front of the room.
We had some great raffle items; for instance, shell casings from Saunders' Thompson, and from Hanley's carbine that were dug up by Marty in previous visits to Franklin Canyon; a wonderful framed pix of Saunders; the two TV Guide magazines featuring Combat!; a pix of the MGM backlot where Combat! was filmed; a replica of Saunders' dogtags; tapes of episodes; and many more. Some of these were drawn on Saturday night. All proceeds from the raffle, by the way, were given to the charity we supported - The Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.
Tom and Dick then hosted their Q&A. And, this was a real highlight of the weekend - maybe even the No. 1 highlight for most fans. They recreated the scene from "Second in Command" where Billy loses the pin to the grenade. Dick even muttered the expletive that Littlejohn says in the episode but that the audio editors took out (but which you can clearly lip read). So, they added dialogue something to the effect that Billy says "Littlejohn, you can't say that on national TV. You're gonna get us fired!" Anyway, it was tremendous and it "brought the house down"! They then had their autograph and picture sessions, while the Pierre Jalbert social security video played on the big screen in the front of the room.
The final event of the night was the Pierre Jalbert Q&A. Pierre is very soft-spoken and at times, it was hard to hear him, but he told some great stories both about his Combat! memories and his other career as a film editor. By, the way, Pierre had injured his right hand the day before and had it wrapped so that it looked that it had a cast on it. But, that didn't stop him from shaking hands with everyone and signing autographs. When I got his autograph, I mentioned that I thought he was a lefty. He said he was, except for writing, which he did with his right hand.
I have to mention here that all the actors in my opinion, went far beyond the call. The autographs took a long time, and there was never a complaint uttered. They had to be tired, but they never stopped smiling and shared comments with everyone in line. In fact, they seemed genuinely moved by our affection for them.
After all the Q&A's some of us went to Jo's room where we stayed up late rehashing all that had happened so far. It was nearly 1 am when I finally went back to my room, and I had to be up by 5 because I WAS GOING BACK TO THE CANYON THE NEXT MORNING TO DIG UP CASINGS!! I was so excited!!!
To be continued . . . But not until tomorrow night, because it's now after 1 am on Tuesday morning and I have to be back at work at 8:30. (Hope you're enjoying my recollections. . .)