Sunday, December 9, 2018

Frank Mullen vs. The Singing Sergeants

The Air Force's Singing Sergeants gave an evening concert at the base theater in Little Creek when I was an instructor at the SOM in the early 1980s. Attendance was mandatory for staff as well as students, so I put on my dress  blues and showed up, taking my usual seat at the end of the third row, a seat that allowed a quick getaway through the side door to the parking lot when the concert ended.

The concert featured a Broadway-wannabe solo singer who did some sappy, dipstick number from The Carpenters' Songbook ("Sing, sing a song, Make it simple to last your whole life long). During an extended instrumental interlude, the guy took his microphone out into the audience, sharing the mic with audience members as he interviewed them: "Hi, what's your name? Susan? Nice to meet you, Susan." You get the idea.

The spotlight followed him as he worked his way up the aisle in my general direction. "Please," I said under my breath, "don't come my way." But he kept coming, sticking his mic in people's faces:"Good evening, and what is your name? Dick? Have a great night, Dick."

I sent out a final plea to the universe; "Please, please do not let this guy stick his microphone in my face, for I cannot be held responsible for my actions." (I'd come to the theater straight from The Brass Bell Lounge on Independence Boulevard. I was planning to be back on my stool within five minutes of the concert's close.)

My plea to the universe went unheard. The guy game up to me, stuck the mic in my face and said,  "Hey there, sailor, what's your name?"

"Ron Van Hoose," I said, invoking the name of the commanding officer of the School of Music.

When the audience's howling finally died down, he said, "Are you having a good time tonight, Ron?"

The guy clearly didn't know why the crowd was enjoying the repartee so much, but when your shtick is getting a thunderous response, you go with it.

"I'm having the time of my life," I said.

"Well, I hope you have a good night, Ron."

"You can count on it, pal" I said.

I learned a lot from this experience. Specifically, I learned that a Command Master Chief may be a nice guy to have a beer with in the evening, but he's not so jolly at 0800 the morning after you've publicly impersonated your commanding officer.