Stars by example

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 27, 2006 10:05 PM

Hollywood is missing in action when it comes to fighting for America in recent conflicts, not the least being the war against terrorism.

We hereby challenge readers to name one modern American celebrity, apart from the late football star Pat Tillman, who served or fought for his or her country in the past 15 years.

"Even Hollywood . . . sent its best to wars prior to Vietnam," University of Dayton professor Larry Schweikart reminds us in his new book, "America's Victories," writing that professional actors were as "thoroughly represented" in the fighting military during World War II as any other group.

In fact, we read an amazing list of Hollywood men who tossed aside lucrative scripts for their country. Topping the list, albeit technically too old to serve, was Clark Gable, who enlisted as a private and ended up flying B-17s over Europe. Jimmy Stewart started as a "buck private peeling potatoes," the author notes.

Stewart's radioman was Walter Matthau, awarded six campaign stars. Charles Bronson was a tailgunner on B-29s; Gene Autry flew C-47s; Robert Conrad flew F4Us; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry flew C-46s; Robert Altman flew B-24s; and Jack Palance crash-landed his B-17. (Let's see Tom Cruise try that when not leaping off Oprah Winfrey's sofa.)

The list of Hollywood's brave soldiers, sailors and Marines (several of whom died or were injured in battle) is extensive, among them: Humphrey Bogart (a World War I vet, he tried enlisting in World War II, but was too old), Jason Robards (Pearl Harbor), Henry Fonda (the South Pacific), George C. Scott (Europe), Glenn Ford (France), Brian Keith (Rabaul), Ernest Borgnine (where else, the South Pacific), Eddie Albert (Tarawa), and Navy buddies Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Kirk Douglas, Shecky Greene, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Bob Barker, Jackie Cooper, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Cliff Robertson, Rod Steiger, Dennis Weaver and Robert Stack.

Also dressed for battle were James Arness (Marshal Dillon of "Gunsmoke" was wounded at Anzio), Alan Hale Jr., Victor Mature, Telly Savalas ("Kojak" earned a Purple Heart), Arthur Godfrey, Tyrone Power, Ed McMahon, Lee Marvin (survived fierce combat on Saipan), Don Adams, Sterling Hayden, John Russell (wounded and decorated for valor at Guadalcanal), James Whitmore, Rod Serling (wounded with his 11th Airborne Division), Jack Warden, Ted Knight (Ted Baxter of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") cleared land mines and was awarded five Bronze stars, Burt Lancaster (North Africa and Italy), George Kennedy (served under Gen. George Patton in France), Art Carney (wounded invading Normandy), Burgess Meredith, Cameron Mitchell, Kevin McCarthy, Martin Balsam, Jackie Coogan, Dale Robertson, "Superman" George Reeves, Russell Johnson, Robert Preston, George Gobel, Gene Raymond, Karl Malden, Red Buttons, Robert Taylor and Charles Durning (the Tony Award winner earned three Purple Hearts as one of the few American POW survivors of the massacre at Malmedy, France.)

Lee Powell, the first silver screen "Lone Ranger," was killed invading Tinian. Also in uniform were Carl Reiner, John Agar, Jeff Chandler, Ossie Davis, Frank Gorshin, Werner Klemperer, Rick Jason (who starred for five seasons on TV's "Combat"), Charlton Heston, William Holden, Robert Montgomery, Desi Arnaz (first rejected for being a Cuban, he was injured as an infantryman), Norman Mailer (invaded the Philippines), Alex Haley, Louis L'Amour (Normandy) and Bob Keeshan of "Captain Kangaroo" fame.


LADIES' NIGHT

CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has left the battlefields long enough to be among presenters at this evening's Vital Voices 2006 annual Global Leadership Awards dinner at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Each year, the dinner celebrates women who promote democracy, strengthen economies and safeguard human rights.

Honorary co-chairwomen this year are two of our favorite lady lawmakers, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican. In addition to Amanpour and fellow CNN correspondent Andrea Koppel, presenters include Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Liz Cheney, actress Julia Ormond, designer Diane von Furstenberg and TV host Lisa Ling.


NOT PROPS

"President Bush rode a 14-vehicle motorcade there and back to the Marriott Wardman to talk to the Renewable Fuels Association about energy conservation and other topics. En route, the motorcade passed the Exxon station next to the Watergate, where gas prices were $3.29, $3.39 and $3.49 a gallon." - Official White House pool report


AGAINST ALL ODDS

On the heels of the Democratic Party labeling him a pawn of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush political adviser Karl Rove, Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is locked in a hot race for the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday that if elected as the first black U.S. senator from his state, he will not be a water boy to any party, Republican or Democrat.

"When I met with (Republican Senate Majority Leader) Bill Frist, he said he was very excited about my prospects of coming to the U.S. Senate," Steele told The Beltway Beat in an interview. "But I told him, 'Be careful what you wish for.' I told him I don't want to come up here to carry anyone else's water or agenda except the people of Maryland's.

"That is my singular push," he stressed. "And that is the message I am sharing with voters."

They appear to be listening, particularly black voters who have traditionally sided with Democrats.

A poll of 489 black voters in Maryland, commissioned last month by the Democratic National Committee, found upwards of 45 percent would consider jumping ship to support Steele, an anomaly that political observers in the state are now referring to as "the emerging black swing vote." And which Steele said explains why "concerned and fearful" Democrats have resorted to repeated race-based attacks on his character, which have made national headlines.

"It explains the footprints on my back that have been left there over the last year from the Democratic Party," he told this column, while welcoming the black support from across the aisle.

"It's reflective of what I see around the state and in my own neighborhood, at Starbucks and at the mall, the resonance that we are having with voters. I am very proud of my three years of hopefully good public service," said Steele, the first black ever elected to statewide office in Maryland.

"At the same time, we don't agree on everything, and that is healthy and good. But I would hope that African-American voters would be willing to give me an honest shot with this job."

Racial makeup aside, Steele realizes that Republican officeholders in his state are an exception - and a recent one - not the rule.

"Look, I am a Republican running in a blue state," he said. "I want this race to be about people, not about Democrats and Republicans. I'm in a very good position right now, but I have a lot of work left to do, a lot more convincing to do in order to give voters a true sense of who I am."


AMERICAN-KIWI

At the same time President Bush has invited millions of illegal aliens to remain in the United States, officials in New Zealand are encouraging Americans to immigrate to their country. And why not?

Apart from its amazing beauty, a pair of New Zealand's largest cities have just been ranked in the top 15 in the world for quality of living (political, social, environmental, personal safety, health, education and public services), according to a 2006 Mercer Human Resources Consulting study.

"We're thrilled with these rankings and hope that American workers will take notice and apply for jobs here in New Zealand," says Immigration New Zealand's Don Badman. "We are actively recruiting skilled U.S. workers to our country, as we have an abundance of jobs . . . and a simple application process for skilled people."

A new residency application process was introduced in New Zealand in February 2004. The number of Americans applying to live in the South Pacific country has increased threefold in the last five years (3,400 in the last two years).


SYRUP, GEORGE?

While President Bush continues flexing his muscles with North Korea on the nuclear issue, Americans are said to be flocking to the communist nation for their vacations.

The global travel industry newsletter ETurboNews says that from August to October this year, North Korea will open its doors even wider to U.S. citizens for the country's annual Arirang Festival, which features a cast of more than 100,000 performers. It repeats the assertion that North Korean tours for Americans have been "selling like hot cakes."