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Roster of TUSA Showmobile Members

Recollections of Jim Wilkes

If each of you would provide answers for the following questions, it would help establish the overall framework.
1. When did you become involved with the Showmobile/Soldier Show?

I auditioned for the show at Ft. Stewart (1st saw it at Ft. Benning) after a performance.

2. How did you become involved?

Got TDY orders saying I was in in late 1970.

3. When were you with the show....how long?

Moved to Ft Mac and stayed there till I got orders to go to an ASA assignment in Northern Thailand in June of '71.

4. What functions did you serve?

When I got to the show they were getting ready to do a touring production of "Hello Dolly". Gil Gross cast me as the German waiter and understudy to the lead. Simultaneously, we prepared a pop show to perform both at army bases and at colleges, of all places. They had me singing Glen Campbell material and playing bass in the band. Also, was made NCOIC of the hospital unit, which was the most moving assignment since we were seeing so many long term care wounded back from Nam. Doing Hello Dolly was a big deal. We had incredible resources. Our set and costumes were Broadway touring show quality of the time. We were the first touring show of the play after it closed in NYC. And, we were racially integrated with the male lead played by a white soldier and the part of Dolly by Helen Brown, a black female soldier. Deborah McWhirter was the original choice but developed voice problems and history was made.

5. In what productions did you participate?

6. Have you maintained contact with any other show personnel?

7. Do you have a website or other on-line presence?

I have a wikipedia page with some info on me and a website for my firm.

8. Do you think your experiences as a member of the show had an effect on you post-military life?

After I left and went back to a regular Army assignment in Southeast Asia, it was hard to adust. For 2 months I was company clerk for a 500 plus member Army Security Agency unit doing top secret work less the 20 miles from Laos. Fortuitously, the Army command in Thailand needed an entertainment director and I was the only soldier in country with and MOS that qualified (03B40). I was reassigned to Southern Thailand and spent the next 10 months as Acting/Entertainment Director for USARSUPTHAI (which was a civilian slot). I ran the USO touring show unit which allowed me to travel weekly all over Thailand with no direct military commander. General John Vessey was a one-star commanding USARSUPTHAI. (He became Reagan's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). He allowed me a lot of leeway as did our civilian boss, Lou Hyams. Could write a book, but that was an incredible experience.

9. Any other comments you'd like to make?

I was TDY in Vietnam with Miss Black America because of the political issues at the time, was in a C130 duriing a Thai military coup trying to round up USO civilian units while a North Vietnamese MIG was targeting us with their missle radar, took small shows to US Special Forces who were operating out of Cambodia (even though we weren't officially there, etc). All that was possible only because of my previous assignment with TUSA Soldier Show. Now, I'm an attorney living in Florida but still involved in entertainment actively with a management company (co-owned with Chris Lighty and Byron Gallimore, both major players in the industry) with 2 new artists; Brett Eldredge, Atlantic Records and Ashley Gearing, Curb Records. I would love to find a copy of our programs for either the touring unit or especially Hello Dolly. I have no pictures or memorabilia and really wish I did! I see names of folks that were very talented, fun people like Zach Lumpkin, Helen, David Romanowski (a phenom dancer), Deborah, Rod Wilson, my friend David Pierce but not others like Van Dunson. Any info would be truly appreciated.
Thanks for maintaining the Soldier Show web page.
Jim Wilkes