Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's a Man's World

It's Veteran's Day today. So happy day, all you veterans, and even veterans-to-be.

Today also marks the 39th anniversary--November 11, 1968--that I was discharged from the U.S. Army after two years. I spent my time in Germany, feeling lucky to be away from where the bullets were flying in Vietnam.

Every soldier, sailor, or marine will tell you that even during wartime there are times of boredom in a serviceman's life. That's doubly true for a peacetime force. When I was in Nuremberg, we had no TV to speak of, since it was all in German. We had Armed Forces Network radio, but I don't remember it being any more than just background. During our off hours we could go downtown, get drunk, get laid, get in trouble. I was a barracks rat; I stayed behind. Getting drunk and getting laid led to that trouble, and that was what I avoided. I just stayed behind and read or wrote letters.

Wow, boring, huh? The PX was stuffed with magazines and books to read. I usually made my way there every few days, stocking up on magazines. A new issue of Playboy, especially one with a story by Jean Shepherd, was a bonus. Shepherd wrote the stories on which they based the movie A Christmas Story. I read all of those stories first in Playboy. I got comics and paperback books and usually kept myself busy with my nose buried in something.

The kinds of magazines I never bought were the types of men's-sweat magazines that were everywhere in those days. I saw them because other GI's bought them and left them laying around the barracks. What I found out about them is that beyond the covers, there usually wasn't a lot of interest. I'm sure the cover artists and the headline writers were the stars on these magazines. Who could resist a cover with a gal in a bikini helping feed a machine gun? Chicks were the main attractions on these covers. Put a babe on the cover and you've got a guy's attention.I love the headlines, "I Conquered The Headhunters of 'Blood Hostage Island,'" "I Was A 'Love-On-The-Prowl' Sin Cruise Girl!" "Showdown in the Garden Of Golden Flesh," "Rampaging Outlaw Angels and their Love-Blast 'Mamas'." What was that? Love-Blast 'Mamas'? In those days, thanks to movies like Wild Angels with Peter Fonda, Hell's Angels were really popular, even iconic, pop-culture figures.Many illustrators made their living doing covers for these magazines. Writers like Mario Puzo, of The Godfather fame, also made a living writing for these rags. A lot of guys read them. Nowadays they're considered collectible. The covers are great. They represent a time and an era when men were macho and women couldn't say 'no!' or were high-stake nymphs.Magazines like these were made-to-order for bored GI's. Like all escape literature, they were cheap and could take a guy away for a couple of hours.Thanks to my friend, David Miller, who found these magazines at an antiques fair and scanned the covers for me. Click on the pictures for full-size images.

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