Middle of May 1962, ABC-TV requested that we attend basic training at
Fort Ord (in Northern California) for a week. They told us it was mostly for publicity
photos. Vic, Pierre, Shecky Greene, and I were flown to Carmel up the coast at Big Sur,
where we stayed at a nice motel. We were issued G.I. garb and went through the grind with
a bunch of eighteen- and nineteen-year-old inductees.
We were delivered each morning at six-thirty by car to the base and
reported to the non-coms who were teaching the group. Id spent three months in heavy
training, in the event the show was picked up, because I knew it would be a back breaker
with all the action. Vic had done about the same.
On our first morning, a staff sergeant took us aside and explained that
we really didnt have to go through what those kids were doing. I looked at Vic and
he looked at me. I said, "Are we going to let a bunch of piss-ass kids run over
us?" Pierre, a skier, was always in excellent condition, so he didnt have to be
consulted. Actually, Vic and I were in better condition than the trainees, so we three
elected to do what they were doing.
We did everything from crawling under barbed wire with live .50 calibre
machine bullets whizzing over our heads, to swinging across a muddy pond on a rope, to
pulling the pin on a live grenade and throwing it properly, to running an obstacle course.
It was much more than Id had to do in WWII for my real basic training in the Air
I believe we earned the admiration of our instructors. In most cases,
we were ahead of the rest of the pack.
Shecky, whod had little idea what was in store, stayed at the
motel after the first day. Hed started out as a regular but quit the show about
three months into production because it was costing him a fortune in lost club dates.
While at Fort Ord one afternoon, we were given a twenty-minute break. I
decided to walk to the PX for a candy bar. On the way, my hands stuck in the back pockets
of my fatigues, I passed a man in an officers uniform. I got about twenty feet past
him when I heard a shout.
I just kept on walking.
"I mean YOU!"
I turned around to see what the fuss was about. As I did so, the
officer raised his arm and beckoned me with a repeated wave of his index finger.
I ambled up to him and said, "You calling me?"
The look on his face was as if he were examining a space alien. He
pointed to the tips of his shoulders. "Do you know what these are?" he demanded.
"Yeah, Captains bars. We used to call em railroad
"Youre supposed to salute them when you pass!"
I had forgotten I was in uniform, and a smile began to spread across my
"Whats your name and company!" he said as he reached in
his pocket for pen and paper. My smile had widened.
"What the hell do you think is so fun . . ." and then it hit
him. "Oh, Christ, youre one of those acto
Shit!" and he turned and