Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dining out with Dale Dye...

Not long after Bill and I got married, we had the opportunity to attend a "dining out" at Fort Myer in northern Virginia.  The dining out was hosted by the National Guard, if I recall correctly.  It was winter in 2003 and we still lived in our very crappy apartment in Fredericksburg.  Bill was then a major  and didn't yet know that he was going to be promoted to lieutenant colonel.

The dining out was supposed to be a "star-studded" affair.  Guests of honor were supposed to include Sam Shepard, Craig T. Nelson, and Dale Dye.  All three of these men are well-known figures in Hollywood, though before the night of the dining out, I had never heard of Dale Dye.  As it turned out, both Shepard and Nelson bailed on the party, but Dale Dye was there and much larger than life.  I remember being disappointed that he was the only one attending, but once I heard him speak and watched him interact with military folks, I realized the other two actors were really not needed, though Craig T. Nelson was kind enough to record a video for us that was reasonably funny.

So there we were, Bill and I, dressed up as much as possible.  I had on a red velvet dress I bought on sale at Talbot's for $39.  At the time, it fit me rather well, even though it was designed to be snug.  It was a deep red and I had bought matching shoes at Payless… I think those are the only shoes I've ever bought there.  Bill was wearing his dress blues, the same thing he wore on our wedding day.  Bill looks incredibly sexy when he wears the dress uniform.  It does something to his personality and makes him larger than life.

I saw lots of women dressed beautifully.  And I saw a couple of women who were trying to wear bras with strapless gowns and failing.  One woman was the wife of one of Bill's co-workers whose bra was on full display to the masses.  I didn't say anything to her, because I've found that people usually shoot the messenger in situations like those.

Folks were excited because they were raffling off a very impressive rifle.  I remember Bill was hoping he'd win it.  He didn't, but I wish he had.  It would have made me feel a little safer, living in our slummy apartment.

We were at a table with one of Bill's new co-workers, who had come there without his wife.  He was about to be promoted to colonel and seemed intent on tripping me up by asking me provocative questions.  I remember him asking if I'd ever been hunting and he was surprised when I told him I used to fox hunt when I was growing up.  After that, he stopped trying to fluster me, turned to Bill, and said "All this and red hair too?  You got lucky!"  Of course, I didn't tell him that the drapes don't match the rug…

After listening to a hilarious introduction to the formal dinner and dining out rules, we dug into the fancy meal.  The food was very good and wine was flowing.  Captain Dale Dye got up to speak, looking absolutely resplendent in his Marine dress uniform.  His talk was about how he went from the streets of Beirut to Hollywood, where he makes a very good living as a technical adviser and actor.  He's worked on television shows, movies, and video games.  One young fellow was sitting in the crowd and Captain Dye addressed him, asking if he'd ever played Call of Duty.  The young man immediately lit up and laughed when Dye said, "I'm the reason that game doesn't suck, son!"

I have to admit, I found Dale Dye very impressive and entertaining.  And after he was finished, it got even better.  Because that was when it was time for the grog bowl.

For the unaware, the grog bowl at an Army dining out can be a bewildering and disgusting exercise.  Basically, it involves a funny war story involving booze.  The planning committee determines what goes into the grog and sometimes they offer a non-alcoholic version.  At the dining out Bill and I attended, there was only an alcoholic grog.  It had no fewer than fifteen ingredients in it, almost all of which were some kind of alcoholic spirit.  Drinking from the grog bowl is supposed to be a punishment for when you do something to offend, but at this gathering, everybody was enjoying it… and you'll forgive me if my memories are hazy, because I did taste the grog and this happened over ten years ago…

I think grog bowls are more common at "dining ins", which are only for servicemembers.  Dining outs include spouses and significant others.  They are supposed to be more civilized.  I've been to another dining out since this one and I have to say, dining out with Dale Dye was wild.  There we were with a grog bowl full of a boozy concoction that had a suspicious amount of mint schnapps in it.  Dale Dye was holding court when an elderly retired soldier stood up and sang this song…


Actually, the guy sounded more like this guy…


It was the first time I had ever heard "Dogface Soldier" and it totally cracked me up.  But what was even funnier was Dale Dye's reaction to it.  He gave the guy the sharpest salute I have ever seen.  Then, after saluting the President, he toasted the mess and drank generously from the grog bowl.  He placed the cup on his head and saluted again, as the entire party came alive with laughter, cheers, "hooahs" and roars of approval.  As the evening wore on, I witnessed one soldier, whose wife was also a solider, drink grog from her shoe.  I also witnessed Bill drunk for the first time.

Although he hadn't done anything to offend the mess, everyone was eventually allowed to taste the grog.  However, if you took anything from the grog bowl, you had to shoot it.  And the cup of grog was prepared by someone else.  Bill was in a crowd of folks and had passed back several modestly filled plastic cups of the nasty mixture when someone handed him his.  It was full to the brim.  At the time, Bill had only recently started drinking alcohol again, having given it up for several years of Mormonism.  But he didn't have a hair on his ass if he didn't shoot the grog…  so that's what he did.

Needless to say, I was the one who drove us home.



This is not from the dining out we attended, but you sort of get the idea of what happens when people drink too much alcoholic grog…  

After the dining out, I got to meet Dale Dye, who was very personable and charming.  You could tell that Hollywood hadn't changed him a bit.  He had a firm handshake, looked me in the eye, and was just an excellent Marine Corps specimen, despite his successes on the silver screen.  I'm really glad I got to attend that dining out and discover Dale Dye.  I'd love to see him again sometime, especially if grog is involved.



Dale Dye on screen...


Military balls and other mandatory fun has the potential to be both boring and cheesy, but I have to admit, this was one of the better parties Bill and I attended during his career...

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