Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Stumbling Along 

The whole GWB National Guard kerfuffle brought to mind my experience with the draft. I'm sure you'll be fascinated.

I was at Webster College in Webster Groves, Missouri from '66 to '70. I wound up there because I had, for all practical purposes, flunked out of my senior year in high school, but Webster was hot for educational experimentation and they took me on my college boards which were good, but not spectacular. In fact, they were similar to W's; somewhere between 1100 and 1200. Webster was, at that time a small Catholic school for girls who couldn't get into good schools. There were around eight hundred girls and my freshman year there were about twenty boys. They began to admit boys in Music, Art and Theatre. I had little talent in music, none in art, but I had been in a couple of plays in high school, pursuant to an unsuccessful attempt to get into Sylvia Hummel's pants. Hey presto, I'm a Theatre major.

Webster was this kind of college: it boasted the only Equity nun. Sister Marita Michenfelder was an adorable woman who ran the department. In my sophomore year she gave up the habit. In my junior year she quit the Sisters of Loretta. She got married my senior year. She was a nice woman. I hope she's doing well. You couldn't turn around at Webster without smacking into a "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things" poster. Independent studies, co-ed dorms, Kevin Hanlon for homecoming queen, sex, drugs -- god, it was wonderful. I remind you of the 800-20 ratio and point out that at least fifteen of the boys were gay.

In 1967 I received my induction notice. I went to the physical and flunked my hearing test. Little present from my mother; most of my siblings have a small hearing impariment. I certainly didn't think it would be enough to get me out, though, and, apparently, neither did Uncle Sam. It seems that the hearing test is the one most often faked, so they sent me for a follow-up.

In 1967 it never entered my mind to fake the test or that I wouldn't go if called. I'm told that if I had been called two years later my slight impairment wouldn't have been enough, but after two years of being radicalized by Webster and the kultursmog I have no doubt I would have faked it and done almost anything else to get out. It was my duty to youth or something.

I was sent to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis for an intense audiological experience. They hooked me up with electrodes and heart monitors. Ran the test on me then ran it again a little louder until I passed. They ran it at that level several times, each time giving me a little jolt just before the point I had indicated I could hear. Then they ran the real test again. They figured, of course, that I was pavloved to have a cardiological reaction to hearing the tone. Understanding what they were doing only intensified the reaction and when I heard the tone they could have heard my heart without the monitor. Flunked.

I was probably borderline and what a different life I would have had had I passed. It was another three or four years before I began taking the idea of being an actor seriously so if I had gone to Vietnam I probably wouldn't have had that life. I probably would have come home and become a cop or something.

God help me if I decided to go into politics.

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