i shot lee marvin

Posted: October 14, 2011 in Humorous Bits, Traskland
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Lee Marvin may have been a film actor, but don’t let that fool you. He was a tough hombre. He excelled at portraying hard-nosed characters who would as soon pummel as talk to you. There was never a hint of artifice about him. He had the gift of making his acting appear effortless, lending real credibility to the roles he played. At least I think that now looking back on his work. Maybe that’s because when I was nine I saw the real Lee Marvin in action and learned he was every bit as fiery off screen as on screen.

Each year when I was a kid we schlepped to the annual convention of the Marine Corps League. (The Marine Corps League is the Marine Corps official veterans association.) Schlepped is an unfair depiction since it was always tremendous fun. From the moment we’d bunk down at the hotel in some exotic city I was set loose with one rule: Don’t come back to the room dead. I’d meet up with the same group of boys who were also schlepped to these things. While the grown-ups were off busy reliving whatever war stories they were reliving (apparently primarily consisting of battles with such ass kickers as Captain Morgan, Major Jim Beam and General Jack Daniels), we’d have our own reunion and set about the important business of exploring the off-limit nooks of the hotel, staying up until we simply could-not-keep-our-eyes-open, listening to the old Marines tell dirty jokes, and generally wrecking good-natured havoc upon whatever crossed our path.

I was a good kid. Donald, my closest cohort at these conventions, was not. Donald was a year or two older, a significant difference when you’re still skating along in single digits. This gave him instant credibility. He came from one of those innocuous tree naming, open space bragging suburbs of Chicago. It might have been Elmhurst or Elmwood Park or Melrose Park or Franklin Park or Park Ridge. Perhaps it was Oak Park or Oak Lawn or Oak Brook or Oak Forest or Forest Park or River Forest or Riverdale. I can’t remember. They all sounded too much alike. It was probably this kind of enveloping sameness that put Donald on the path to juvenile delinquency. Or maybe it was revenge for being named Donald.

The grand finale of the convention was the closing banquet. This gave those who might have sobered up another opportunity to fix that. Between courses of raw red meat the muckety-mucks of the Corps would stand at the dais and give inspirational speeches whose sole purpose appeared to be inducing toasts every 30 seconds. Along with the Corps muckety-mucks, a special guest (always male, always an ex-Marine) was invited to rouse the crowd with his own daring tales of alcohol consumption. One year Lee Marvin was that guest. It didn’t matter that he never made it beyond PFC (Private First Class). He was an ex-Marine, manly and knew how to drink. If that wasn’t enough he also starred in The Dirty Dozen fer crissakes.

When the red meat was gone and the speeches finished the real party started. The band kicked into high gear and happy couples stumbled to the dance floor, partner in one hand and Hi-Ball in the other. The special guest would mingle with fellow veterans. This mainly consisted of hugging as many intoxicated women as possible and tossing one back with every man. (Drink, not woman.)

This may all sound like fun times, but for a kid it was the height of drudgery. Think about it. Limited freedom enforced while wearing an ill-fitting suit. Nowadays people call that a job. Naturally, something had to be done. Leave it to the future juvie to hatch a scheme and elect me to execute it. We’d approach the great Lee Marvin and I’d ask to take his picture. Who could resist an angelic tow haired lad like me? I’ll tell you who. No one, that’s who.

We worked our way through the stumbling masses until we found him. He was plastered. Donald gave me the sign and set the plan in motion. “Mr. Marvin, may I take your picture?” I held up the camera for him to see. He may have been an ex-Marine and the toughest bastard in the room, but he was also a celebrity. He beamed. “Certainly, sonny!” He sat up, straightened his tie and flashed his biggest drunken Hollywood smile. I put the camera to my eye and said, “Cheese!” When I depressed the shutter a fine stream of cold water shot from the lens and splashed him right between the eyes. Score!

I can’t give an accurate description of what happened next because I was running away too fast. I remember hearing a string of expletives which was impressive even for a drunk ex-Marine. There was something in there about “throttle that little son of bitch” and “smack his ass into next week.” Despite his wishes he quickly found out being big, drunk and angry is no match for being small, quick and nimble. We escaped unscathed.

Whenever I happen upon one of his movies I remember that long ago night in Kansas City. I’m filled with a warm glow of accomplishment because I was able to do what scores of movie Nazis never could – I shot Lee Marvin. I’m telling you, it makes a fella proud.

  1. David Kuzma says:

    I wonder if you were the inspiration behind his (semi-)famous quotation, “Security is two inches behind your belt, where you either keep your guts or you don’t. The rest is eyewash.”

    “Eyewash”? Who uses the word, “eyewash”? Maybe someone who’d recently had their eyes washed out by an angelic tow haired lad’s prank.



  2. Mark says:

    Wow, you not only shot Lee Marvin…you shot the original Parker (well, Walker ) > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRj7sTZpf7M


  3. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Lee Marvin was tough! I have the movie the “Dirty Dozen” – its a classic!! Mr. Marvin definitely had ‘coolitude’.


  4. sparklebumps says:

    I feel upset that I don’t know who Lee Marvin is.


  5. BrainRants says:

    K.C., huh? To think I live so close to your epic accomplishment’s geographic point.

    I look forward to awesome gatherings like this one, someday. Me and GEN Jack.


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