Folks have often asked me, "What's so special about the Marine Corps? Why do you guys always think you're better than everyone-else who served our country in the Armed Forces?" It's not that we're necessarily "better", (although I happen to think we are, well, unique), it's just that we consider ourselves to be more than just another "branch" of the United States military. We view our service as a Fraternity of sorts, a Brotherhood we have earned the right to belong to. For no matter where life's road may take us after our service, no-one and nothing can ever take away the title we won after graduation from boot camp - the title of United States Marine. As such, we regard all Marines as our Brothers and Sisters. We are all Marines Forever, and it is that common bond which in my eyes, makes us special.
So I've been working on this TV show, "Life On Mars", and like I said earlier, it's a terrific job. I haven't had a day off in a few weeks, but when you love what you do, every day is a holiday and every meal's a feast. Last week, while returning from lunch, I happened to walk past the Hair & Makeup room for Life On Mars on my way back to the shop. I was wearing the tee-shirt pictured below.
It's unusual that I was wearing this shirt. I have owned it for years and only wear it on November 10, the Marine Corps Birthday. I have no idea why I chose to wear it that day, but I did. And I'm glad I did, for as I passed by Hair and Makeup, a wild man stepped out into the hallway and stuck his finger in my chest and asked, "Is that you?"
His shirt was open, his face unshaven, his hair disheveled and his eyes had a semi-insane glint of mischief in them. Standing nose to nose with me, he prodded me in the chest again and repeated, "Is that You?" I was taken totally off-guard. Why, I asked myself, would I wear a shirt I hadn't earned the right to, and who was this maniac questioning me on it? Yet, there was something vaguely familiar about him, but I was too shocked to put two and two together.
"Yes it is", I stammered back.
"You a Marine?", the madman responded.
"Yes Sir!" I said.
Grabbing my hand and pumping it furiously, he almost shouted, "Semper Fi, Jarhead!"
"Semper Fi to you too", I lamely answered. "Were you a Marine?", I asked.
"Betcher sweet ass I am. Got a minute, I want you to meet someone. Come with me."
With that, he put his arm around my shoulder and ushered me into the crowd gathered in the Hair & Makeup room.
"See that tall fellow over there?", he said, pointing at the tall young man in the center of the room, who, by now, with everyone-else, was watching this surreal play unfold, for we were, at this point, the center of everyone's attention. "He's the Producer and I want you to tell him something for me."
My stomach flipped. He was the Producer and here I was, in the clutches of a madman, in Hair & Makeup, where I had no right to be, looking him eye to eye.
"I want you to tell him that if he messes with me, you'll kill him!"
I swallowed. Hard.
"This man is my Brother and if you mess with me, he'll kill you!", he went on.
It was then I heard it. The voice. The voice of Mr. Wolf. Pulp Fiction. The man with his arm around my shoulder, ordering me to threaten the Producer's life, was none other than Harvey Keitel.
I turned and looked at him. He hugged me closer, "Go on, tell him." I'm a huge fan of Harvey Keitel so there was no way I was going to disappoint him.
Gathering my wits, I turned to the Producer and said, "Sir, if you mess with my Brother, I will kill you."
And Harvey said, "And if you mess with my Brother, I will kill you!"
Thankfully, the whole room burst into laughter. Grabbing my hand once more, Harvey shook it hard and said, "Semper Fi, Brother, Once Always, Forever!"
He then asked me what role I was playing in the show. I told him I was playing the role of "Scenic Carpenter", building his sets. He asked me how it was going. I told him it must be going great because I had been playing the same role for 25 years and so far I had everybody fooled. Laughter again. I told Harvey what a pleasure and honor it was meeting him and got the hell out of there as fast as I could.
I have always wanted to be an actor. In fact, in my younger days I was pretty good. I even did a stint with the American Shakespeare Company in Stratford, Connecticut, but as life would have it, I never made it in front of the camera. I never achieved the success that Harvey Keitel has in our chosen profession. No matter, I'm a damn good hammer and I'm proud of my little contribution to this thing called show biz. But that's not the point.
The point is this. I was, and still am, a United States Marine. And so is Harvey Keitel. And between Marines, that is all that ever really matters.
Semper Fi to you Harvey. You made me proud and you made my day. And you gave me one hell of a story to tell.
Speaking of stories, Life On Mars is a great one. I highly recommend it. Watch for it on your local ABC affiliate on Thursday, October 9th at 10pm est/9pm central.
Hell, it must be great. There's a United States Marine in it.
Life On Mars