Gloria Loring talks with Shannon Sukovaty after sharing about her experience on tour with Bob Hope during the Vietnam war with the Women’s Club of Lake Arrowhead. (Photo by Mary-Justine Lanyon)
The Bob Hope tour in Long Binh on Christmas Day 1970 (The Vintage News)
On tour with Bob Hope
Gloria Loring reminisces about performing for the troops
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
It was 1970 and Gloria Loring had just married Alan Thicke. She got a call from Bob Hope’s office, inviting her to go on an around-the-world tour for 11 to 12 days. That tour would include Vietnam.
“It was to be my first Christmas with my new husband,” Loring told members and guests of the Women’s Club of Lake Arrowhead. “But I thought that I may never be invited again.” And so, she went.
Their first stop was West Point. “The audience went crazy and it was so much fun,” Loring said. Then they went to an American base in England where they had another great audience. In Germany the troops “were so excited to see us,” she said. They performed on the USS Kennedy off Crete, being flown to the ship four at a time in a helicopter. “We were given the officers’ quarters to sleep in,” Loring said.
At a refueling stop in Saudi Arabia, the women were “schooled. We were told women must be very modest, stay covered up, not to cross our legs or show the bottom of our feet.”
They flew into Bangkok, flew in and out of Cambodia twice, in and out of Vietnam twice.
“The most memorable time was when we flew into Vietnam and went to the DMZ where they performed for the 101st Airborne – the Screaming Eagles.
“I remember how powerful it was,” Loring told the Women’s Club. “We were backstage, getting ready, and we’d peek out. They brought the soldiers in but we didn’t know where they were coming from. They were quiet, gave us some polite applause. We thought they didn’t like us.”
At the end of the show, Loring said, the soldiers picked up their rifles, got back in the trucks and were taken back to the front lines.
“Can you imagine the disconnect?” she asked. “Fighting for your life, then seeing the Dingaling Sisters?”
The tour then went to Long Binh, which Loring described as amazing. “It was a bowl-shaped area with a huge stage. There were electrical lines everywhere. Guys slept up on top of poles so they could have the best view.”
Visiting a hospital ship was an experience that has stayed with Loring over the years. Telling the story of a young man from Minnesota, Loring becomes emotional.
This young man, she said, had lost both legs. “I had to ignore the bandages, see him for who he truly was. This was an enormous opportunity to expand my way of seeing humans, to look beyond their faults. He was so cheerful, so sweet. This was such a powerful experience.”
The tour’s last show was in Alaska. By then, Loring said, everyone was crying. “It was such an intense trip physically.”
After that, Loring toured with Bob Hope a number of times. “He was a delight to work with, to be around,” she said.
Ten years ago, Loring was invited to go the Vietnam Veterans of America conference. “It just hurt my heart to see these men who were still broken. You could see it in their eyes. They were not in complete possession of their own spirits. They were so harmed by how they were treated when they came home.
“You don’t blame the people who showed up to do the work,” Loring said. “You blame the people who told them to do the work.”
All those years after performing for the troops in Vietnam, Loring said she finally understood. “We had seen the men getting on their trucks and thought, ‘What are we doing? This just feels wrong.’ But finally I understood. They loved us because we showed up. That’s all we had to do.”
She started sobbing at the conference, Loring said. “They weren’t forgotten. They were so far away from their families. It is important to say ‘thank you for your service’ when you meet a veteran.”
When asked if there was a song she sang that particularly resonated with the men, Loring said those who have contacted her said they would never forget her singing “Silent Night” while dressed in a soft white dress. “They said I looked like an angel,” Loring said.
“It was my honor to be there.”
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