The way life used to be
The love you took from me
Any fan of the television series China Beach knows those lyrics. They are an indelible part of the series. I know what you’re thinking… China Beach?
China Beach is a television series about the Vietnam war as told from the viewpoint of the nurses and staff at China Beach Vietnam. It ran on ABC from 1988 to 1991 and was never a ratings winner. However, it built a huge fanbase and it was the most requested television series to be released on DVD, but it seemed impossible. The series used numerous hit songs which prevented it from being financially profitable and worth the time to release it. Thankfully, the folks at Time Life painstakingly went through the entire series and got the rights to every song humanly possible.
To celebrate the event the Paley Center for Media held a reunion of the cast and crew. Suddenly Susan and I were lucky enough to score a ticket. It was a real thrill for me. When I heard about the event panic set in and I called everyone in the MTF family to get on the horn and get tickets even though they didn’t go on sale for another couple weeks.
Growing up, I was never the target audience for the series and to this day I don’t know what it is about the series that drew me to it. I was way too young to really understand it when it was on the air, and I never liked “war” stories in general. I think that the show really brought to life the stories my grandfather used to tell me about the war and the camaraderie of the men and women who served our country. He used to tell me stories all the time of what it was like, and perhaps watching China Beach those stories were brought to life for me, even though I didn’t understand it at the time.
Before the evening started I ran into OTG John as well as MTF Readers Louise and Charlie! Who are awesome!
Then Suddenly Susan and I settled in.
The episode “Vets” which aired on March 15, 1989 during the shows second season screened. It featured clips from the series up until that point and interviews with actual veterans and people who served during the war. It’s amazing.
Then the moderator was introduced. He said that the entire cast was here and people flew in and changed schedules just to attend.
Participating in the q and a were Dana Delany, Marg Helgenberger, Michael Boatman, Robert Picardo, Concetta Tomei, Brian Wimmer, Jeff Kober, Nancy Giles, Troy Evans, Ricki Lake, Chloe Webb, and creator John Sacret Young.
It was amazing to see everyone together. As a fan and collector I never in a million years thought I would ever have the opportunity to see these guys together in one room. It was incredible.
I would go so far as to say, that this was the best q and a I have ever seen. Everyone on the panel was excited to be there and were having so much fun. However, it was also serious and poignant as well.
Highlights from the panel:
Dana Delany said the reason she had a bob haircut on the show was because she had to cut it for a Patty Hearst TV Movie she was shooting at the same time as China Beach.
Marg Helgenberger said that she just had a baby in real life, so the storyline where KC tries to get her daughter back didn’t require much acting. Dana Delany said it was the best acting she ever saw.
Robert Picardo hated the helicopters and was terrified getting in and out even though he had to pretend he did it all the time.
Chloe Webb talked about only doing the first season of the show and said she was never asked back.
The cast talked about the fact that characters died on the show and everyone had to be on best behavior because there’s always a stray bullet in Vietnam.
Brian Wimmer laughed about being the “eye candy” on the show.
Brian Wimmer said that Boonie loved KC on a deep level and she was like a drug.
Dana Delany won two Emmys for the series and Marg Helgenberger won one.
Marg said that KC was career driven which got a huge laugh because KC was a prostitute.
Joseph Gordon Levitt was a guest star on the show when he was seven and Dana Delany said even then “he had something going on.”
Robert Picardo’s daughter played Dana Delany’s daughter on the final episode of the series.
‘Dodger was someone who had seen far too much … There was so many men like him. What do you do with your life when you’ve already done the most important thing in your life?’ – Jeff Kober
Ricki talked about how veterans felt like they knew her because of her time on the show.
Concetta Tomei did her signature pointing move from the opening credits to much applause.
John Sacret Young just confirmed that a novel continuing Colleen McMurphy’s story is in the works.
After the q and a Tommy Morgan, who played the harmonica music for the series including the haunting theme (not Reflections but the instrumental China Beach score) is here and is going to perform it live for the first time ever!
There were many on stage and in the audience who pushed back tears let me tell you.
After the q and a the cast members gladly stayed and signed autographs for the fans. Dana Delany in particular got off the stage and just talked with people and hung out.
Marg Helgenberger was nice as well, and signed for the full stage of people. It was pretty incredible. I had a mini poster and the DVD set that I was getting signed. Suddenly Susan was getting my second poster signed for me because she didn’t have anything.
It’s tough to get everyone when you have such a large cast, but since everyone was taking their time and being so gracious it was fairly calm.
I was able to also get a couple photos. Chloe Webb said, “Oh the DVD, I don’t even have this yet!” and Nancy Giles wrote, “Thanks for buying this” on the side. It was so nice let me tell you.
I got the full cast on my poster and the DVD set, Susan missed Robert Picardo but I can find him again at some point.
Susan and I were walking out and ran into Brian Wimmer so we both got photos with him as well.
After the event Susan and I had the opportunity to talk with a Vietnam veteran who was at the event and he showed us his dog tags and chatted with us for a few minutes.
And then to top the evening off Suddenly Susan took me to dinner for my birthday!
Seriously, it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had at an event like this. You couldn’t possibly ask for more!
Until next time kids…
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