Today is my dad's 85th birthday. He remains my hero. You of course recognize him as the host of the restaurant Nancy Travis entered in ALMOST PERFECT. He still gets mobbed wherever he goes. Needless to say, the book I wrote about growing up in the '60s (which you can and SHOULD order here) features him prominently. Here is an excerpt and a glimpse into why I think he's so special.
As more and more young men were being drafted and shipped off to Vietnam there was a growing sentiment that on top of everything else, the draft was discriminatory. Low-education, low-income, underprivileged members of society were getting called to duty in far greater numbers than middle-class kids who could hide out in college, afford good draft lawyers, or pay for hookers to entrap senators. So in the interest of “fairness,” the Selective Service System instituted a lottery in 1969. No more 2S college deferments. A random drawing was held and you were assigned a number based on your birthday. If you were one of the first 195 birthdays called, you were drafted. The rest were off the hook.
The night of the lottery, I was home in Woodland Hills watching nervously with my family. I figured I had about a 45% chance of beating the rap; those were pretty good odds.
They started calling numbers. You think the results show on Dancing With the Stars is suspenseful? In many cases your life literally depended on how you fared this night.
September 14th was selected first. Those poor bastards. Then April 24th, December 30th, and February 14th.
February 14th? Shit!! THAT’S ME!! Out of 366 numbers, mine was chosen 4th. (My brother Corey, who was too young to be eligible, placed 366th). I was hit by a stun gun. Suddenly Vietnam was no longer just a peripheral issue to be discussed at Gomi’s and protested at coed-populated rallies. It was real. My time to face it.
Dad took me out to the Jolly Roger for a drink (well, several) and did his best to assure me that there were options and we would work something out. At the time I was so self-absorbed in my own plight that it never occurred to me the pain he must’ve been in. The prospects of a son going off to war. But he didn’t have the luxury to feel sorry for himself. He had to put on a good face to console me. When it comes to parents, that lottery I absolutely won.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.