May 21, 2010 by vinylburns
A little known chapter of my career, is that during the early 1990’s I took some time out from show business, to dip my elbows into the glitzy world of war journalism.
Just prior to this, I’d been working hard, doing the so-called ‘bronze circuit’ around Denver, Salt Late City, Bullhead, St George etc… Now these weren’t the A grade gigs I was used to, not by a long lonely walk around the picnic bench. However, the reality of the situation was that I had pushed the “screw you” boat out into the turbulent waters of lake “I’m serious, don’t do that” , and discovered that when Rod Stewart’s nephew goes blind from swimming in the pool filled with Vinyl Burns’ tequila… well, it’s time pay back a few favors.
So I sucked it up and worked that “bronze circuit” for a good 16 months, playing small 500 – 1500 seater rooms, until my claustrophobia and I just couldn’t take it any more.
Desperate for any escape, and knowing that things were heating up in the Gulf, I forged some enlistment documents, and used them to slide out of my remaining ‘bronze contract’ with little inquisition. However, being a man of God, I felt a little guilty lying about about my military role in the brewing conflict, a fabrication designed simply to skip out on a contract, so decided to head over to Saddam’s neighborhood anyhow. Not to fight, but to write.
Now, trying to slide seamlessly into the intensely tight war-pants of live-action journalism without any actual journalistic qualifications (or, to be honest, intent), is normally something of a barrier. But, after I reeled in some old contacts from my stint with the CIA, I almost immediately found a position embedded with the Delta Force team in the Gulf. Within 5 weeks, I was ducking for cover, copping flack and trying to avoid the flares and chaffing that goes hand over fist with wearing these sandy old war-pants in highly charged desert combat.
So there I was, Vinyl Burns – Embedded War Correspondent. And it was scary.
Now I’ve seen my share of good and bad. Those rough early years working “Squid Hour” in Atlantic City, that was pretty scary. Appearing as guest flautist at the San Cristobal “Folk and Coca” festival, where I escaped lucky to ever play that flute again. Even delivering the ill-conceived “8 Nuns” joke at the “Wives of Solomon” fundraiser in Tokaroa… All these veritable “prom queens” of potential gig success sounded great at the outset, but somewhere along that analogous path, the “football captain” of real life cut in, and coaxed your fragile dreams home with him, to put his “dick in her ass.”
My point is, as the old War Correspondent expression goes… “Even when you’re surrounded with georgeous locals, you can always wake up embedded in an ugly situation.”
In the Gulf, there were bad days indeed, days when I sensed trouble and took it upon myself to grab a weapon and pitch in with the guys.
One such time, during the Battle Of Norfolk, I was so hyped up and in the zone that I fired over 8500 rounds defending our position, shooting out the tires of an advancing tank…
Apparently, American tanks don’t have tires, and the American Corporal who was driving this particular tank, was keen to impress upon me that, while the M1 Abrams tank “Don’t have no Goddam’ wheels…” and that it does, in fact, have “a bunch of goddam’ Americans” in it.
I subsequently suggested we paint our tanks a bright color like lime, to avoid similar confusion in the future, and also as a statement about how war is never black and white.
The CO took my gun, slung an SLR camera around my neck, and told me to take as many photos of the tank tires as I liked… We all had a good laugh at that, and then a mortar landed in the compound, killing everyone. I would have been smoked myself, if that camera hadn’t taken the hit, and let me off the hook with an SLR shaped bruise on my left breast.