Are Servicemen's Kids More Likely to Become Stars? The Theory Isn't, Well, Base-Less
They were vagabond children, regularly and sometimes abruptly uprooted to new homes and schools in Taiwan or Turkey or Alpine, Texas. But for Faye Dunaway, John Denver, Mark Hamill, Emmylou Harris and a disproportionate number of other contemporary stars, military brathood was a survival course, an ongoing lesson in making one's mark in strange surroundings. Some may have adapted to the trauma of relocation and the need to make new friends by becoming more histrionic. For some the trajectory to the top was not in showbiz but in a related field (page 132). This year PEOPLE salutes some celebrated military brats who survived—and were shaped by—their exotic and challenging childhoods.
In first grade, James Woods, star of The Onion Field and TV's Holocaust, attended three different schools in three states. Eventually, he figures, the family moved "16 or 17 times. All we ever did was move." Father Gail Woods won a Purple Heart and a presidential citation in the Navy during World War II, then joined up again just before the Korean war to serve with the Army. "There's something about the gypsy life of an actor that's exactly like when I was an Army brat," muses Woods. "It's absolutely tied in. It has to do with people who thrive on instability rather than stability. I think Army brats either become actors or car thieves. They just want to be on the move, you know? And often," he adds, "you can't tell the difference between actors and car thieves anyway."
She hails from Dallas' Southfork now, but actress Victoria Principal was actually born in Japan in 1950 during her father Victor's tour with the Air Force. Victoria lived in England, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts and Florida before Victor retired from the Strategic Air Command as a senior master sergeant. "Moving around was very educational," says Victoria's mom, Ree, who notes that all the travel did not necessarily determine her daughter's career: "She liked to pose for the camera from the time she was 2 years old."
"Acting is a way of escaping reality, and it's certainly connected with the upbringing I had," says Charlotte Rampling, the daughter of a British army colonel and currently a star of Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. During sojourns in England, Wales, Gibraltar and France (where she posed at 10 with her father, Godfrey) she admits she had "a lonely existence," found "difficulty making friends" and once ran away from a convent school. Life as an army brat "made me an outsider and more introverted than extroverted," she maintains. "One of the reasons I went into acting was because it was a way of relating generally to people without contacting them face to face."
His father was skipper of the U.S. carrier Bon Homme Richard when Jim Morrison, then 20, came aboard in 1964. The elder Morrison dispatched his son for a quick clip from the ship's barber, however, before summoning a Navy photographer to record their get-together on the bridge. Jim, who had lived in 10 different locales by the time he left high school, went on to rock stardom with the Doors and a premature death in 1971; Dad became a rear admiral assigned to the Pentagon. Long at odds, the two saw each other at Christmas 1964 and then never again.
Air Force pilot Frank Kurtz's World War II B-17 was dubbed "The Swoose" (half swan, half goose)—and so was his daughter, born in 1944. Swoosie Kurtz withstood the kidding—and 17 different schools—to become an actress. The constant change "made me introverted because I was terrified," she recalls ruefully. "But it builds character." The original Swoose (shown behind Swoosie and her parents in 1949) is destined for D.C.'s Air and Space Museum. Swoosie, a survivor herself of Slap Shot and of Mary Tyler Moore's short-lived variety series, is currently stealing Broadway's Fifth of July from Chris (Superman) Reeve.
Major Gen. Henry Kristoffer Kristofferson served three tours of duty with the Air Force but did much of his moving as a Pan Am executive. At 8, son Kris (below) lit long enough in Brownsville, Texas to be snapped with Dad and sister Karen. En route to his own stint as an Army chopper pilot in Germany (a later request for Vietnam was rejected), Kris hit some rough weather during ROTC summer camp when he kept a general's daughter out past curfew. "I still have the letter that tells about that," confides mother Mary. "It turned out to be Sally Quinn!"
Priscilla Presley was five months old v/hen her father, Navy pilot James Wagner (above), died in a 1945 crash while flying home to visit his wife and daughter. Her mother married Air Force career man Joseph Beaulieu a few years later, and he eventually brought his family with him to West Germany. There, at 14, Priscilla met a raw Army buck sergeant named Elvis Presley. At 16, she moved to Memphis. Her earlier "frequent uprootings," she notes, "helped me in later life to adjust easily to traveling, to meeting people and to having a wide outlook."
"Because you're moving so often, you tend to make your world up. Or, more accurately, you learn to spend time alone," concludes Robert Hays, star of Hollywood's Airplane! The son of a Marine pilot who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Hays was transferred "every two to three years" and set down in places as disparate as Izmir, Turkey (his favorite) and Omaha (where he was photographed with his family in 1964). "You get to see things most other kids don't," he concludes ambivalently. "But you wind up never wanting to stand still and become a stationary target."
"My early background enabled me to maintain the discipline and mental toughness so necessary in any profession," says Green Bay Packers quarterback turned coach Bart Starr. His father, Ben, who served in the Army and Air Force during his 21-year military career, relocated his family only four times and made two moves solo so that his obviously promising son could pursue football in high school without interruption. "It would have been easier to take us," says a grateful Starr (shown with Dad shortly before his NFL rookie training camp). "It meant a great deal to me." Earlier, as a newly commissioned ROTC second lieutenant from the University of Alabama, Bart remembers his father saluting him while snapping: "You may outrank me, but I'm still the boss."
As the daughter of a three-star Army general, "One lived very grandly, at least when I was growing up," observes Washington Post writer Sally Quinn. Indeed, she recalls happily shunting through 22 schools while her father, Lt. Gen. William Quinn, commanded posts in Stuttgart, Korea and Washington State (where Sally, upper left, posed with her family in 1956). The experience provided ideal training, she reflects. "Being a journalist is a lot like being an Army brat. Every day you're adapting to someplace new or someone new. It was exciting, an adventure."
During his Air Force officer father's tour in Hawaii in 1947, Gerald Rafshoon had his bar mitzvah in a Quonset hut chapel at Pearl Harbor. Where else did the boy who would become Jimmy Carter's media adviser bounce? "You name it, we've lived there," says his mom. "Jerry went to schools with blacks, whites, Mexicans, Japanese, Samoans, Chinese. He can get along with anybody." But Rafshoon recalls that in Alpine, Texas, "Everybody picked on me. I was the new, strange-looking kid and I got into fights. They were the last I lost until this year."
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