Conceived in a storytelling workshop given by Spalding Gray, Old Man In a Baseball Cap is not your typical story of World War II. Rochlin recounts in gritty detail how he--an ordinary young man--was thrust into outrageous circumstances during an extraordinary time. Whether he's bumping up against the army's bigotry because he's Jewish, aiding in the delivery of a baby by cesarean section, being ordered to obliterate a Hungarian village, or parachuting from his plane in the middle of Yugoslavia and then walking 400 kilometers to safety with an amorous guide, Rochlin captures the Intensely powerful experience of a teenager away from home for the first time. Old Man In a Baseball Cap is an astonishingly fresh, candid look at "the last good war." At once naive, candid, and wise, Fred Rochlin's voice is unforgettable.
While the public appears eager for sweeping, heroic histories of the "greatest generation," readers would do themselves a disservice to ignore this ground-level view of WWII written by a member of that generation blessed with superb storytelling skills and a survivor's sense of the absurd. This book version of Rochlin's critically acclaimed one-man show of the same name offers a look at WWII that is by turns horrifying, sobering and hilarious. At times, it reads like Catch-22, except it's not fiction. Rochlin was 19 when he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942. His drill sergeant explained how the army decided that Rochlin would be trained as a navigator: "Look, everybody knows you Hebes are good with numbers, and all a navigator is, is just a fucken flying accountant." His duties turned out to include finding a boyfriend for the colonel in charge of his base in Italy after he himself had rebuffed the colonel's advances. And then there was the combat: on his first mission, billed as "a milk run": his plane was hit, the nose gunner fell out and Rochlin wound up covered in the blood of his roommate and bombardier, whose head was blown off. On one of his last missions, his plane was shot down over Yugoslavia and he had to hike for 30 days back to Italy. Along the way, he was forced by Yugoslav Partisans to execute three Nazis point blank, and contracted VD from his walking partner, a Partisan whose seduction routine consisted of announcing that she didn't want to die a virgin. A retired architect who lives in Los Angeles, Rochlin was 71 when he took a storytelling workshop with Spalding Gray. The well-deserved encouragement he received led him to hone his recollections for the theater. The stories retain their power in book form. Dramatic rights to Disney. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 22, 2000
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