Sequins, go-go boots, fringe bikinis, evening gowns...bombs? Welcome to Season 2 of Women of War where we continue the discussion of the war entertainer, this time in the humidity and red dust of Vietnam. In the midst of the horrors of war, these mythologised women offered soldiers’ a fantasy and an escape from the frontline for an hour or two. Join Hannah and Nicola as they learn what life was like for the women beneath the sequins and bop along to some fun tunes.
William Alexander (Bill) Errington, These Three Young Ladies Are Included in the next Concert Party to Tour Vietnam. They Are, Left to Right: Valmai Johnson, Marie Blanche and Cathy Wayne. With Them Is Their Chaperone for the Trip, Major F. H. J. Mitchell, Staff Officer of Eastern Command., 29 May 1967, Photograph, 29 May 1967, ERR/67/0248/EC, Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au/collection/C325872.
Laurel (at left) and Lois looking glamourous in the early 70s. (Credit: supplied by Laurel Robinson), from https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/history-culture/2012/09/the-sapphires-where-are-they-now/
“They said that we stopped the war - that the Viet Cong were watching at the bottom of the hill in the trees.”
~ Go-Go Dancer Elizabeth Burton
“Their mouths fell open a bit because I wore cabaret dresses, like my silver-sequinned fishtail, which were all-over sequinned...I don’t think they’d seen many things like that among the scrub and the rubber trees and the red dust of Vietnam!”
~ Singer Lorrae Desmond
Francis Shoolman, ‘Lorrae Desmond - Blonde Goddess in the Golden Dress’, Stage Whispers, August 2008, https://www.stagewhispers.com.au/history/lorrae-desmond-blonde-goddess-golden-dress.
Siobhan McHugh, Minefields and Miniskirts: Australian Women and the Vietnam War (Sydney: Doubleday, 1993).
Ann-Mari Jordens, ‘Not “Apocalypse Now”: Government-Sponsored Australian Entertainers in Vietnam 1965-71’, Labour History, no. 58 (1990): 65–75, https://doi.org/10.2307/27508983.
Lynne McCormack, ‘Civilian Women at War: Psychological Impact Decades After the Vietnam War’, Journal of Loss and Trauma 14, no. 6 (2009): 447–58, https://doi.org/10.1080/15325020902925209.
John Murphy, A Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia’s Vietnam War (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993).
Mitchell K Hall, The Vietnam War, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2018).