Anyway, here's the story.
Taking a Leak with a Legend
Marines have an eternal love affair with Full Metal Jacket. While mainstream America may just like it, Marines have elevated this film into the top annals of cult-status. But, why do we like it so much? Why has this flick become a fixation with every generation of Marines (and many people in other branches)? It certainly can’t be the question of morality in the Vietnam War; films like Platoon already delve into that topic. I don’t think it’s the combat scenes, either; Hamburger Hill does a wonderful job of highlighting the struggles of battle. The fact is, the second half of that film could be compared to any other war drama. What separates FMJ from all the others is the first half of the picture—the bootcamp experience.Leave it to a Marine to spin a sea story out of a head call...
Not every Marine has been to ‘Nam. Not every Marine has been a grunt. And not every Marine has been in combat. But we all share one thing in common (except for some Korean Vets): we went to bootcamp. And to us—whether ours was better or worse—R. Lee Ermey (who played Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman) is the archetypal Marine Corps drill instructor. As a result, not only has the character reached god-like status amongst Marines, but the actor has himself.
Nobody respects this man more than brand new Marines—because our drill instructors tend to be the only real Marines we’ve ever dealt with.
Back when I was a lowly private at the School of Infantry, I happened to be relieving myself in one of the many heads (bathrooms) on the camp I was training at. Yes, just me and my optimistic, ill-informed, and ridiculous looking self. From out of nowhere I heard the door slam behind me. I kept my skull down, thinking it could be some NCO who would berate for a small infraction. I didn’t hear anything after a while, so I decided to take a peak to my right and see if it was anyone I knew.
I DID know him! It was R. Lee Ermey!
You met the President? I don’t give a shit.
The Pope personally blessed you? Forgive me for not caring.
You had a genuine conversation with Jesus? That’s because you’re an undiagnosed schizoid.
None of your feeble claims to fame will ever impress me. I was taking a piss next to Gunny Mothafuckin’ Hartman, himself.
He was taller in person than he was on-screen. A large tattoo decorated his liver-spotted forearm. And he reeked of saltiness and manhood—and I believe he was wearing Brute, too.
As soon as I looked at him, I couldn’t stop staring, and then the most incredible thing happened: he looked up and locked eyes with me!
“Hey, Devil Dog,” he said in his immortal rasp.
I had to give a reply, but I was too star struck to respond, “………………”
My mouth was dropped, my eyes were wider than Marty Feldman’s, and I was flat-out speechless from being in the presence of his greatness.
“Do you like something over here?” he added.
I immediately shot my head back down toward my pecker, finished my business, and left the head without saying a thing… and no, I didn’t wash my hands.
Did I just leave and neglect to inform anyone of my encounter? Fuck no! I was telling every Marine within earshot about the man taking a piss inside our bathroom.
When the old man stepped outside, it was on like Donkey Kong! Dozens of young Marines swarmed him like a Mongol Horde, and he was taken aback by their aggressive solicitation for autographs.
“GUNNY, GUNNY, SIGN MY COVER!”
“GUNNY, SIGN MY RIFLE CARD!”
“MR. ERMEY, PLEASE SIGN MY EXPIRED BUS PASS!”
The man was a sweetheart, an absolute darling. He signed every single piece of clothing, paper, and body part that the Marines asked of him, and he did with a king-like quality of grace.
“Alright, Marines, that’s enough. We need to get going,” said a uniformed Master Sergeant.
I assumed he was a PAO Marine, someone that was tasked with escorting the actor around because he was filming his Mail Call show for the History Channel.
The senior Marine ordered us little peons aside and escorted the Gunny back to his van. As the renowned actor was walking back to the vehicle, he glanced over at me—the Marine who started all of the commotion—and shot me the most epic mean muggin’ look I’ve ever seen.
You got Gunny Ermey’s autograph? Big fuckin’ deal. I pissed him off. (No pun.)