Anyway, our television crew had a good reputation within the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) and the Quartermaster Center and School (QMCS). We were known for quality work, meeting deadlines, and having a good rapport with everyone we worked with. So occasionally, we got "choice" assignments at places like Ft. Monroe, which was the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) headquarters. I put "choice" in quotes because there are few Temporary Duty (TDY) assignments more nerve wracking than going to videotape a general that has been the second in command of the entire Army, and is now, by choice, coasting until his retirement. You do NOT want to piss him off.
Which is exactly what the Ft. Eustis television crew had managed to do. Cardinal rule: do NOT keep a four-star general waiting for two hours to do something he scheduled you to do for him. So Ft. Eustis TV got "fired", and Ft. Lee TV became "his TV crew".
So here we are about a week before Thanksgiving; we've come to videotape the good general's Christmas message to the troops. You know the sappy script..."We're all thinking of you, hope you have a great holiday...blah blah blah". Except there is a slight problem. The office that we normally use to shoot the general in is under renovation. There is no place in the headquarters building to move this shindig into (remember, this is in the early 90's, we still needed LOTS of light to make good looking television). We are trying to figure out what to do, when our director, a rather brilliant man as far as US Government TV directors went, hit upon an idea, and when the general's right hand man, a full bird colonel came out of his office, Marvin speaks right up.
"Sir, what if we did this at the General's quarters?" Max's "quarters" was a Victorian era house, across the street from the seawall that separated Ft. Monroe from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and was about as picturesque as any building the Army owned. The colonel looked stunned for a moment, then realized this was a great idea. He disappeared back into the office, and two minutes later, came back out with the affirmative. "Do you know where it is? They're waiting for you."
We bundled up our stuff, and headed down the street. What happened next was one for the record books.
When we arrived and stomped up onto the front porch, a gentleman in black trousers and a starched white shirt was waiting and opened the front door for us. But we had to take a step back when a cat came TEARING through the foyer and made a sharp right UP the spiral staircase towards the second floor. The feline was followed by a border collie moving equally as fast, skittering to the side on the hardwood floor as he, too, turned up the stairs. This parade was followed by another man, also in black and starched white, moving pretty quickly but obviously not in the same class as the four legged runners he was chasing. He, too, went up the grand staircase, and we rapidly heard two doors slam shut. No one came back down the stairs.
We were allowed into the parlor, where the general's Christmas tree was already decorated. Someone produced a very nice wingback chair for the general to sit in, and using a properly uniformed sergeant, we lit the scene and sat back to wait for the general. He arrived within five minutes of us finishing the set up.
As soon as he walked in the house, a howling was heard from upstairs. Muffled, but howling none-the-less. This had to be the dog that was chasing the cat, who was sequestered in one room apparently apart from the cat. This was not going to work, as I could hear every yip, yap, howl and yowl on my headphones. I swear, as much as Marvin (our director and boss) and I hated each other, I gotta give him credit. He could always save the day.
"Sir, since this is your message to your troops and their families, how about if you bring the dog down and have him in the shot with you?" Now there is only one thing TV people hate more than kids on a set, and that's animals. But it was clear the this dog knew his daddy was downstairs, and being kept apart from him was NOT on his agenda. The general didn't think about it for a second. He flicked his hand at one of the gawking "servants" (sergeants that staffed his house) and the man took off for the upstairs, and maybe thirty seconds later, here came the dog - with no one behind him - moving like a streak of lightning! He skidded to a halt at General Thurman's feet, Max turned him around to face the camera and he sat quietly between his knees while the general went through his speech. One take. That's all it took.
General Thurman came to his close. He said "And Dundee (the dog) and I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Don't we Dundee?" And I swear to you that damn dog looked right up at him and let out one big "WOOF!"
"CUT! That's a wrap!"