I was looking around on YouTube when I came across a Billy Idol video. I was actually trying to find one of Tommy James and the Shondells doing, “Mony, Mony” when this other one popped up. I’d forgotten that Billy Idol did a version of it as well and I’m sorry I was reminded. But it did remind me of something that happened while on my ship, the U.S.S. TRENTON.
The Quarterdeck of any ship is the first line of defense for anyone trying to gain access or to depart while in port. On this occasion, it was bustling with activity. Men coming on and off the ship for various reasons, some still on duty loading supplies, some taking off the trash. Yet more were dressed in civilian clothes heading out for a night on the town, or just coming back from a tour. As I stood on the quarter deck waiting for a friend, I witnessed the following exchange:
“Permission to go ashore, Sir.” One young sailor asked as he presented himself and his ID card for inspection.
As the temporarily distracted Petty Officer of the watch turned around to grant permission to the sailor, his hand at mid salute, he received a shock.
“What the hell are you wearing?” He said while looking the young sailor up and down and lowering his hand.
“What?” the sailor replied as he looked down at his clothes.
Both comments were loud enough to catch the attention of the Officer of the Deck who was in charge of the Quarterdeck. As the Chief looked up from the podium he couldn’t help but stare. The sailor was dressed from head to toe in black leather, his blonde hair spiked, and his lips painted black. Around his neck and wrists were thick leather bands with quarter inch spikes. On his hands, black leather gloves with the tips cut off also with spikes. To round out the show, heavy black leather boots, and to complete the picture, black finger nail polish.
The Chief blinked in disbelief a couple of times as he saw what looked like mascara on the boys eyes.
So before I go on I think I should let you know who the officer of the deck was. Without mentioning his name, he was a good old boy. He was as country as country could be from his feathered cowboy hat to the pointy cowboy boots he wore when not in uniform. He was also the leader of the ships band. A group of men that included one of my friends who frequently played southern fried music with all the fixin’s and a “TWANG” in not only his guitar, but in his singing. He looked a cross between country music star Waylon Jennings and NASCAR driver Richard Petty. He didn’t sing like Waylon but he sure looked like him. Have I painted the picture enough? Let’s continue…
Guess which ones the Chief. Photo Credit: Trenton Cruise Book
The Chief made a complete circle and then took a few steps to stand before the sailor. While most would have been hesitant to get too close, Chief stood right in front of the young man and placed his hands behind his back. He pondered the fashion statement being presented. The sailor stared back at the Chief, a lump forming in his throat I’m sure. Finally the Chief leaned into him and broke his silence.
“Boy, you’re joking with that outfit aren’t ya?” He said in his southern drawl.
“No Chief.” The sailor replied.
“And just where are you going in that get up?”
“To a punk club.”
“Naw Sir, naw Sir, naw Sir. You’re a representative of the United States Navy and this ship, you’re not leaving here looking like that! Not on mah watch!” the Chief said matter-of-factly.
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” the sailor asked.
The Chief’s jaw dropped in disbelief over the comment. In a look that only Chief Petty Officers and angry mothers can give, he took another step closer to the sailor and answered in a calm, clear voice.
“Do ya really want me tah give you an answer young man? Because ah will and when I’m done, you won’t be leaving this ship again until we get back to the States. So mah advice to you is that you head back down below deck, get you some decent clothes on, wash your face, comb your hair, and take off that nail polish then report back to me for inspection before ah let you off.” He looked the young sailor dead in the eyes, “Do you understand me, Billy Idol?”
Swallowing hard the sailor managed to get a “Yes Chief”
“Now move it fore I have you replace mah Petty Officer of the Watch and let him go on liberty in your place.”
The Chief just shook his head in disbelief as he watched the sailor’s hands formed into fists, and cursing to no end, storm off the Quarterdeck.
The Chief then looked up at me and my buddies, he was still hot. “You boys waiting on something?”
“Permission to go ashore Chief!”