One Last Post Card (Nigeria)

hot-spot

The “Peace Corps Postcard” had one more act to play. What happened to Marjorie Michelmore inspired a Broadway musical, Hot Spot. It starred Judy Holliday in her last Broadway show. Premiering on April 19, 1963 at the Majestic Theater in New York, the play closed after only 43 performances and 5 previews, gaining the honor of being one of Broadway’s most famous flops.

What was the play about, you’d ask? Well, it was about a Peace Corps Volunteer, a hygiene teacher “Sally Hopwinder” who is stationed in a fictional nation, “D’hum.” PCV Hopwinder concocts a plan to obtain U.S. aid for D’hum by convincing the Pentagon that Russia is about to invade it. It was generally accepted that this political satire was inspired by the furor over the Michelmore postcard. “The New York Times drama critic wrote, “a Peace Corps girl with a warm heart and a knack for getting herself and her country into trouble.”

Judy Holliday as Sally Hopwinder

Judy Holliday as Sally Hopwinder

According to Steven Suskin, The New York theater critic, “it was one of those big-budget, big-advance-sale bonanzas which go wrong and turn into highly public busts.” In a review in Billboard, “Predictions of failure proceeded the show and these were confirmed when the New York Critics Circle passed a unanimous negative judgment.”

In his book, When The World Calls:The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and its First Fifty Years, Stanley Meisler writes, “Since the role was played by the delightful Judy Holliday, the Peace Corps could hardly complain about the attention.”

And so our story ends and the curtain comes down on the famous postcard incident. We all know, and we all remember, the postcards and letters that we sent home and what we wrote in those postcards and letters. What happened to young and innocent Marjorie Michelmore in Nigeria could have happened to almost anyone in the Peace Corps.

So, to everyone serving overseas today remember what JFK said on the White House lawn when he nodded goodbye to us, slipped his hand into his jacket pocket, and then, almost as an afterthought, smiled and added, “But no postcards.”

Today, of course, Obama would more likely comment, “Beware of Wikileaks.”

wikileaks

 

 

5 Comments

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  • Nice Middlemore series, John! A Group I PCV in the Philippines, interviewed on return by a Miami newspaper, commented on Philippine teachers who seemed to tolerate cheating. A Filipino in Miami sent the resulting article home, and PCVs in the town of the returnee, unaware of the article, awoke in the morning to find students throwing stones at their house. Perhaps training should have paid more attention to the possible sensitivities of local peoples.

  • I started training in 1963 and I remember receiving a notice in a training packet about talking to reporters. It was signed by the Director of Information at Peace Corps, Douglas Kiker. We were directed to check with him before we spoke with anyone in the press. I hope I am remembering correctly.

  • We never considered genuflecting then. I don’t recall being a ruffian kind of lad then. I had high hopes.
    I remember tomorrows now without much gutter scooping. And I still find I’m hitting the High Hopes notes. My skeptical historian brother David Mycue was always around then to ground me (17 months older than me –he born in 1935– Dave died 6 years ago just short of his 75th birthday); I miss the guy who taught me so much, and kept at it until his death on the Rio Grande (McAllen, TX).

    • we leave nothing behind

      what we experience we are
      much passes through us
      be we leave nothing behind

      what we are we are
      what we have been is us
      what we left is nothing

      we leave nothing behind
      an earthworm caught in time
      much passes through us

      what we have been we were
      what is left is nothing
      we leave nothing behind

      © copyright Edward Mycue

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