Larry David, the man who made neurosis and seemingly unremarkable problems into a career, recently spoke with Howard Stern about how he managed to get out of going to Vietnam in the 1960s.
Part of Larry David’s plan initially involved joining the Reserves.
“I wasn’t gonna [go to Vietnam] under any circumstances. I signed up for the Reserves, some of my friends were signing up, so I thought, ‘I’ll sign up, too.’ At that time, they weren’t really using a lot of reservists in Vietnam.”
Larry David insists that being in the Reserves, although it was not hte jungles of Vietnam, was still tough for a kid like him.
“The Reserves — that was no day at the beach either. First of all, I had to go to Basic Training — I was in Petroleum Storage, by the way — they had classes in Petroleum Storage. It was intense, it was like 100º temperature.”
“I cried the first night there. I was in the Army, it was dangerous. They would wake you up at 4:45 A.M. and come into the room and scream. And you’re trying to sleep. There’s a weapon, there’s a rifle you have to fire. I had never even fired a BB gun. I was the lowest grade, a Marksman.”
Even though he was not in active duty, being in the Reserves cramped Larry David’s style, including his hairstyle.
“You also have to go to meetings once a month. At that point, we all had the Jew-fro. I would have to wear a wig to go to the meeting. The whole unit did. I would go into Brooklyn and stay with my parents. I wold spend all Saturday and Sunday at Floyd Bennett field in a freezing airplane hangar.”
Eventually, Larry David says, he found a way to get out of the military altogether. He used a ruse that would’ve made for a lively Seinfeld episode.
“Then I heard about this psychiatrist who was writing people letters to get people out of the Reserves. I had been there for two years, and in the summer you had to go to Summer Camp for two weeks, sleep in a tent, the whole thing. It wasn’t me.”
“I got the name of the psychiatrist who was supposedly writing these letters, and I went to see the psychiatrist. I borrowed $350. I went to see the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist is talking to me, and I’m trying to act a little crazy. It seems like he was looking for me to be a little crazy, so I said, “Okay, I’ll be a little crazy.” I have other problems, and I told him that. Then he wrote me this letter, and I read that letter, and according to the letter I’m stark raving mad and I can’t be in the military.”
But getting that letter in his hands was the easy part. Getting it to his superiors in the Reserves was where his real acting came in.
“Now I had to take this letter the next weekend the next weekend that we met. I had to hand it to my commanding officer. Now mind you, I know all these people. I have to act the letter now. This is only a minth later. I was fine a month ago.”
“I have to walk into the hangar. I sort of isolated myself from everybody. My eyes are darting around. People are saying Hello to me. AndI see people nudging each other and pointing at me going, ‘What’s going on with him?'”
“I went up to one of the sergeants and said, ‘I gotta talk to the Major.” I take the letter, hand it to the Major, and I sit down across the desk. He starts talking to me. I am knee-deep in this performance. I am living this part. And I go, ‘Uh … sometimes … I just have these thoughts …’ — just crazy stuff. After five minutes, this guy goes, ‘Can you drive home?’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah .. I can drive … I’m a good driver.” It was like Rainman.”
“So I got out.”