If I was dying and the Make-A-Wish Foundation could grant me one request, it would be to enter into the idealized world of TV’s Hogan’s Heroes featuring Colonel Robert Hogan and his intrepid band of brothers. Truth is however, I’m not dying (at least not ahead of schedule) and yet I still want to go there. Forget Tomorrowland and Pirates of the Caribbean, couldn’t Disney create a HoganWorld where adolescent adults like myself could revel in a fantasy realm of cunning espionage, brotherly camaraderie and busty blondes working for The Underground? “Goldilocks this is Papa Bear, come in Goldilocks.” A place where never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. C’mon Disney you can build it. Please Walt. Pretty please. Forget about Saving Mr. Banks, how about Saving Mr. Hardiman?
Jesus I loved Hogan’s Heroes and, and…alright. I admit it. I still do. Yes it’s true. My name is David Hardiman and I’m a Hoganaholic. I even mention this fixation on my job resume because Hogan’s Heroes so completely informs the shadow world I regularly inhabit. Maybe that’s why I’ve been unemployed for 2 years. I’m not sure. Hogan’s Heroes is everything you could possibly desire in an episode of your life. The good guys, led by the savvy and dashing Colonel Hogan, always win. The bad guys are really more innocuous than dangerous and they’re so dumb they couldn’t alphabetize the alphabet. Add to this a dash of cool military stuff and a pinch of fair frauliens and you’ve got yourself an adolescent dream world. In HoganWorld, POWs are a dedicated and sacrificing bunch glued together with patriotic panache. In HoganWorld there’s no potential for injury or failure. It’s beautifully sanitized. Everything works towards a greater good just like it does in this world except in HoganWorld you can see the results in half an hour as opposed to our world where sometimes you have to wait your whole life and sometimes into the afterlife before you can say, “I knew I was right about that.”
A Soothing Analgesic
At the end of a bumptious day, I close my eyes and the perils of the real world melt away as I march into Barrack 2 of Stalag 13. The squad all sit around the rough plank table drinking black coffee and playing poker while Col. Hogan masterminds our next chivalrous adventure. After lights out at 2200 hours I settle into my rude but comfortable bunk just below Cpl. Newkirk while I gaze at a moonlit poster of Betty Grable and her million dollar gams. I’m happy and content because I know everything is going to work out. Of course I believe this in my real world too, but only in the long run. Problem is we live most of our lives in the short run which is quite a bit messier than a scripted sitcom with do overs. HoganWorld is a safe and legal drug I prescribe myself (a fool for a patient?) whose only negative side effect is that my backyard is now riddled with useless escape tunnels. A small price to pay for an overwhelming feeling of well-being. Please note: If this overwhelming feeling of well-being lasts for more than 4 hours…consider yourself lucky.
Are You Really Writing About Hogan’s Heroes? Really?
Yes. And as a matter of fact I occasionally have difficulty recognizing where the show ends and I begin. Sometimes this distinction is as vague as that disappearing shade of pink Google used to employ so profitably to highlight the search results they’re paid to promote. You do realize Google’s clients pay them to ensure their website magically rises to the top of the results list no matter what you type in. These are not the search results you asked for. Your results are relegated to somewhere below that invisible pink border of sponsored ads which have become so ubiquitous you’ve forgotten they’re there. One can only differentiate the paid ads from your requested results by holding the screen perpendicular to your face so you can discern pink from white. And you thought Google was a free and open marketplace of unfettered ideas. Bllsht. It’s rigged. Not necessarily an evil thing, just be aware of it. They’re doing you no favors. Any search engine can do what they do. But we technophobes have grown very comfortable using it and we’re not about to switch. It’s an insidious scheme so wonderfully profitable and perfectly executed you’d think it could only come from the penetrating mind of Colonel Hogan himself.
See how all roads eventually lead to Hogan’s Heroes, or, more precisely, Stalag 13 which is happily located in the fictitious town of Hammelburg, Germany. In order to convey to the reader that I recognize the difference between reality and fantasy let me mention that Hammelburg is to Germany as Mayberry is to North Carolina. Neither of them exist although we dearly want them to. And even though I may recognize the difference between reality and fantasy, that doesn’t mean I always choose reality. Just ask my unicorn.
In keeping with the guiding principles of Hogan’s Heroes, in my household we have lights out at 10:00 pm (2200 hours) sharp, my showerhead doubles as a periscope and my garage is referred to as “the motor pool.” Additionally, in the morning I hold roll call even if I’m the only one at home. One time I missed roll call and had to assign myself 30 days in the cooler. How else am I to maintain my military bearing?
There’s precedent for these aberrations in my life. For a while I’d become fixated on the Brady Bunch and even fashioned myself the 7th Brady child and 4th brother named Brent. However, when I wasn’t invited to the last A Very Brady Christmas, I finally realized, that despite the restraining order I regularly ignored, Peter, Bobby, Greg, Cindy, Jan and Marcia were never going to welcome me into the family. I still love them all though. Especially that Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. So in a mentally healthy way I focused my attention back to my first love – Hogan’s Heroes. They’d take me in. They’d even find a place for my unique talents to thwart the evil Nazi war machine. My specialty was pointing an index finger at imaginary Nazis while pulling the trigger of my thumb and yelling quite loudly, “Dow-dow diddly-diddly dow. Take that you Nazi bastards.” Incidentally, in addition to deputizing myself the 7th Brady and the 6th Hogan Hero, I also consider myself the 5th Beatle, the 4th Musketeer, the 3rd Olsen twin, the 2nd coming and, of course, 1st among equals.
Rat Patrol, McHale’s Navy and Gomer Pyle all had their escapist charms, but could never compete with the cloak and dagger espionage so precisely executed by those stealthy saboteurs of Stalag 13. Rat Patrol was all sand and about as interesting as tracking a package ordered on Amazon: “Wow, it just left the Fulfillment Center in Reno. And now it’s in Oakland. Oooh! It’s getting closer and closer. This is so exciting it’s like… oh I don’t know, like tracking a package being shipped to you.” Fulfillment Center? In Reno? Really? We all know where the only true fulfillment center is located and it ain’t anywhere near Reno. Now as to McHale’s Navy; it was obviously filmed on a sound stage and was more like a bad vaudeville act than anything else. And I don’t know what to say about Gomer Pyle except maybe Shazaam!
Yeah. I’m still writing about Hogan’s Heroes. So what? You’re still reading.
Hogan’s Heroes were on a mission, if not from god, then at least from Uncle Sam. Oh my yearning adolescent heart wants so badly to project myself into Barrack 2 at Stalag 13 and participate in POW camp life: sleeping in my bunk, standing in roll call and assisting our inestimable Scout Master, Colonel Robert Hogan, in earning my Demolition Merit Badge. Plus, I hear the French grub served up by Corporal Louie LeBeau was terrific. Y’know, if you like them heavy sauces. Heck I’d vacation there if there were a Stalag 13 Fantasy Camp for adult adolescents (Please Walt! Please!). Some like to swing baseball bats with Derek Jeter at Yankee Fantasy Camps. I want to visit HoganWorld and use the emergency tunnel with Newkirk while we bomb the munitions train headed to Dusseldorf. Later we’d dine on Weiner Schnitzel at the Hofbrau where maybe I get to second base with that Russian lady (Nita Talbot) who showed up in about 5 different episodes of Hogan’s Heroes always saying the same thing, “ ’Ohgan dahling. Traust mey.” If ever I was the MVP of a Super Bowl, and a reporter asked me what I was going to do now that I’ve won, I’d shout out, “I’m going to HoganWorld!”
Yeah Hogan’s Heroes was all that and a can of Red Cross Spam. Hogan always appealed to German vanity to get what he wanted and they fell for it every time. The Germans in HoganWorld (Colonel Klink, Sgt. Schultz, General Burkhalter and Gestapo Maj. Hochstetter) didn’t give a fig about Hitler and the invincible Third Reich. Klink was a mama’s boy. Schultz “Knew nothing. I know nothing.” Burkhalter would look contemptuously through the two slits he called eyes and bark at der Kommandant, “Klink. You are an idiot Klink.” Hogan would always interrupt Maj. Hochstetter who’d growl, “Who ees deese mahn?” These German soldiers just wanted to look good to their superiors and stay out of harm’s way. Just like little children do. The truly ironic part of this cast is that all 4 were Jewish and actually served in the US military in WWII. As for the Third Reich; it was supposed to last for a thousand years. It fell 988 years short. These single-minded Nazis lacked any imagination whatsoever and it is thought they were born with Unoriginal Sin.
Remember, Hogan’s Heroes were not really POWs. They volunteered for this mission to wreak havoc on the German war machine from deep inside the Fatherland. I would happily volunteer for this role of a lifetime if I could. I’ve fantasized about this more than I care to admit. My cover would be Captain Brent Armstrong US Army Air Corps with the 182nd Airborne Division “shot down” over Hamburg (landed in a nice soft bun) and assigned to Stalag 13, superintended by that vainglorious dummkopf Colonel Wilhelm Klink. And why did the Nazi war machine tolerate such idiocy in their midst? Because there had never been a successful escape from Stalag 13 during all of WWII which in this case lasted from 1965 till the series was canned in 1971. Once brought on board with my band of daring brothers (Hogan, Newkirk, Kinch, Carter and LeBeau) I’d prove my bona fides by installing a primitive Starbucks in the tunnel, then I’d secret in some Tempur-Pedic mattresses for the boys and now I’d be ready to assist my country in something more important than a “throw down” with Chef Bobby Flay.
I’d volunteer for the most dangerous missions at the HoganWorld Fantasy camp like sabotaging the Nazi atomic program by drinking all the heavy water or even marrying Gertrude; General Burkhalters old maid sister (played by veteran actress Kathleen Freeman). If it serves the mission, I’m in. Maybe it was a mission from God. After all Kathleen Freeman was the Mother Superior in Blues Brothers. By now Col. Hogan would consider me a worthy and let me sleep on his bottom bunk. Oh heart be still. Man crush here I come. I’d describe to Hogan my plan to have Hitler evicted from Berchtesgaden (The Eagle’s Nest) by stealing his identity and destroying his credit rating. With his credit in ruin he’d have to shave his moustache and leave the country. That’s when we’d nab him. Colonel Hogan would patronize me for a time and then say, “That’s quite an imagination Capt. Hardiman. Now get back in your own bunk. And that’s an order.”
At the end of my stay in paradisiacal HoganWorld, I’d emerge wiser for my experience knowing that although I can’t be perfect in my life, I can be perfect in my art. You may now all whistle along to the tune of Hogan’s Heroes Theme from HHeroes. Something I’ve been doing since I was 4.
OK. It’s safe now. I’m no longer writing about Hogan’s Heroes
Watch for the next installment when the patriotic puppet masters of Stalag 13 manipulate marionettes Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz into unwittingly destroying the German V-2 Program. You can wait for that, or you can go track your stupid packages as they get closer and closer and closer till….they arrive. Meanwhile I’m going to do what I always do when my world is weary. I Make-A-Wish. Now that’s a foundation to build on.