A Hollywood Oscar Star
My encounter with a Hollywood Oscar star occurred in 1969 at Port Hueneme, California. I was the CO of the Navy Seabee School where new Seabees learned a trade such as electrician, construction equipment operator, or carpenter while seasoned Seabees attended advanced skill training courses.
One afternoon in May 1969, about 5:30 p.m., I answered the office phone while in my office since the staff had departed for the day. The caller inquired if we knew how to make concrete on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Following my asking several questions it was obvious that the caller had no knowledge of making concrete. While I was tempted to end the call my curiosity led me to inquire who she was making this inquiry for, and the reply was “my boss.” Asking for the name of her boss the reply was Mr. Brando to which I requested that he call me tomorrow.
The following day Mr. Brando called, and it was obvious to me by his voice that I was hearing Marlon Brando. After recovering from my surprise, after all he won the Best Actor award in 1955 for his role in “On the Waterfront,” I suggested he make a visit to the Seabee School for a briefing on making concrete in an ocean environment where a major problem is the need for fresh water to mix with Portland cement, sand and crushed rock. He accepted my invitation, and a date was set for his visit. Marlon arrived at the agreed upon time with his three-person entourage and the method of obtaining adequate fresh water was outlined along with a tour of the Seabee training facilities.
Noontime arrived so I invited the group to join me for lunch in the “O” Club, which they did. I will never forget the turning of heads when this “Williams guy” entered with Marlon Brando. During lunch Marlon told me he was interested in concrete because he was planning to populate a small island in the Tahiti Island area with representatives from several third world locations that had distinctly different cultures for the purpose of determining if a single culture would develop over time. For a number of reasons his plan never got underway.
Following his departure, I was questioned to no end by friends as to what I was doing with Marlon Brando. I had fun with some of the reasons given, but usually provided something believable. Marlon won his second Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for his role in “The Godfather.”
I received a letter from Marlon dated June 19, 1969, enclosed in a leather-bound briefcase with my initials engraved in gold lettering with a return address of 12900 Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. The letter said, “Dear Commander, these belated words of appreciation seem minor in comparison to all your kind assistance. I hope some opportunity will be given me to reciprocate your gracious hospitality.” It was signed “With warm regards, Marlon.”