Jay Giberson, Navesink (Red Bank) Tribe’s “Brother Beefy”

A re-post excerted from a response to MB’s  “HAIR in RED Bank, NJ” blog:Â

Which brings me to “Beefy” (referenced previously, about the GIs in Vietnam), “Brother Beefy,” the Navasink Tribe’s VVAW-representative character (that’s Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.), nicely (and appropriately [IMHO] understatedly) portrayed by Jay Giberson (who was also John Wilkes Booth, and the gung-ho Army recruiter admonishing the hippies that they ought be sent to “the Vietnam meat-grinder”). I particularly like this character, Bro’ Beefy. Historically, the ORGANIZED Peace/Anti-War Movement was begining a nose-dive as the Sixties began turning into the Seventies, this due in part to inner turmoil among the organizers, such as Sheila Franklin’s beloved SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). The resurgance came with the influx of Vietnam Veterans, home from the war, speaking against the war with the clout of first-hand experience with the war itself. Operation Dewey Canyon III in Washington, DC, and Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal), the march of VVAWers through New Jersey, following General Washington’s line of march to Valley Forge, where the “Winter Soldiers” stayed on to fight (in the absence of “the sunshine soldiers” who’d split long ago), these were shots heard ’round the world announcing this new and strong voice on the stage, the anti-war WARRIORS. The VVAWers called themselves “The New Winter Soldiers,” the modern era American citizen-soldiers who will continue to fight for the ideals of the American Revolution, only with the absence of guns — hence the symbolism of their breaking their rifles and throwing their medals back to the White House — “Ain’t gonna study war no more / Ain’t gonna study war no more.”

This, I see in “Beefy.” And Claude would have had more conversations with him (about the War) than Brandon’s characterization of him has projected thus far (tho’ I sense Brandon’s on the threshold of truly embracing “Claude”). Claude [this is my unsolicited two-cents worth to Brandon Straka], no doubt, has even MORE trepidation about accepting his assigned induction into the American Armed Forces, since his encounters with this vet, going by the handle of “Brother Beefy.”

Here is the combat veteran home from the war. He probably was a volunteer (like Ron Kovic, Viet vet author of the autobiographical “Born on the Fourth of July”), gung-ho like John Wayne in “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” wanting truly to “kill Commies for Christ” and happily use hippies as cannon fodder for his noble mission. But, like Kovic, Brother Beefy changed. He witnessed (and no doubt did) shit that was NOT part of the plan he’d bargained for. This was NOT a noble cause. This shit, this Vietnam War was FAR from noble. There’s stuff about it that’s just plain WRONG. And while it’s going on, our BROTHERS are being blown away coming and going. Ain’t fair. Ain’t fair. Ain’t fair. I don’t want to talk about it.

THAT’s the mind of Brother Beefy that he shares with Claude. And Claude pays attention, because he feels like he’s got this [Fundamentalist, Southern Baptist-style] “calling” to comply with the Draft and probably be sent off to … yeah, that “Vietnam Meat-Grinder.” And Beefy must be at odds about his feelings about Tribe leader Claude going off to war. Beefy KNOWS the horrible shit Claude’s going to have to face with war. He also knows that coming back home to America after war duty ain’t going to be no piece of cake for Claude, either (Beefy KNOWS he fell in with a RARE “gaggle” of hippies — these guys not only welcomed him, they encourage his BEING a Vietnam veteran, sporting the colors — the vest from a fatigue shirt with sleeves ripped off, the headband in lieu of a helmet or even a “boonie cap,” the aviator-framed sunglasses, typical of helicopter air crews (Beefy may well have been a Crew Chief on a Huey, serving as door gunner), but he does also wear colors that endear him to the Tribe, and for which they respect him, the colors of the VVAW (MACV means Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. General Wesmoreland wore the MACV patch on his shirt sleeve. Take that patch, remove the upturned sword of war, and replace it with the downturned rifle, planted in the ground with its fixed bayonet, with a helmet resting atop in on its shoulder butt — the universal symbol of “the fallen soldier,” the honored, yet too often unnecessary product of war. But Beefy also respects Claude’s leaning towards going. He sees in this part of Claude a little of that part of him that caused him to volunteer, to enlist, that … noble cause. Beefy respects Claude’s nobility. He believes Claude WILL go to Nam. But he hopes beyond hope that Claude will make it back alive. He’s had enough hurt, loosing brothers in that “dirty Asian war.” He doesn’t want to loose his new “brother,” Claude.

And this is why he spontaneously takes off his dog tags he’s worn all along, and gives them to Claude. Those dog tags got Beefy through Nam alive. Perhaps they can help bring Claude home alive, as well. When Brandon (as Claude) looked at the dog tags he was so surprised to find in his hands, I didn’t see so much his bonding with Beefy, as I saw the look of a GI in Nam, looking at the dog tags in his hand, that he’d just taken from the body of his best friend in Nam, the brother who’d crossed the protective boundaries into friendship, the brother who helped him through the insanity that was now their lot in life. Now, KIA in RVN (Killed In Action in the Republic of Vietnam, a name on The Wall in Wasington). Surely, when Claude bought the farm in Vietnam, there was a “brother” who wished he had the time to cry as he held in his hands the dog tags of his beloved comrade in arms, now The Fallen Soldier, Claude Hooper Bukowski of Flushing, New York. Claude’s look (Brandon’s look), to me, was a forshadowing of Claude’s own fate. THAT was why he was lost to expressing any gratitude or understanding of Beefy’s gesture. Any notion to do so was upstaged with Claude’s seeing his own demise. And wondering, would someone care about the name on the dog tags they pulled from his lifeless body? Would his death have … the right … meaning? Well played, Brandon. Well played. Your Claude is coming more alive to me.

Anyway, this has been Tioga Joe’s impression (a valuing thereof) of the Navasink Tribe’s Triber called “Brother Beefy,” the representative Vietnam-vet Tribe-member character.

And, as I understand, Jay Giberson came into the role (and into the play) only TWO WEEKS before opening night! Not bad, my man. Not bad.


New stuff: I think I made a friend for life in Jay, a “Brother” in the Vietnam Veteran since. Yeah, he qualified. Hence, my pinning him with an official VVAW button, given me by an original VVAW organizer and the current national president of the VFP (Veterans For Peace), Dave Cline of Jersey City. I told Jay (“Brutha Beefy”) to wear the button with reverance, with honor. And that he did. That … he did.


Tioga the Joe



This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2006 at 8:19 PM and filed under Productions - New. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

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