NEW THREAD: How did Claude die?

Tioga Joe (yo, dude) and I have had some really thrilling conversations about the back story to HAIR, including the unseen part of the action that occurs in Vietnam. Although later rewites of the show place Vietcong with rifles onstage (ugh), in the original Bway version (the successful one – you know: the version that was really a worldwide phenomenon), all one sees is Claude being hit by unseen bullets (rim shots from the drummer). As Berger and the Tribe discover he is missing from the demonstration in the snow at he induction center…as they look for him with increasing alarm…Claude, wandering among them, finally and truly Invisible as he had wished aloud earlier, reprises “Ain’t Got No…”, gets shot by multiple rifle bullets (I count seven), and then disappears off stage…and returns – dead – in a DRESS UNIFORM (NOT fatigues – !!! – Vietnam casualties were given military honors and dressed in their finest for military burial)…and sings his climactic aria, “The Flesh Failures”. Call me a curmudgeon (I dare ya), but I say: If ya can’t make the audience weep with that moment, ya did Claude completely wrong.
More than once, Tioga has speculated that Claude might have volunteered to be a medical corpsman, not carrying a rifle and focusing on fighting Against Death and Misery – helping others instead of maiming and killing them – something that would fit perfectly with Claude’s antiwar Tribal ideals, and also make “I Got Life” work in a whole new way — as in “…The beauty of life/You can no longer hide…”.

I think it is a fabulous concept, and the more I think it over, the more perfect and brilliant it gets (I love your mind, Sib).

But I have another question: Why was Claude killed so quickly? It seems in the show that he goes through basic training in record time, hits the ground in Nam and gets blown away 10 seconds later. Is it because Corpsmen at the front lines had one of the highest death rates, and no way to shoot back…?

A propos of this (and I welcome anyone’s thoughts on the matter), here is a fascinating piece of statistics from the current version of Vietnam, another unjustified war based on official lies and media illusins, the accursed war in Iraq. I posted it for different reasons on MB-CIVIC, but it made me think NOT about this war, but THAT WAR, and Claude:

Service in Iraq: Just How Risky?
Samuel H. Preston & Emily Buzzell | Saturday, August 26, 2006; A21 | The Washington Post
The consequences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for U.S. forces are being documented by the Defense Department with an exceptional degree of openness and transparency. Its daily and cumulative counts of deaths receive a great deal of publicity. But deaths alone don’t indicate the risk for an individual. For this purpose, the number of deaths must be compared with the number of individuals exposed to the risk of death. The Defense Department has supplied us with appropriate data on exposure, and we take advantage of it to provide the first profile of military mortality in Iraq.

Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 “person-years” in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.

How does this rate compare with that in other groups? One meaningful comparison is to the civilian population of the United States. That rate was 8.42 per 1,000 in 2003, more than twice that for military personnel in Iraq.

The comparison is imperfect, of course, because a much higher fraction of the American population is elderly and subject to higher death rates from degenerative diseases. The death rate for U.S. men ages 18 to 39 in 2003 was 1.53 per 1,000 — 39 percent of that of troops in Iraq. But one can also find something equivalent to combat conditions on home soil. The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.

The death rate of American troops in Vietnam was 5.6 times that observed in Iraq. Part of the reduction in the death rate is attributable to improvements in military medicine and such things as the use of body armor. These have reduced the ratio of deaths to wounds from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq. Some other factors to be considered:

Branch of service: Marines are paying the highest toll in Iraq. Their death rate is more than double that of the Army, 10 times higher than that of the Navy and 20 times higher than for the Air Force. In fact, those in the Navy and Air Force have substantially lower death rates than civilian men ages 20 to 34.

Among the Marines, there is in effect no difference in the mortality risks for members on active duty and those in the reserve. In the Army, on the other hand, reservists have 33 percent of the death rate of those in active service because they are not assigned to combat positions. Members of the Army National Guard are intermediate in assignments and in mortality.

Rank: In both the Army and the Marines, enlisted personnel have 40 percent higher mortality than officers. The excess mortality of enlisted soldiers is diminished by the high mortality of the lowest-ranking officers, lieutenants, who are typically the leaders of combat patrols. Lieutenants have the highest mortality of any rank in the Army, 19 percent higher than all Army troops combined. Marine Corps lieutenants have 11 percent higher mortality than all Marines. But the single highest-mortality group in any service consists of lance corporals in the Marines, whose death risk is 3.3 times that of all troops in Iraq.

Age, sex , race and ethnicity: In contrast to the civilian population, mortality rates decline precipitously with age. Troops ages 17 to 19 have a death risk 4.6 times that of those 50 and older. Differences in rank by age undoubtedly contribute to this pattern, and so do differences in branch of service. Sixty-five percent of Marine deployments to Iraq were of those age 24 or younger, compared with only 39 percent of Army deployments. Women are not assigned to combat specialties in Iraq, although they do see enemy fire; their death rate is 18 percent that of men.

Identifying racial and ethnic differences in mortality is not straightforward because the Defense Department uses a different classification system for deaths than for deployments. Nevertheless, all attempts we have made to reconcile the two systems reach the same conclusion: Hispanics have a death risk about 20 percent higher than non-Hispanics, and blacks have a death risk about 30 to 40 percent lower than that of non-blacks. That low death rate appears to result from an overrepresentation of blacks in low-risk categories: For example, 19 percent of blacks in Iraq are women, compared with 9 percent of non-blacks, while 7 percent of blacks in Iraq are Marines, compared with 13 percent of non-blacks.

Other casualties: The number of wounded in Iraq through March 31, 2006, was 7.5 times the number of dead; the rate at which wounds are incurred was one per 33 troops per year. We do not have the same information about the characteristics of those wounded as we have about those killed. But given the overwhelming importance of hostile encounters in both wounds and deaths, it is likely that variations in the risk of being wounded are quite similar to those presented here.

Samuel H. Preston is the Frederick J. Warren professor of demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Emily Buzzell is a student in the Health and Societies Program at Penn.



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11 Responses to “NEW THREAD: How did Claude die?”

  1. Tioga Joe said:

    Bill, thanks for your comments. I cherish our discussions together. You gave me chills with your recounting here of the death of Claude. One possibility about Claude’s service in Nam and about the circumstances of his death that I imagined aloud with you, what that he may could well have registered as a C.O. (Conscientious Objector) and pulled service as a medic (as did many C.O.’s). Army Medics (and Navy Corpsmen for the Marines in the field) were often witnessed placing themselves between the wounded soldier they were tending and the enemy firing on them, often taking the bullet(s) otherwise meant for a combatant. Also, in Vietnam, medics and corpsmen were specifically targeted by the enemy, because of their value in keeping Americans alive. Certainly, being killed while trying to save a life rather than take one would be an action befitting the character, the deep-down character, of Claude Hooper Bukowski. See “Days of Decision: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors in the Military during the Vietnam War” by Gerald R. Gioglio (Trenton, NJ: Broken Rifle Press, 1989; ISBN 0-9620024-0-2). Jerry was a C.O. Here’s an exerpt from my press release for his presentation here in 2004:

    Gerald Gioglio, of Trenton, NJ, received an honorable discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector in 1969. For 10 years, Gioglio operated the Broken Rifle Press, publishing “I Refuse: Memories of a Vietnam War Objector” by Donald Simons and his own “Days of Decision.” A long-term peace and labor activist, he is a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Veterans For Peace (VFP), and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
    “Days of Decision: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors in the Military during the Vietnam War” presents the peace and war stories of 24 antiwar GIs. Conscientious objector (CO) status was a legal exemption during the days of the draft from either military service altogether or from combatant military service, in which case those drafted often served as medics on the Vietnam battlefield. Some men who had already spent time in the service applied for CO status. If approved, they could be discharged or assigned to a noncombatant duty. If not approved, they faced court-martial and imprisonment for refusing to obey orders for combat participation. Gioglio presents stories of conscientious objectors who served in the military and spent days making a tough decision. This is a history of the Vietnam War from a unique perspective. The book is a reminder of a legacy of resistance to war that embraces the human spirit, the power of dissent and the primacy of conscience.

    Stay cool, my friend(s),


  2. Tioga Joe said:

    Oh, and about Claude’s being killed so quickly after arriving as a GI in Vietnam: They weren’t called FNG’s by the GI’s for nothing. FNG = (and pardon my French) Fucking New Guy. Because of their inexperience, they were most likely to get killed, or worse, get other guys killed, shortly after arrival — step on a mine, kick a trip-wire to a booby trap, stick his head up in the line of fire. And often guys WERE put into action quickly after arrival (that is, if they survived arrival, with VC rocket attacks on planes coming and going).

    Theothis Collins of Asbury Park, New Jersey (, a Marine Lance Corporal, bought the farm the day he set foot in Vietnam. “Ground Casualty / Explosive Device.” Still listed as MIA, Missing in Action, as his body was not recovered ( Apparently, there was nothing left to recover. The day he set foot in Vietnam.

    It didn’t take long
    To buy the farm
    In Vietnam



  3. Lyle said:

    I am honored to lend my energy to an extremely ‘heavy subject’. This requiring thought, from a blanked-out personal journey into our own frailty deserves recognition.

    And…it was a chaotic time; disjointed – first in Hawaii where we were kicked out of our own Island, then to California to rehearse with the greatest bunch of HAIR people, then on to Sin City where the Sheriff said he was adamant about closing down the show if it was his last act in office.

    Then rambling, grooving, trying to stay focused across Canada, straight across upper America, swooping down into Florida and New Orleans, the best audience, bar none, we traveled with a mission. We received the key to that city by the mayor and every night we played, the audience would stamp their feet, loudly – stand up and applaud every few minutes or so. New Orleans!

    In the original Bway version (the successful one – and there were many shows across America and the World during that moment, but the one that played in Las Vegas, NV. With the Pakalolo Hair Tribe from Hawai’i, you know: this is the pure version that was really a worldwide phenomenon-kept pure by my mentor, the late Fred Reinglas, et all.), all one sees is Claude being hit by unseen bullets (rim shots from the drummer). Can we see our own deaths? Sometimes, I believe, it happens. Why?

    As Berger and the Tribe discover he is missing from the demonstration in the snow at the induction center…as they look for him with increasing alarm…Claude, wandering among them, finally and truly Invisible as he had wished aloud earlier, reprises “I’m Here!…”. DRESS UNIFORM! [Burial – 21 gun salute – bugle – all this has happened already.]

    He is dead. He reports to his God! Not to the Army…he has passed that stage-gone delivered and buried in an extraordinary display of time transference. He is there and here; all in a twinkle of an eye. Insert: [He reenacts his time here, upon this Earth, with his friends, and knows that they too will leave…he knows at that moment (and how he wishes the tribe could hear him), that we all leave but before we go, we have an unwritten Law to preserve…the Earth’s progeny, and that is her young and their knowledge about the TIMES.] The tribe takes the responsibility; a plea of passion, with no regards or thought to danger or its consequences – the act to fully involve one’s mind and actions for one another (Let the Sunshine In). The [insert:] probably happened as thought, just before the final note called to him to begin the final song of the show. They say laughter is powerful medicine, but how many have you heard say, that tears are more powerful.

    Documentation is Claude’s historical record. When he meets his parents in a confrontation, (down stage – center, Act 1) he is always reading (this time the newspaper), he looks for connections and finds none. He looks for discussion and finds none – at least, none that he can hope to understand.

    Before ‘Flesh Failures’ starts, and the bullets start to rip his soul (body) apart. I think of precognition?

    Of course, the next scenes are fast forwarded about 6 months after his ‘boot camp’ training, and then fast forwarded even further as he his then placed ‘in country’, and where he goes from there, where he meets his maker – it is extremely liberal in the presentation and left to liberal; innovative and creative interpretations. This is the genius of interpretations.

    There is room for discussion here as theater is meant to do. There is a ‘floating’ remembrance of a soul (Claude), we once knew in a plot, full of time periods, full of confusion which honors part patriotism, anti-war, peace and aggressiveness in the same breath, manifested within the tribe’s psyche and in Claude’s remembrance. He knows he is to drift upward – sideways – diagonally – throughout – forever.

    At this moment, many a ‘Berger’, (Red Sheppard (Los Angeles), Kenny Ortega (Venus Tour), and others) would raise two sticks that they used to symbolically ‘beat back the demons’; placed these wooden instruments into a perfect Christian cross above the dead body as it lay middle stage. The cross was used, I suppose, as their own personal expression and perhaps belief as an external visual force of utter compassion, sorrow, and bewilderment. It worked.

    A world; a created entity of machine, devoid of compassion, feelings and empathy, fails to balance the POSSIBILITIES which manifest themselves into the human expression as critical thought and emotion. These heavenly creatures (children) are now placed into harms way.

    What is the outcome? And the governments which value War over sensitivity, who ignore opportunities for deliberate negotiations with the ‘enemy’, only to enter a War by forcing it into the stream of its own children’s social consciousness is a death blow, predestined which starts to dismantle, disintegrate its people, their hopes and dreams and government. First, the machine; it eats its young, gathers the riches, and celebrates (short-lived), then denies it ever knew that evils such as those would come about, “Who would of known”, is a favorite of today.

    When did Claude die? The moment he sat in the ‘circle of flame’ and the stars, universes and his friends; now spirits, in Act 1, danced around him; He is Aquarius…

    Love Is Powerful.

    2006 © Lyle K’ang

  4. Mike Blaxill said:

    i’m digging this thread!..we need more Claudes to comment – where’s Robin McNamara?..maybe Allan Nicholls can weigh in..or Genious Genious #1?

  5. Mamalei said:

    My friend Jim, survived Viet Nam infantry, only to kill himself because of it in 1971. The VERY DAY he and his platoon of 160 men arrived in Nam in 1968, 80 of them were dead within 24 hours, including his best friend. Yes, not only possible, probable in that war.

  6. Gibson DelGiudice said:

    Not a former Claude, but just saying that the original version was a bit confusing to some. Barbara Lee Horn, based on what Gerry and Jim told her, assumed that Claude’s drill instructor shot him when he ran away.

  7. Tioga Joe said:

    Don’t like that possibility at all. It shames the character of Claude. The fact that he did not run away from induction, he did not burn his draft card, he did not flee to asylum in Canada, paints him as not the type who would have run away from something, even from the face of Death in the combat zone. Besides, were that the case, then Claude never made it to Vietnam anyway (that is, if it was a DI, or Drill Instructor, who shot him — that’s the guy in boot camp and AIT, Advanced Infantry Training, done Stateside).

    If indeed he was shot by a sergeant IN Vietnam, I’d rather imagine it was not because Claude tried to run away; rather, it was because Claude refused to pick up his rifle and fight.

    In the field, Claude realized he was indeed a C.O., a Conscientious Objector. This claim, accompanied by a refusal to follow orders to do combat duty, surely pissed off a sergeant or two during the Vietnam War.

    But I lean toward the notion that enemy small arms fire took Claude down. He may not have been shooting back, but his killer was no deranged sergeant, a “Lifer” or career military man, who would risk his career and pesonal freedom by committing a war crime, by summarily executing a GI for merely refusing to obey orders. His lot (for refusing to obey) would be a stint at the “LBJ,” the Long Binh Jail, US Army stockade at Long Binh, near Saigon (August 1968, BTW, the prisoners (incarcerated GIs, predominately African-American) in this “niggertown” rioted (‘Twas indeed a “dirty little war”).

  8. Lyle said:

    HAIR – An analysis by Scott Miller

    NOTE: This partial chapter is an excerpt from “Rebels with Applause: Broadway’s Ground-Breaking Musicals,” by Scott Miller, published by Heinemann Publishing.

    “Let the Sun Shine In”

    “Claude comes forward, now dead, killed in Vietnam, invisible to the tribe – just as returning Vietnam vets were “invisible” in American culture – and as he reprises his theme song, “Manchester England,” the
    tribe sings in counterpoint “Eyes Look Your Last,” a musical setting of a speech from Romeo and Juliet. The words are Romeo’s, after he finds Juliet’s (apparently) dead body, and just before he takes his own life.
    The last line of this section, “the rest is silence,” is Hamlet’s last line before dying at the end of Hamlet. We are killing ourselves, the tribe is telling us. After another verse of “The Flesh Failures” the
    show finishes with “Let the Sun Shine In.”

    But “Let the Sun Shine In” is not the happy song most people think it is. It’s a call to action. The tribe is begging us, the audience, to change things, to stop the killing, the hatred, the discrimination, the destruction of our world. They are saying that we are in a time of darkness (as described in detail by “The Flesh Failures,” “Easy to Be Hard,” and other songs), that it is now time to let the sun shine in and change things. It’s significant that the lyric doesn’t say that the sun is already shining and everything is going to be fine. It says we have to take action, we have to let the sun shine on the darkness around us, and the implication is unmistakable – if we don’t let the sun shine,
    it will be the end of us.”

    Scott Miller

  9. Mike Blaxill said:

    i’m weeping right now

  10. JulieWinnMcKay said:

    Claude, a young man with tormenting inner-conflicts is drafted into a war he truly does not believe in. Claude was too unsure of himself to do as Berger did — to actually burn his draft card to demonstrate his objection to the senseless deaths in Vietnam. Ultimately Claude is killed by his own confusion in a war that was confusing, at best. In the end, Claude dies — I believe — as a result of enemy fire; not because of cowardice, but innocence.

  11. Lyle said:

    [**** The level of spirituality and innocence that ‘Claude’ displays would say that he his inquisitive by nature, not suicidal and by all means, does not show any signs of cowardice.

    His act of not burning his draft card is because on the surface and deep down he is torn. Deeper yet, he is no more patriotic than his peers, both are just – equally in their love of country and freedom.

    However, equally profound is the fact that acts of dissention takes great amounts of patriotism and a diiference of presentation; often times more than most followers can do.

    What does that say about Claude’s character at the be-in with his own tribe mates?

    His act is sobering; he is crying out for discussion but he is aware that discussion has now turned to an accumulation and finalization of activity; a.k.a. ‘Draft Card burning by the tribe’. They are at a be-in, dancing and demonstrating in their own and collective way, their disdain about any war but in this instant, it is the Vietnam conflict. He understands that but may have believed the misinformation that was circulated about as propaganda about the war. He also may have felt a certain type of patriotism, which he thought that he too could make a difference.

    There were many military dissenters serving overseas and in military bases and posts across this great land, doing their own bidding against an unjust war. We used these fighting men as fodder – simply put as pawns in a no good war. So, their ranks grew. Many were put in prisons – some shipped to Leavenworth, Kansas for hard labor sentences.

    He reminisces as the lyrics portray in ‘Where Do I Go?’ He is truly heart-struck and in agony at his choices left for him. Some have said it was his Protestant home life that brought this on but at this point, I think we are over analyzing a moment.

    His parental makeup on stage, are made-up of black fathers, black mothers, Jewish mothers, & white pregnant moms, more depth from the authors than trying for a laugh. The message is: It can happen to any family, no matter the color.

    So, we come back to viewing the show from the audience’s perspective – what they see. Claude is universal, definitely white (German, Anglo, Italian) or brown (Japanese, Mexican, or Hawaiian) and sometimes black as played by a couple of black artists, one from the L.A. tribe (Randy Brooks) played on the Las Vegas stage.

    If we continue to analyze Claude as being purely blue-eyed and blond, we miss the point of what being Claude really is; we endanger our own freedom of universality, belief and the coming together as we did in Wood Stock, NY. We will negate ourselves and become hypocrites – are we not teachers today for the neo-hippies? They are acting like we did – let’s steer them correctly.

    It’s as though we are saying, it is correct to always remember that a Jew by the name of Jesus Christ who walked around in the desert was blue-eyed and blonde.

    Hollywood is a perpetrator but not in HAIR. Managers knew this and those that continued in their arrogant interpretations suffered the consequences.

    I was a brown-skinned Claude, originally cast in this role from Hawai’i. And I studied and acted out ‘Claude’ for four years, one year on stage in Las Vegas, next to Elvis Presley, who played the same Hotel – International Hotel. The lyrics were adjusted in the song; ‘HAIR’ when mentioning my long, brown, wavy, beautiful hair. A manager, shrugged in the negative – his interpretation was for a predominately, white cast with a white Claude. I stood up to his non-diverse interpretations and held-on to the correctness of the original casting and the interpretations over his. If he was not secure in what he saw on stage – he needed to strengthen the actor, not play with fear and belittlement. I watched his failures compound as he took it out on cast members.

    ‘Here I am! Like it or not, they got me!’ He’s invisible now.
    The seven rim shots we hear are just as articulate in sound as one round going off and entering his body. He is not frightened as though he is saying; ‘don’t kill me sir!’, or ‘no don’t beat me up ’cause I’m an objector.’

    He’s saying: 1. ‘Ain’t got no’ (friends). 2. ‘Ain’t got no’ (spirit), 3. ‘Ain’t Got No” (freedom), 4. ‘Ain’t Got No” (country), and on and on and on – even pass the seven shots- you can hear it.

    At this point, I believe Claude has seen past his death. He knows that he too will soon pass. There are tons of research material which show the attrition rate in country to be very high. Some are mentioned in articles here on this blog. If he was a grunt, what did these types do there? Why – they rode point or retook hills over and over again. I am deliberately not going to go there because it will definitely not prove the point that Claude was a coward.

    If you somehow have picked up other types of interpretive acting, which leave you open for endless discussion and persuasion to this point; then let me say that you were viewing a production that was not authorized by Michael Butler, which then had a free-hand to interpretations.

    This we found early on as being detrimental to the message of HAIR.

    Even to the point of singing; some black girls would through in their church voice (excellent voices for Church and some rock-n-roll) and notation lilt’s and thrills, with many combinations which frankly, did not work for the show. The more the show is kept to its pure arrangement and direction the better was the overall production.

    MB, and several others; Cleve Tiecson (Hud), Glenn Lucas (Bass Man), Jonathon Johnson (Woof / Claude), Dennis Brown (Margaret Meade), including myself (Claude / Berger) and the original “Frank Mills’ gal (Shelley Plimpton) went to see the opening of a local HAIR production in Seattle that had the potential to go on the road, about three years ago (2003), had the licenses been okayed by the author himself.

    The interpretations of that show director which turned ‘Sheila’ into a rock star, was a failure. Other scenes were overly interpreted. More is not always better.

    A failure for the tribe and their camaraderie; this was lacking. Sheila’s role was strangled – the sympathy usually felt for her song was drained before she started. Who lost out but the tribe and the show? We still loved them – and felt the show!

    Keep it Pure! (c) Lyle K’ang.

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