Friday, December 3, 2010

Cronauer's Chamber Talk: Not Exactly 'Good Morning Vietnam'

Adrian Cronauer (above) and Robin Williams (right).^

A Hotel Roanoke ballroom capacity crowd of about 500 people got a truly good look at just how far a Hollywood bio-pic can miss its mark last night when Adrian Cronauer, the former Roanoke disc jockey and central figure in the movie "Good Morning Vietnam," spoke to the annual Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce dinner.

In the movie, Robin Williams played an offbeat, rebellious, liberal and almost anti-military Air Force radio personality in Vietnam. The real life Cronauer is hardly that. He launched into a right-wing, blue collar patriot, anti-government, anti-press, anti-first amendment screed last night that left many of us uncomfortable and embarrassed. I simply can't believe that the chamber execs who signed this former Bush Administration official (he is a lawyer) to speak knew what they were getting.

Cronauer was a pleasant and even entertaining speaker as long as he stuck to his radio career and the movie, but the minute he broke script with a series of Sarah Palin applause lines, he lost me and a whole big group of others who attended the dinner for a networking diversion, not a political rally.

The chamber--this one and just about all the others--would never be mistaken for a liberal or even moderate organization because a goodly percentage of the high-dollar members are Republicans who are looking out for their financial interests. Typical chamber legislative agendas read like Dixie Manifestos from the 1950s, but the membership is a rich mixture of economic levels, ethnic groups (not so much), educational backgrounds, political interests and community involvement.

The central purpose of their chamber membership is to further their business interests in ways that are individual to each member. I'm not sure that most of them want to go to a chamber dinner in order to hear an embarrassing and highly partisan political speech.

(Photo from


  1. When Adrian lived in Roanoke he played bass at the Patrick Henry in a combo. He was very ego-centric at that time and a bit crusty. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec reincarnate.
    Arnette Crocker

  2. Yes, it was either a LOVE IT or HATE IT speech. Agree or disagree, it's refreshing to hear someone take a side--and not talk same old dribble, safe and tired, chamber-esque monologue.

    Just like your review.

    The people who loved his speech will hate your blog and the ones who hated his speech will love your blog.

    Better to rile your audience up one way or the other than to herd them into complacency.

  3. Anon:

    The big problem here is that he lacks any degree of expertise that I can identify that would give him the right to take away my first amendment right to free speech. Richard Armitage, the former Bush Admin war head, spoke at Roanoke College twice recently and I knew what he stood for and what he'd say. I chose not to attend, though I'd never suggest that his war mongering is a right that should be removed because I disagree with it. Likewise, I don't think I want to take Cronauer's voice from him, but I would prefer he use it in a more appropriate place and not spring it on an audience that doesn't want political speech at a business celebration. I talked with the chamber president who said she didn't know the political speech was coming. She's far too diplomatic to say she opposed it, but at the very least, this was rude and inconsiderate of Cornauer. I have no problem with controversy--even when the views aren't ones I share--but there is a place for those views to be expressed and this wasn't it.