Out of the half a million soldiers who passed through Miami Beach before shipping out for World War II, hundreds were stationed at the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive. Of course, this was long before the South Beach strip was one big, booty-shaking, dance party, so the they actually got some sleep instead of spending all night at Wet Willie's. If not, would the Allied Forces have won the war?
For Veterans Day, the Betsy Hotel is again catering to service men and women with "Honor Our Veterans" and "Nothing Can Be Done But Something Can Be Said." The two multimedia works tell the stories and sacrifices of South Florida veterans, collected in 2009 when the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a mobile, multimedia recording studio, was in town.
The videos are documentary collages of old footage, readings of letters, interviews, and photos of soldiers, including a 91-year-old veteran who was one of the first female pilots during World War II. And this is back when Don't Ask, Don't Tell applied to having xx chromosomes.
Somewhat surprisingly, the works rely heavily on poetry. The title "Nothing Can Be Done But Something Can Be Said" is lifted from a poem by Hyam Plutzik, who served in the Air Force during World War II. And both videos include readings of war poetry by poets such as Hayden Carruth, Galway Kinnell, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
They even use stanzas from that funky transcendentalist, Walt Whitman, who must have been psychic about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he wrote "The real war will never get in the books." How true, unless George W. Bush reveals something major from his Decision Points at his Book Fair reading this Sunday.
The screenings are free and open to the public this Thursday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Betsy Hotel (1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach). The Lennon Bus will also be parked outside the hotel for interactive tours. Call 305-531-3934 or visit thebetsyhotel.com.