Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production


DCJ’s Asian Bureau Chief, Ba Feng Gu, who is fluent in Vietnamese, spoke with former North Vietnamese Prison Guard (and now proprietor of Cao’s Oodles of Noodles Diner in Hanoi) Cao Pham Phong. Read the full, un-expurgated transcript. Then, read the book that will make or break the 2008 presidential election.

V096-02_loveHanoiHiltonDCJ: So, Mr. Cao, surely you must realize that some of the American public might think that the Democrats have put you up to releasing your book just now, when Mr. McCain is just a month away from the election of the next president of the United States?

CPP: No sir, not at all. My book has nothing to do with politics. It is about love, the love that grew between Johnny and . . .

DCJ: Let’s be clear here: Are you referring Senator John McCain when you say “Johnny”?

CPP: Yes, he was always my Johnny, and he always will be. I actually called him “Little Johnny,” but don’t ask me to explain why, it’s too . . . ah, well, personal.

DCJ: So why now, after all these years, are you publishing this book? You must be aware that America has a lot of homophobic bigots, most of whom support Senator McCain’s candidacy. This could end his chances to be another shot down Navy pilot to become president.

CPP: I want him back. Yes, after all these years I can’t get over Johnny. I want him back and, if I have to destroy his ambitions to be president to get him, I will. We can get married in California and then go back to Vietnam and take up where we left off. I have fixed up a little flat just like the cell that Johnny had, where our love blossomed, but with new drapes and some nice wall sconces for that low, intimate lighting. Then we can open a little Bed and Breakfast place in Halong Bay . . .

DCJ: Mr. Cao, with all respect, you can’t seriously expect anyone to believe that an American war hero and a man they are calling “the next George Bush” would give it all up to go back with you to a torture cell . . .

CPP: Don’t say “torture” cell, Mr. Ba, or I will have to bring great discomfort to your genitals with my boot. Remember, I am a NVA prison guard and I am trained in such measures.

DCJ: Sorry, Mr. Cao, I’ll wear a cup to our next interview . . .

CPP: [rather emphatically] I did not torture Johnny! What do you take me for, Dick Cheney? Sure, we were not signatories to he Geneva Conventions, but we did sign the articles of the Indochinese Pet Groomers Convention.

DCJ: Excuse me, sir, but I don’t see the relevance . . .

CPP: Johnny loved it when I spent hours brushing the lice out of the hair on his back.

DCJ: Yes, I read in the accolades for your book that his colleague, Senator Larry, “Wide Stance” Craig found that one of the most tender passages of your book. Is it true that you actually met Senator Craig? Most people don’t get to meet even one senator.

CPP: Well, not quite, but it sounded like him. I was passing through Minneapolis Airport on my book tour and, . . . well from the tapping of his shoes it sounded like he wanted to meet me. It was like Fred Astaire was in the adjoining stall.

DCJ: Let’s just leave it at that. To return to the, ahem, torture matter—is it true that the North Vietnamese actually fixed Senator McCain’s injuries?

CPP: Yes, we did. Johnny was a mess when we fished him out of that lake. He might have drowned, you know. His arms were in pretty bad shape. You know when he does that little thing with his arms, like that music leader, what’s his name, Mitch Miller, used to do, like he is some silly old puppet—sooo cute! Well that’s from Johnny’s arms being so messed up. We used to get out some Mitch Miller tapes and Johnny would lead the guards in a sing-along and do that thing with his arms— sooo cute! Johnny loved those Barbra Streisand tapes, too; he loved to dress up as Yentil, and dance . . . well, hobble, around the cell.

DCJ: How did you get hold of these tapes, may I ask.

CPP: Didn’t you read the book? Jane brought them.

DCJ: Jane? Oh! Jane Fonda! Really?

CPP: Of course, silly. She also brought Johnny some of her panties. He loved them. She used to give us the locations of your missile solos in Hollywood and we would let her bring anything in.

DCJ: Then why didn’t she get him out of the Hanoi Hilton?

CPP: She could have gotten him out. You know, there is this myth about when Johnny was asked if he wanted to go home and he declined because his fellow prisoners were not allowed to leave with him . . . ?

DCJ: Yes, it is one of the reasons Johnny . . . rather, Senator McCain is regarded as a military “hero” is America.

CPP: Well, Jane set that up. But I think you are sitting across from the real reason Johnny didn’t want to leave. [Pause] We were so happy together. Johnny always said that our . . . ah, “relationship” gave a whole new meaning to the Stockholm Syndrome. [Mr. Cao begins to tear up]

DCJ: But Mr. Cao, it is unrealistic to think that Senator McCain, an important man, with several children, thirteen cars and more houses than he can remember, is going to go back to Vietnam and operate a B & B with a former prison guard. He’s a married man.

CPP: Oh, that bitch. Excuse me. But Johnny has called here worse than that, you know. Look at me; not one cosmetic surgery, tight as a kettle drum. When Johnny loses the election he’ll dump her just like he dumped the other one and become his real self again. And if that Palin woman tries to make babies with weird names with my Johnny I will field dress her like a cow moose.

DCJ: Whoa, I guess you are serious, Mr. Cao. But what if he is indeed elected, sir?

CPP: But I believe Johnny will not be elected. Not when people read my book. I want him to come back with me to Vietnam. It can be like the old days. I even saved the little Yentil suit Jane brought him. I’m the only one who can make him feel like a real hero.

DCJ: And if you are wrong . . . ?

CPP: Well . . . I have applied to become a presidential intern.
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