HISTORY

‘Proud To Be An American’: An Interview with Ann-Margret

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Award-winning actress and singer Ann-Margret is known for her commitment to entertaining U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. In 1966, she responded to a request signed by over 3,000 troops to perform for them and traveled to Vietnam with three bandmates on a USO tour, traveling to Saigon, the USS Yorktown, and the dangerous “Iron Triangle.”

Despite the danger, she said she was determined to do the best job she could and was not worried for her safety because she felt protected by American servicemen. She focused on bringing them joy from home. She returned to the war zone two years later with Bob Hope’s Christmas USO show.

She continues to support military service members and was honored by the USO in 2003 with the Spirit of Hope award, named after her friend Bob Hope. “I am very proud to be an American. Always will be,” she told Vietnam magazine Editor Zita Ballinger Fletcher in an exclusive interview.

Ann-Margret shared insights into her wartime experiences and new limited-edition perfume, with all profits benefiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, available at www.ann-margretperfume.com.  

You received a petition from troops in Vietnam in 1966 asking you to come perform. The war was unpopular and Vietnam was dangerous. What motivated you to go there despite those obstacles?

Honestly, I didn’t think about my safety at all at the time. I was very flattered by those signatures. Nothing would have stopped me from going.  

What did your family members think about you going to Vietnam?

Well, they knew how much I wanted to go, and they of course were worried but I said to them, “There’s no way anyone can get to me because…my guys are there!”  

Photo of Ann-Margret in Vietnam.
Ann-Margret in Vietnam.
(Courtesy of Ann-Margret)

What songs did you most enjoy performing there?

I loved doing “Dancing in the Streets.”  

You toured with Bob Hope on the USO Christmas Show in 1968. What was it like to work with him?

I loved working with Bob and did many times over the years. He was a gentlemen and always, always funny on stage and off. He was devoted to the soldiers. He shared many stories with us about traveling during World War II and all the marvelous and touching letters he received from them and their families. He was great at writing back, too.

When Bob and I were rehearsing our dancing for a duet for the tour he came out in a minidress and asked, “Who looks better, me or Ann-Margret?” I won, but he did get a couple of votes from the crew.

We knew that we would be safe. When I did Vietnam with Johnny Rivers there were just four of us, and when we went with Bob Hope there were 80 of us. We weren’t afraid at all, never. We all just wanted to bring a piece of home to those men.

What do you think young people should know about the Vietnam War today?

Our guys went through so much—and when they came back, some people were not very nice to them. They had to go through a lot, and to come back and have people be bad to you…We need to show respect and admiration for all the men and women who served, always. Never forget.  

You are donating 100% of the proceeds from your new limited-edition perfume to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Can you tell us more about this?

Yes, thank you for asking. My dear friend Justin Chambers of Grey’s Anatomy has wanted to make a fragrance for me for a long while since we worked together. So it’s a project that’s been on the drawing board. When he suggested it benefit the veterans, that was a slam dunk for me. I absolutely adore the fragrance.

Photo of Ann-Margret perfume bottle.
Ann-Margret is donating 100% of the proceeds from her new limited-edition perfume to benefit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
(Courtesy of Ann-Margret)

We worked on the actual fragrance for a year before we selected this special scent. It has notes of gardenia and jasmine and ylang ylang. You can visit my website for all the details at ann-margretperfume.com and I’ll be wearing it. You can count on that!  

You are a strong supporter of Vietnam veterans. Is there anything in particular you would like to say to Vietnam veterans reading this?

I love you all and I am proud to have been there with you.

This story appeared in the 2024 Winter issue of Vietnam magazine.

this article first appeared in vietnam magazine

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