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Duck and Play

Joe Holley

Navy bandleader Frank Forgione hoped he had seen the last of conflict when he survived Pearl Harbor -- every day after that was a gift, he told people -- but here he was on an October day in Cordoba, Argentina, nearly 25 years later under attack again. His assailant was a woman wielding a purse and calling him "assassin."

Forgione, a longtime Fort Washington resident who died July 27 at age 91, was the founder of the U.S. Navy Special Show Band in 1961. He and the 25-person band were known as the Navy's Goodwill Ambassadors, but as he told The Washington Post in 1965, some of their South American audiences had something other than goodwill in mind.

When the band played in Temuco, Chile, he recalled, it not only was splattered with raw eggs during the performance but was threatened with an acid attack beforehand. "Whoever threatened us with the acid didn't carry through with it," he said. "But the boys and myself wore our pea coats and hats throughout the show, just in case."

It wasn't band music the disgruntled listeners were protesting. They were expressing their displeasure at American foreign policy, particularly in Latin America.

"The majority of the people really appreciate our music and our show," Forgione said. "Even when we can feel the strong anti-U.S. sentiment in the crowd, we generally can win them over with music."

When Forgione retired from the Navy after a 33-year career, he joined the circus for about six months. Playing drums in the circus band, he never once had to duck flying eggs or heavy purses.

By Joe Holley  |  August 10, 2009; 10:08 AM ET
Categories:  Joe Holley  
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