HeatherInterview by: Walt

The models for that rarest of W.W.II-era comic books, “Bunnies at War,” have long seemed as obscure as the publication in which they appeared. I thought they had never left the Old-World milieu in which their stories were set, and was therefore astonished to learn they had visited the States late in the war, as part of a goodwill cultural exchange between the Allies.

In a telephone interview with Elmer Fudd, he confirmed the fact. Heather Ap-Glendowner and Matilda O’Malley, two of the more glamorous members of the BAW cast, had in fact toured the major American cartoon studios in the spring of 1944, meeting whatever cartoon characters they could for photo ops and publicity.

Unfortunately, their agent had failed to do his homework, with the result that most major cartoon stars were absent at the time-- either in military service, involved in active productions or engaged in essential war work.

“That weft them with mostly extwas and second-stwingers to pose with,” Elmer said. “I’d enwisted in the Army, wike a wot of Howwywood actors-- they made me a sergeant and assigned me to the Army Air Force as an Air Twaffic Contwoller, but this bwasted speech impediment washed me out of that. So they sent me back to Howwywood to make Army cawtoons for the twoops...”

“Wait a minute, you mean you were Private Snafu?” I interrupted.

“Oh, no, no, Hahahahahaha--” with his famous self-effacing laugh-- “They wanted the diawoge to be perfectwy intewigible to all the twoops-- that cut me out of that wole, natuwally-- so I was just an acting coach to the guy who pwayed Snafu. He wooked a widdle bit wike me. He had flat feet, so he was 4-F, but he had a bit of acting abiwity, so I just had to wead him through his parts. He went back to wunning a gas station after the war.”

“Well, all this is fascinating,” I said. “But we were talking about those British girls from ‘Bunnies at War’...”

“One Bwitish and one Austwaian,” Fudd corrected me. “I was off filming on wocation and couldn’t meet them myself, but I know at weast one guy who did-- Henery Hawk.”

“You mean that baby hawk who was always trying to get Foghorn Leghorn? I didn’t know he was still around.”

“He wasn’t weally a baby, just had a gwandular condition that kept him small,” Fudd said. “After Warner Bwuthers eased him out in the early 60s, he wetired to his chicken wanch in Owens Valley.”

“A chicken ranch-- it figures,” I mused. “Could you give me his phone number?”

I called Henery Hawk several days in succession, but he didn’t have an answering machine and apparently wasn’t near the phone much.

While I was waiting to contact him, I did some research at Warner Brothers to prepare for an interview. Hawk had apparently started at TerryToons in the early 1930s as a child actor doing occasional crowd scenes, and eventually moved on to Warners, where he was “discovered” and made a star.

When World War II came, he was old enough to enlist, but far too small to pass muster. Although he tried lying about his height in an attempt to get into the Marines, he finally ended up working in the defense industry.

After the war he returned to cartoons, and was imediately teamed up with a newcomer, Foghorn Leghorn, whose booming mock-Southern accent and phyical size quickly dominated the act. Hawk’s career gradually faded through the 1950s, while Foghorn Leghorn, his former co-actor, went on to leading roles.

When the Bugs Bunny show was launched on television, some old footage of Hawk was used in the opening credits, but he wasn't asked to return to the studio.

Three days after I’d started calling, the phone was finally lifted and I heard Hawk’s odd, slightly nasal voice, only slightly deepened by the years.

He remained gruff and suspicious until I convinced him I wasn’t selling anything, wasn’t from a collection agency and had no connection with Warner Brothers. Only when I mentioned Fudd did he warm up slightly, and finally offer a rather curt invitation to come out and talk to him.

I found the battered mailbox marked “H. C. Hawk” several miles down a gravel lane, turned into a drive bordered by scraggly eucalyptus trees, and finally parked in a dusty turnaround in front of a paint-peeling farmhouse dating from the 1920s.

Henery Hawk.As I walked up to the house, Hawk-- sitting in the shade on the porch, leaning against the wall-- took a cigar from the corner of his beak and gestured a noncommittal greeting. His piercing eyes-- a bit baggy now-- scrutinized me from beneath the bill of his greasy “Purina” cap.

Returning the scrutiny, I noted Hawk hadn’t gained anything in height since he was in cartoons, but his middle had thickened, there were traces of stubble around his beak, and his famous tough-kid expression had hardened into curmudgeonly lines.

After an uncomfortable silence, Hawk finally grunted, apparently coming to a decision, then gestured with the fuming black cigar at an old wood kitchen chair facing him.

“Have a seat,” he growled. “Beer?”

“Thanks, it IS hot,” I said.

“So’s the beer,” he said, unsmiling. “Help yourself--” pulling a can from a six-pack of Oly beside his chair.

After I had helped myself and settled down, he popped his beer open and returned the black cigar to his beak, sighting at me over the smoldering tip.

“So you know Fudd,” he mused. “Yeah, I called him to check up on you. He says you’re OK. That’s enough for me. Fudd was always a great guy.”

“Most cartoon actors seem to be,” I said cautiously.

He snorted, blowing a cloud of acrid smoke that made me sneeze. He took a puff on his cigar, pulled it out of his beak and looked from it to me.

“It’s not tobacco, y’know,” he said. “It’s harmless-- a special vegetarian blend of rutabaga and horseradish leaves-- Old family blend.”

He blew another puff my way that made my eyes water.

I fanned it discreetly away with my notebook, and began: "Well, judging from your movies, this would be the ideal retirement for you, running a chicken ranch..."

"What retirement? My old man did it, I learned to do it, so I raise chickens. It's an OK job, I don't mind chickens."

"But I thought you liked to..."

"... eat 'em? Hell, I'm a vegetarian! Never ate a chicken in my life. They just come and go, crop after crop... dumb as doorknobs, every last one of 'em."

"Dumb?” I ventured. “But there was your co-star..."

"Foghorn Leghorn?” he scoffed. “Geeze, you sure picked a lousy example of poultry intellect! All feathers an’ hot air. He couldn't carry his lines in a bucket-- ad-libbed all the time, stole scenes, all he had was that damn blaring voice... and even that shtick he swiped from the old Fred Allen radio show. You know where he started? As a barker for a strip joint at a county fair in Paducah!"

His voice switched abruptly to a very fair imitation of Leghorn's cornball drawl: "Step raht up-- Ah say, step raht up, gents, an' see the purtiest li'l pulchritudinous pullets this side a' paradise... sans cos-tume, sans trimmin'... that is, in thar bare feathers, folks... No crowdin', gents, plenty-- Ah say, plenty oh' room for ever'body...(Go ‘way, kid, ya bother me).”

The effect was so sudden and incongruous I whooped aloud. Hawk smirked around his cigar, gratified at my reaction. Having found an appreciative audience, he thawed visibly.

Encouraged, I pushed on: “Your name has a rather unusual spelling.”

“Yeh, my mom’s sense of humor-- Henery-- hennery, get it? My folks ran a little chicken ranch in upstate New York.

Henery Drinking a Beer“Y’see, I started out in the cartoon business as a chicken wrangler,” he said, taking a swig of warm beer. “I was the kid who provided the flock, brought ‘em to the set, kept ‘em in line during the shoot, that kinda stuff. I was just a youngster then, and this was back in the old TerryToon days, in New York. Occasionally they’d use me in crowd scenes around the farmyard... Y’know, with Farmer Alfalfa-- Now, there was a real dolt! Senile, stiff and deaf as a fencepost-- He got left behind by some touring ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ troupe back in the 1890s. Dunno how he ever lasted-- rumor had it he was related to Paul Terry somehow... I dunno.

“But anyway, my folks’ little chicken ranch wasn’t paying, the Great Depression just kept gettin’ worse, so my old man decides to up an’ move to the West Coast-- he read that egg prices were high out here-- so we packed up the family, farm stock, chickens an’ all, an’ we drove on out here in his 1912 Essex... Yep, that was quite a trip...

“Once we got out here an’ settled in, I checked around the Hollywood studios to see if they needed any chicken wranglers. I did a few jobs over at Lantz studios with that Woodpecker loonie, and a few at Warners, mostly working on Porky Pig cartoons-- Now, there was a right guy-- Porky, that is-- always friendly, always had a good word for the help, just like you see him on the screen.

“Well, the jobs turned pretty regular at Warners, and then one day one of the extras-- a coyote or fox or something, I forget-- got rough with one of my hens. So I stomps up-- tough kid, see-- and bomps him one right on the snozz! He was probably a couple times bigger than me, but I rocked him back right on his tail! There was dead silence on the set for a minute, then the whole crew broke up an’ howled with laughter... You’da thought it was the funniest thing they ever saw. I was always little, y’know, but I got tough haulin’ those big sacks of chicken feed around.

“Of course that scene didn’t make it into the flick, but word musta got around, ‘cause not long after I was asked to work in a cartoon of my own! Nervous? Hell, you bet! Naturally I’d been sneakin’ acting lessons on the sly... any studio extra or even set handyman who says he hasn’t is a damn liar... but I was a tough kid, so I just put on a bold front an’ sailed right in. Naturally, with my size they cast me as a baby-- child stars was all the rage then-- and I didn’t mind that so much, but hell, they cast some dowdy old dowager hawk to play my mother-- why couldn’t they have found a babe instead? Oh well, I guess they knew best, ‘cause ‘Squawkin’ Hawk,’ which came out in ‘42, actually did pretty good.

“But by then the war had broken out, an’ that knocked everything to hell. People joined up so fast the Warner lot almost looked deserted. A few of the producers and writers an’ such were actually given military rank and came back to work on military projects and did Warner’s work on the side... I mean, it was work all the time and sleep when you can in those days. I got in a couple more films, but like everybody else I was workin’ two jobs.

"I’d tried to join the Marines, ya know," he continued. "Tough kid. No way they'd take me, though... just too damn small. Army, the same story. My pack would drag on the ground, they told me... Finally ended up at Lockheed. Said they had just the job for me. Turned out that meant airframe inspector, and they sent me into the smallest spaces in the damn planes... inside the wings and such, any place too small for anyone else to inspect. I tell you, I left my mark in lots of Lightnings, but nobody ever saw 'em... not like that jerk Kilroy, whose name an’ face was all over the map, because he inspected troopships...

“The producers got the brainstorm to match me up with this new guy, a fast talker, a big mouth... Damn, talk about your mis-casting! Hmmph! Foghorn Leghorn's acting ability coulda been outclassed by an unhatched egg with a loudspeaker attached. I made a bunch of films with him, but that scene-stealin’ loudmouth really got my goat. It was all I could do sometimes to keep from really poundin’ him.

Henery with Goofy Face“But the other actor in that series, George P. Dawg, was a regular prince-- shoulda been a real star in his own right. Yeah, George was great... he'd worked as an extra around the farmyard sets, but this was his first real speaking part..."

Hawk chuckled reminiscently. "We worked real well together. We did this bit where I'd pretend that I thought he was a chicken." --Switching abruptly to his tough-little-kid voice: “Oooo, I never saw such a biiiiig chicken in all my born days!”

He grinned momentarily at my laugh, then leaned back and looked off into the distance.

“Yeah, we started producin’ those ‘barnyard feud flicks’ just as the war was windin’ down. But we’d lost some good characters in action, some good friends. A lot of the old stars, like Porky, still weren’t mustered out, the studio was lookin’ for new talent, so we got our big break.

“Because of the usual delays in release, our first cartoon in the series didn’t hit the theaters till ‘46, by then we had several in the can. George an’ me played our hearts out, but when you went to a regular theater, you could tell by the audience reaction who was gettin’ the laughs-- So I could sort’a see my days were already numbered...

“Then Korea came along. George had been too young for the Big One-- although he had a couple uncles who were in it-- so he was keen to enlist. Couldn’t talk him outa it. So Warners shot a lot of footage in a rush-- enough for several more cartoons-- before he left...

Henery Sad“Yeah... George joined the K9s... Sent me a postcard from Pusan, said ‘Wish you were here -- and not me!’ And that was the last we ever heard from George...”

He stared off into space a moment, took another puff on his cigar. "Yeah, George was a real trouper...”

As Hawk appeared to be loosened up by now, I tried to steer the conversation into the real purpose for my visit.

“The wartime years are interesting, and I was wondering if you’d met a couple of British comic-book models during a tour they did here back in ‘44,” I ventured.

Henery blinked a couple of times, took the cigar in his fingers-- seemed to study it for a minute, flicked the ash off the end, jammed it back into his beak, then finally looked back at me, "Oh, yeah, them British bunny babes,” he responded. “They set up a photo op and a little military newsreel bit on the ‘Streets of New York’ set there at Warners, and collected anybody they could find-- which wasn’t many, in wartime-- to do a little backchat with ‘em...” He learned back against the wall, smacked his beak with gusto... “Oooh, Mona! Were those bunnies ever stacked!... Well, one of 'em was a bunny, anyhow, other was an Australian speckled cat of some kind... but both real lookers, ya know, and hell, I was 20, horny as a hatrack, you know how kids are... So I preens myself and struts up to be introduced, gives that busty bunny a big smile an’ a wink, says, 'Hiya, gorgeous!' in the deepest voice I could-- and you know what she does?

"She laughs! Then she leans WAAAAY over, says, 'Oh, aren't you the most CUNNING little thing!' and she PATS ME ON THE HEAD!

Henery Snide"Say, I was always touchy about my size, and to have this beautiful babe mistake me for a hatchling, well, that set me off right there... I went from horny to berserk in about half a second, and I was gonna kick her shapely behind. But she beat me to it-- and man, let me tell you, a bunny can KICK! After I picked myself out of a plate-glass window across the street, I saw the whole Warner mob-- including the photographers-- laughing fit to bust, so I just slunk outa there to the infirmary, then caught the bus back to my job at Lockheed..."

“Ah--yes,” I persisted. “If you didn’t see the British girls again, do you know anyone else at Warners who did? Porky or Daffy, say?”

“Daffy..?” He looked at me quizzically. “Which Daffy..? There was two of ‘em, y’know...” and after a pause, noting my blank expression: “Eh, maybe ya didn’t...

“Daffy was the loonie one-- that was just his stage name, his real name was Morris. Morris B. Duck. Ya can sort’a understand why he preferred Daffy. I worked with him some on the barnyard sets, before he got his big break... But when he did, he shot right to the top-- bigger than Porky, bigger than Egghead-- this was before Bugs an’ most a’ the rest came along, y’know. An’ boy, Daffy really WAS crazy! You shoulda seen some of the parties he threw after he hit the big time...

“Well, then the war came, an’ Daffy got hisself drafted... story is he didn’t want to go, tried every dodge he could to get out of it, but they got him anyway... He somehow ended up in the British Commandos-- I dunno how the hell that happened, mix-up in paperwork, or maybe it turned out after he got overseas he’d never renounced his Canadian citizenship-- go figure...

“Anyway, turned out he made one hell of a Commando! Guess ya had ta be crazy for that kinda work-- and that was Daffy, all right! He was in a number of successful missions-- all hush-hush-- but the last one, none of his team came back... There’s all sorts a’ crazy rumors about what they were gonna do in that mission, includin’ they were sent to infiltrate the Reichstag, but no one really knows, or if they do they’re not talkin’... British Official Secrets Act and all that...

“So after the war, Daffy’s cousin, Shemp, took his place at Warners... They looked a bit alike, but completely different personalities. Daffy’s carefree, lovable nuttiness-- that’s the old Daffy I knew-- in Shemp had been sorta alloyed with greed, cowardice, cynicism an’ ego. The new Daffy wasn’t near as much fun as the old one.”

“Well, I always noticed there was quite a change in him,” I admitted. “But as for the girls...”

“Oh, the girls did their bit, too,” Henery said indulgently. “Red Hot-- her real name was Muriel O’Hanlon-- Hoooie, she did a dance number for the troops at the local USO clubs, and lemme tell you, she reminded ‘em what they were fightin’ for! Flamin’ red hair, creamy complexion, great big soulful blue eyes, and a build that’d make a blind man bite a horseshoe in half! She was really just a good kid, though, an’ wouldn’t take any funny stuff off anyone-- she had a war job at Lockheed, too-- graveyard shift-- and she always gave me a big smile as we changed shifts.”

“Well, that’s interesting, of course,” I persisted, “but I meant the other girls...”

“Well, yah, the girls from the other studios did their bit too,” Henery drawled, re-lighting his soggy cigar. “Snow White-- Hooboy, that Snow White, she looked like a squeaky-clean bobby-soxer-- a bit flat-chested for my taste-- but I heard during the war, her and the Wicked Queen became partners as high-priced ‘escorts’ in Hollywood, ‘entertaining the Boys.’ Hollywood was just flooded with service money during the war, and the smart girls cleaned up.

Henery Yakkaty Yak“Betty Boop, now, she was a different story. She did it just for patriotism. Joined the USO as a doughnut girl, went wherever the troops were-- she just LOVED a man in uniform-- and the demand for penicillin went through the roof wherever she was stationed.”

“Well, that’s-- er, interesting,” I said, “but what I meant was, did you know anyone from the other studios who met the Bunnies at War models?”

"Oh, of course I knew folks from the other studios in the war,” Henery rambled cheerfully on. “Some of us got together after hours, ate at the same places and so on. There was Goofy-- Yeh, I never really worked with Goofy, he was with Disney, but he was a pretty decent Joe... An' despite his looks, he actually had more brains than the lot of 'em put together. His parents were German immigrants, an’ he read Schopenhauer, Kant, Nietzche, all them German heavyweight philosophers, and published lots of highbrow stuff under a fake name... He was a real patriot, enlisted right away when the war started, but the FBI read some of his stuff-- spelled their way through the titles, anyway-- and thought he might have pro-Nazi tendencies, so the Army wouldn't send him overseas, and it really broke the poor guy's heart. He ended up spending the war as a guard outside a back door at the Disney lot... and it was a locked door, too...

“But hell, the rest of that gang was too self-important to mess around with us working slobs--” Henery sneered. “That sneakin’ back-stabbin’ Mouse, for instance-- Rotten li’l squealer-- he had about as much personality as a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal! It was Donald and Goofy who carried him all those years. He started out at crude slapstick-- about all he was really good at-- an’ after sound came in an’ Disney stopped makin’ slapstick, he shoulda been gone-- or a minor straight-man at best. But the Mouse kept his position by sucking up to the studio execs -- nothin’ else! He used the same tactics when the War came along... pulled strings to wrangle a deferment, then brown-nosed himself into a cushy position over at Fort Roach as Ronnie Reagan’s personal Assistant Cartoon Liaison. What a pair -- no talent and no brains..! The Mouse had his nose so far up, he could see out through Reagan’s belly button.

“Now here’s the twist to it all. Y’know Porky had enlisted right off-- wanted to get into combat-- but they’d stuck him over at Fort Roach, as Head Cartoon Liaison. He worked hard at his job there, was good with paperwork, good with handling people... actually he practically ran the place, ‘cause hell, the only paperwork Reagan knew about was how to make paper airplanes!

“Well anyway, the Mouse wanted Porky’s job-- it wasn’t enough he’d brown-nosed himself a cushy spot, he couldn’t stand it to have anybody over him that he didn’t have anything on-- made him insecure, an’ well it might. He wasn’t comfortable unless he had the power to make life miserable for everyone. So he started a rumor and sabotage campaign, did everything he could to blacken Porky’s rep and ball things up-- an’ it worked-- within a month they’d shipped Porky out, and the Mouse had his job!

“The joke was, Porky’d been putting in transfer requests all along-- he knew the job he was doing was useless to the war effort, and he’d been tryin’ to get out of there to get into the fight, so the lousy Mouse did him a favor by dry-gulchin’ him!

“Now Porky transferred to the Air Corps and flew as a copilot in Liberators over Europe. The B-24 jockeys didn’t get near the press of the B-17 boys, but he survived his 30 missions and rotated home. Modest as ever, never talked about what he did in the war, but I saw his uniform once and he had lotsa gongs and fruit salad on the front, so he musta done something big. He had volunteered for another tour, but as a cartoon star they didn’t want to risk him any longer-- wanted him back in the States to sell bonds-- so they hauled him on home...”

“Well, I’d have expected as much,” I broke in, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice. “But I was wondering about the girls...”

Henery and a Cold One“...Tw - Tinkerbelle..?” Hawk interrupted a bit fuzzily. “Well, she sure was a damn cute li’l... eh, whatever she was... The Mouse hated her, ‘cause she was edging him out as a company logo...” He took a meditative sip of his beer, sighed gustily, shaking his head.

“Yeah, damn cute... They did a lot of stock footage of her for ads and title intros and such while she was still in her prime, but them fairy whatzits go to pot fast... She appeared in just one major flick after ‘Peter Pan’... It was... it was... eh, ‘Sleeping Beauty’... Tink played the fat fairy in that one... Yeh, it’s a shame, but for a while there she sure was damn cute..!"

Henery sighed, stared off across the fields towards a duck pond, as his eyes grew hard again... “Now Donald Duck, he was a member of the America First Party, real fire-breathing patriot, apparently... only it turned out after the war that he was a Nazi sympathizer, maybe even a collaborator... Scuttlebutt was he became a Colonel in the SS, working with Leni Riefenstahl‘s Cartoon Unit. But he was too valuable a property to lose, so after the war the Disney PR and Legal departments hushed it all up. Good thing for Donald, his speech is so garbled that when the FBI questioned him, they couldn’t understand a damn thing he said.”

“But I...” I attempted hopelessly.

“This is not ta say everyone in that Disney bunch was slackers, o’ course,” Henery plowed on. “The Seven Dwarves spent the war workin’ for Kaiser, buildin’ Liberty ships. Yeah, I was pretty good friends with Grumpy... bein’ the same size an’ attitude. We used to drink beer and shoot a lot of pool down in their basement-- they had a great old Brunswick pool table with the legs sawed off-- and he told me Kaiser put them to work down in the bilges, a damn cramped and nasty place to work, but they were used to working in their mines, so it didn’t really bother ‘em. Naturally, after the 50s it became un-PC to exploit ‘little people,’ so they got out of the cartoon industry entirely. Suppose they went back to mining-- hope they struck it rich, they were OK guys.”

“What I really wanted to ask,” --and I was probably raising my voice a little by now-- “what I really wanted to know, was whether you knew of anybody from the other studios who met the ‘Bunnies at War’ girls...”

“...The girls from the other studios in the war-- Now, that’s an interestin’ thing,” Henery drawled, tapping ash off his cigar. “You know how Eleanor Roosevelt was all over the place durin’ the war? Did enough for any two women. Well, it really WAS two women. Olive Oyl worked as a double for Eleanor during the war years, and some time after.”

“In-deed,” I said hopelessly.

Henery and Cigar“Olive was high-tone, real class, a Vassar graduate actually,” Henery continued. “In spite of all them cartoons, she really couldn’t stand Popeye in real life. He was just a roughneck, no class at all.

“In fact--” Hawk leaned back comfortably, crossing one leg over the other-- “Popeye was a wharf rat, hung out around the piers in Santa Monica-- worked at puttin’ away rental boats, sweepin’ out bars, bouncing, part-time prize fighter, did pretty much whatever came his way. He had this weird, mumbly way of talking-- got all his teeth knocked out in drunken brawls, so his face was sorta folded in-- and had lost one eye. But he was tough as nails, an’ quite the acrobat... he would put on a regular little tumbling act for you, for booze money.

“Then he got discovered by this artist, a guy named Segar, who used him as a model for a comic strip... and before long he’s got a film contract with Fleischer Studios, and off he went to New York. They tried him in a few screen tests, but he was too rough with the stunt men-- cracked skulls, fractured bones, that sorta thing. So the producers looked around and found the biggest, toughest thug they could dredge up-- a street-corner rowdy, part-time stevedore, former steelworker an’ rum runner, a big Russian named Blutofski... Turned out he even had some acting ability, although of course the main consideration at first was, he could go blow-for-blow with that one-eyed wharf rat, and not get hisself killed. They made a pretty successful run of flicks together-- nothing too cerebral, ya understand, but fun-- real physical, high-energy stuff.

“Then along comes the war, an’ everybody expects Popeye to join the Navy... Well, he wasn’t a real sailor, I mean he’d just hung around the docks most his life... but actually go to sea..? Hah! But he was trapped by his own publicity... So he an’ Bluto-- they were a lot alike, so they were the best of friends most of the time-- they both got pretty well sloshed one night, an’ the next morning they staggers down to a Navy recruiter together and signs up... even with Popeye havin’ only one eye, them bein’ famous, I guess the Navy thought they had quite a publicity haul with these two guys... That is, until they realized neither one of ‘em had ever sailed on anything much bigger than a rowboat...

“They say Popeye was seasick the whole first month out, and Bluto wasn’t much better-- and when they eventually did get straightened out, they got into one of their brawls about who’d had this stupid enlistment idea anyhow-- wrecked most of the ship they was on.

“Popeye and Bluto were just too damn uncontrollable for shipboard. If they’d fought the Japs half as hard as they fought each other, they woulda been heroes-- but as it was, Bluto spent most of the war in the brig, an’ Popeye was transferred to the Merchant Marine after single-handedly sinkin’ several ships-- our own ships, unfortunately. Spent the rest of the war as a stoker down in the hold of some Liberty ship, where he couldn’t do much damage...”

“Well, all right, then, leave out the other studios,” I sighed. “How about somebody-- anybody-- from your own studio? Did any of them meet the ‘Bunnies at War’ girls?”

“Bugs Bunny at war--” Henery said thoughtfully-- “Well, he’s a sharp customer, and I know you can’t get much outa him about the war. I heard rumors he was an operative for the OSS in Europe, Africa, the Middle East... But then I also heard rumors he spent the war in a kimono an’ makeup, hangin’ out in the bathhouses in Frisco and pickin’ up sailors...”

“And your old partner, Foghorn Leghorn?” I ventured, hoping to interrupt his nonstop monologue.

“Leghorn? Faugh! a LOT of third rate actors and Vaudevillians worked the USO circuit during the War... That’s how he promoted his career from a carny barker to doing standup.-- But the big chicken stuck strictly to Stateside USO, doing Training Camps and Troop Disembarkment Centers, never goin’ overseas or anywheres near a combat zone...

“Now Thomas Cat and Jerry Mouse toured with the USO, doin’ a song and dance act-- but they actually went in and entertained the fightin’ troops. Jerry got killed by a stray Japanese mousetrap on Okinawa... that was a real tragedy... he was later replaced in the act by his nephew, Tuffy...”

As Henery rambled on, unstoppable, I eventually gave up trying to get any more information on the “Bunnies at War” girls... either deliberately or for lack or interest, Hawk kept reverting obsessively to the stars he had worked with or known before or during the war, or that he claimed “did him dirt” after the war...

“Remember Screwy Squirrel? Yeah, he became an FBI informant, keepin’ an eye out for Fifth Columnists an’ such. After the war, Joe McCarthy took up with him, an’ Screwy testified before Congress during the Army-McCarthy Hearings. Went loonie during one hearing, got the guards after him, managed to pull down a balcony and several Congressmen and staffers were killed... this was all hushed up, of course, but a few good newsmen started to get onto the story, so the whole HUAC business was allowed to quietly fizzle out. I think ‘ol Tailgunner Joe finally died of humiliation after he realized just how crazy his chief informant was.

“Shoot, Screwy never actually meant to hurt nobody, he was just plain and simple certifiable-- just said anything that popped into his head, that he thought would cause the most uproar and excitement at the moment.

“Droopy Dog went in as an officer-- military counterintelligence--an’ he actually enjoyed the work. He had an analytical mind, an’ even when he was workin’ in cartoons he liked his law-enforcement roles best of all. You can tell that just by watchin’ his attitude in the films. He left MGM in the 1950s-- I think they got some stand-in that worked for less-- but he stayed in show business. When TV got popular, Droopy became an acting consultant for a really big TV star-- kin ya guess which one?” he winked broadly. “Give ya a hint. You ever wonder where Joe Friday got his deadpan expression an’ flat delivery?Henery asleep on the back porch

“Now Yosemite Sam invested in munitions, became a war profiteer, millionaire... he got to be best friends with Ty Cobb - They hung out at the same War Profiteers and Skeet Club... You’d see ‘em down at the track every now an then, an y’know, Ty made ol’ Sam seem almost personable...

“Sylvester got a medical deferment due to his slobbering problem. He toured the country sellin’ War Bonds, but then he got caught in a scandal-- he was photographed in a hotel room with an underage Tweety Bird... It got hushed up by the studio, and Sylvester spent the rest of the war in seclusion-- he’s supposed to’ve been a junior partner or catspaw to Sam in war profiteering-- but the scandal ruined his acting career, and after that he was always stuck in secondary roles...”

“Which reminds me of a really great story about Felix... hell, he was a real old-timer by then... but durin’ the war he... durin’ the war...”

As Hawk droned on, his voice had become more slurred, his eyelids drooping, apparently forgetting my presence as he talked on to himself. Being so small, the single beer got to him quickly.

Finally his voice trailed off entirely and he slumped comfortably on his seat, his head leaned back against the wall, as the stump of the dead cigar slipped from his gaping beak and spatted on the porch planks.

He snored faintly. Moving as quietly as I could, I got up and left him sleeping on his porch...

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