Friday, September 18, 2009


Jimmy Jordan, Jerry Maurer and Glenn Green anxiously await the arrival of Tom Cruise and the whores from Villa Dulce that were depicted in Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July

Twenty years ago, Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July was a box office mega hit that earned a Best Actor nomination for Tom Cruise and the Academy's Best Director Award for Stone.

The movie was adapted from paralyzed Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic's 1976 bestseller by the same title. Cruise played Kovic in the movie and many consider it his best Big Screen performance.

Millions who viewed this epic at the theater, on TV or DVD were treated to a Seventeen Minute segment in which Cruise, the former All-American patriotic teen athlete turned Marine turned paraplegic--due to a bullet that shattered his spinal cord in Vietnam--journeys to Mexico to escape the daemons that plague him.

Unable to adjust to his paraplegia and now dealing with depression, fits of rage, confusion and alcoholism, Cruise discovers a haven for equally messed up Vietnam vets in the ocean side sex resort,Villa Dulce. Here, Cruise finds his niche. His initiation begins when he rolls his wheelchair up to a marathon 55 hour poker game where the residents chug Mezcal (Including swallowing the worm at the bottom of the bottle), joke about their paralyzed private parts while surrounded by Mexican whores wearing short-shorts and skimpy tops.

Cruise soon ventures out on his own and has his first sexual experience in a cantina with an English-speaking prostitute. With her understanding, believable compassion and gentle kisses, she persuades the anxious vet to relax and forget about his paralyzed body. Soon, Cruise is back at theVilla drinking Mezcal and howling about his first sexual encounter.

Many movie-goers still remember that unique place in Mexico: the Seventeen Minute segment about Villa Dulce is embedded in the minds of many who viewed Born on the Fourth of July. Seventeen Minutes of history that will live on forever?

But what if Villa Dulce wasn't an ocean side sex resort for disabled Vietnam veterans? If Villa Dulce was simply Villa del Sol, one of a half dozen group homes in Guadalajara, at the time, (which the guys affectionately referred to as "Gimp Camps") where wheelchair bound veterans from World War II, Korea, as well as, non-vets and Vietnam vets--guys and some gals--rented rooms or bungalows?

"The long dining hall full of wheelchairs was an exciting place for him...a lot of people talking and laughing...there were old and young, veterans from all wars...a lot of the men would play cards all day long and some would drink heavily and have to be carried back into their rooms...some of the others just stayed in their little rooms writing letters to people or reading the newspaper." (Ron Kovic, from his autobiography, Born on the Fourth of July)

Oliver Stone's award winning Born on the Fourth of July (a typical Stone mix of fact and fiction), based on Ron Kovic's autobiography, contains that Seventeen Minute segment that unfortunately portrays ALL Mexican women as whores and prostitutes and Vietnam veterans as whore mongering alcoholics. This is an injustice to both groups. One man's brief experience, embellished in Seventeen Minutes of a Hollywood movie, should not define a thirty year period of history experienced and lived by countless hundreds of others!

For the record, Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city and is hundreds of miles from the ocean. The first nomadic paraplegic and quadriplegic veterans to discover this unique utopia were some of the earliest survivors of spinal cord injury (SCI).

Prior to WWII, people who incurred spinal cord injuries had a life expectancy of eighteen months. Many paralyzed veterans injured during the war years received the first ray of hope. With the discovery of antibiotics and new medical breakthroughs, paras and quads were now, for the first time, living long enough to be discharged from military and veterans' hospitals into a world not yet ready to receive them. They gained a second chance at life but with no blueprint to follow. The questions: "What would they do?" and "Where would they go?" remained unanswered.

By the mid-50's, there were a number of paraplegic veterans enjoying the freedom, independence, ideal climate and low cost of living that Guadalajara had to offer. Others, seemingly oblivious to their existence, were exploring areas in and around Mexico City--some three hundred miles to the Southeast.

Word of mouth spread, especially in VA hospitals from Long Beach to New England, and while thousands of spinal cord injured veterans lived out their final years afraid to leave their hospitals or bedrooms, a growing number of adventurous paraplegics and quadriplegics left the safe confines of institutional and shut-in living and joined those already residing in this mysterious utopia somewhere South of the Border.

By 1960 there were three group homes in and around the city of Guadalajara that could accommodate eight or more residents. As more wheelchair users decided to make this new found utopia their home, many guys chose to venture out on their own, renting three and four bedroom houses and sharing living expenses.

Unfortunately, many folks who think they know something about this unique history from the Seventeen Minute segment in Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July, have been misinformed. Besides Guadalajara not being an ocean side sex resort, the American residents were not ALL Vietnam veterans (only a small percentage were), as some were led to believe, and did not live in the same enclave--a small town called Villa Dulce--as depicted in the film and still believed as fact by many to this day. By the mid-60's, there were over a hundred wheelchair residents--mostly veteran and mostly quadriplegic--scattered throughout the city and surrounding towns.

Although many of the new arrivals at the various group homes did check out Guadalajara-after-dark, few spent their entire time inebriated in cantinas and bordellos. Ron Kovic's experience while at the fictional Villa Dulce and as portrayed in the movie by Tom Cruise, hardly represents what most of those who visited and resided there experienced.

The Guadalajara era, when wheelchair users from all over North America and beyond, once discovered a utopian paradise which offered freedom, adventure and a second chance at life, spanned a period of more than three decades (early 50's - to mid 80's) and was lived by countless hundreds of disabled veterans and non-veterans, both men and women.

To allow myths and misconceptions to live on, along with the racist portrayal of Mexican women and negative stereotypes of veterans who once sacrificed life and limb for our freedoms, is reprehensible.

How long must Seventeen Minutes of fiction be accepted as fact?

Is twenty years long enough?

Or will these myths and misconceptions live on for eternity?

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was
Honorable Mention Award from the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival "Celebrating books worthy of further attention by the film and TV industries"

QUADALAJARA - The Utopia That Once Was
FIVE STAR Rating! MWSA 2006 Distinguished Book Award Winner!
Bill McDonald, President, Military Writers Society of America
(Presented at MWSA's "Salute to the Military", San Diego, October 2006)

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