Movie and television actress Chris Noel was known as “every GI’s favorite blonde bombshell” during the Vietnam War.
She was “the” pin-up girl Vietnam soldiers thought of, and veterans still remember 35 years after the war ended. That’s because Noel stays involved in supporting humanitarian efforts aimed towards Vietnam-era vets.
On Friday, May 14, Noel will arrive in Oregon for a Dunsberger American Legion Post spaghetti dinner. The event is hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, and the dinner benefits the Dunsberger ladies auxiliary, which is raising funds to send students to Buckeye Boys State. Tickets are available at the door and the event is open to the public.
On Saturday, she will appear at the Northwood VFW Post 2984. Both the Oregon and Northwood dinners begin at 6 p.m. and Noel will speak at 7 p.m.
“This is a real big thing. This lady was very, very well known during the Vietnam War, and I picked up on her afterwards, and I had two occasions to stay at her home,” said Noel’s long time friend, Toledo native Nick Haupricht, a Marine Corps veteran who made arrangements to bring Noel here.
Noel’s career includes leading roles in movies with Elvis Presley, Milton Berle, Dennis Hopper, Richard Chamberlain, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds, Steve McQueen, Jackie Gleason, William Taylor, Robert Goulet, and Nancy Sinatra, to name a few.
“He (Elvis) was totally amazing — all the good things you’ve ever heard about him,” Noel told The Press. “He was just a very fabulous, fabulous human being. I just feel so sorry for him that he became sadder in sadder in life. But I could see how it happens, you know.”
Her television roles include guest spots on Bewitched, American Bandstand, Burke’s Law, Perry Mason, My Three Sons, My Mother The Car — again, to name a few.
During Vietnam, when public sentiment was against the conflict, she stuck with the soldiers, and she sticks with the veterans today.
During the war, Noel performed in a USO Show with Bob Hope, she visited evacuation hospitals, and the Department of Defense signed her to star in Armed Services Radio broadcasts.
She said it “was a thrill to be a woman among thousands and thousands of men.”
“What I saw in these men was courage. I saw young men of courage that were willing to do what others were not willing to do,” Noel said.
“Even those who were drafted at that time, they went ahead and they bit the bullet and they went to Vietnam, and some of them took the ultimate sacrifice and died. The others came back with so many wounds, you know — wounds you could see and wounds you could not see. I just can’t imagine anyone having my life experiences and not having a heart for them,” she continued.
A Date with Chris
Her radio show, “A Date with Chris,” was heard by American soldiers serving throughout Southeast Asia and the world.
“Armed Forces Radio was looking for a woman to put on the radio. They had not had a woman to put on the radio since World War II, and they realized during the Vietnam War that they needed to start doing something to try to cheer up the troops,” Noel said.
“Anything they could to bring up the morale because morale was pretty low and so I auditioned and I became the woman. I co-hosted a show with a gentleman, and then they fired me and gave me my own show. That’s how it happened, from A Date with Chris, then the DOD asked me to go over to Vietnam to help build up the morale. I guess I did a great job because these guys still remember me.”
You can go one step further. In the 1980s, Marvel Comics published a comic called The ‘Nam. The stories, written by real Vietnam veterans, chronicled several years of the war in a realistic manner.
“One of the fellows did a story about me, and put me on the cover. He sent it to me for my approval, and then of course how could I not approve it?” Noel said.
“Then they sent the rough drawings of it, and so I’m one of the very fortunate people in the world to have a comic book done about me. There are not very many people — and they were Muhammad Ali, Jesus, and there were only about 10 people in the world who have a comic book done about them. Someone did a list for me one day — someone who was a comic book person. That was pretty overwhelming.”
Her story was printed in Issue 23, October 1988, with art by Wayne Vasant. The cover art shows her clad in army fatigues performing behind the protection of military police.
Today, when Noel travels she has a favorite message for Vietnam vets.
“One of the things I like to remind them of, is, you know a lot of people like to say you lost the war, like when they came back to the country,” Noel said.
“Some of the American Legion and VFW didn’t want these guys then. ‘Nah, we were in the real war,’ ‘We were in the big one — we were in I, II, all of this lousy stuff,’ and I remind them, ‘Look, you never lost the battle and you didn’t lose the war. You were taken out of the war. We pulled you out of the war.’
“Then I remind them that the entire time that you were there you gave those people freedom. Those people were free when we were there. They weren’t free before we showed up, and they weren’t free after we left. While we were there they had freedom. No one is going to bash their head in because of their religious belief or whatever, and the moment we left, well, they just went in and had a killing spree.”
Haupricht met her in Detroit in 1986 while he toured with his traveling Vietnam War Museum.
“Chris was in my exhibit and she goes, ‘This is my book,’ because I used to carry about 350 books with me. And I said (sarcastically), ‘Okay,’ and she said, ‘No, this really is my book.’ I had her sign it, and through the years we crisscrossed paths,” Haupricht said.
Noel said, “Nick has done a lot of things in the Vietnam movement. He’s done a lot of things with his life, you know.”
Haupricht said, “I worked at Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Wall there for 4½ years doing nothing but raising funds for non-profit organizations, passed three Bills set up by Congress and signed by the president, and then I came back to Toledo.”
Noel currently lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. Part of the reason Haupricht brought her here is to support a project he is involved in.
“What I’m working on now is I’m bringing Chris in to be the kickoff for my non-profit organization called ‘Remembrance.’ What we’re doing is refurbishing and rebuilding new war memorials,” Haupricht said.