Dallas IN THE opulent Crystal Ballroom of the Registry Hotel in North Dallas, well-to-do Texans are mingling with delegates from all over the globe who are concluding a four-day convention of the World Anti-Communist League. They are here tonight, September 12, for a “Freedom Fighters’ Dinner,” and the leaders of eight selected anti-communist rebel groups are in their midst. The rebel movement against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua is foremost in the minds of many of the dinner guests. “We send supplies to the freedom fighters,” says. Dallas housewife Joan Whisenhunt, describing how she and her friends participate in the “Shoeboxes for Liberty” program to aid the Nicaraguan contras. “They’ll put in shaving cream, deodorant, and all the things toilet articles and things like this that the Freedom Fighters can’t get because they can’t get out of the areas to get them.” She introduces her friend Billie Templeton, also of Dallas. “Billie and I are starting an organization for the Freedom Fighters,” she says, explaining that she would like it to be a Dallas chapter of the World Anti-Communist duces a man in a suit jacket and tie and a knee-length matching skirt. “This man is from Tonga. Did you meet him?” The man, Mr. S. Pousima Afealci,. is the delegate to WACL from the South Pacific island kingdom of Tonga. I ask the Dallas ladies if they know who the bigwigs are who are attending the dinner tonight. “If you want to know something,” says Joan Whisenhunt, “there’s not too many bigwigs that I’ve found. However, there have been donations from bigwigs.” They steer me to the table of Mrs. Topsy King, of Corpus Christi. “I’ve had a letter from the General,” says King, explaining her presence. At the WACL conference, “the General” means Retired U.S. Artily Major General John K. Singlaub, the chairman this year of the World Anti-Communist League. But Topsy King won’t say if she has contributed money other than the price of tonight’s dinner ticket $500 to the antiCommunist cause. 10 SEPTEMBER 27, 1985 Eventually, I meander up to the front row table, where Dallas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt and friends are seated. Though many newspaper reports have listed him as a major figure in private fundraising efforts that have kept the contra war against the Sandinistas going, he is characteristically reticent about his financial involvement. “I bought this table,” he says, meaning that he paid for the tickets of the ten people at his table. And he remembers doing the same at the Freedom Fighters’ Banquet last spring in Washington, D.C., at which President Reagan spoke. “I’m for them,” he says of the contras, “but I’m not trying to finance the deal. General Singlaub is a friend of mine, and he’s a very good man, and I just heard there’d be a nice function here so I wanted to come and see the crowd. Very interesting to see people from all over the world. ” Across the table sits his brother Herbert Hunt. He is concerned with the “Communist influence” in Central America, but he doesn’t think the contras in Nicaragua have victory all sewn up. “It all depends on what kind of support they get,” he says. “They can’t do it on their own.” For this reason, he gives to the Anti-Communist League. But he won’t say how much. One contributor who is less shy about such matters is Mrs. Ellen St. John Garwood of Austin. She recently got her name into the New York Times when it was revealed that a helicopter for the contras was refurbished with the help of her $65,000 donation. The generals named the helicopter the “Lady Ellen” in her honor. Tonight WACL will be presenting her with a special award to recognize her generosity. General Singlaub walks up to the podium. He is a small man, with a John Wayne walk. The crowd here reveres him for his current work, but what they love most is the way he stood up to Jimmy Carter when Carter wanted to pull U.S. troops from South Korea. He publicly rebuked Carter and was then pulled out of Korea. Shortly afterward, he retired from the Army. Singlaub wears a flat-top haircut from the front it seems vaguely reminiscent of the sealevel view of an oncoming aircraft carrier. Behind Singlaub in the expansive Crystal Ballroom hang the flags of 93 nations most of those “free” nations represented at the conference. In the midst of the flags is the WACL banner announcing a “Counter-Offensive for World Freedom.” Singlaub introduces the ten freedom fighters on the dais, moving from left to right, making the standard joke “I always move right, never left.” The crowd laughs delightedly when he gets to the end and says, “on your extreme right,” and pauses before introducing the leader of the Vietnamese resistance movement. And then, a special moment of pride. General Singlaub reads a message from President Ronald Reagan, who sent his “warm greetings.” “Our combined efforts are moving the tide of history toward world freedom,” wrote the President. “I send you all who help in your crusade for liberty my best wishes. God Bless You.” Freedom Fighter of the Year THE EVENING has many entertaining moments. As guests are nearly finished carving into their roast beef dinners, the theme song from Sylvester Stallone’ s “Rocky” suddenly fills the air. From the back door emerges a parade of waiters, the lead waiter carrying a flaming sword held high. A dozen waiters follow him, each with flaming cakes. They march around the periphery of the Crystal Ballroom, and just as suddenly exit through the front door. The music fades. After dessert, Burt Hurlbut, an oil and gas executive from Austin who played a central role in organizing the banquet, introduces his friend Mr. Fred Travelina, who specializes in antiCommunist humor. Travelina, a Bobby Vinton look-alike in a smart dinner jacket, is introduced as the host of his own TV show, “Anything for Money.” Mr. Fred Travelina does impersonations and tells Soviet jokes about “Ivan.” He ends a joke about Jimmy Carter by having Carter’s wife Rosalynn say, “Why don’t you take me upstairs and do to me what the communists have done to the cause of freedom all over the world?” He ends on a serious note about how “people have got to get behind freedom” and receives a standing ovation. General Singlaub is back on the stage to present the “Freedom Fighter of the Year” award. He presents one award to a young Nicaraguan contra and another to a representative of the Afghan Rumble on the Far Right By Dave Denison
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.