In November 2019 actress-singer Ann-Margret was presented with the first-ever Bob Hope Legacy Award for her many contributions to the USO and American servicemembers.
She deserved it.
In March 1966, Margret went to remote parts of Vietnam with entertainers Chuck Day and Mickey Jones for her first USO tour. Not only in Vietnam, but they performed for servicemen throughout South-East Asia.
Today she continues her sincere affection for veterans and refers to them as “my gentlemen”. In November 2005 Ann-Margret, Day, and Jones reunited for an encore of this tour for veterans and troops at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Recently, Navy Veteran and high school friend Ray Hammonds posted a wonderful story from a wife of one of those soldiers in attendance during one of her USO tours:
Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam, other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.
A few years ago, Ann Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to Sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o’clock for the 7:30 signing.
When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage. Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.
Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those
shows meant to lonely GI’s so far from home.. Ann Margret came out looking as
beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard’s turn.
He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, “I understand. I just wanted her to see it.”
She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for ‘my gentlemen.” With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren’t too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one there.
That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I’ll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.
Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he’d like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. ”That’s the first time anyone ever thanked
me for my time in the Army,” he said.
I now make it a point to say ‘Thank you’ to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.
Ann Margret’s first major movie role
was 1963 as the all-American teenager Kim from Sweet Apple, Ohio, in Bye Bye Birdie. Producers wanted Elvis Presley in the title role but were turned down.
The next year Ann-Margret met Elvis Presley on the MGM soundstage when the two filmed Viva Las Vegas. She recorded three duets with Presley for the movie: “The Lady Loves Me”, “You’re The Boss”, and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.”
Only “The Lady Loves Me” made it into the final film and none of them were commercially released until years after Presley’s death, due to concerns by his manager Colonel Tom Parker. He was cautious that Ann-Margret’s presence threatened to overshadow Elvis.
In July 1967, Ann-Margret gave her first live performance in Las Vegas.
Elvis and his ‘Memphis Mafia’ entourage came to see her during the show’s five-week run and to celebrate backstage. From thereon until his death In August 1977, Presley sent her a guitar-shaped floral arrangement for each of her Vegas openings.
Ann Margret, turned 79 on April 28, 2020. Many don’t realize she is a natural brunette. The same hairdresser, Sydney Guilaroff, who turned Lucille Ball’s hair red, did the same for Ann Margaret.
Born in Sweden as Ann-Margret Olsson, she became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1949, at age 8.
She was originally offered the title role in Cat Ballou in 1965 (it went to Jane Fonda), but her manager turned it down without telling her.
Ann-Margret was an early choice to play the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in the 1978 film Grease with John Travolta. At 37 years old, she was ultimately determined to be too old to convincingly play the role of a high school student. The role went to Olivia Newton-John with the character being renamed “Sandy Olsson,” in honor of Ann-Margret’s birth surname.
Elvis fans remember her riding a motorcycle along side the King in Viva Las Vegas. She was an adept keen motorcyclist and in 1966 rode a 500 cc Triumph T100C Tiger in The Swinger.
Later drove the same model, fitted with a nonstandard electric starter, in her stage show and her TV specials.
She became featured in Triumph Motorcycles’ official advertisements in the 1960s.
In 2000, she suffered three broken ribs and a fractured shoulder when she was thrown off a motorcycle in rural Minnesota.
In 1995, she was #10 in Empire’s 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.