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Sgt. Bilko

Comedians pull rank in 'Sgt. Bilko'

March 29, 1996
Web posted at: 9:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Paul Vercammen

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- "Sgt. Bilko," popularized by Phil Silvers decades ago on TV, is being updated for the big screen with Steve Martin, Dan Akroyd and Phil Hartman. Just imagine the Marx Brothers in camouflage and you get the picture.

Reporting for duty in this army are three men who probably wouldn't make it past boot camp. Drill sergeants don't go for smart remarks. But fortunately for audiences, Bilko's Army not only lets them out of boot camp, they're running the show.

The highly-decorated comedians explain the roles they play: men who probably chuckle every time they hear "Be All That You Can Be."

"I'm the leader of the platoon and I run gambling and lotteries, dances and I sell beer illegally. I'm a con man and I'm thoroughly lovable," says Master Sgt. Martin.

"I'm completely oblivious to all of the activities of my master sergeant but completely dependent on him to keep the base running at a smooth level," says Colonel Akroyd.

"I should have been a general a long time ago instead of shining a seat with my ass in Washington D.C. But, thanks to a certain master sergeant, I had a career reversal 20 years ago," Major Hartman says.


The subject of "Sgt. Bilko" called for a round table discussion and the three men gladly sat down, appropriately enough, at a poker table.

"If we do well on CNN national, we're going to get on International," Martin jokes as he pulls up a chair.

Hartman says that playing Army was part of his childhood. "I got my uniform and my belts and I wanted to learn how to salute."

Akroyd's backyard combat memories are a little elaborate. "I was (with the) French Resistance and I was blowing up railway bridges with plastique and going to bed with Marlene (Dietrich) at night," he recalls.

Martin says that he was more interested in playing Bilko than playing army. "I grew up with Bilko so I was more interested in (him.)," he said.

Their fantasies were played out in a film made by Universal, recently acquired by the Bronfman's of the Seagrams liquor empire.

"Wonderful Canadian family who gave me free Canadian Scotch daily," Hartman says.

"That's the old regime," Akroyd interjects. "I have nothing against the Bronfmans, they're Canadians but they came in just after "Bilko" was made."

Hartman spits his drink across the table, apparently unaware that Universal had been bought. "I wasn't told," he gasps.

Before they marched off to another interview somewhere in the trenches of Hollywood, Akroyd and Hartman decided to give their Clinton-Dole review of "Bilko."

"A master sergeant in the Army is in danger of losing his lavish lifestyle when a Pentagon official threatens to close Fort Baxter," Hartman says in the dead ringer voice of President Bill Clinton (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound).

"I'll tell you right now, there should have been a lot of court martials in the movie. I never saw a sergeant like Bilko. They'd send him up to Fort Leavenworth so fast he wouldn't be able to blink," Akroyd growls as Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (145K AIF sound or 145K WAV sound).

Yeah, but they'd have tears in their eyes from laughter when they threw him in the brig.

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