Ballad of the Green Beret is about the rough-and-tumble life of Special Forces vet and Sixties pop star Barry Sadler. The top Billboard Hot 100 single of 1966 wasn’t The Rolling Stones' “Paint It Black” or the Beatles' “Yellow Submarine”--it was “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” a hyper-patriotic tribute to the men of the Special Forces by Vietnam veteran, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler. But Sadler’s clean-cut, all-American image hid a darker side, a Hunter Thompson-esque life of booze, girls, and guns. Unable to score another hit song, he wrote a string of popular pulp fiction paperbacks that made “Rambo look like a stroll through Disneyland.” He killed a lover’s ex-boyfriend in Tennessee. Settling in Central America, Sadler ran guns, allegedly trained guerrillas, provided medical care to residents, and caroused at his villa. In 1988 he was shot in the head in Guatemala and died a year later. This life-and-times biography of an American pop culture phenomenon recounts the sensational details of Sadler’s life vividly but soberly, setting his meteoric rise and tragic fall against the big picture of American society and culture during and after the Vietnam War.
Marc Leepson, journalist, historian, and author of eight books, most recently What So Proudly We Hailed, the first biography of the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in more than 75 years, has taught US history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia. He holds a BA and an MA in History from George Washington University. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, DC, his work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including Civil War Times, America's Civil War, Vietnam, Smithsonian, The Washington Post, New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today, among others. He also was a long-time contributor to the Encyclopedia Americana Yearbook and writes for the Encyclopedia Americana. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the lecture.