Flying with the Ace

It’s high time that Lou Junod got his own post.

Lou Junod in front of the For Men Only banner. Photo courtesy of Tom Junod.

I like to think that he would be pretty angry with me for not including him sooner and in more detail.

You see, I spent months researching the men of For Men Only, talking to their family members and some of them, even.  But Lou, to me, always had his own mythology.  Check out his photo and maybe you’ll understand why.  The man had movie-star looks and a voice like Frank Sinatra.  During the war, everyone called him “Ace,” although God only knows why.  Maybe because guys like that just get great nicknames.

World War II was Lou Junod’s time.  But, as a matter of fact, it may never have happened for him.  You see, Lou had a job working in the shipyards in New York, which meant that he got a draft exemption.   But he also had three sisters and a dad who wasn’t worth much as a father.  So Lou decided that, in order to keep his sisters’ boyfriends in line, he needed to join the Army.  And then, a near-death experience brought him the chance to be a star.  He never got that chance back in Brooklyn.  Tom, his son, said Lou was a celebrity for whom celebrity never came.  Except for the war.

And somehow, the Ace became best friends with a little Jewish kid from Kentucky.  I can only imagine the lessons that he had to teach.  I like to think of the two of them taking on the women of Paris together, Lou so attractive and debonair that they just couldn’t resist, Norton just too funny and sweet to say no to.

But something about that friendship lasted for both men until their lives ended.  After the war, they vacationed together.  They solicited advice from each other.  And they grew old together, despite the fact that hundreds of miles separated them.  My first introduction to Lou was at Norton’s funeral.  The friendship that these two men shared inspired Lou’s son, Tom, to write a letter/eulogy for Norton.

Now, I can’t get away with mentioning Lou without mentioning his son, Tom.  Tom wrote an amazing article for Esquire about For Men Only called “The Time of Their Lives.”  Thankfully I didn’t write an article or nonfiction myself, because I know it couldn’t compare to this.  Unlike most of us, he has a clear-headed understanding of his father that I admire.

We met in a Southern-cuisine restaurant in Atlanta on a beautiful spring afternoon.  While I enjoyed the best potato salad I’ve had since I was a kid, we talked about how the war had changed these men.  Tom generously shared his thoughts about the men he interviewed for the article (more of whom were alive at the time).   About how each of them ended up seeing the show through their own eyes.  And how, despite the fact that they didn’t spend their wars fighting and dying like so many others did, the repercussions followed them for the rest of their lives.

Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army

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