Adrian Cronauer, the inspiration for the 1987 film Good Morning Vietnam starring Robin Williams, has passed away at the age of 79. Cronauer was known as the “Voice of Vietnam,” and was also the most popular DJ in country while serving in Saigon. His familiar opening call-out was well known.
“Goooooooood morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test! This is rock and roll! Time to rock it from the Delta to the D.M.Z.!”
Cronauer began his broadcast career at the age of 12, on a one-hour children’s program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later was known to broadcast from college at WTPS. Eventually, Cronauer found himself in the Air Force, broadcasting from Saigon. He was an Airman First Class when he was in Saigon, although he made Sergeant by the time he separated from service.
Cronauer was known for playing music his program director didn’t approve of, and had a penchant for being controversial. Cronauer complained that he constantly fought censorship while he was in Saigon.
Cronauer wrote a concept script that he hoped he could sell to someone in TV. It was part M*A*S*H and part WKRP In Cincinnati. That didn’t work out, but Robin Williams did portray him on the big screen in Good Morning Vietnam. Williams won a Golden Globe, and Cronauer was introduced to a new generation of fans that were suddenly using his catchphrase, “Goooood morning Vietnam!” It was a line he almost didn’t use, according to an interview at the New York Times.
“They’re young guys in this horrendous heat, slogging through rice paddies with mosquitoes the size of Mack trucks, picking leeches off themselves, shooting and fighting and killing and being killed. Do I want to do that? I said, ‘Yeah, I do, because if there’s a certain amount of irony there, and if they pick up on that, they’ll know what I’m really saying.’ “
Cronauer wasn’t really much of a wild man, although the movie makes him out to be. Cronauer considered himself a conservative person, and in his later life he worked for Republican party causes. He didn’t like the way Williams depicted him at first, but said he reminded himself it wasn’t a literal biography, and rolled with it. Cronauer stated on many occasions that the way Williams portrayed him wasn’t accurate, but it was entertaining.
“If I did half the things he did in that movie, I’d still be in Leavenworth (the federal prison) and not England.”
Cronauer remained connected to the military long after his days in uniform had ended. From 2001-2009, he served as a confidential adviser to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. He also represented the POW/MIA Office as special assistant to the Director. Cronauer was an attorney with a JD from the University of Pennsylvania, but he agreed to disbarment in 2014 for misrepresentations made concerning loan modification and foreclosure prevention practices.
No cause of death was provided for Cronauer, although he was known to be battling an unspecified illness for two months. According to USA Today, his death was confirmed by Mary Muse, the wife of his stepson.