OUTRAGEOUS HERO The B.T. CollinsStory
Maureen Collins Baker
He never ran a thousand yards in any season or tossed his hair and swiveled his hips in an arena filled with screaming teenagers. He never won an Oscar or an Emmy, yet the mere mention of his name guaranteed a packed house. When he spoke, he reduced those listening to awed silence.
He never made it to the “Hill” but congressmen from both parties stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and read seven pages of “the best of B.T.” into the Congressional Record. Californians gave this New Yorker a state funeral: 5,000 people came to say, “Goodbye.” Two governors spoke, and one, the Republican, lost his composure completely. “If Collins were here,” he quipped, “he’d say, ‘Candy-ass Marine!’”
So who was B.T. Collins? A warrior, politician, patriot, lover: a rogue, a rascal, a hero’s hero.
Outrageous Hero is the story of his life – one lived with gusto, irreverently, selflessly, honestly and political correctness be damned! He made grown men cry and women weep and everybody laugh … hard. He said the unthinkable; he did the unimaginable: jumping out of airplanes, drinking pesticide to make a point. “He was,” a former nun once said, “the orneriest son-of-a-bitch I ever loved.”
He left an arm and a leg in a far away jungle in an unpopular war, but not his heart, nor his wit nor his courage. He never forgot the heroes he left behind but promised to live in their stead. And he did.
B.T. Collins was the American we once were proud to be and have almost forgotten. He left us with a legacy of obligation: “It’s not the foxiest lady…nor the sharpest car…what matters is…Is the world a better place because you were there?” This poignant, often hilarious story answers that question for B.T.
Jacket photograph by Rich Pedroncelli
Bryce Hill Publishing www.brycehillpublishing.com
So….who was B.T. Collins?
“Sadly, San Francisco will never have a B.T. Collins. It would never be able to deal with his seeming contradictions: a boozing, womanizing, outrageously funny, kind, truth-telling, Jerry Brown-sidekick Republican patriot, an atheist Christian warrior whose favorite cause next to the Vietnam Memorial was the support of battered women. A man who reading this, would condemn me as a whiny, mushy liberal.”
Robert Norse, the San Francisco Examiner
“I never liked any politician more. In a business where ‘on deep background’ and ‘not for attribution’ are the only conditions under which so many politicians will even comment on the NCCA basketball tournament, Collins was quotable, candid, blunt, honest. He never trimmed and he never truckled.”
Mark Shields, the Washington Post
“B.T. Collins is gentle, profane, gregarious, tender, funny, boorish, sad, artful, romantic, intelligent, manipulative…Brendan Behan and George Patton and flicking between these extremes is his main mischief.”
Paul Dean, the Los Angeles Times
“‘No whining, no crying. We’re the fortunate ones. We survived when better men than we died all around us.’ That was the gift of B.T. Collins. We have been given a gift and now it’s time to give it back.”
Joe Galloway, author, “We Were Soldiers Once and Young”
“B.T. Collins was a patriot, a hero, a Yankee. He was selfless and tireless. He was highly influential throughout my life, one of the few people I have known that I actually wish everyone could have known.”
Rush Limbaugh, America’s Most Listened to Radio Talk Show Host
“B.T. Collins descended upon us in a way no one else ever had. When we heard that [Governor Jerry] Brown was going to name a Republican Chief of Staff, we were totally up-in-arms, and we resolved that would never happen. Two seconds in B.T.’s presence, and we forgot why we were even there.”
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House
“B.T. was clearly someone who saw the big picture, who cared about the state and the nation, who was willing to tell it like it is and not to mind the criticism that sometimes rained down upon him as a result. People knew that he cared about them as human beings, not just as political chessmen on a board.” Congressman Vic Fazio
Maureen Collins Baker is a Professor Emerita from the State University of New York’s Potsdam College and best known for her work in children’s television. She currently resides in Rhode Island.