Dianne Cameron - Lead Singer & Drummer, Pretty Kittens

Miniskirts, go-go boots and Army fatigues may not seem like a natural fashion match, but one look at a photo Dianne Cameron in 1967 get-up may change your mind.  The 20-year Rochester resident, now an Assistant Director/Activity Director at American House Senior Living Community, once led the life of a somewhat iconoclastic rock star.  In the mid-sixties, living in Southern California, she was the drummer and leader of an all-girl rock and roll band called the Pretty Kittens and, with gigs in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, well on her way to stardom.

At the time, of course, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and USO shows featuring Bob Hope, Redd Foxx and Jim Nabors were much anticipated entertainment venues where the troops could enjoy a bit of well-deserved R&R.  Naturally, the shows that featured poster girls like Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress and Lola Falana were just as popular.

Though something less than household names, the four Pretty Kittens were a slim, talented and gorgeous act, and when their manager was able to book them on a tour of Southeast Asia, including a150 shows in Vietnam where they would perform in NCO clubs and those for enlisted men, the band jumped at the chance.

“Our parents were worried about the dangers, of course—and so were we.  We had no idea what to expect.  But it wasn’t just the guaranteed four months of bookings or the chance to travel that convinced us.  It was that we could really bring some enjoyment to the men and women who were putting their lives on the line in an unpopular war—many of whom had been drafted into service.”

As Cameron was soon to learn, the trip had higher highs and lower lows than she ever could have anticipated.  She tells of the Pretty Kittens’ fist day in-country, where the humidity was so severe that their false eyelashes—staples for the era’s female couture—melted from their faces.  Their stage costumes suffered the from the same damp mildew as the soldier’s fatigues, aggravated by the lack of a useable laundry.  “We had to wash our stage clothes each night, and after so many shows, they began to fall apart.  One of the girls had her mother send us over new ones…”

On the worst day of her tour, Cameron tells of waiting an inordinate time for the Chinook that was supposed to airlift them to their next gig.  “When it finally showed up, we found out why it had been delayed:  the crew began to unload body bags onto the tarmack.  We had to board that same chopper a minute later.”

On the other hand, Cameron breaks into a broad smile as she reminisces about the sheer exuberance of the enlisted men at every one of their performances.  “We felt like the Beatles—they had been waiting for us, a quartet of California girls willing to play for them.  Apparently, other than the big USO shows, most of the entertainment consisted of generic bands from the Phillipines and Thailand…”

Remembering these men and women, their faces and names, is one of the reasons why Cameron has difficulty looking at the Healing Wall, which recently traveled to



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