Good Morning Vietnam 3/8 Hello Beirut 3/8 Greetings from War-torn Sarajevo 3/8
Jul. 25, 1992
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ It's Sunday morning in Sarajevo and you've survived another night of shelling. So what do you do to unwind?
If you're like most everyone in this war-torn capital, you tune in to Radio One for a weekly fix of ''Top Hits of the Surreal,'' a look on the light side at Bosnia's civil war.
Produced by five former high-school buddies, the show lampoons officious Serb generals, European Community envoys, U.N. peacekeepers, and - in a nod to the comedy movie ''Blazing Saddles'' - Sarajevo's staple diet of beans, beans and more beans.
For city residents with little to smile about after months of shelling, relentless sniper fire and grim pronouncements of the latest death toll on the evening news, the half-hour of satire has become a sensation.
The opening line - ''Good morning Vietnam 3/8 Hello Beirut 3/8 Greetings Sarajevo'' - is a takeoff of the 1960s and '70s radio shows from Vietnam and Lebanon that entertained war-weary U.S. forces there.
''Top Hits'' has struck a chord with its audience with some of the following routines:
French President Francois Mitterrand was hailed worldwide when he made his bold journey here a month ago to spur the West to do more to help the beleaguered city.
Listeners to Top Hits heard an imaginary meeting of Mitterrand and Lord Carrington, the EC's chief negotiator on Yugoslavia, on the streets of Sarajevo.
''So how's it going Mr. President?'' asks Carrington.
''OK, but there's some misunderstanding,'' Mitterrand replies. ''I'm not here to discuss peace. I'm just bringing some civilian clothes for my nephew in the U.N. peacekeeping force. His mother wants me to get him out of here.''
Another sketch portrayed two black marketeers stealing U.N. food aid and selling it by the spoonful to a starving public. When the law closes in, they take on children's voices, convince a relief worker they are 10-year-old orphans and get evacuated to Italy.
The show is unpredictable. At one point, it is interrupted by a caller from Belgrade - the Yugoslav capital where opposition to Serbia's leadership is growing - reading a mock communique to the people of Sarajevo:
''Intellectuals of Belgrade share your pain and shudder at your suffering. To protest against the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we have decided not to wake up at 9 o'clock in the morning. Henceforth we will stay in bed until 9:20 until (Serbian) President Slobodan Milosevic resigns.''
Parodying frequent missing-person announcements, the Top Hits crew reads a message from a family in a five-star hotel in Florida: ''We wish to inform our relatives in Sarajevo that we are alive and feeling well,'' the announcer deadpans.
But the favorite target of the show's satire are Serb army generals, blamed for the bombardment of the city and portrayed as bumbling.
In one skit, the generals are alarmed about the appearance of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Adriatic Sea. So they order landlocked Serbia to create a navy that they say will divide the Sixth Fleet into two autonomous U.S. Third Fleets.
The show was created by five friends in their early 30s who say they have been cut-ups together since high school. They started a radio program in 1982 that later moved to television.
In April, when the warfare made a TV show too complicated, they returned to radio, said Srdjan Velimirovic.
Explaining the show's popularity, he said: ''We are talking about the war and things happening every day. But people are sick of hearing about battles and fighting. So we approach it from the other side. We joke about it.''
Since the war began this spring, he said, he has only once heard the reproach ''that we are laughing while people are dying.''
''They have weapons and guns, and all we have is our spirit and our humor,'' adds another co-creator, Davor Sucic.
The group also has a talent for prediction, said Zenit Dozic, the team's long-haired leader.
A videotape made last year, before the war began, shows a Bosnian family in combat gear battling feverishly in their bombed-out apartment over who will control the bathroom.