Tops in Blue
Christina M. Callisto Free Lance Writer
Published in the February/March 2011 issue of the Military Voice & Community News
“Tops In Blue, is an all-active duty US Air Force special unit made up of talented amateur performers selected for their entertainment abilities.”
It was 1953 when the Worldwide Talent Contest was conducted by the Air Force under the then Major Al Reilly to recognize airmen with entertaining talents ranging from singing to acting to instrumental and production skills. The purpose was to provide entertainment for the families of Air Force personnel stationed across the world and so the term “family entertaining family” was coined.
The best of the best were chosen from this contest and would form what is now known as Tops in Blue. Members of the cast and crew needed to setup, preform, tear down, and travel to the next location with amazing speed and precision ensuring the maximum locations visited and that each location would see a new production.
The caliber of quality and dedication to its mission caught the attention of Ed Sullivan who invited the Tops In Blue to his “Toast of the Town” in 1954. At the time it was estimated that 15 million views watched from their homes. Cross county notoriety did not stop the Tops In Blue from performing around the world. Four years later the group had traveled to bases around the world entertaining almost a million Air Force family members.
World events enabled the Tops in Blue to produce records and films in the late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. These professional films, and even television shows filmed in the late 1960s, continued to bring excitement and joy to the Air Force families. When the group was able to tour again the whirlwind traveling entertained 42,000 military personnel. Special programs were even created and performed for isolated locations and during the long winter seasons.
Clamor for the Tops In Blue had increased to a fervor and by the 1980s it was decided to create two touring groups to reach more bases across the world. The group was invited to special events and even the Bob Hope Birthday Special. Nearly 400,000 people had gathered at the Washington Monument to celebrate July 4th and partake in a special performance of the Tops in Blue. What may have been the widest reaching production for the United States citizens was when the group was invited to perform at the half-time show during Super Bowl XIX in 1985.
The 1990s saw the mission expand and the two groups were combined into one large traveling show to entertain in numerous former Soviet Union countries as well as for Air Force personal stationed at Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, among others. After the turn of the century Tops in Blue were the first good-will force to perform in Kyrgystan, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Pakistan.
Their mission for the last 55 years has been to serve as an “expeditionary entertainment unit to provide quality entertainment from within Air Force resources for the Air Force family, with priority to Air Force personnel stationed worldwide at remote and deployed locations while simultaneously promoting community relations, supporting recruiting efforts and serving as ambassadors for the United States of America and the United States Air Force.”
Catch the Tops in Blue presenting “We Believe” at Hurlburt Field at the **************, on Friday March 11,2011. The show starts at 7 pm and is open to all DoD ID cardholders and guests. Admission is free, but no alcohol, coolers, or pets permitted. For more info call 884-7594 or visit MyHurlburt.com.