Sonny Landham And My Personal Connection With ‘Predator’

August 21, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

Many fans were saddened last Friday to hear of the passing of Sonny Landham.  Mr. Landham starred in films like 48 hours, The Warriors and one of my favorite adventure flicks from the 80s, Firewalker.  However, it was his role as “Billy” in 1987’s Predator that he’s best remembered for.
Sonny Landham was 76 when he passed.
I mentioned that fans were saddened at his passing, and I’m certainly one of them.  But for me, it’s more than just mourning the loss of a memorable character.  You see, I have a special place in my heart for Predator, and it’s tied to my military service.
It started back when I was just a private in the Army National Guard, and it was a time when we were still expected to shine our boots prior to stepping out the door in uniform.  Well, on the night before a drill weekend every month I would sit down with my boots and a can of Lincoln Wax and go to town with a cotton ball.  I’d have my boots bright enough to shave in the reflection and it took exactly 1 hour and 47 minutes to get them that way.  How do I know?  Because I would watch Predator each month in its entirety while I shined my boots.  I knew when the credits rolled I was done.
Let me be clear:  this was a ritual for me.  I watched Predator once a month for almost two years straight.
Then I get deployed.
I was in Iraq from 2003-2004, and during my last two weeks in country, I had one of the coolest Predator experiences of my entire life.  I won’t go into a lot of location details, but my last station before flying out of Iraq was an air base that just happened to have an outdoor movie theater.  It was great!  You’d drag your folding camp chair with you and hang out under the stars watching flicks.
It was like a drive-in flashback.
Well, wouldn’t you know it–one night the feature film was Predator.  I don’t remember a lot of other guys showing up to watch it, but there were about half a dozen of my pals with me, and we all got the best seats on the lawn (“lawn” being a dusty-ass sand pit).  I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point during the film our base came under mortar attack.  Most of the personnel went running for shelters, but at that point in our deployment my unit was a bunch of grizzled, give-no-shits combat vets, and right then and there we all decided that watching Predator was more important than running and hiding in a bomb shelter.
So we stayed put, and we finished the damn movie out in the open, in the middle of a mortar attack, because that’s what Dutch, Billy, Dillon, Mac, Blain, Poncho and Hawkins would have done.  And that’s why Predator means so much to me, and it’s why I’m extra bummed to hear of the loss of one of the cast.

R.I.P. Billy


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