January 14, 2013

Winslow deli renames 'Fonda' sandwich to recognize Vietnam dead

Big G Deli's Jane Fonda sandwich renamed to the 47,410, in honor of U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINSLOW -- A turkey sandwich was the subject of a flap at a local eatery last month.

click image to enlarge

Gerry Michaud, co-owner of Big G's Deli on Benton Avenue in Winslow, poses next to his renamed sandwich, the 41,470, in recognition of the number of U.S. combat deaths in the Vietnam conflict. The sandwich was formerly named the Jane Fonda.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

The Big G's Deli sandwich formerly named the Jane Fonda is now the 41,470.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The Jane Fonda, a longtime menu item at Big G's Deli, came under fire from a group of Vietnam War veterans who were upset that the celebrity -- derisively known as "Hanoi Jane" -- had been lionized between two slices of bread.

In response, co-owner Gerry Michaud -- the Big G of Big G's Deli -- renamed the sandwich to memorialize the U.S. service members who died in the East Asian conflict.

For more than 20 years, Michaud's deli has been serving up sandwiches with cheeky names -- the Dr. Strangepork, the Avocado Montelban and the Miles Standwich, to name a few. The Jane Fonda -- which features sliced turkey, sprouts, shredded carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers and fresh mushrooms -- was one of a line of low-calorie sandwiches named after fitness-conscious celebrities, including Richard Simmons, Jack LaLanne and Cher. The line also includes a seafood salad sandwich named for Kennebec Journal columnist J.P. Devine.

In the 1980s, two-time Academy Award-winner Fonda was well-known for her line of workout videos. A decade earlier, in 1973, however, Fonda gained notoriety for visiting the U.S. enemy's capital, Hanoi, and broadcasting a radio message to American soldiers, asking them how they felt to be used as pawns in the ongoing conflict with North Vietnam, according to reports from the Associated Press. She was also photographed sitting on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun.

As a result of her activities, Fonda has been called a traitor in the U.S. Congress and the California Legislature, she was on Richard Nixon's enemies list and she was a target of the FBI during her self-described radical years, the Associated Press reported.

Over the decades, Fonda has made several public apologies for her Vietnam trip; but for some Americans, her mea culpae weren't enough.

John Mullett, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam in 1972, was one of five people who lobbied Michaud to change the name.

"You will not find a Vietnam veteran who does not have disdain for Jane Fonda," said Mullett, a 59-year-old resident of Randolph.

Mullett, who had been a frequent visitor of Big G's, had never noticed the menu item until he read about it last month on Maine Biker Network -- a social media site that connects motorcyclists in the Pine Tree State. There, a blogger lodged a beef with the sandwich, which spurred several veterans into action, including Mullett.

In an email to Michaud, Mullett asked the sandwich maker to change the name. Several days later, Michaud replied that he would.

The sandwich is now called the 47,410 -- the number of U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam. To reflect the name change, Michaud will soon throw away about 500 menus and print 1,000 new ones.

Michaud said this isn't the first time he's received a complaint about a sandwich name. Several years ago, he renamed the Paul Prudhomme after a representative for the celebrity chef threatened to sue.

Most names, however, are well-received by their namesakes, Michaud said. When Angus King was governor, for instance, King helped Michaud create the Gov. King -- a sandwich with ham, turkey and bacon.

Michaud also received a letter of thanks from Richard Simmons for the tuna salad sandwich that bears his name.

Mullett said Michaud's decision to rename the Jane Fonda to the 47,410 turns a "negative into a positive," but he has one last problem with the sandwich.

"I'll probably ask them to hold the carrots, because I don't like them."

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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