Richard La Motte recently reached out to the Signal Newspaper alerting us to his interesting United States Marine Corps service, which I found intriguing. I promptly contacted Richard for an interview so we met at the Corner Bakery over coffee and I was thoroughly fixated on his fascinating life story.
Adopted at Birth
Richard E. La Motte was born July 27, 1943, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Richard’s father perished in WWII and his mother gave him up for adoption at birth thus he has very limited information about his birth parents. Canadian Ross La Motte served as a WWI pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, and his wife Lucy, a native born Mexican, adopted Richard and gave him a wonderful upbringing in West Los Angeles. Richard graduated from University High School in 1961’s Winter Class. Richard struggled resolving what he would do next as he realized pursuing a college education was not yet in his wheelhouse. Hence, within months of graduation, Richard, at age 18, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps entering Boot Camp August 18, 1961, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. As mentioned, Richard’s birth father served in WWI and his Uncles Harry and Dick served respectively in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and USMC as WWI combat infantrymen. It’s noted, per USMC San Diego Wikipedia, that during the Mexican-American War, the Marines made an amphibious landing in 1846 at San Diego and Marines made a second presence there in 1914. Ground was broken March 2, 1919, for a permanent base in San Diego.
Richard said, “Enlisting in the military just seemed like that’s what you do to give back to our country that did so much for us. Giving back was the right thing to do”. At the nine week mark of Boot Camp, Richard was assigned janitorial duties for one week at the Training Aids Library where draftsmen and artists prepared charts, maps, and illustrations that enhanced combat and intelligence training. While there, Richard told a draftsman that he could do a better job and so he was challenged to prove it, which he easily did. His work was noticed by Captain Holder who was in charge, but Richard returned to finish Boot Camp and then four weeks of infantry training at Camp Pendleton.
Training Aids Library
Once infantry training concluded, Richard received orders for Okinawa with the 3rd Marine Division’s artillery battery, but that order was quickly superseded sending him back to San Diego’s Training Aids Library as an illustrator. Little did he know that the one week janitorial assignment would lead to an amazing and successful lifetime career. Richard’s high school drafting classes certainly paid off. As Richard put it, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. During the next two years, Richard continued perfecting his expertise becoming a valuable asset to his unit and was thus noticed by General Victor H. Krulak, San Diego’s Base commander. Per Victor H. Krulak Wikipedia, Krulak, nicknamed Brute, was a decorated USMC officer who saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was considered a visionary by fellow Marines. He authored “First to Fight, an Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps”. While at San Diego, the Cuban Missile Crises had everyone on high alert temporarily increasing Richard’s workload.
Top Level Briefing Material
In 1963, Richard transferred to the Pacific Fleet Headquarters at Camp Smith in Oahu, Hawaii, where he received a secret clearance and worked in their general offices. Because of Richard’s strong work ethic and pleasant demeanor he began working within General Krulak’s support cadre. His responsibility was creating illustrations and top level briefing material for General Krulak’s officer corp. During his last two years at Camp Smith things were hectic at times resulting from President John F. Kennedy’s assassination along with providing training aids and command briefings for G-3 Staff for the Vietnam War which was expanding.
On July 27, 1965, Corporal Richard E. La Motte was Honorably Discharged receiving a Good Conduct Medal and a Letter of Commendation from General Victor H. Krulak which he prizes to this day. In 1966, Richard’s mother Lucy, a CBS Studio Center employee, conspired with her head tailor Bob Parral and arranged a clandestine lunch so that Richard could meet Bob’s daughter Patricia at Bob’s home. Richard said, “I had no idea that I was about to meet the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Little did I know that our subsequent marriage was brokered in CBS’s Wardrobe Department”? Following that lunch Richard and Patricia dated for the next year until the day when Richard called her on the phone and said, “Hey, do you want to get married?” When she relied yes, he said, “Pack your bag and I’ll pick you up out front in an hour”. So it was off to Las Vegas where they were married October 17, 1966, in a small chapel off the Vegas Strip. They went on to have a son, Jason, a working artist in Claremont, and daughter Cherie who at age 25 tragically died in a 1996 accident.
50 Year Motion Pictures Career
Richard’s career in Motion Pictures began in 1966 as a costumer, where he worked all across America and in numerous foreign countries such as Canada, Mexico, Israel, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Spain, Thailand, Australia, etc. His films included ‘Hello Dolly’, ‘Butch Cassidy’, ‘Tora Tora Tora’, ‘Little Big Man’, ‘Batman’ (T.V.), “Planet of the Apes’, ‘Dillinger’, ‘Hanoi Hilton’, and many more. On a movie set, Richard was chatting with Director John Milius which led Richard to scratching a sketch which apparently impressed this prolific Hollywood Director. Out of the blue, Richard’s status changed to costume designer and he was chosen by John Milius to be ‘Costume Designer’ for ‘The Wind and the Lion’. Richard was also Costume Designer for ‘Man called Horse II’, ‘The Island of Doctor Moreau’, ‘Rambo III’, ‘Gods and Generals’ and others. Richard also worked as a technical or costume adviser on: ‘Last of the Mohicans’, ‘Pacific’, ‘Pearl Harbor’, and ‘the Mask of Zorro’ and at times was an ‘Extra’ on ‘The ten Commandments’, and other movies.
Retirement But Not Really
Richard retired from the entertainment industry in 2006 and quickly earned his real estate license and worked with home sellers and banks during the ‘Short-sale’ crisis. Richard authored a book, ‘Costume Design 101’, which is used as a class-room text. Richard continues to write and paint and take an occasional job call for films such as ‘Marco Polo’, ‘12 Strong’ among the most recent. Richard took interior design classes for two years at College of the Canyons and Patricia has remained active in Real Estate since 1980. Both remain very active and they love to travel. Richard, curious of his ethnicity proudly discovered that he’s 70% Spanish, 10% Irish and 20% Native American. Richard is also very proud of his United States Marine Corps service to our Country. Richard, thank you for your excellent military service for our country and for participating in our Signal Newspaper Veterans Program.