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The term hollywood shower is common slang from the US Navy. When you are on a ship, floating on a saltwater sea in very hot climates, you tend to want to take a nice shower after a 12-hour shift. Unfortunately, the ship can only produce a finite amount of water, and it usually does not operate efficiently in hot, dry areas of the world (like the Persian Gulf).

After taking your sweaty, grimy and greasy self down to the enlisted berthing compartments, you can take a shower - for less than two minutes. All of the ships I was assigned to (all of them small "tin cans") had a button you pushed to turn on the water. You had to get wet enough to get soapy, because after about a minute it would turn off. After you soaped and scrubbed yourself (including your hair), you would hit the button again to rinse.

A hollywood shower is when you have an abundance of water, and you get to hit the button five or six times. It is a small luxury that you take advantage of whenever you can. When a ship tied up to a pier, they would take on fresh water, and hollywood showers were the norm. If you were out at sea, and the water levels were low, you did not take hollywoods. If you did, your fellow shipmates would admonish you, and you could get assigned some menial tasks such as scrubbing down the back of the toilets.

Note that this was for the enlisted folks. The officers could take hollywoods whenever they liked.

The flip side of the Navy Shower.

Aboard a ship, and even more so aboard a boat, the importance of conserving fresh water cannot be overstated. It is, in many cases, the limiting reagent in the equations of range, endurance, and stealth of the Navy. All manner of procedures are followed to limit fresh water consumption, but the one that takes its toll on seamen is the Navy Shower. Every day, a quick shot of cold water, some soap, and another shot of cold water. Brrrr! Yes, it wakes you up, but it also takes its toll on your psyche--is Joe Redneck's Constitutional Liberty worth this?

So, to demonstrate that the ship or boat is still connected to America, the Captain is authorized to give out a deliciously satisfying reward: the Marathon shower, or the Hollywood shower. I'll quote from Tom Clancy's excellent text The Hunt for Red October:

Well, he1 did get a Hollywood Shower out of it. Ordinarily a shower on a freshwater-poor ship meant a few seconds of wetting down and a minute or so of lathering, followed by a few more seconds of rinsing the suds off. It got you clean but was not very satisfying. (...) A Hollywood shower is something a sailor starts thinking about after a few days at sea. You leave the water running, a long, continuous stream of wonderfully warm water. Commander Mancuso was given to awarding this sensuous pastime in return for above-average performance. It gave people something tangible to work for. You couldn't spend extra money on a sub, and there was no beer or women.

Amazing how ten minutes of warm water can make you a patriotic citizen again.


1 - "he" is Jonesy, the sonar operator on the USS Dallas.

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