DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Funny, Internet

Afghanistan Goes Gaga

Meet the soldiers behind the "Telephone" video remake

Lady Gaga

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Afghanistan Goes Gaga

APRIL 30--In what may be the most entertaining music video homage ever shot in a war zone, a group of American soldiers stationed at a military base in southwest Afghanistan star in a lip-synced version of Lady Gaga's hit "Telephone." The video, which yesterday began to spread online, was filmed recently inside what appears to be a garage at the Forward Operating Base in Farah Province.

Posted to YouTube a week ago, the 3:45 production--complete with props, signs, and costumes--features an all-male cast from the 82nd Airborne Division. The video was the brainchild of Aaron Melcher, a married 24-year-old soldier who graduated in 2004 from North Carolina's Gramercy Christian School. Melcher opens the video in a pas de deux, of sorts, with fellow enlistee Justin Baker, who is not nearly as enthusiastic a dancer as the gyrating Melcher, who incorporated elements of the original video's choreography in his desert remake.

On these pages, you'll find video stills of Melcher's co-stars, along with photos of most of the soldiers in their normal work clothes. Melcher, pictured at left, can be seen in the video wearing, a la Gaga, a revealing top fashioned out of yellow police tape. The 23-year-old Baker, wearing a belly-bearing shirt, is accessorized with a pink "Drama Queen" sash. Soldier Kenneth Eichler wears short shorts and a pair of oversized yellow shades. Other performers include a shirtless James Conley, telephone-wearing Private First Class Kory Roberts, sign carrier Mike Castor, and Joshua Pilon, whose costume could not be discerned.

Contacted last night, Melcher declined to answer questions. The video, he noted, was intended to be for "a couple of our friends and family and you can see that it has blown up way more than that...nobody in the video would like any further media coverage." When he first uploaded "Telephone: The Afghanistan Re-make," Melcher told Facebook friends to "feel free to share it with the world." He added, "it's the hotness."

Melcher and several of his fellow soldiers have carefully monitored the spiraling number of views their video has received. On Wednesday, Pilon posted a brief update on his Facebook wall: "5,000 views...I'm going to be Famous!!!" In a post on his Facebook page, Conley wrote of the video, "this is what people do with they free time in Afghanistan. Its crazy out here. And yeah im in it too." The video's cinematographer, Douglas Lake, termed the clip "funny as shit" in a message Wednesday on his Facebook page. Lake added, "i couldnt stop laughin while I recorded it lol." (8 pages)