In This is Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner plays a documentary filmmaker named Marty DiBergi who is wearing the same hat throughout the entire film which looks like its meant to be some sort of joke due to its alteration from the real version of the same hat.

His hat says "USS OORAL SEA OV-4B" while the real hat should say "USS CORAL SEA OV-43"

So what exactly is the joke here?

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  • 1
    TVTropes says it was a rights issue "This is because the Navy would not allow the film to feature the USS Coral Sea's name"
    – Paulie_D
    Feb 11, 2017 at 19:07
  • Rob may or may not know this, but this stunt made him the male Jane Fonda from the 1000s of sailors and marines that served in Vietnam on the Coral Sea. I was not on Yankee Station but further north on PIRAZ. Summer of '71 Jul 29, 2023 at 23:15

2 Answers 2


According to Spinal Tap A to Zed:

USS Ooral Sea: Navy ship insignia on Marty DiBergi's baseball cap during filming of "This is Spinal Tap." DiBergi wanted to wear a hat that read "USS Coral Sea" but was told he would have to get permission from the Navy. To avoid this, producer Karen Murphy altered the lettering so that the blue cap read: "USS Ooral Sea, OV-48." Nigel: "I remember him walking in with that hat and thinking he was in the Navy." (DV)

  • 3
    Fun fact: Mark Knopfler told Reiner that he would only do the theme for The Princess Bride if Reiner put the hat into that movie. You can see it in the little boy's room when his grandfather is reading him the story (though apparently it was not the actual hat from This is Spinal Tap because that one had been lost).
    – ruffdove
    Feb 10, 2021 at 5:10

Yes, we know that the "Ooral Sea" hat was made because permission to use the real Coral Sea hat was refused.

The joke is more about the trend of (bearded) big-time directors wearing ballcaps of teams/groups that they have no affiliation with. Spielberg in particular was known for this. There are pics of him wearing Police and Navy hats from the same time period. I think he got the joke, because he mainly wears a flat cap (old man kind) or blank ballcap these days.

Spielberg Los Angeles County Sheriff Ballcap, 1988

Spielberg L.A.P.D. Ballcap, 1983

Spielberg Flat hat, 2007

Spielberg with Hanks, US Navy Ballcap, 1999

  • why the image of the tam-o-shanter? Jul 31, 2023 at 15:58
  • It also reminds me of author Tom Clancy, who always wore a baseball cap of some US Navy ship in his books' cover photos, despite never having served in the Navy or other armed forces. (Wikipedia says he joined ROTC in college but was rejected due to poor eyesight.) Aug 8, 2023 at 17:21

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