Tuesday, February 21, 2012

M*A*S*H - S*T*U*F*F*S (Or, "YES, WE PLAY REQUESTS")

.
From time to time a fleeting thought would run through my mind and I’d consider composing a blog bit about the years I spent working on the popular television show M*A*S*H.
.
But then I’d think: Nahhhhh.
.
However, just a few nights ago I received my second request for it.
.
I had first mentioned the idea in a blog bit last August, and my blog buddyette Alliterative Allomorph (or “AlliAllo” for short) commented: I'd LOVE to hear about the time you worked for MASH! Next blog project?”
.
Then a few nights ago, my dearly beloved Brother Napoleon (or Nappy for short) and I started yakkin’ about the old days, and he suggested I write something for my blog about my years on M*A*S*H. He even went so far as to get his cell phone camera and took a few pictures of a picture of me in the book ‘The Last Days Of MASH’. Which was ironically funny since I’m usually buggin’ him to loan me his cell phone camera so I can take some pictures for my blogs, and he’s usually grumbling about having to transmit the photos that I take to our computer.

I thought: OK, that’s two requests, and one even came from grumpy Nappy. And if I was ever going to write a blog bit about M*A*S*H, I knew there was no time to waste.

So, by popular demand (uh… two readers: a friend and a Bro), here it is, M*A*S*H  S*T*U*F*F*S, thrown together quickly because time is short. 

Although I’ve always loved the theme instrumental for the TV show MASH (‘Suicide Is Painless’), finding it bittersweet and lovely (and probably my second favorite theme song after ‘WKRP In Cincinnati’), ironically, I was never a fan of MASH. And I’m still not. Despite the fact I’m still receiving occasional (small) residual checks for work I did on the show beginning in 1978. Oh, I’m every bit as anti-war as anyone who ever wrote or acted on MASH. Nevertheless, MASH was way too Leftist for my tastes!

THE LAST DAYS OF M*A*S*H



‘The Last Days Of MASH’ is a 1983 book by Alan and Arlene Alda, which chronicles the final days of shooting during the 11th and final season of MASH.

My name appears in it, and so does my image, in a couple of photographs taken on the MASH set.

Below is a photograph that appears in the book ‘The Last Days Of MASH’ which features much of the cast and crew of MASH from its last season.

I can still remember that photograph being taken. I and my coworkers were done with filming for the day but we were invited to stick around for the 11th Season MASH picture that would be taken after a couple of “pick-up shots” were completed.

Most of my friends elected to remain in their “fatigues” for the photo that would be taken in about 30 or so minutes. Me, I got to thinking: Well, if I change out of my fatigues now, and into my street clothes, I won’t have to go back to the Wardrobe Department after the picture is taken; I will be able to go directly home.

Years later, I regretted that I had not remained in my “costume”, which would have shown me to be a “G.I.” and part of the cast. But now, it actually makes it easier for me to point myself out to you. Here is the 11th Season photo:


 [Photo of a photo by Brother Nappy. That’s Harry Morgan (Col. Potter), second row up and center, and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) to his right, in the white hat. The third person down from William Christopher – in the red leather motorcycle jacket with a black and white Los Angeles Raiders T-shirt underneath – is This Blogger. Directly to Morgan’s left is Loretta Swit (“Hot Lips” Houlihan) and to her left is Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicutt) with the white, long-sleeved shirt. Next to him is Jamie Farr (Maxwell Klinger). In the third row from bottom, directly above Morgan, is Alan Alda, (Hawkeye Pierce).]


 [Photo of photo by Brother Nappy.]


 [Photo of photo by Brother Nappy. NOTE: I was wearing that same Los Angeles Raiders football T-shirt for a year or two BEFORE the Raiders actually moved from Oakland to L.A.]

SURPRISING  S*T*U*F*F*S

A few years ago, something inspired me to do some Internet research, to find out how many seasons I’d worked on MASH. My perception was that I’d worked on it for the last two seasons. I was startled to discover that I had actually worked on the show during its final five seasons!

MASH ran for 11 seasons. I was almost dumbfounded when I realized that I had worked on it for only half-a-season shy of 50% of its lifetime!

A couple years back, Brother Nappy gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas. I hadn’t seen most of the MASH episodes I’d worked on since their initial television showings (and some of them I’d NEVER seen, because I rarely watched MASH), and I knew that I was unlikely to spend my own hard-earned money on MASH DVDs. So, I decided to apply Nappy’s gift card toward some MASH DVD sets. And that got me started.

Watching those old seasons of MASH decades later, and finding myself in episode after episode was almost surreal. I was regularly doing ‘Background’ (or, ‘Extra’) work on MASH beginning with Season 7 which premiered on September 18, 1978. It took about a week to film a single MASH episode, and there were some weeks (episodes) I never worked on it at all. But overall, I would say that from Season 7 through its final Season 11, I may have averaged two days per week of work on MASH. In other words, I can spot myself in the vast majority of the episodes over its final 5 seasons.

THOUGHTS THEN AND NOW

At the time, I was daily involved in Background work in movies, television shows, and TV commercials – it was just the way I supported myself – and I was never one to be “star-struck”, so I didn’t particularly have much esteem for what I was doing. Honestly, it was just a job to me, and I always hoped for a short day of filming so I could get back to my “real life” – mostly partying with my friends, ‘The League Of Soul Crusaders’ at Bay Street.

20th Century Fox and MGM were “good” jobs because they were close to my house. Warner Brothers and Universal Studios were “bad” jobs because they required that I drive out to “The Valley”. A job at Paramount studios was “middle ground” – in grungy Hollywood, but at least it wasn’t in “The Valley”.

When I became a “regular” on MASH, it was a blessing because MASH was filmed on Stage 9 at 20th Century Fox.

That’s truly the way I thought about it back then. What the hell did I know? I was just a young man. My goal was to become the greatest actor since James Dean, and working on sets, getting pegged to act in a small but notable bit in a show, or picking up a couple lines of dialogue here and there was just my “day job”. It would be many years – long after I’d left “The Industry” - before I realized what a unique and special position I was in and how fortunate I was to be doing what I was doing.

SOME S*T*U*F*F*S I DON’T REMEMBER

In watching these DVDs decades later, I was rather shocked to find myself prominently visible in a number of episodes/scenes that I had no recollection of whatsover! Sure, I could recall the episodes where I had dialogue. But there were times when I felt like I was watching some OTHER performer, because I had no remembrance of being involved in the shooting of those scenes.

For example: In the 9th episode (‘Taking The Fifth’) of Season 9, the story revolves around an issue with the 4077th MASH unit receiving anesthetics that are not potent enough to keep the patients “under” while the surgeries are performed. In one scene, B.J. Hunnicutt makes a joke to a patient about to undergo surgery. Suddenly the patient begins fighting to get off Dr. Hunnicutt’s operating table and it takes several orderlies and nurses to restrain him.

As I was watching that scene, I began to think: That looks like me!

And sure enough, it was! Although I had no recollection of that scene, nor even of that episode, when I put the DVD player on ‘pause’ and then watched that scene frame-by-frame, I easily recognized the unusual birthmark I have on my left forearm, proving that I was “the fighting patient”. (Obviously, all of my fighting was “a lot of flailing about, signifying nuttin’”; had I really wanted to get off that operating table, those orderlies and nurses couldn’t have prevented me from it.)

Another one of the several scenes I’d not remembered being involved in is found in Episode 12 (‘Blood And Guts’) of Season 10. There’s a scene in the Officer’s Club, and in the background, I steal another person’s beer (bartender Roy Goldman pretends to be shocked that I would do that) and I act as if I’ve got a pretty good buzz on. It’s not likely that many viewers would pick up on that Background activity, but it tickled me to see, decades later, how I had invented interesting “business” while performing basic Background duty – none of which I had recalled.

Some of the S*T*U*F*F*S I really enjoyed discovering was the continuity errors that no viewer was likely to notice. There were many. For instance: In Episode 15 (‘Bottom’s Up’) of Season 9, I’m being operated on when Nurse Kellye – played by Kellye Nakahara – nearly gives me the wrong blood type. In the VERY NEXT SCENE, I am visible in the Mess Tent and booing Hawkeye Pierce. (Yeah, the patients recuperated QUICKLY at the 4077th).

[Incidentally: I spent a lot of “down-time” over the years talking with other cast members, including the very popular Kellye Nakahara (“Nurse Kellye”) who, as I recall, had a degree in English Literature. I remember one day in particular when she asked to see a poem I’d written – ‘The Mad Dog’ – and she was impressed by it, comparing me to Stephen King. She may have been B.S.-ing a bit with the Stephen King comparison, but I could tell she was genuinely impressed by the poem.]

I found several back-to-back scenes like that: In one scene I’m being operated on or I’m laid-up in Post-Op with my head all bandaged, and in the next scene, I’m walking through the MASH compound or I’m standing just outside Hawkeye’s and B.J.’s tent, “The Swamp”, and tossing a football back and forth with another G.I. Funny stuffs.

I watched the 2 1/2–hour final episode ‘Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen’ on DVD. I hadn’t seen it since it aired on TV. I thought it was overrated then, and I thought it was overrated upon my second viewing as well.

But as I was watching the scene where the Korean War is declared “over”, and saw all the people in the camp celebrating, I thought to myself: Gee, it would have been really cool to have been involved in THAT particular scene!

Wouldn’t that be neat to be able to say you were one of the celebrating soldiers when the war was finally declared finished on M*A*S*H?

And then, son-of-a-gun, I spotted myself in the scene! I had no recollection of it at all, and yet there I was in the very scene I had just been wishing I could have been included in!

M*A*S*H (The War Ends!)



[At the 15-second mark, at the very far right edge of the frame, you can see a guy in a funky brown robe walking along and then he looks back at the truck of Korean musicians as it goes down the road. That’s me. And at the 41-43 second point, you can see me again, jumping around like an idiot.]

SOME S*T*U*F*F*S I DO REMEMBER

Naturally, I recall all the episodes in which I had some dialogue to deliver or was involved in some piece of important business that was crucial to the scene.

The M*A*S*H page at Wikipedia includes a section that highlights 16 Unusual Episodes. I know that I played a part in at least two of them.

Probably the most significant of the two was an episode titled “Life Time” in Season 8. That is one episode that every major MASH fan always seems to remember. Wikipedia says this:

"LifeTime" (originally aired November 26, 1979), which takes place in real time as the surgeons perform an operation that must be completed within 20 minutes (a clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen counts down the time).

The basic plot is that one soldier named Sherwood has suffered such a massive head wound that he is sure to die and there is nothing the surgeons at the 4077th can do to save him. At the same time, another badly injured soldier needs an aorta graft within a certain number of minutes if he is to survive and/or not lose the use of his legs. So the doctors are hoping Sherwood will die in time to take a piece of his aorta and transplant it into the second soldier.

Meanwhile, Sherwood’s best buddy, Roberts – played by actor Kevin Brophy – is angry that no one is attempting to save the life of his friend. What really made the episode so memorable to so many MASH fans is that a small clock in the corner of the screen kept track of the minutes in "real time", showing how much time was left to save the second soldier.

Would Sherwood die in time? Well, I was Sherwood, and sure I would! Being a good boy who cares about the welfare of others, of course I died in time! I was supposed to be in a coma the entire episode, essentially brain-dead (a victim of typecasting!) due to the head wound. So I never said anything, I just did a little gasping and heavy breathing before croaking.

I recall that between shots, Kevin Brophy struck up a conversation with me and began asking a number of personal questions. At one point I laughed and said, “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to get to know me on a personal level so you can make the scenes more meaningful for you.” (I had spent a lot of money and time in professional acting classes and workshops over the years, so I was aware of all the tricks, including that one.)

Kevin admitted that I had discerned his motivation for all the discussion and the questions. I didn’t blame him at all - it’s the exact same thing I would have been doing had I been in his shoes; that’s just the sign of a person who has really studied, understands, and respects their craft.

Another one that made Wikipedia’s Unusual Episodes list was . . .

"Follies of the Living—Concerns of the Dead" (originally aired January 4, 1982), in which a dead soldier's ghost (Kario Salem) wanders around the compound, and only a feverish Klinger is able to see him or speak with him.

In that episode I provided a couple lines of voice-over dialogue. While the dead soldier is wandering around, he hears disembodied voices discussing things that seem important to the living but are of less concern to the dead. I remember recording my lines one day just before we broke for lunch. And I’m the bloke you hear (but don’t see) saying: “I just don’t love her anymore. It’s all over between us.”

I can find myself in most of the MASH episodes of the final 5 seasons, maybe in a driver’s education class, drinking beer at Rosie’s or in the Officer’s Club, playing in a floating craps game, etc. I remember some of those scenes being filmed, but most of them I do not.

Episode 3 of Season 7 is called ‘Lil’, in which ...Colonel Potter meets a female soldier of the same age and interests as himself, named Lil. The others in the camp think that he might be cheating on Mildred, even though his friendship with Lil is completely platonic.”

There’s a scene in that episode when Potter gives Lil a tour of the Post-Op facility. At one point she looks down at a young wounded soldier asleep on a cot and she says something like: Look at that boy. He should be on a playground, not on a battlefield.

Then it cuts to a big close-up of my sweet and innocent face – me bandaged and asleep on the cot, looking like a wounded young angel.

What’s fairly funny is that at the time I was living something of a double-life. To the people on the MASH set I was that respectful, reserved, even shy, nice young man. Away from the set, and with my Bay Street “League” buddies, I was one of them: a rather wild, kinda funny, intense, semi-tough semi-hood, half outta control, "half-drunk half the time and all drunk the rest", stayin’ out until all hours of the wee bit o’ the mornin’, bar-hoppin' and just raisin’ hell:


There’s a better than even chance that when that footage of my sweet and innocent face was filmed for the ‘Lil’ episode, I was hungover and just dreamin’ about getting home to a lotta hair of the dog that bit me.

Below is a short clip I found at YouTube. It shows me in the Officer’s Club watching a woman play piano. That’s me in the background, just on the other side of the pianist, standing next to (Perry) the Black soldier. I’ve got a drink in my hands at first, and then I set my drink down and continue to watch with my hands in the pockets of my army pants:

M*A*S*H season 10 episode 1 - Piano Solo



MY FAVORITE M*A*S*H  S*T*A*R*S

The two actors I spent the most time speaking with and got to like best were, first, Gary Burghoff who played Radar O’Reilly, and then later - after Burghoff left the show - David Ogden Stiers who played Charles Winchester.

I got to know Gary Burghoff as a result of my drawing and his love of art. I would often spend all that “waiting time” between shot set-ups drawing pictures in my sketch books. One day early on during my first season working on MASH we were shooting exteriors at the Malibu site and I was sitting in the Post-Op structure (which also served as the Wardrobe Dept.) and drawing in a sketch book. Gary walked by, saw what I was doing, struck up a conversation with me, and then sat down, asking if he could look through my sketch book.


Gary was intrigued by what he saw and we wound up in a long and rather deep conversation. Somehow we got onto the topic of spirituality; I probably recommended to him the Richard Bach book ‘ILLUSIONS: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah’, and he suggested I read ‘NOTES TO MYSELF’ by Hugh Prather. I jotted it down on the back cover of a sketch book (getting both the title and the name of the author wrong, although I did later get the book and read it). 

 

At that time, Gary paid me what to this day is the most memorable compliment I’ve ever received. He said: “I think you’re a creative genius”.

And putting his money where his mouth was, thus proving he wasn’t just blowing smoke, Gary wrote his phone number in my sketch book and commissioned me to produce a large drawing for him, which he added to his growing art collection. It was quite an honor, and something that still makes me feel all good ‘n’ sh!t.

I did believe that I was destined for big things. (And you can plainly see how that turned out.) 

Gary Burghoff left the show at the beginning of Season 8, and later I got to know David Ogden Stiers a little bit (it was he who recommended I read John Steinbeck’s book ‘SWEET THURSDAY’, which I did). I always felt that Stiers was actually the best, most talented actor in the MASH cast.

There’s another episode in Season 10 in which I had a small, two-line part. I made a decision to deliver the lines as a façade, a deliberate attempt to cloak an altogether different motivation than what the lines superficially appeared to indicate.

The next day, David Ogden Stiers pulled me aside and said: “I just saw the dailies [meaning: footage of the previous day’s shooting unedited], and what you did was the very essence of acting.”

Coming as it did from the actor whom I considered to be the most talented MASH cast member, that was high praise, and I was totally thrilled by his remark. Hell, I’m STILL thrilled by it! I was surprised and honored that the best actor on MASH had recognized the “subtle, extra little layer of texture” I had added to a simple two-line part.

[NOTE: All these years later, I still find it peculiar when I reflect on what little guidance and input performers on MASH received. There were a couple of times when lines of dialogue or things I was given to perform could have been presented in a variety of different ways. Not once was I ever approached by a director, writer, or star and advised that “this way” or “that way” was the interpretation they were seeking or hoping for.]

THE EPISODE I SIMPLY HAD TO WATCH!

Not being a fan of MASH, I didn’t watch a lot of the episodes. Naturally, I made it a point to catch the ones where I had something to say or some “silent bit” that was important. But the rest of ‘em . . . eh, whatever! However, there was one show I made it a point to see. In the 8th season there was an episode titled ‘Dreams’.

Unless one had a small part in the show, he or she wouldn’t be in possession of a script, so one could only guess as to what the show was about based on the scenes he/she was working in.

I did not have a script for the ‘Dreams’ episode, and I remember watching all these highly unusual scenes being filmed and wondering: What in the hell is this episode about?

I was standing just beyond the camera’s view when that scene of Major Winchester dancing with lit sparklers in his hands was shot. I was just scratching my head in wonder.

They had opened the giant barn-like door of Stage 9 to shoot the scene with Father Mulcahy; all this LIGHT was filling the soundstage - I had never seen it so illuminated before, and I couldn’t imagine how all these things were going to be tied together to create a MASH episode. So I thought: OK, I simply MUST watch this episode when it airs!

As it turned out, I think ‘Dreams’ was one of the finest MASH episodes ever constructed.

BEHIND THE S*C*E*N*E*S AND UNDER THE SHEETS

I know some people would probably like me to dish some dirt. I really don’t have any to dish out. If there was any friction amongst the principals (and it’s nearly impossible to think there never was), it was all handled elsewhere; I never saw any arguments or ego explosions in my 5 years on the set.

The “juiciest” gossip I can come up with is that I felt Loretta Swit wore too much perfume; I could always smell her coming, and I knew where she had been long after she’d left. Sorry, that’s the best I gots!

Everyone got along with each other really well on the set and there truly was a kind of family-like atmosphere amongst the major players, the minor players, the technicians and even the caterer; it was an extremely friendly place to work and I only wish I had appreciated that gig more at the time.

Harry Morgan used to often tell stories of the “old Hollywood days” to his fellow stars, and I remember one time passing by an open door when I heard him saying to the others: “He couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. They tried it once: they put him in a paper bag and he couldn’t act his way out of it”.

I thought that was really funny. To this day I don’t know who Harry Morgan was talking about and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t ask him later in the afternoon. But I loved that bit so much that I later stole it and used it against Nick Nolte when writing a review of the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’.

There’s a lot of waiting around between shots on a movie or television set while the camera-work and the lighting is being worked out. I spent most of my “waiting time” either drawing in my sketch books (usually in the Mess Tent unless it was being used in the shot) or just lying on one of the cots in Hawkeye’s and Hunnicutt’s “Swamp”.

I took the job seriously, and was always standing by when I was needed for a scene, but I could basically tell by what they were currently shooting and how many pages of dialogue it entailed, how long it would be before I was needed, so slipping away to the “Swamp” for a little eye-rest was perfectly acceptable.

MASH was filmed in two places: Nearly all of the interiors were shot on Stage 9 at 20th Century Fox studio, and most of the exteriors were shot at Malibu Creek State Park.

I didn’t really like the Malibu shoots because it meant having to get up before the Sun did and driving 30-40 minutes up to Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway in the dark. Once at the park, we would be shuttled in minivans about 15-minutes deeper into the canyon where the outdoor set was constructed.

True, getting the “Malibu call” meant a free, all-I-could-eat lunch provided by a good Hollywood caterer, but it also meant a long, full, busy day under the hot Sun in a dusty canyon.

I greatly preferred the Fox studio “Stage 9 call”, which was much more common. Fox was only about 15 minutes from my house, and sometimes it would mean a shorter work day.

The MASH production company spent Tuesday, December 9, 1980, shooting externals at its Malibu canyon location. The only reason I remember that so clearly is because that’s where I was when I saw the newspaper story that told of John Lenin's Lennon’s murder. I saw a newspaper lying on a bench in the Wardrobe Department, and for a good part of that morning, all the talk on the set was about Lennon having been shot and killed.

On Stage 9, the compound was set up just as it looked in Malibu, but it was slightly more compressed, meaning the tents and structures were a bit closer to each other in proximity due to space limitations.

The floor was rubberized with some very dark grey material so that many performers (i.e., soldiers, doctors, nurses) could walk around during a scene without their footsteps being picked up on the microphone that was recording the actors’ dialogue.

When you see a night scene taking place in the 4077th compound – even an EXTERNAL night scene -  know that it was almost certainly filmed on Stage 9 at Fox. The external day scenes are from the Malibu Creek State Park canyon, while the external night scenes are on the stage at Fox studio, and if you concentrate on it, you will be able to notice that at night, all the tents at the 4077th are a little closer together than they are during the day shots.

The scenes I most disliked working in (and I worked in A LOT of them) were those filmed in the Operation Room. It seemed to me that most of the time the scenes we did in the O.R. were shot immediately after returning from lunch. So we’d return to the set after having eaten a lot of food, and immediately we young dudes would be placed under the sheets for “our operations”.

Well, you know what happens when it’s after noon and you’ve just eaten a lot of food, right? The body tends to want to “sleep it off”. And THAT’S when they’d most often put us on tables, cover us with sheets, and film these scenes that felt like they took forever.

Yeah, you can count on it: some of those patients in those scenes are really ASLEEP! As I recall, once or twice a take had to be reshot because some patient started snoring in the middle of an actor’s dialogue.

I never wanted to be “that guy” who started snoring during an O.R. scene. However, what I dreaded even more than ruining a take by snoring, was perhaps falling asleep and then having a natural, biological… uh, “guy” thang occur. Knowwhatahmean?

Believe me, that would have been noticed, and how do you ever “live something like that DOWN”?

So, I fought hard . . . er--  I mean, I tried to remain mentally alert as much as possible, so I wouldn’t fall asleep, wouldn’t snore, wouldn’t . . . snap to attention (even though I was “in the army now”).

More than once I thought to myself: Why do they always feel a need to shoot these O.R. scenes right after lunch? Is it a conspiracy agin us guys?

I think I probably dozed off a few times while under a sheet and under the knife in the O.R., but only momentarily – not long enough to do any damage to a scene or to my reputation.

THE E*N*D  OF  M*A*S*H

I still vividly recall the final scene of MASH. I was fully aware of the magnitude of the moment and of all the hype  - it was impossible not to be, with all the reporters hanging around the set and all the film crews filming the MASH film crew.

But even so, it didn’t mean all that much to me at the time, and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized how special it was to have been in the last shot that the MASH production company ever did. When the director said, “Cut. Print. That’s a wrap!” MASH was over and done forever. And I was there.

The last MASH episode shown on TV was the 2+ hour special ‘Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen’. But that wasn’t the last thing ever shot. The concluding special was already “in the can” (i.e., filmed, edited, and ready for showing) before the last regular 30-minute episode (‘As Time Goes By’) was completed.

The final shot of ‘As Time Goes By’ involved the burying of a time capsule by the principal MASH characters. I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be one of the few nameless G.I.s who were gathered around during the time capsule burial ceremony.

Looking back all these decades later – after “Time Has Gone By” – I realize what an honor it was to be included in that final shot when one of television’s all-time most beloved shows brought its 11-Season run to an end.

Below is a YouTube video I found of those final minutes prior to the last shot on MASH. If you pause it right at 3:38, on the right edge of the frame you’ll see one blurry, dark-haired guy standing amongst three or four women (he’s not tall, but he’s the tallest one in that group). That guy is Yours Truly. (You can also barely see me from 7:10 to 7:20 standing directly behind Father Mulcahy and partially obscured by a camera lens.)

Last Day of filming



M*A*S*H : FOR ME, IT WAS A GOOD G*I*G 

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
.

25 comments:

Karen Peterson said...

Oh my gosh. I used to LOVE MASH. Seriously. I watched it all the time when I was a kid. In re-runs. But I loved it. Even though when I watch it now, I realize I didn't get half the jokes back then.

And I totally remember that episode, LifeTime.

Man, now I want to go back and watch some of those episodes again.

Arlee Bird said...

That's a pretty cool story. I know what you're talking about when you say you didn't fully appreciate what you were doing at the time. I've written about that same topic in the past on my blog.

I never watched MASH that much--didn't care for it and if it hadn't been for the fact that some of my coworkers on the road used to like to watch it I may have never have seen any episodes. But I guess I never really got too much of what was on TV after "Gilligan's Island" and "The Beverly Hillbillies". When things started getting socially relevant, I was too busy being social to watch much TV.

It's great that you were a part of that history though.

Lee
Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog
Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Missed Periods said...

I've never seen MASH. When MASH was on, I was more into Wonder Woman and Charlie's Angels. However, everyone raves about it, and the theme song is awesome. Oh, and so is the episode with the patient who begins fighting with Dr. Hunnicutt to get off the operating table.

Rae said...

Enjoyed meeting your through your MASH scenes! That is so cool!
Why don't you post some of your sketches here? We all know you love music(and the occasional alcoholic refreshment), but I didn't know you were an artist as well.
You say: "I did believe that I was destined for big things. (And you can plainly see how that turned out.)"
You still are, Stephen. Keep believing.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

ALL:
Kinda slow in responding to comments as my work schedule was recently tweaked, twisted, warped, wrecked, dislocated and discombobulated.

I swear there are times when walking IN my front door, having returned from work, I bump right into my own damn self as I'm walking OUT the door on my way to my next work shift. It's a weird experience: "Welcome home, Stephen. How was work?" - "It was tiring. Have a nice day at work, Stephen. I'm going to bed."

So, last night, went to bed at 3 AM. Just got outta bed 45 minutes ago. Pray for me, people!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

KAREN M'DEAR~
I wasn't the fan you are, and although I didn't really care for the show that much overall, I do think there were some very good, even excellent episodes. (None of which had anything to do with me. Ha!)

I had a similar experience: Not long ago a friend loaned me his DVD sets of the early 1970s Western TV show 'ALIAS SMITH AND JONES'. When I was a little kid, that was my absolute favorite TV show for a couple years.

Watching it as an adult, I realized just how great that show really was - hands-down the best TV Western EVER! - but the plots were sometimes so intricate, that I realized my young mind back then had NO IDEA what the stories were about. Apparently it was my favorite show based solely on the charismatic stars and the fact it had guns and horses, and cowboy hats!

Karen, my time on MASH is something that (until now) only my closer friends were aware of; I rarely mentioned it to anyone (unless there was some genuine reason to), and there are people who have known me for 10-20 years who still don't know I ever worked on that show.

But over the years, in the rare times I have discussed it with people, I've found that the "Life Time" episode is one EVERY self-proclaimed MASH fan remembers very well.

People would ask: "So, what episodes were you in?" And, as I said above, heck, I can find myself (if only strolling through the compound or waiting in line for slop in the Mess Tent) in probably 90% of the episodes filmed over the last 5 seasons.

So, the answer I learned to give was: "The 'Life Time' episode" because there's always an IMMEDIATE moment of recognition. Not once has a MASH fan said, "Hmmm... I don't remember that one off hand."

I don't know if "Life Time" was one of the most POPULAR episodes of MASH, but I do know it is one of the most remembered. I'm sure it was that "race against the clock" (with a REAL CLOCK appearing on the TV screen) that engraved that episode in the minds of so many MASH fans. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't my calm, easy, relaxed death scene that's responsible for its fame. Ha!)

Thanks for your comment, M'Dear!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BOIDMAN ~
Yeah, truth be told, with a few exceptions - most of them being comedies (not dramas or even dramadies) - I've not been much of a television watcher since reaching adulthood.

To be sure, I love 'The Andy Griffith Show', 'Frasier', 'Moonlighting' and many of the episodes of 'Get Smart' and 'Everybody Loves Raymond'. But I own all those shows on DVD now, and unless I'm turning it on to watch one of those DVDs or some big baseball or football game, my TV stands neglected and silent.


MISSED PERIODS ~
Ha!-Ha! Yeah that WAS an AWESOME episode, wasn't it? I'm a little surprised (and ashamed) at myself that I had totally forgotten that one and needed to be reminded of it years later. Awesomeness like that should NEVER be forgotten!

'Wonder Woman' and 'Charlie's Angels' eh? So you preferred those "strong women" shows, I guess.

I can recall doing a "Hand Insert" on one episode of 'Wonder Woman'. Couldn't begin to tell you which episode or even what year it was filmed (circa 1979-'82, I would guess).

A "Hand Insert" is when someone else's hand is filmed (by a second film unit) performing some act, while the "star" is being filmed elsewhere. It's a way of saving time, but when you see the image edited into the action, you would never know that it wasn't really the "star's" hand you're seeing. (Sort of like a "body double").

In my case, I was holding onto the leash of a large, vicious dog. When you saw that close-up of the "star's" hand holding the leash, you were really seeing my hand, not his.

That was a good assignment: a "Hand Insert" meant extra money and a very short day (maybe 2 hours or so on the set, and then I was headed home for beer ;o)

Say, did you notice in this MASH blog bit that I CAPITALIZED the word "Sun" TWICE, even though no other planets were mentioned? I'm STILL a red-leather jacketed rebel! (Uh... minus the red-leather jacket these days.)


RAE ~
Thanks for your encouraging comment, my friend.

Actually, some of the drawings ARE posted. "No Drugs Except For Pink Floyd" and "No Drugs Except For Pink Floyd - Part 2" are both LINKS that will take you to blog bits where some of the old drawings are posted.

Rae, no, I'm afraid the statute of limitations on my "Believing" expired long, long ago.

My 15-minutes of F*A*M*E are over and it's somebody else's turn now.

The D*O*P*E was a F*A*K*E. Ah, but it's life, and life only! (At least it is until December 21, 2012, anyway.)
;o)

~ Stephen

Sheboyganboy 6 said...

What an interesting experience! I think you are right in concluding that it was special and that you should have felt it was priceless at the time.

It was fun to watch the clips of you in your younger days. I would subscribe to a YouTube channel (called the "Mr. Intense" channel?) in which you posted all of your clips of your appearances in MASH and various other shows.

I never liked MASH and I don't think I watched more than one or two episodes all the way through. I am sure that part of that has to do with my unwillingness to immerse myself in anything medical or sickness related.

However, I always liked many of the actors, including Gary Burghoff and Harry Morgan.

My own totally tenuous connection to Morgan is almost not worth mentioning... except that the connection is so remote and silly that it may bring a chuckle.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s my dad was a dental technician. Harry Morgan had false teeth, and my own father carved them. The place he worked was either in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, and many actors were customers there. Dad was a good sculptor of teeth, and there were several stars that had his choppers.

I am sure that by the time that MASH was ending Morgan had gone through several sets of 'em and was no longer employing their use. HOWEVER, it is POSSIBLE that Morgan was smiling at you with my own pa's pearly whites!

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, what an interesting post! I'm glad I caught it.

I never watched MASH because it was about war and I was never into shows about war. However, I think it would be surreal to see myself in an epic show like that.

Thanks for sharing.

Karen Peterson said...

It was an incredibly memorable episode, and I think you're absolutely right. That ticking clock had a lot to do with it. I don't know of many shows that have ever attempted a real time episode.

(Besides 24, of course. And even that was only sort of real time since it can never possibly take 5 minutes to get from the valley to Santa Monica. Ever.)

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SHEBOYGANBROTHER SIX ~
A "Mr. Intense" YouTube Channel.
Ha!-Ha! No, I don't think we're gonna see that in our lifetime.

I will say though, that I was surprised by the dearth of MASH clips to be found at YouTube.

Brother Nappy said the videos I posted here were hardly worth bothering with, and he's really sorta right. I mean, when I have to say something like, "If you pause it at the blankety-blank second point you can catch a glimpse of me at the far right edge of the frame" it really is almost worthless.

When I went to YouTube to gather up a few clips, I figured there would be entire episodes available, if not entire seasons, but there is very little to be found there - a little scene here and there, and that's it!

Either MASH isn't as fondly remembered as one would think, or someone (20th Century Fox? Alan Alda's production company?) is closely monitoring what is being made available to the public for free.

>>...Dad was a good sculptor of teeth, and there were several stars that had his choppers.

Ha! Man, that's wild! I knew Harry Morgan had false teeth (it's usually kinda obvious) but I didn't see any stamp on them that said: "Made in Sheboygan by Sheboyganboy's Pa".

Do you know any other big name stars who wore your Dad's handiwork? If so, do tell - you have better "dirt" than I do, Bro!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

CLARISSA ~
Yeah, I'm with you on "war shows". Actually, MASH wouldn't have bothered me because it was clearly ANTI-WAR, but it slipped in little Leftist jabs from time to time. (Note To The Country: Some of us Conservative Constitutionalists hate war as much as the self-proclaimed "liberals" do.)

The list of "War Movies I Like" would be minuscule.


KAREN ~
I have never seen even "one minute" of 24. But your comment -- "it can never possibly take 5 minutes to get from the valley to Santa Monica. Ever." -- made me literally laugh out loud. ...And my Brother, too, who was reading it over my shoulder. (Nappy said, "It almost made me spill a drop of wine!")

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

SigToo said...

SJM,

What an awesome back-lot tour of one of the most popular shows ever. I still haven't figured out how they crammed eleven seasons into a three year war. On the other hand, I guess that would only be 250 episodes.

Unlike you, I would have printed up tee-shirts and poster saying, "I was on M*A*S*H!". Obviously, I'm not proud, or tired as Arlo Guthrie once said.

Do you remember a large brush fire that burned down most of the tents, etc near the end of the series?

I think the only thing that might have made your story better was if your brother kept zooming in on that quiet kid with the red motorcycle jacket, and you inserted those pictures throughout the post; sort of a story within the story. You seem to have been an intelligent, introspective kid...who had no intention of smiling and saying "cheese" for the cameraman.

I always wondered about those residuals. Can you pay the mortgage with those or is it just loose change? Are you paid every time the show airs?

Again, great post. I'll look more closely when I watch the show again.

SigToo

Sheboyganboy 6 said...

Hmmm...

I called my mother and asked her if she remembered whose mouths my dad worked on. She said Clark Gable and singer Dick Haymes were the only two other names she could remember. She also said that much of Dad's work was bridges, and that Gable's mouth was had a few real teeth and a lot of Dad's bridges.

She wasn't very helpful. At 89, her memory isn't what it used to be. Neither is mine. I shoulda written it down, but I never thought I'd be tested on this material.

Em-Musing said...

Interesting post. But the most interesting part..your pic. Why weren't you smiling? I know you were just 'background' then, but you're a star now...at last in my script.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SigToo ~
Hey, thanks, buddy, I'm pleased you liked the little tour. (I'm kinda glad my Brother yakked me into posting this bit now, because I had no intention of doing it, despite the occasional passing thought.)

And, yeah, you're right about the time discrepancy between the actual Korean War and the years it took MASH to tell of it. That's kinda funny.

The brush fire, oh yeah, sure. (Dang, you must have been a real fan to know about that.)

Yes, in fact, the very first picture in that book I mentioned here ("The Last Days Of MASH") is a shot of Alan Alda standing behind the charred remains of the big sign that read: MASH 4077th "Best Care Anywhere."

And somewhere in this house - although I haven't run across it for a couple decades - is a photograph someone took of me also standing next to that burnt sign and wearing the same red-leather jacket I have on in the group photo.

A huge Malibu brush fire pretty much obliterated the outdoor set in the canyon during the filming of the final 2+ hour special and they had to rewrite the script to accommodate the ruined set.

When you think about it, for a "MOBILE Army Surgical Hospital" the surroundings rarely changed, but nature itself forced a "move" on the camp in the final show.

That scene where the end of the Korean War is announced and we're all celebrating would have likely taken place in the familiar MASH compound had it not been for that earlier brush fire that destroyed the set.

>>...You seem to have ...had no intention of smiling and saying "cheese" for the cameraman.

Ha!-Ha! See Em-Musing's comment here. You two seem to have been on the same wavelength when looking at that photograph.

>>...I always wondered about those residuals...

Ah, that's a good question, Brother! The residuals, yeah, I still get them, but I can't make heads or tails of 'em. A couple of times I've received checks for one penny. WTF?! It cost the Screen Actor's Guild more to send the check than the check was worth!

Year by year the amount I receive for them declines, but I think (although I'm not certain) they will eventually reach a low point where they will remain until the Reaper comes for me. (As DiscConnected once said: So, you are guaranteed never to be utterly penniless for the rest of your life.)

But here are two examples of recent residual payment statements to give you a basic idea:

Last month I received $38.85 gross for one showing each of 3 MASH episodes in which I delivered dialogue.

And last December I received $1.83 gross for 3 showings of a small part I'd played on an episode of 'Hill Street Blues'.

I can't figure out the payment schedules, but what I receive depends upon how the shows are presented (e.g., Basic Cable, Pay TV, Video/DVD). It's really a mystery to me. All I know for sure is that those MASH stars are still raking in thousands of dollars every single week. Amazing!

The oddest residual payments I've ever received (and this happened a couple times) was for MASH showings in foreign countries.

The one I remember for sure was from Japan. So, that means episodes I spoke in played there, and someone overdubbed my lines in Japanese(?)

Now THAT I would absolutely LOVE to see: me on a TV screen speaking Japanese! I would willingly return my residual payments for the opportunity to see THAT!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SHEBOYGANBOY 6 ~
Yeah, you SHOULD have written it down. One never knows when they will face a pop quiz.

Just think, if it hadn't been for your Pa, Clark Gable's famous line might be remembered today as:

"Fwankly, Scahlet, I don't giff a damn!"


EM-MUSING ~
Back then, I was far too intense to smile. (I've lightened up a good deal over the years, however. These days I'm actually known to grin for the camera every once in awhile.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

A most interesting post, by a #1 Good Guy.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

FARAWAYEYES ~
What the--?!
I compose a massive, A-list blog bit like this and that's ALL you have to say about it? Sheesh!
[;o)}

[You know I am SOOOooooo kidding.
*Wink-Wink*]

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

mousiemarc said...

Stephen,
Ya know this is really cool, and something you probably should have told us much sooner. I remember you mentioning it, but never paid it much attention. To be honest I was a young kid back then, and when MASH came on my time at the TV was OVER. So for a kid under age 10, I hated that F**in theme music every time. No cartoons, only boring MASH to me. But it is very very cool that you were a part of it. You should really cherish that. I would.

I've actually had the honor of meeting musicians who have written famous songs in my line of work. And some very famous musicians (though due to being a nurse I can't mention them). When I worked at the music store I got to meet even more famous musicians. But to be honest the person I have been the most impressed with was a lady who worked for the hospital I work for. At one time she had a lot of power in the company, and was a women of faith. She made some really sweeping changes for the positive that benefit everyone that works there today. She even put in the chapel and pastoral programs there (in a secular hospital). The most profound thing that she told me is that "God told me to leave. He said the hospital is changing and it's time for you to move out. Funny thing is she knew I was a christian when I walked through the door. Gave me some good advice and then prayed for me all while I had the honor of helping her.

Great story brother. Cherish those memories.

Love ya brother.

Br'er Marc

A Beer for the Shower said...

I'm here because of Faraway Series, and I have to say, this was an incredible read. I'm a young fella with an old soul, so I've seen a good amount of MASH episodes, and it's amazing to know the back stories behind everything. Also, I have to say, I'm happy to know there's no dirt. I was captivated by the story of the guy doing his best to make his small, albeit important scenes count. I'm not interested in who was dating whom or who was rude to whom or what have you. I want a real story, not a TMZ story, and that's exactly what I got.

So... this big drawing commissioned for Gary Burghoff. What was the drawing of, anyhow?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BR'ER MARC ~
Yes, I know that I mentioned being the "Sherwood" character from the "Life Time" episode on one of my old 'Ferret-Faced..." installments. Other than that, I don't specifically recall writing anything about it.

It's just not something I often think about anymore, therefore it's not something that occurs to me to speak of.

Although my time on MASH probably means more to me now than it did then, there are still so many other events of my life that I recall with even greater fondness - time spent with my family when I was young (small vacations, family games played in the evenings, etc.); time spent with friends (The League Of Soul Crusaders, the Countess, my UCLA coworkers, etc.) - that as great as MASH was to me, it's sort of a notable event amongst smaller scale but more missed times.

Hell, I'd give my left arm to be able to return to my Orange County boyhood - now those were TRULY magical times!

Up until 1995, I feel I was living something of a charmed life, and MASH was just one of the little gems in my treasure chest.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

A BEER FOR THE SHOWER ~
First, I wanna tell ya that I LOVE the name of your blog!

"A Beer For The Shower"... Ha! It's been a long time, but back in my wild youth there was more than a couple times when I drank a beer in the shower.

There was something truly special about that sensation of cold beer going INTO me while simultaneously, hot water was cascading down ONTO me. I remember that stuffs, Brother!

>>...I'm here because of Faraway Series

Wasn't that something, what she wrote? Dude, how does ANYONE live up to that? I felt honored, and embarrassed, and unworthy all at the same time. But I will add that it really meant something to me, coming from a person I'm more and more beginning to view as genuinely "unique" - a real individual in a sea of sheeple.

Hey, I'm glad you enjoyed the blog bit so much. I did feel some apprehension about writing it, and I wouldn't have but for Brother Nappy's enthusiasm for the idea. (Plus, the Napster could beat me in a fight, so it's best to do what he says.)

Yeah, I wouldn't have dished any dirt even if I had some to dish. We have become such a society of vultures and I wouldn't want to further contribute to our decline. I'm more about trying to restore us to some sense of right and decency, not about rolling around in the trashy gutter with the philistines.

Good question about the drawing, and I'm a little surprised it hasn't been asked until now:

I can't even remember the last time I picked up a pen or pencil and drew something, but back then when I was killing time while waiting for the next scene or shot to be set up, if I couldn't think of anything else to draw, I'd just start drawing human eyes.

I've always thought eyes were interesting, everyone has them but they're all so different, each with its own unique pattern in the iris, as one-of-a-kind as fingerprints. And, of course, eyes being "the windows to the soul" an' all that stuffs.

So, because I drew eyes so often, I developed a bit of a knack for it (I think I included a page of them on one of the "No Drugs Except For Pink Floyd" links).

Therefore, that's what Gary commissioned me to draw: it was a very large illustration of a single human eye.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and asking, Bro!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Robin said...

You already know how I feel about this show, so I am not going to waste time on that.

Time. It is a funny thing. This blog is proof that it gets away from all of us. Or maybe that there is only so much we can store in our pea-size brains. Most days merge one into the next unless something OUTSTANDING happens. In your case, a line delivery made that happen for you. Or extensive time on camera. But... most of those days just merged one into the next. You were lucky enough that you were caught on tape to help you remember.

I read the comments, so I know the drawing for GB was an eye. Can I say that creeps me out a little bit without offending you? If it were two eyes... not so much. I am having visions of one floating eye just watching me.

When I worked in Savannah there was a lady who wore too much perfume. She was in payroll on the third floor (no elevator). I was on the second floor. I literally smelled her every day without seeing her. I was so glad I didn't work on the third floor. A person should only wear so much perfume as it is smelled when you are REALLY CLOSE to someone. It isn't meant to be a community experience. That is just my opinion. And you really shouldn't subject an entire set to it. As a person with allergies who avoids the fragrance counter of all department stores.... this is a pet peeve of mine.

That was very cool about DOS deliberately commenting on your two lines. It makes me like him more. I am not at all surprised that you were super-dedicated at acting when you were doing it. You don't seem to do much of anything half-assed. I mean that as a compliment. Sorry for the language.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

GIRL WONDER ~

>>... I read the comments, so I know the drawing for GB was an eye. Can I say that creeps me out a little bit without offending you? If it were two eyes... not so much. I am having visions of one floating eye just watching me.

Scared of God, eh?

Yeah, it's true that when I get involved in a project I usually throw myself into it completely.

Wish I had paid more attention during my M*A*S*H years. I think I took too much of it for granted and didn't fully realize what a unique situation I was in at the time.

Oh well, my next life will be better.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'