Skip to content

Tag: Memorial

Appreciation: David Ogden Stiers and M*A*S*H

On Saturday, March 3rd, we lost a member of my family. Well, not my real family, mind you, but in my Television-based education, there wasn’t a show that had more impact on my belief structure than M*A*S*H, which aired for a total of eleven seasons, through my own coming of age, from 1972 to 1983.

I thought I’d written elsewhere about the series, but clearly that’s not true. At least, not ever in depth, and that’s a shame because I was obsessed with the series as a teenager.

Back in November of 2006, I noted that director Robert Altman had died at 81. The man’s work was amazing. The Player and M*A*S*H had more influence over my adult life than most other movies I can name, but it was really the series that mattered most to me.

Let me paint you a picture of me, roughly age 14-19, prime rerun time for the series, but first, a little background for the post-cable set:

Back in the dark ages, when cheap televisions were still black and white and the best we could hope for was unimpeded access to the analog airwaves, when there were so few channels available you could still count them on fingers and have fingers left over, M*A*S*H aired in the syndication market. I don’t remember when it started, or when I started to care, other than to say that by the time I got to high school, the reruns became a major focus of my out-of-school time.

It’s important to know that Rochester, NY (before cable) picked up TV signals from three other markets: Buffalo, Syracuse, and (when you held your arms just right) from Toronto. At one point in its heyday, M*A*S*H aired in eight half-hour slots, at least two of which overlapped, and because of the scheduling process, these slots were never synced up.

I don’t have an accurate count for the number of times I’ve seen certain episodes in the series, but I can tell you I got good enough to ID an episode before the title came up on the screen, in something like the first 15 seconds, and could switch to the episode I wanted to watch without missing more than a minute of any of them.

That’s how I avoided watching Dreams, one of the few to air without a laugh track. I haven’t seen that episode in well over 30 years, and yet it still gives me chills. And it’s how I stopped watching the earlier episodes for the meatier ones after Larry Linville’s departure and Winchester’s arrival.

While Frank Burns was often portrayed as the mean-spirited bastard, and Loretta Switt as his partner and “moll,” Burns’ departure gave “Hot Lips” a chance to grow and become a more principled, stronger woman, and a good deal of the misogyny that characterized the earlier years went away, too.

Henry Morgan’s Colonel Potter, who replaced McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake), brought his representation of “old-school war movie meets modern day police action” to the series, which helped move the stories from the glory of World War II to the senseless reality of Korea. I can’t watch the episode where they announce Henry Blake’s death without crying.

From these characters I learned a lot about people that informs my feelings about today’s military action.

I learned that you could be smart and still not quite with it (got that from Radar). That you could find humor in even the darkest moments (Hawkeye). That you could be a woman and have a job and earn respect (Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan). That it was okay to be spiritual even in the least spiritual moments (Father Mulcahy).

I truly disliked Winchester’s snide snobbery, but his character grew so much in the second year that I simply can’t imagine the series without him.

Even Klinger, whose Section 8 fantasy seen through today’s filters smacks of problematic gender appropriation and feels wrong when held up to a more enlightened understanding of trans reality, provides a human connection, especially seen in context of the Korean war.

In many ways, Klinger is the most “everyman” character, a guy from Toledo who represents not just your average Joe who doesn’t want to be there, but the working class stiff who’s proud beyond measure of his Lebanese immigrant roots. This becomes truly clear once he drops the dresses for the uniform as Radar’s replacement in the office.

More than anything else, I learned that war is ugly, that good people placed in bad situations can still be human, and that evil sometimes wears the same uniform you do. It’s a perspective that’s sorely lacking in today’s arms-length wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

I came to believe that peace is more important than a flag, that maiming people for the sake of property is WRONG. That war isn’t glorious. That there are senseless deaths. And that there are people on both sides of the conflict who often get in the way of indiscriminate ammunition and shrapnel.

I watched the final episode at my then-boyfriend’s house in New Paltz with around 40 like-minded people. It was an historic moment in television history, not just for the length and breadth of the series, but because the episode pulled no punches. Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen did as much in its final two hours as the movie had done over a decade before, to focus on the people who made that art and give us some sense of closure.

I can’t imagine a time when M*A*S*H wasn’t a part of my life. And when I heard about David Ogden Stiers’ death from bladder cancer last Saturday, I realized that I’ve never written these things down to share with anyone, although I’ve talked about it in the past, at enough length to make the listener’s eyes glaze over.

I visited the Smithsonian American History Museum as a tourist and made my pilgrimage to the set when it went on display, must have been the summer of 1984, a full two years before I moved to the metro DC area.

Somewhere along the line, I acquired a copy of one of the shooting scripts for an episode. (It’s downstairs and the title isn’t relevant to this post.) I’ve watched the reunions, read material, followed the careers of the series’ stars. I tried to watch the spin-offs, but they never quite worked for me because they lacked the guts of the series. Too sanitary, too…alien to be believed as a continuation.

I have the entire series on DVD. Now that I know that you can turn off the optional laugh tracks on the DVDs, I will watch all 256 episodes without them when I have some time to just kick back and relax. It would be worth watching the show without the invasion of fake people that the network though was mandatory for situation comedies.  (Larry Gelbart despised the fake tracks.)

I know that David Ogden Stiers had a long and varied career after the series ended. It’s not possible for me to hear Cogsworth and not see Stiers voicing the role, even if Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is animated. His career was wide-ranging, as broad as it was deep. Chances are, I even saw him perform in The Magic Show on Broadway in 1974. I’ve seen a lot of the titles listed in his obituary appreciation on

And so another member of the cast in my head departs this plane. There are only a few still here, and I hope they are still doing what they love. I’ll be grateful forever for the impact they have had on my life.

Comments closed

January 25, 2017: Mary Tyler Moore Show – Bloopers Pts. 1 and 2

For the better part of my life, Mary Tyler Moore was a hero for women like me, born during the Liberation movement of the 1960s. She was just about the same age as my parents, and in our household the TV was always on, so her presence was a near constant for my childhood.

Funny, cool (for the most part) under pressure, and talented as hell, she provided a glimpse into a life that I could attain as an adult woman. Her production company, MTM Enterprises, put out almost a dozen TV shows that I watched faithfully growing up, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), Rhoda (1974-1978), Phyllis (1975-1977), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), and
St. Elsewhere (1982-1988).

She was a classy lady, truly deserving of the respect and applause, and all that laughter. Click through the links and learn more, if you haven’t paid attention or you were too young to know. And make sure you’ve swallowed the drink.

Thanks for the memories, Mary. Glad you were here. Mary Tyler Moore (autolaunch video warning)

Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper exclusive with Katie Couric for “GMA” Apr 5, 2013

Comments closed

December 25, 2016: George Michael ~ Freedom

It used to be that we would say the famous people died in groups of three.

I think by now everyone acknowledges the enormous amount of suckage that 2016 represents. Yeah, sure, people who are famous die. And yeah, there are a lot of people who are paying this year for choices they made when they were younger. And we’re all getting older.

That doesn’t mean it gets any easier, especially when our icons are dying daily. We just can’t keep up, can’t recover.

I was never much of a Wham! fan, because the music was way too pop-oriented for an edgy New Wave fan, but they were in the clubs when I was, and the music was all over the radio back before I stayed tuned to NPR most of the time. It wasn’t until Freedom hit the airwaves that I really paid any attention to George Michael.

This song became one of my anthems, intended to be sung at the top of my lungs in the car.

I’m sorry that fame comes at such a price, that we do what we do to those who live a different life. Sorry especially for the ones who crash and burn early. His was another unique voice silenced in a year that has hit the music industry hard and its fans harder.

53 is too damn young. Trust me. I know.

Comments closed

November 11, 2016: Leonard Cohen and Armistice Day

It seems fitting, somehow, to include this video on this of all days.

At the same time some of us are mourning the losses on this year’s Election Day, we can also remember that this was the end of the “War to End All Wars” that wasn’t. I

Today news broke that we lost another in a growing cadre of musicians and poets, Leonard Cohen, on November 7th. Best known for his song, “Hallelujah” (thanks largely to its inclusion in the movie Shrek), Wikipedia says of Cohen:

Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ (21 September 1934 – 7 November 2016)[1] was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships.[3] Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.

Armistice Day (co-opted in 1954) remembered the event at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 as the moment when the Allies defeated Germany during World War I.

Wikipedia says of the first Armistice:

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was an armistice during the First World War between the Allies and Germany – also known as the Armistice of Compiègne after the location in which it was signed – and the agreement that ended the fighting on the Western Front. It went into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”), and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. The Germans were responding to the policies proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918. The actual terms, largely written by French Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, the preservation of infrastructure, the exchange of prisoners, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and conditions for prolonging or terminating the armistice. Although the armistice ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty, the Treaty of Versailles.

In this year, 2016, the year the music died, we are on the brink of many changes. We have forgotten so much of our history, but Cohen, born the same year as my mother,  was old enough to bear witness to the ugliness of the second War to End All Wars.

I will listen to his words and remember.

Comments closed


I suspect those of you who are following my blog already know, unless you’re living under a rock, that David Bowie is gone.

I could write volumes about his influence over my life, or I could simply present those pieces that struck me most deeply.



The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

Space Oddity

Ashes to Ashes


Under Pressure (Freddie Mercury and Queen)

As the World Falls Down (Labyrinth)

His entire last album is here: YouTube: Blackstar

CNN/Rolling Stone: The story behind David Bowie’s stunning new album

From his YouTube Vevo page:

“‘Lazarus” off David Bowie’s album Blackstar available now on iTunes:…
Limited Edition Lithograph & Music Bundles:…
Limited Edition Clear Vinyl:…

Follow David Bowie:…

Peace to everyone.

Comments closed

February 20: A Tribute to Shirley Temple Black

I wanted to include something to recognize my connection to Shirley Temple Black, in light of her death on February 10th of this year. This is the first chance I’ve had to include a few links to her life and work.

You can certainly go search YouTube for more, but I’ll tell you I’ve had a thing for Shirley Temple’s work ever since my sitter first wrapped my curly hair in vertical ringlets at a very tender age. I wanted dance lessons like crazy, I thought I could sing just like Shirley. I’m certain I wasn’t alone. Long, long after she stopped making movies, I was a staunch fan. I knew this song by heart, but it wasn’t the only one I could sing (in my own, off-key way):

In later years, after she ended her movie career at the top of her game, Shirley Temple Black became a diplomat, serving in a variety of locations. She also became one of the first public figures to highlight breast cancer, when she was diagnosed with the disease in 1972. She received lifetime recognition through both the Screen Actors Guild and the Kennedy Center Honors.

In the long, long list of child stars, Shirley Temple’s early works remain a sweet, sunny reminder of childhood’s best moments, even if her own life wasn’t among the fairy tales with which she became associated later in life.  This biopic from 2001 tells a lot of her story. In a lot of ways, she led the way through a minefield for child stars, and she did it with poise and grace. I’m glad to have experienced her work.

Comments closed

February 19: A tribute to Devo (RIP, Bob Casale, 1952-2014)

Ordinarily, it’s Wednesday and I’d be featuring a video (or more) on the subject of dance. Not today. I almost — *almost* featured a trio of Devo songs for Twofer Tuesday, but I hesitated. Yesterday, I heard that Bob Casale, one of Devo’s founding members, died suddenly of heart failure.

This has already been a hard year, with losing Pete Seeger and Shirley Temple Black among others, but they were both in advanced years. 61 (Casale’s age) is no longer as hugely distant as it once was.

Devo’s music had a major influence on my life, from taste in music to the realization that being different isn’t a bad thing. We’re Through Being Cool could be considered an anthem for some of the counterculture who thought of Devo as inspirational music.

Their brand of nerd rock predated “Weird Al’s” career by a solid four years. He eventually featured their music styling in an original tribute, Dare to be Stupid.

How do these music videos qualify for Dancing Wednesday? Well, if you’d seen me while I was an undergrad at SUNY New Paltz, in the local New Wave club, you wouldn’t have to ask.

The group is probably best known for the song “Whip It” —

— but there are others that I consider to worth including in this list. They follow, in no particular order. If you’re just discovering their music for the first time, I hope you can appreciate the influence they brought to music, especially during New Wave, and beyond as well.

Comments closed

January 28, 2014: A special tribute to Pete Seeger…

When I went to bed last night, a rumor was circulating on Facebook that Pete Seeger had died. I went where I usually go, out to the larger Internet, to substantiate the rumor, and I couldn’t find anything to prove it was true, so I went to sleep. This morning, Morning Edition confirmed what a sizeable chunk of my FB Friends now know is true.

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

My father is largely responsible for my introduction to folk music. Without his reel to reel tape recorder, I wouldn’t have known about Pete, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Phil Ochs, Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Guthrie or any of the other musicians who made up the fabric of my early childhood.

search for Pete Seeger on You Tube generates hundreds, if not thousands of links to his work. For me, a visit to the Hudson Valley as a young child (in Woodstock, after THE concert) landed my closest association with the man as I recall sitting on his lap. I also remember watching his series Rainbow Quest on PBS, when they broadcast the series in 1967-68.

[Full movie requires rental from YouTube or other site.]

Last year, I made a point of attending the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival and I got to thank him again, in person. Didn’t have enough time to say it more than once, but I noticed he was all over that festival. I saw Toshi, once, while we were waiting for the Richie Havens memorial to begin, and I knew then that she was quite ill, but I also saw that he stayed with her until that concert started. Their devotion to each other, for just shy of 70 years, was inspirational.

He remained active right up through this year, but was too ill to attend a parade he helped organize:

Seeger’s dream for King comes true in Beacon; activist had to cancel appearance

So, in the spirit of Twofer Tuesday, in this special edition, have a second cut, with Buffy Sainte-Marie, who I also saw last summer at the festival. Explore the clips on YouTube. And take comfort that the folk movement isn’t dead so long as we pass our values on to the generations to come. After all, that’s how the music remains with us. Pass it on.

1 Comment

January 25: Pale Blue Dot (Original – HD)

This week my Facebook feed included a reminder for a friend’s birthday. Normally, that wouldn’t be too terribly odd. I have over 650 “friends” on FB, and I get almost daily reminders that it’s someone’s birthday. But last year, Craig died suddenly, unexpectedly, just a few days after we saw him and his wife at the local planetarium. He was hosting a family science event on “Fibs” (the Fibonacci Sequence, to be specific) and was truly excited about leading the event. His enthusiasm for science and teaching was boundless.

When this video wandered past my feed a few months back, I added it to the list, but I wasn’t sure when I’d get to it. Between Craig Levin’s birthday and the local supernova, I think I found my answer. If you don’t know who Carl Sagan was, or why this video is important, now’s a great time to gain a little perspective about Earth in relation to the rest of the universe.

Whenever I look up these days, I think of Craig. He had a magic gift for seeing the importance in things, and it saddens me to know he was gone too soon. And then I think about the cool stuff he shared and I know he’d have loved this clip. So, on his behalf, a rare dedication to someone I knew and remember fondly.

Comments closed