25-year reunion of M*A*S*H

Wednesday, February 27th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News 9

By Kelly Ogle, NEWS 9

On  Feb. 28, 1983, the last episode of M*A*S*H aired. It was the mark of the end of an era. On the 25th anniversary of the final episode, Kelly Ogle traveled to the M*A*S*H Camp for a reunion.

In Korean War vintage vehicles along muddy roads to what's left of the M*A*S*H camp, South Korea is in south California.

They filmed M*A*S*H in the mountains north of Carmel, now a state park.

In the years since, countless hikers have trekked two miles hoping to get a glimpse of the old 4077th. But there wasn't much to look at until park volunteer Brian Rooney started clearing brush.

He came across an old ambulance and jeep the show used that burned up in the brush fire that pretty much destroyed the camp while they were filming the last show.

That sparked an idea, a reunion, marking the 25th anniversary of the final episode.

"Looking back it's hard to believe it's been 25 years since that last episode aired and set a record for the most watched television program ever," Rooney said. "And while America has been nostalgic about the show, and certainly those fans who came here are, the actors themselves haven't been back to this location since that day."

"Since the last day of shooting, I haven't been here since then," Actor William Christopher said. "I'm sorry my wife didn't come out with me today, she's never seen this, but it's just the way it was."

"Treat for us too," Actress Loretta Swit said. "I think it's lovely that they want to do this, that they want to mark the place, that they think it was that important, that it said so much."

"It was a little disconcerting because it's changed so much," Actor Mike Farrell said. "The growth and the topography has shifted so much. It was a little hard to get oriented it seems much smaller."

Mother Nature was slowly reclaiming the camp. The hard, flat pad of dirt has been softened, and re-sculpted by the nearby creek.

It's obvious the swamp where Hawkeye, BJ and Frank Burns once were, has truly been a swamp at times.

The steps to the helipad were destroyed by fire, and the famous sign has for years been housed at the Smithsonian Museum.

But for fans of the show, coming to this place has become almost a pilgrimage.

They lined up to take pictures with Jeff Maxwell, who played the camp cook Egor. They walked around the rope outlines of where the tents once stood. And they stayed all day listening to the actors' stories.

"I fell in that ditch over there once," Christopher said. "I was trying to catch a football from Mclean Stevenson.  He had a wonderful passing arm."

Who can forget William Christopher's gentle voice as Father Mulcahey, he seems much like the character he played.

So did Loretta Swit, demanding like Hot Lips coaching us through the best shot for her interview, but also with a softer side.

And Mike Farrell, he was smart, caring, and outspoken just like Captain BJ Honeycutt.

"Right up to the last day, when we had hundreds and hundreds of news people from all over the world on the set talking about the show, even then we didn't fully comprehend that it had become a social phenomenon," Farrell said.

It was a remarkable gathering that included show producers, directors and writers. However, it didn't include Hawkeye, Radar or Klinger. They couldn't make it this time.