Noting the passing of actor David Ogden Stiers.
It is nearly unbearable, parting with the echoes of so many fond memories. The 1970 movie MASH, something of a sendup of the Vietnam War - set during the Korean War - led inevitably to the TV series of the same name. Sharing only one main character (Gary Burghoff's Radar O'Reilly), the TV version took a season or so to get its legs and then took off.
I watched the show with my mom during my college years. Later, through the miracle of recorded commercial TV on tape and disc watched the episodes again with my wife. And again. And again. We have seen every episode, many multiple times.
The episodes that featured both Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) and Major Charles Winchester are our most beloved, and arguably are some of the best TV ever made. David Ogden Stiers played the aristocratic Boston Blue Blood with glaring pomposity. Winchester was a gifted surgeon, so much so that his efforts to outshine his tent mates Hawkeye Pierce and BJ Hunnicutt were invariably successful, even as his immense ego led Potter to once exclaim in anguish, "You're not worth it. Nobody's that good!"
Yet, the writers and Stiers crafted a character much deeper than the symphonies, cognac and Back Bayisms that usually characterized Winchester. In one Christmas episode, several members of 4077 MASH conspired with Winchester's parents to have his old tobogganing hat mailed to him in Korea. As the happy boyhood memories flooded into, and for a moment overwhelmed, his Korea present, Stiers performance still brings tears - the intensely human quality of child-like innocence he brings to the battle-hardened Harvard surgeon is breathtaking.
Stiers was more than just an actor. He was a musician, a conductor of remarkable talent and repute, and the voice on a number of Audiobooks. He was a professional, whose acting career spanned decades and resulted in several Emmy nominations.
Mr. Stiers's passing at 75 may have stilled his skilled voice, but it cannot erase a body of work that now speaks for him - a superbly talented man, a wide array of interests.
Thank you, sir, for all of the memories.