“M*A*S*H” star Loretta Swit does not appear in the news as often as her comparatively chatty co-star Alan Alda, but there’s a reason for that. Apparently, after “M*A*S*H” ended, Swit and her representatives developed a set of strict guidelines for the press that had some outlets withdrawing their interview requests.
One of the rules was that reporters couldn’t ask her about “M*A*S*H,” despite the show’s enduring popularity. Another was that they could not reference the nickname “Hot Lips,” from the show, anywhere in their stories.
Swit has said she feels that the press treated her poorly. So her solution was to demand that any reporter covering her sign a detailed written form pledging not to abuse her in print in any way.
‘M*A*S*H’ Became Off-Limits to Reporters Interviewing Swit
In 1995, the Los Angeles Times described the long list of guidelines that Swit’s team offered upon receiving an interview request from the paper.
“There is no real purpose served by questions relating to Ms. Swit’s role as Major Margaret Houlihan in the television series M*A*S*H, which ended 12 years ago,” the form began. “If there is any reference in your piece to Ms. Swit’s role in M*A*S*H, her character is not to be referred to as the derogatory ‘Hot Lips’; she should be referred to as ‘Major Margaret Houlihan.’”
“Ms. Swit’s personal life and privacy are not the topic of this interview,” it went on. “Therefore we ask that these aspects of her life be respected. We ask that you refrain from asking such questions as those which relate to where she lives, past, present or future romances, hair color… age, family, weight, height, religion, and other questions of personal and private nature.”
The Times ultimately refused to interview Swit on the grounds that her guidelines were too onerous, regardless of “M*A*S*H”‘s popularity. Meanwhile, other outlets may have made the same calculation, leading to a virtual press blackout on Swit stories.
Swit Did Agree to Speak to THR in 2018
However, Swit emerged from seclusion in 2018 to participate in The Hollywood Reporter’s “M*A*S*H” oral history project. THR’s write-up even includes a reference to Swit’s character as “Hot Lips,” suggesting it did not have to sign the aforementioned agreement with the actress.
“We were dealing with serious issues with people working in insane situations,” Swit told THR. She said they weren’t a commercial for the Vietnam War, which was raging as “M*A*S*H” launched (although the show takes place during the Korean War) – far from it.
Swit said they all coalesced around their idealism and enthusiasm for the project. “M*A*S*H” had an antiwar subtext at a time when the popularity of the war was waning and the country was fiercely divided.
“It was an important moment in my life,” Swit said. “Everyone’s attitude was so fresh, positive and energetic about the project. We were all on the same page about what we were going to say.”
Despite her later refusal to talk about it publicly, “M*A*S*H” seems to have meant a lot to Swit. And it also meant a lot to audiences, as evidenced by its continued cultural relevance today.