Ever imagine what it would be like to be a famous actor? Well, you may be surprised to know that one M*A*S*H star did a complete 180 after retiring.
In 1967, Gary Rich Burghoff portrayed the role of Charlie Brown, one of America’s most widely-recognized cartoons, in the Off-Broadway musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He will forever be associated with that, but Burghoff is perhaps best known for his character Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly in both the film and TV series, M*A*S*H.
That job kept Burghoff busy for over a decade, as the popular show ran on CBS from 1972 to 1983. As a matter of fact, Burghoff was nominated for six Emmy Awards for time on M*A*S*H. And in 1977 he won an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
However, the M*A*S*H star was a man of many talents. Not only was he a regular character on the war-comedy series, but he appeared on other television shows and on Broadway. He was also a dancer and at one point even drummed for a band called The Relatives.
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Created a New Identity for Himself
After decades of working in entertainment, Gary Burghoff had a unique mindset as began to approach retirement. Burghoff wanted to leave behind M*A*S*H and all of the entertainment industry and create a brand new identity for himself. He explained as much in a previous interview with Kathleen Golden for her blog series that follows the lives of retired men.
“When I retired (at 62), I made a vow to myself that I would not do anything that I did before retirement,” Burghoff said to Kathleen Golden. “No acting, no painting, no professional singing, drumming, or performing. Instead, I moved into an owner-owned RV resort where I was surrounded by nearly 400 neighbors each winter season.”
Going from the bright lights of television stardom on M*A*S*H to an RV park with just 400 people must have been quite the culture shock. But it is precisely the shock that Burghoff needed. He wanted to escape the isolation that his fame had led him to. The fresh start allowed him to clear his head and write his autobiography.
“The isolation that ‘fame’ had produced had prevented me from living in a neighborhood, which I dearly longed for,” he said. “Without even knowing it, I soon began to get the urge to write. So I wrote my autobiography, ‘To M*A*S*H and Back’ (find it on Amazon).”
The change of pace for Gary Burghoff also allowed him to just enjoy the simple things in life. There isn’t much better than a fishing trip with buddies.
“I fished with my new best friends in the Gulf of Mexico. Ran for the Board of Directors of our resort, and eventually was appointed as President of the Board. I gained a whole new identity and the strong sense of community I had longed for.”