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Radar O'Reilly Had a Secret on M*A*S*H

Radar hides his hand

Radar hides his hand

Hidden in plain sight

Gary Burgoff portrayed Cpl. Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly in the 1970 hit film MASH. He reprised the role two years later in the television series M*A*S*H that ran on CBS from 1972-1983. Although the sitcom ran for 11 seasons Burgough left after season seven because he said he was dealing with burnout. His character Radar was beloved by the fans and was the straight man to the Surgeons who provided most of the humor on the show. Burgoff has said that in the movie his character was dark and sarcastic and that as the television progressed he noticed that the other characters from the film were evolving. He decided to make Radar more of an innocent and this can be seen as time goes by on the award-winning sitcom. . Burgoff had a secret that was well hidden during those seven years when O'Reilly was on screen and some viewers may not have been aware of it. There were those who suspected something was amiss but may not have known the facts. if you had a keen eye you may have noticed that Radar kept his left fingers hidden at all times in unique ways.


A medical diagnosis

He often put his hand in his pocket or carried a clipboard with only his knuckles showing. He held his teddy bear so that his left fingers were never seen and many viewers probably thought the character was just being portrayed as nervous and childlike. Sometimes when Radar was with the doctors they would be shown making hand gestures but his hands would remain by his side, behind him, or in his lap if he was seated. This was not scripted by an elaborate and successful attempt by Burgoff to not have his medical issue on display. Burgoff was born with an affliction called brachydactyly, also known as short digits. which causes fingers and toes to be short. This disorder is formed through bone dysostosis which manifests as abnormalities of individual bones or is centralized in a group of bones but does not spread to other areas. In Burgoff's case, his bone dysmorphia was due to Poland syndrome and, resulted in the three fingers on his left hand being significantly shorter than those on his right hand. If you were not aware of this you will probably be paying more attention when you watch episodes of Mash from now on.

Radar and his bear

Radar and his bear

Goodbye Radar

Gary Rich Burghoff was born May 24, 1943 and in 1967 he originated the role of Charlie Brown in the Off-Broadway musical You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. He was a regular on the television game show Match Game from 1974 to 1975 for 140 episodes. He was a stand-in for host Charles Nelson Reilly who was doing a Broadway play in New York but when Reilly returned he continued to make guest appearances on the show. Burghoff was nominated for six Emmy Awards for M*A*S*H in 1977 for Outstanding Supporting Actor and won in 1977. The actor said that he was not available as a father because being Radar continued off-screen. doesn't stop when the work stops and that public recognition interfered when he went out with his family "Goodbye Radar" was supposed to be the final episode of season 7 of M*A*S*H, but CBS insisted it be extended into a double-episode for the November sweeps. Part 1 aired on October 8, 1979, with Part 2 airing one week later. The two episodes later aired as a one-hour special on May 12, 1980.during season 8 off-season reruns. Mike Farrell who portrayed BJ Honeycutt tried to persuade Burghoff to remain on the show, by emphasizing the lackluster careers of former M*A*S*H regulars Larry Linville who portrayed Major Frank Burns, and McLean Stevenson who played Colonel Henry Blake after they left the series.

Gary Burgoff today

Gary Burgoff today

Beyond M*A*S*H

In addition to Match Game, Burgoff was also on the game shows Hollywood Squares, Tattles, and Showoffs. He was in the film BS I Love You and the television shows Ellery Queen and The Love Boat. He reprised his M*A*S*H character in two episodes of the first season of AfterMash and during the 1980s he was the TV spokesperson for IBM and BP gasoline. In the 1980s, Burghoff was the TV spokesman for IBM computers and BP gasoline and in 2000 he represented Burghoff is also a self-taught amateur wildlife painter and he qualified to handle injured wildlife in California, In spite of his short fingers Burgoff became a professional jazz drummer and he actually played the drums (no dubbing) in the M*A*S*H episodes Dear Dad Again and Showtime. He is also an inventor whose inventions include "Chum Magic", a fishing tackle that attracts fish toward the user's boat, and a toilet seat lifting handle. In 2010 Gary Burgoff came out of retirement for the film Daniel's Lot.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Cheryl E Preston

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