It was back in 1972 when CBS took a chance on launching a TV series based on a book that had had success when it was turned into a movie. Still it was a risky venture for a comedy-drama taking place during the Korean War while the Viet Nam engagement had politicos and protesters at odds. What’s more, it involved a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital that was mired in the mud most of the time with injured soldiers arriving around the clock.
But thanks to the scripts and the cast, that little show called “MASH” ran until 1983, gobbling up Emmys throughout its tenure. In fact, the series finale on February 28, 1983, was the highest-rated American TV show of all time, with a 60.2 percent rating and more than 120M viewers.
The cast was largely male with the exception of Major Margaret Houlihan, whose tag was “Hotlips,” portrayed by blonde actress Loretta Swit. MASH Co-Creator/head writer Larry Gelbart gave her the nickname “SwitHeart” for Sweetheart.
Over the past five decades of appearing in films, TV programs and stage productions, Loretta would incorporate that tag tino her SwitHeart Animal Alliance to “promote and cooperate with numerous non-profit organizations and programs that protect, rescue, train and care for animals and preserve their habitat, while raising public awareness about issues that concern domestic, farm, exotic, wild and native animals and their well-being.”
Besides teaming up with Robert Redford for a PBS special centering on animal species threatened with extinction, she has tackled such programs as Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) for feral cats, spay-and-neuter programs for dogs and “worked to bring back the dogs from Afghanistan to reunite with their first handlers, as well as help to match veterans stateside with companion animals.”
Her “SwitHeart: The Watercolour Artistry And Animal Activism of Loretta Swit,” published in 2017, was such a success that a second edition was produced “chronicling that original artwork of Ms. Swit along with accompanying heartwarming anecdotes and stories” as well as an introduction by MASH castmate Mike “Captain BJ Hunnicutt” Farrell.
At this past weekend’s Cattle Baron’s Ball, SPCA of Texas cheerleader Steve Kemble looked like Paul Revere declaring high atop a carousel pony that with the deaths of longtime animal advocates Betty White and Doris Day, Loretta has taken on the entertainment industry mantle to help animals.
In support of the SPCA of Texas, Loretta will be on hand for the 2022 Fur Ball at The Hyatt Regency on Saturday, October 1. This isn’t her first Fur Ball, though. When Dana Rhoden chaired the 1994 Fur Ball, Loretta served as co-chair and she will be Dana’s guest for the upcoming fundraiser.
In addition to her presence, Loretta has “generously offered the following for the Fur Ball silent auction: a signed book, “SwitHeart;” her 21” by 19” artwork “WOLF” from her book; and a commissioned watercolor piece of any animal (dog, cat, horse, chicken, goat, etc.) with no limits on size shipped to the winner.
A limited number of Fur Ball tickets are available here, but you’d better be “swi
* Photo courtesy of SwitHeart Animal Alliance