By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Gary Burghoff, "Radar O'Reilly" on the hit series M*A*S*H,
on the stage of the Hawaii Theatre. Burghoff is in town to
direct and act in Joe Moore's "The Buck Stops Where?"

The reality of ‘Radar’

Gary Burghoff directs and stars
in Joe Moore's latest play

By Tim Ryan

Most "M*A*S*H" fans remember Cpl. Walter "Radar" O'Reilly as a whiney, Boy Scouty kind of guy -- sincere though insecure, loyal but dependent, the kid always chosen last for the school- yard basketball game, the butt of practical jokes.

Now meet Gary Burghoff, the guy who played Radar on the television show. There's no wimpy voice, no befuddled look, no fear of looking you right in the eye and telling you what he thinks.

What most people probably don't know about Burghoff, 56, who left the show after 7-1/2 years, is that he's an accomplished artist whose original paintings of North American wildlife sell for as much as $10,000; that he holds several patents on fishing tackle; that he's an accomplished drummer; that he's constantly on the road acting in and directing plays.

That's why Burghoff, who lives in Florida with his wife of 17 years, is in Honolulu. He'll perform in and direct '"The Buck Stops Where?" a play by news anchor Joe Moore that opens tonight at Hawaii Theatre.

"Joe has written a wonderful play," Burghoff says. "I jumped at the opportunity to do this."

"The Buck Stops Where?" is about the first independent party president elected since George Washington. The story features one day in the White House and how bureaucrats try to affect him.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Gary Burghoff made his fame and fortune on television,
but now enjoys a life exploring art, stage -- and fishing tackle.

Theater has been Burghoff's first love since he studied acting for a dozen years in New York.

"When an audience laughs at the same thing at the same time, everyone there -- some of whom may be bigots or fascists or right wing radicals -- become part of a universality. The power of the theater is that it brings people together."

But don't imagine for a moment that Burghoff, who made his fame and fortune on television, turns his nose up at that medium.

"I had a wonderful television experience. I don't know if anyone has experienced a better one considering the integrity of the artists and the creative people I worked with," he said.

The Hawaii play is the first time Burghoff has directed essentially amateur actors.

"What!" he screams, jokingly. "Nobody told me that! These are amateurs? I'm leaving on the next plane.

"I'm more concerned about attitude than ability. If the attitude is right, the ability will climb to meet the director's inspiration because we're all actors."

Besides, Burghoff believes people rise to challenges.

"I have the ability to be a very good drummer, but I've always played with semi-professional bands," he said. "But when I played with Pete Fountain and Al Hirt my drumming improved overnight. Their talent and discipline was contagious."

Burghoff's daughter, Gena Gale, 23, who switched mid college from studying child psychology to acting, also performs in "The Buck Stops Where?"

"Originally, I told her I wished she wouldn't go into acting," Burghoff said. "I gave her the worse-case scenario about the business, but when I realized she was going to do it anyway I supported her decision 100 percent."

In his free time, Burghoff paints; he also fishes. Two years ago he invented Chum Magic, a floating device that can be filled with chum to attract fish. He claims catches increase about 300 percent.

Now back to this news guy Moore. Should he give up the anchor job and head for The Great White Way?

"Well, maybe not quite yet," Burghoff said. "Right now . . . it's the newscasting bucks making this play possible. But he definitely has got a shot."

On stage

"The Buck Stops Where?" stars Joe Moore and Terrence Knapp, with guest star and director Gary Burghoff:

Dates: April 17-20
Place: Hawaii Theatre
Tickets: $17.50, $27.50, $35, at box office, 1110 Bethel St.; Connection outlets, or by phone, 528-0506

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