M*A*S*H is one of my favorite television shows. Even now the reruns bring as much enjoyment as they did when I first saw them. Maybe it is the ever-changing storyline or the development of the characters. Maybe it is the way the show was filmed or the differing perspectives it took such as from the sole view of a patient. Maybe it is all of the before mentioned. Of course, being from Toledo, one can not help but feel a certain amount of pride every time Jamie Farr comes on the screen or Tony Packo’s is mentioned. Hometown pride runs strong with Toledoans, which brings me to this M*A*S*H-ed up week.
On Thursday night, Alan Alda kicked off the Toledo Lucas County Library’s “Author, Author” series. He spoke about the need for empathy in effective communication, concepts from his book,”If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”. He said one of the reasons M*A*S*H was so successful was because the cast members took the time to build relationships with each other. Instead of heading to their trailers during breaks in the filming, they would sit together and talk and joke and laugh until they were needed back on set. They took the time to connect with one another, to look each other in the eye. What resulted was honest onscreen chemistry.
I think sometimes we need more of that – connecting with people, looking at them – really looking at them, and relating to what they are saying or feeling, even if we disagree or don’t quite understand.
The life lessons continued. On Saturday evening, Mr. Toledo himself, Jamie Farr was in town. Originally slated to star in the stage production of “Tuesdays with Morrie” which was canceled due to visa problems with some of the cast, Farr refused to disappoint the home crowd. He spent the evening entertaining us with stories and film clips highlighting his life in the entertainment business. He spoke about the ups and downs of his career, the turning points, and the people who helped him along the way.
Both men, in their way, stressed the importance of being grounded. For Alda, having a life partner who understands you and your values and supports your dreams is of paramount importance. He and his wife Arlene have been married for 60 years. Not bad for Hollywood, in fact, not bad for anyone. Farr, another believer in lasting relationships, has been married to Joy since 1963, 54 years.
Being grounded, for Farr, includes not forgetting your roots – where you came from and the person you are. Even now he and several ex-Toledoans who live in Hollywood get together and, rather than talk business, they talk about life in Toledo. It keeps their lives real in a world that can quickly become impersonal and demanding.
In fact, that camaraderie illustrates perfectly what Alda and Farr have learned along the way. Keep life real. Connect with those around you and don’t lose sight of who you are along the way. Good advice from two who know.