Gary Burghoff is a popular retired American actor who is mostly stil famous for portraying the character of Radar O’Reilly in CBS’ sitcom “MASH”. He left his work on TV to spend more quality time with his family.

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Early life and family

Gary Rich Burghoff was born on 24 May 1943, in Bristol, Connecticut USA, so holds American nationality, and his zodiac sign is Gemini. Gary was born to Rodney and Ann Burghoff; his father worked for the local clock company, while his mother was in the theatre as a professional dancer; she also directed several local stage productions. Gary has an older brother, David Burghoff.

From an early age Gary was interested in nature, especially in animals. When he turned eight years old, his parents gifted him an angelfish which he took care of very responsibly.

Happy birthday to Gary Burghoff! Burghoff (who turns 73 today) is best known for his role as Walter "Radar" O'Reilly in the TV series M*A*S*H.

Posted by Mash Notes on Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When he was around 10, he felt pity for a flock of ducks who, as he thought, were too bored living at his neighbor’s farm, so he freed them to the nearby lake. At the age of 14, Gary got his first job in a local pet shop. Later his father got a new job in Delavan, Wisconsin, so the whole family moved there when Gary was a high school student.

Educational background

Gary studied in local secondary school in Bristol, Connecticut, until he moved to Delavan, Wisconsin, where he matriculated from his local high school in 1961. While in school, he took dancing classes, as he enjoyed tap dance very much. He also became a drummer, even though he had a congenital defect of three shorter fingers on the left hand. When his mother found a new job as a choreographer in Wisconsin, he had a chance to try himself as an actor at the Belfry Theatre, landing the role of Bobby in “The Boy Friend” production.

Later Gary studied at HB Studio, located in New York City.

Alongside his music endeavors (Gary played the drums in Milwaukee clubs, performing with the Bud Wilber Orchestra), he was also very good at painting. His work “Men of Jazz” gained him the Hallmark Award in 1961; he also exhibite this work in the Hallmark Student Art Exhibition, held in Washington D.C, representing his state of Wisconsin.


Acting career: first steps

While studying acting, Gary had to work as a sales assistant in the underwear store, located in Saks Fifth Avenue, as he needed to earn money for his courses and simply for living. His acting studio mates were James Tuttle, Sandy Meisner and Charles Nelson Reilly. He also formed a jazz trio – “The We Three” – and played at local night bars and clubs.

Gary Burghoff

In 1967 Gary landed the role of Charlie Brown in the “You’re a Good Man” original off-Broadway production, which was his first serious work on the stage. He still didn’t want to quit his music career, so he also played drums in the band Relatives in 1968, performing mostly late at night at the Sahara Hotel and Casino lounge, located in Las Vegas. The band’s singer was Lynda Carter, who also became a famous actress. Gary and Lynda later worked together in the cast of the popular series “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman”, appearing in the episode “The Man Who Wouldn’t Tell” in 1978.

Further success, joining the cast of “MASH”

In 1970 Robert Altman invited Gary to appear in his film “MASH”, a black comedy about a group of medics who worked in Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the times of the Korean War.

Gary was to play the character of the chief clerk Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly.

After the movie attracted high rates and positive reviews from critics, the creator decided to develop the plot, which was based on Richard Hooker’s book “M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors”, and released the television series. Gary was the only person who appeared both in the movie and in the series, playing the same character. However, Gary later admitted he made his character of the series think and behave very differently from the way he did in the movie: ‘In the original feature film MASH, I created Radar as a lone, darker and somewhat sardonic character; kind of a shadowy figure <,,,> I began to mold Radar into a more innocent, naïve character as contrast to the other characters’, Gary reflects on his role.

Gary’s work in the series “M*A*S*H” (1972-1980) he got six Emmy Awards as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. During his constant busyness in “M*A*S*H” Gary still had a chance to work in other series in movies, the list of them includes “Insight”, “Sweepstakes” and “Ellery Queen”.

Leaving “M*A*S*H”

At the end of 1979 Gary left the cast of “M*A*S*H”, as he tired of the attention from the public, and complained he couldn’t go out anywhere with his family to relax as he would be at once recognized by somebody: ‘Family, to me, became the most important thing… I was not available as a father because of my work. That doesn’t stop when the work stops’, Gary explained his decision to leave the show. Later he again appeared in the special episode entitled “Goodbye, Radar”.

In 1984 Gary appeared in two spin-off of the series, “W*A*L*T*E*R” and “AfterMASH”. He also could be seen in an episode of the series “Burke’s Law” in 1995, and in the movie “Behind the Waterfall” in the same year. In 2010, already supposedly being retired, Gary appeared in the film “Daniel’s Lot”, landing the role of Pastor Mahoney.

Retirement and inventions

Gary’s life on retirement was not at all boring; he could finally spend as much time fishing as he wanted. He even became an inventor of a special fishing tackle “Chum Magic”, which was supposed to attract the fish to the fisherman’s boat. He also invented and got patents for a new fishing pole type, and a lifting handle of a toilet seat.

Gary could also spend his spare time painting the wild nature of California.

In 2018 Gary was invited by his fellow actress Alan Alda to join the podcast “Clear + Vivid”, reuniting with all remaining cast members of “M*A*S*H”: ‘Loretta Swit and I will be talking from New York, Mike Farrell will be in a studio in L.A., Jamie Farr will be on the ‘phone from his house in Bell Canyon, and Gary Burghoff will be on the phone from Northern California’ Alda announced the podcast. He shared that the podcast was supposed to happen a bit earlier, but Jamie Farr almost lost his house in the wildfires covering California at that time, so they had to delay the reunion.

Personal life, ex-wives Janet Gale and Elisabeth Bostrom

Gary Burghoff married Janet Gale in 1971. In 1975 Janet gave birth to their daughter Gena, who then became an actress and even played with her father in the movie “Behind The Waterfall”.

Gary divorced Janet in 1979, then in 1985 he married Elisabeth Bostrom, who gifted Gary two sons, Miles and Jordan. In two decades the couple divorced in 2005, citing different religious beliefs which ruined their union. Elisabeth, who is an experienced dental assistant, still lives in Connecticut with their two sons.

Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts

In 2009 Gary released the book “To M*A*S*H and Back: My Life in Poems and Songs”.

Gary is a philatelist; he collects coins and stamps, and in 1988 was invited to become a narrator of the film “The Video Guide to Stamp Collecting”, which was supposed to teach novice collectors the principles of stamp collecting, and also displayed various kinds of stamps of different periods. In 1994 he judged the Federal Duck Stamp Competition.

Gary’s another passion, which is painting, saved the life of his family during the hard times when Gary didn’t appear in any movies or series. He started selling his paintings, and the money he earned helped him and his family to survive. When Gary lived in California, his neighbors called him “The Birdman of Malibu”, as his garden was always full of birds of all kinds. Gary’s favorite sport is baseball.


Gary has short grey hair and blue eyes. He is 5ft 5ins (1.66 m) tall; his weight and vital statistics are not available.

Net worth and salary

As of 2020, Gary Burghoff’s net worth is estimated to be around $6 million.

1 Comment

  1. Gary seems like a great guy from all this. He loved painting and animals, he took good care of two families too.
    I can’t understand why that human stain (Alan Alda) HATED Gary so much. I guess a lot of it has to do with Alan being such a pain in the butt.
    EVERY episode of M*A*S*H was an excuse for Alda to spout his anti-american point of view…WHICH HE DID as the star and the center of every episode for 12 SEASONS!
    No one else even had an intelligent argument (on the show) to rival his….not EVEN B. J.!
    Larry Gebart was the creator and principal writer so I guess that’s how he wanted it, what with his anger at the 15 year Vietnam War, and the returning vets!
    I think Gelbart and Alda were in love with each other. Gelbart wrote every episode (almost) about Hawkeye. He got more lines in every episode than the rest of the cast COMBINED!
    Larry Gelbart and Alan Alda were a couple of pricks!

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