It takes a lot for someone to be vulnerable, and although Radar O’Reilly was a fictional character, it’s something Gary Burghoff admired about his M*A*S*H role. He embraced the character and often credited it for helping him reach his inner child.
We’ve all heard stories about what it was like behind the scenes of the classic show and, of course, why some actors like Burghoff left the series. Before departing, the actor felt he was less competitive on set because he had a business and a fish farm.
“I’m not at all the sensitive artist type,” he said to The Napa Valley Register in 1978. “There’s a world of difference between me as Radar and me as the executive.”
Burghoff’s company, Smiles, Inc., operated his frozen yogurt store in the little resort town of Lahaina, Hawaii. For some, stores are just investments, but for the actor, it was more than just a way to bring in more money. Whenever he was on the island, Burghoff did everything from filling the yogurt machines to waxing the floors.
“It’s great meeting people, working behind the counter,” he told US Magazine in 1978. “You may go home at night with your muscles aching, but you sleep great.”
He also operated a fish farm in the backyard of his Malibu home, raising rainbow trout and catfish while recycling tap water. How did he have time to do those things and work on M*A*S*H? Easy, he just didn’t care to be super competitive on set.
“All these enterprises are my lifeboats. If anyone ever tries to limit my full potential, I’ll just leave the ship, get into one of these lifeboats, and pull away,” Burghoff added.
Clearly, the “lifeboats” could keep him afloat if something were to happen with acting. Perhaps his success in different industries and outside of M*A*S*H is an additional reason why he turned down millions to return.