This M*A*S*H nurse became a boxing referee between episodes

Gwen Farrell left set to ref. Her dream was to call a championship fight.

On MAS*H, Gwen Farrell appeared 19 times, mostly playing a nurse, once an anesthetist.

Farrell liked acting on MAS*H, but it wasn’t her only gig at the time.

In addition to assisting Hawkeye with surgeries, Farrell also became the only woman licensed to serve as a boxing referee in the late Seventies.

“I want to be one of the greatest referees, and I want to work a championship fight someday,” Farrell told the Associated Press in 1980. “I want to be good. I know I’m going to be good, I feel it, and now I want to prove it.”

The day she got certified to step into the ring fulfilled a dream she’d had since she started going to see fights with her mom when she was in high school.

“I was very shy then,” Farrell told the Sacramento Bee in 1977. “I still am in a way. But I have always been thrilled by the grace of good boxers and their primitive science.”

To Farrell, boxing was just as artful as acting in scenes on MAS*H. Maybe even more so.

“I grew up in boxing,” Farrell said. “I see it as a great art form, the ballet of the strong.”

Between the two, Farrell said she felt much more closely watched as a referee than she ever did as an actor, even under the eye of skilled directors as she was on MAS*H. She moved easily between these two worlds, as different as they were, enjoying the action and drama of both.

“There is no trouble going from one to another,” Farrell told the San Bernardino County Sun in 1982. “In the ring, I’m more watched than in a commercial. You’ve got to know what you’re supposed to be doing. When you make a mistake, you’ve got to keep going.”

In addition to boxing and acting, Farrell also helped her husband run four hamburger stands in Beverly Hills. These became hotspots for boxing’s biggest names, feeding everybody from George Foreman to Muhammad Ali.

Farrell said the burgers funded the lifestyle she and her husband wanted for their two boys in Los Angeles and also allowed Farrell time to pursue her passions.

She never minded the chaos of slipping from one scene into the next. As her career in the ring shows, she preferred being in the middle of the action.

“I’m the type of person who has to stay busy,” Farrell said.

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